Trent Dilfer was a better quarterback than Joe Namath
Oh that's right, I went there
Joe Namath is a Hall of Fame quarterback. He led his team to one of the most memorable Super Bowl victories of all time. He's one of the all time greats. Or is he? As it turns out, not only is Joe Namath not one of the best quarterbacks of all time, he's not even average. Trent Dilfer, who also won a single Super Bowl in his career, is often mocked as being the low bar standard for NFL quarterbacks. As it turns out, Trent Dilfer put together a better career than Joe Namath.
Sometimes I like stirring the pot a little bit, so I present to you the evidence that proves Trent Dilfer was better than one of the so-called "all-time greats".
What does Trent Dilfer have going for him?
Trent Dilfer led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants back in the 2000-2001 season. The general consensus at the time was the Ravens won that season in spite of Dilfer, not because of him. They had a great defense and a solid running game, and they didn't need a superstar quarterback. Dilfer certainly was not a superstar, and I think it's fair to call his 76.6 quarterback rating that season "pedestrian" at best.
Over the course of his career, Dilfer had a QB rating of 70.2. That's not terribly good, but there are worse ones out there (more on that in a bit). He threw for over 20,000 yards while sharing time between the Buccaneers, Ravens, Seahawks, Browns, and 49ers. It's fair to say he was a journeyman in the second half of his career. He threw 113 touchdown passes versus 129 interceptions. It's never good for a quarterback to have more interceptions than touchdowns, and Dilfer's INT/TD ratio is 1.14. Not good.
The case against Joe Namath
Finding faults in Namath's stats is almost too easy. Sure, he threw for 7,000 more yards than Dilfer, but he also had about 600 more passing attempts. His yards per completion is higher than Dilfer's but his completion percentage is lower, much lower. 50.1% versus 55.5% for Dilfer. That's right, almost half of Joe Namath's passes were not completed to his own receiver.
To make things much worse for Namath, he threw a lot of interceptions. His interception percentage was 5.8%, compared to just 4.1% for Dilfer. As I said before, Dilfer's INT/TD ratio was 1.14 (higher number = bad). Namath's INT/TD ratio is 1.27. A quarterback would have trouble getting starts with a number that high these days. In one season, Joe Namath threw 16 interceptions versus just 4 touchdowns.
The highest quarterback rating Joe Namath ever had in a season was 74.3. Dilfer surpassed that in 5 different seasons. Namath's career QB rating is just 65.5. Even if we try to make adjustments for the era he played in, Namath is still a sub-par quarterback. If he hadn't played in New York and had that one Super Bowl guaranteed victory under his belt, his career would have been considered a flop. In games that he started, his teams lost more games than they won, and it wasn't because everyone else was bringing him down. For much of his career, Namath was the weak link.
Let's take a look at that magical Super Bowl 3 where the Jets beat the Colts. Everyone knows that Joe Namath guaranteed the underdog Jets would win the game, but what happened after that has become muddled by time. Namath won the Super Bowl MVP, but it's not clear why. He threw for 206 yard, completing 17 out of 28 pass attempts. Those numbers are above-average for Namath, but certainly not an outstanding game. He did not throw any touchdown passes in the game. Many people believe Matt Snell, who rushed for 121 yards and had a touchdown should have been awarded the MVP. The Jets running game was so dominant the Jets offense didn't even run a pass play the entire 4th quarter.
Conclusion: Dilfer was better
It's pretty clear that Joe Namath does not belong in the NFL Hall of Fame any more than Trent Dilfer belongs there, and Trent Dilfer certainly does not belong there. Every sports hall of fame has a few people in it that just don't belong, but Joe Namath might top them all for the award of least deserving. Not only was he not a great quarterback, but he was probably much worse than whoever got stuck riding the pine on the sideline holding the clipboard for him.
The lesson we should all take from this is that if you ever get the chance to play professional sports in New York, make sure you do something every day to get your name and face in the papers. That way, no matter how you perform, you'll always be remembered as a star.
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