by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
The greatest quarterback to ever play the game was selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this week.
Yes I said quarterback, not passer.
See, I've never subscribed to the subjective notion that great quarterbacks are judged mostly by how many championships they've won. Football is a team sport; it takes talent and leadership on both sides of the ball to win the whole enchilada.
If you don't have those things, you don't win…it’s as simple as that.
Where would Tom Brady be today without that marvelous defense and that genius of a head coach?
Precisely. That is why no one should ever indict Marino's career as less because the Miami Dolphins didn’t win a championship during his career. Blame this failure on the team’s inability to assemble a talented defense or running game during those 17 fabulous seasons he gave us.
Yes, a quarterback’s job is to be a leader on his team. He also has to make the people around him better. Marino did both.
But are we to expect that Marino should also have drafted better players, run the ball himself 25 times a game, and lined up at free safety?
Of course not, no more than we'd have expected Joe Montana, John Elway, or Brady to have done the same.
Don Shula’s got it right. People should judge Marino's greatness by his accomplishments as a player and his contributions in helping his team win. These are the things that a player has total control over. These are the objective measures upon which no speculation can be introduced, upon which fair judgment can be given.
Objectively speaking, no quarterback contributed more, or was more productive, in trying to win a team championship than Marino.
He did his share and then some.
We all know that Marino has passed for more yardage than any other guy. Rather than telling you how many trips up and down the Washington Monument 61,361 yards is equaled to, consider that it is almost 6 miles (about 10,000 yards) more than second-place Elway and almost 11.5 miles (20,000 yards) more than Montana.
Want to talk touchdown passes, the prime barometer for quarterback productivity? Marino has 420, which is 78 (or 468 points) more than Elway and 147 (or 882 points) more than Montana.
Oh, and Montana and Elway played only one less season than Marino did.
Now some folks argue that had Elway or Montana been in the same offensive scheme that Marino had been in most of his career that they'd have put up similar totals.
Maybe. Maybe not. To speculate along those lines makes for vigorous debate but little else. There's just no way to factually prove or disprove the contention, just as there's no way to prove or disprove that Marino would have won a ring had he been surrounded with the talent that Elway and Montana had in winning theirs.
Now I fully recognize that my entire line of thinking is in the minority. Most folks in most polls that I have seen over the years believe that Montana was the greatest ever, undoubtedly because of the four Super Bowl championships his teams won.
But there's that word again...TEAM.
Look, if football were more like baseball with the heavy dependency on good pitching to win, to the point where pitchers have individual won-loss records for emphasis, I could go along with the majority argument.
Pitch poorly in baseball and you don't win, period. Pass poorly in football and you will still win if you can run the ball and play good defense.
As I reflect on Marino’s career and the times I saw him in person, be it at St. Thomas University, the Orange Bowl, Davie, Dolphins Stadium, or even at Buffalo for Shula’s last game, I wonder if Marino feels less about his career given that he never won a championship.
When Marino retired, he said that he didn’t. I guess I can believe that. Still, we all know that winning the Super Bowl is what drove him in his final years in the game.
Bottom line is that he should never worry about his legacy being less for it. Now that he is in the Hall of Fame, his greatness as a quarterback has been validated for all time.
For in him we saw a rare and special talent that we may not witness again in our lifetimes.
In him we saw the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.