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A couple of years ago, my colleague Jason Lisk explained why Joe Namath is a legitimate Hall of Famer. With each passing year, it seems as though Namath’s career gets more misunderstood, particularly by those who look at his career stats without context. One of the main pieces of evidence that sounds damning: among Hall of Fame quarterbacks who began their careers after 1950, Namath ranks last in both touchdown/interception differential and passer rating:

1Dan Marino1983199942025286.4168
2Joe Montana1979199427313992.3134
3Steve Young1985199923210796.8125
4Fran Tarkenton1961197834226680.476
5John Elway1983199830022679.974
6Sonny Jurgensen1957197425518982.666
7Jim Kelly1986199623717584.462
8Warren Moon1984200029123380.958
9Len Dawson1957197523918382.656
10Roger Staubach1969197915310983.444
11Johnny Unitas1956197329025378.237
12Troy Aikman1989200016514181.624
13Bob Griese1967198019217277.120
14Bart Starr1956197115213880.514
15Dan Fouts1973198725424280.212
16Terry Bradshaw1970198321221070.92
17Joe Namath1965197717322065.5-47

But analyzing a player by his career numbers is too broad a brush for advanced analysis. Brandon Jacobs is 107 yards away from matching Gale Sayers’ career rushing total. Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey have caught more passes than Lance Alworth and Kellen Winslow. At quarterback, comparing players across eras by their raw numbers is a pointless exercise. Byron Leftwich, Kyle Orton and Aaron Brooks have higher career passer ratings than Johnny Unitas. As always, we can only compare players by how they compared to their peers.

Namath’s career is misunderstood for several reasons. Younger fans think he’s famous because of The Guarantee, but he would have been an elite quarterback (and was acknowledged as one by his contemporaries) even if he never won a Super Bowl. He was among the best ever at avoiding sacks, an often overlooked but key element of effective quarterback play. He played in one of the worst eras for quarterbacks to compile strong passing stats, which is why his numbers don’t compare to modern quarterbacks. And his career arc was unusual, which further makes the use of career numbers an inappropriate way to understand Namath’s career.

There are 17 Hall of Fame quarterbacks to enter the league since 1950, and we can add Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to an even twenty. Through age 26, Namath was outstanding, and was the second most productive quarterback of the twenty behind Dan Marino during those years. The table below1 shows how much value was added by each of the twenty quarterbacks through the age of 26:

Namath gives Rex Ryan tips on how to fly under the radar.

Namath was the AFL’s rookie of the year in 1965. The next season, he led the league in passing yards but also interceptions. Still, Namath gave the Jets a glimpse of what he was about to become, as his quick release2 helped the Jets become the first team to throw 500+ pass attempts but take fewer than 10 sacks; to date, only the ’88 and ’89 Dolphins have ever matched that feat. In ’67, Namath led the AFL in yards per attempt and became the first professional quarterback to eclipse the 4,000 yard mark; he made the Pro Bowl and split the All-Pro selections with Oakland’s Daryle Lamonica. The next year would define Namath’s career, of course, as he led the Jets to a victory in Super Bowl III. But he also was selected first-team All-Pro at quarterback by all six major AFL sources, and even was named Pro Football Weekley’s All-NFL/AFL quarterback. In 1969 he had another strong season and was named the AFL’s Player of the Year by the AP for the second season in a row. That season, Namath also made his fourth Pro Bowl in five years.

In fact, Namath, Dan Marino and Bob Griese remain the only quarterbacks to earn four Pro Bowls by the end of their age 26 seasons. And he remained the youngest quarterback to win the Super Bowl until Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVI. Namath was one of the most hyped quarterback prospects of his era, akin to how Andrew Luck is viewed today. Namath then signed with the AFL instead of the NFL, adding legitimacy to the younger league. He was given the largest contract in the history of professional football, and then lived up to that hype by having one of the best starts to a career of any quarterback in football history. But injuries would soon begin to chip away at Namath’s prime years.

Namath broke his wrist in 1970 and injured his knee in 1971, limiting him to just 8 starts during those two years. But in 1972, a healthy Namath had perhaps his finest season. Even with Don Maynard on his last legs, Namath led the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt and adjusted net yards per attempt. The Jets ranked 2nd in the league in both points and yards, behind only the undefeated Dolphins. Namath’s Jets also gave Miami one of their biggest scares of the season; the 24 points they scored were the most Miami would allow all year, but New York lost a fourth quarter lead and the game, 28-24.

In 1973, Namath missed most of the year with a shoulder injury, but he would win the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1974. After ’74, Namath was effectively done, but played for three more seasons and put up miserable numbers.

Namath’s completion percentage was bad, even for his era, but consider the context. Namath took far fewer sacks than the average quarterback, and an incomplete pass is better than a sack. He was a vertical passer, and while that would hurt his completion percentage, he led the league in yards per completion three times. Namath played in a dramatically different era than today’s quarterbacks, which explains why his numbers may look poor compared to modern quarterbacks. And he hung around too long, lowering his career averages.

But from 1965 to 1974 he was the game’s among the top three quarterbacks in the game. Take a look at the stats3 of all quarterbacks over that ten-year period who attempted at least 1500 passes:

1Fran Tarkenton35882643718913130525627.855.713.26.135.59
2Sonny Jurgensen27701965115510319816366.758.612.16.075.55
3Joe Namath30992368115117112211653.850.515.16.995.54
4Daryle Lamonica24021758015512614212445.65014.76.425.41
5Len Dawson25401938514712024521728.856.913.46.185.3
6John Brodie29872097414914413410484.355.912.66.385.26
7Craig Morton15451178989861249737.452.214.66.485.23
8John Hadl35992640719219120518825.450.514.56.455.2
9Roman Gabriel35862345616611825319026.653.412.25.615.1
10Bill Nelsen186113889969814412897.250.914.76.285.04
11Johnny Unitas21551592410311615712386.854.913.56.354.99
12Billy Kilmer21241473110310214110566.253.812.96.044.92
13Charley Johnson20861457310010215512536.951.413.65.944.79
14Jim Hart23361587410211513612005.548.813.95.944.67
15Bob Griese20141430911410320417909.253.713.25.644.58
16Bill Munson1532985864571359688.
17Norm Snead27471900912716018414506.353.812.95.994.4

Even among his contemporaries, Namath’s completion percentage wasn’t very good. But he also was #1 in both sack rate and yards per completion, an incredibly difficult feat to pull off. Thanks to Namath’s incredibly fast release and his big arm, the Jets designed a vertical offense that was effective at moving the ball down the field. In the most basic form of passing measurement, Net Yards per Attempt, Namath ranked 1st by half a yard per attempt. In ANY/A, which includes a penalty for interceptions and a bonus for touchdowns, Namath falls just 0.01 ANY/A out of second place.

Namath’s career wasn’t one of the best ever, and it certainly wasn’t as good as it could have been. It’s well-documented that Namath was never able to fulfill his enormous potential because of a variety of injuries. But standing alone, even ignoring his post-season success, Namath’s numbers stand up as elite. He did throw too many interceptions, even for his era, although on more talented teams he would have likely been a more conservative passer. But for a decade, he was arguably the most dangerous passer in the professional football, putting aside all the glamour and glitz and guarantees.

I’ll close with a graph that doesn’t necessarily follow the rest of this post, but I made it for my own research and thought someone else might find it interesting. This graph looks at six Hall of Fame quarterbacks and shows how much value (as measured by ANY/A over average) each provided at various ages:

I’ve made Namath’s line twice the size of the others for easier viewing. It’s interesting to see how sharply Namath’s play fell off once he turned 32, one of the reasons his career numbers are so poor. But Aikman and Bradshaw also had multiple terrible years, just at the start of their careers. I’m not really sure what we can gather from this table other than I think it’s interesting to see the shape of a player’s career, and not just a summation in one number. Enjoy.

  1. This list is sorted by how much Adjusted Net Yards over average each quarterback produced each season. This is calculated by taking each quarterback’s ANY/A, comparing it to league average, and then multiplying the difference by the number of total attempts each quarterback had. []
  2. Bill Walsh once said that Namath was “the most beautiful, accurate, stylish passer with the quickest release I’ve ever seen.” []
  3. Note that individual sack data for the years 1965 to 1968 are estimated but unofficial, based on the data we currently have. []
  • Andrew

    I disagree. I don’t believe that Namath was or is a HoF caliber QB. While you stress his impressive sack numbers and yards per attempts, I prefer to look at his terrible interception numbers and terrible completion percentage. Whilst an incomplete pass is preferable to a sack, an interception is not. Overall, I’d call Namath an excellent young QB who never capitalized on his potential and thus joins the ranks of the good, but not great. As for the comparison to Bradshaw and Aikman, they’re on the lower end of HoF QBs. Aikman never had much of an arm, and he benefitted hugely from playing with HoFers at HB and WR (and his Super Bowl numbers are uninspiring, to say the least). As for Bradshaw, well, he won four Super Bowls while being an above average, but not great, QB. They both hugely profitted from excellent running games and defenses. Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I’m sure the people who get to vote on this kind of thing know a lot more than I about the subject.

    • Chase Stuart

      Many people have views on how the HOF should look. If you think the HOF should be limited to the very best — maybe 1 in every 200 players — then no, I don’t think Namath’s HOF-worthy. But if you think it should be the top 3% of all players (which is about what it is) and with a bias towards quarterbacks, then yes, in my view, Namath becomes worthy. No, he’s not Joe Montana, but I think his presence in the HOF doesn’t make less sense than Kelly’s or Layne’s or Griese’s.

      I think completion percentage is pretty meaningless, so I don’t really care what Namath did there.

      • Andrew

        Just out of curiousity, why do you believe completion percentage to be a meaningless statistic? The way i look at it, a high completion percentage means you got positive yardage on a high percentage of plays, a trait I find meaningful. A down where the line doesn’t move at all is less productive than a down where it moves forward, every time (well, most of the time. Some statisticians suggest being on the 1 yard line is actually disadvantageous for pass-heavy offenses, but as long as we’re somewhere in the middle of the field, positive yardage is a plus).

        • James

          I’m not Chase, but my arguments would be:

          1) A completion doesn’t necessarily mean the team gained yards (failed screen), or even that it was a good play (3-yard checkdown on 3rd and 7 vs an incompletion that went 10 yards downfield – at least he had a chance of converting).
          2) Completion percentage ignores when a passer takes a sack, but penalizes a QB for avoiding a sack. (See Alex Smith)
          3) Other stats measure QB effectiveness more accurately – YPA, NYPA, ANYA, etc.

          Ultimately, a completion by itself isn’t a good thing. Even you said that gaining yards is the desired outcome, so why not just measure the yards gained per pass and not worry about how those yards were gained?

    • Arif Hasan

      When talking about Bradshaw and Aikman, get rid of rookie and sophomore numbers for a minute and take a look.

      Bradshaw ends up with an ANY/A of 5.24, or about one standard deviation above his competition. He did that for about 9 years. His INT% was generally slightly better than his peers and his TD% was even better (more than a standard deviation). Aikman’s ANY/A in his non-1st/2nd years was also above league average, sometimes an entire standard deviation above it (but not as often as Bradshaw). He’s well regarded fro a low INT%, but it too was often just above average. His TD% was never great, but he sure knew how to get yards.

      Compare those two relative to their contemporaries… then look at Namath. His ANY/A blew the rest of professional football out of the water.

  • Shattenjager

    Is it really even true that Namath’s completion percentage was bad for his era? His cmp%+ is at 93 or better for every season in his career except a three-game 1971 season and two of the seasons at the end of his career, 1973 and 1975, when it really looks like he was finished. Just weighting his cmp%+ by the number of attempts each year, his career number comes out at 101.8, which is not only not bad but above average.

    Another problem for Namath is that his injury problems coincided with the AFL-NFL merger, which makes it look like he dropped off a cliff right when the merger happened. His rate stats stay excellent in spite of the injuries, so I don’t think it’s a good argument, but I’m betting some look at his numbers and say, “Looked good in the AFL but couldn’t hack it when it became ‘real’ football.”

    I am really with you on Namath, and I find it rather amazing that it seems a fair segment of the public has really turned negative on his performance. His sack rates are otherworldly, and that is after all one of the statistics that seems to be most strongly connected to the quarterback himself as opposed to his environment. He was consistently excellent in y/a (and with those sack rates obviously even better in ny/a).

    The argument against him largely seems to come down to interceptions. His interception rate was not good, but touchdown and interception rates are more affected by environment than any other QB statistic. Even beyond that, we can see obvious reasons why he would have thrown more interceptions if we take it as a given that he was great: He played a high-risk style, which necessarily leads to more interceptions, and he played on some pretty untalented teams (Not John Elway-Vinny Testaverde untalented, but less talented than what most HOF QBs have gotten).

  • Chase Stuart


    I suppose it depends on who you view as his peers. For the AFL, he had a higher completion percentage, but the NFL average in the late ’60s had a higher completion percentage than Namath in four of five years, and Namath’s completion percentage from ’70 to ’74 was also under the NFL average at that time. Even in 1972, his completion percentage was exactly 50%, below league average.

    But yes, his sack rate was fantastic. Here’s another way to think about it. In 1972, quarterbacks were sacked on 7.8% of dropbacks; therefore, even with a 51.7 completion percentage, they only threw complete passes on 47.7% of dropbacks. Meanwhile, Namath that year threw complete passes on 48.4% of dropbacks even if he only had a 50% completion rate because he didn’t take sacks.

    I also agree with the Elway/Testaverde argument. To me, what Namath did in ’72 without an in-his-prime Maynard makes that his most impressive season (especially considering it was after a lot of his injuries).

    • Shattenjager

      I had never thought about looking at completions as a percentage of total dropbacks before (which seems like it should have been logical)–that is really awesome.

      • Rob

        As a former college QB, I have always had issues with how QB stats are kept, and from an NFL standpoint, it is magnified. The biggest issue is when you discuss completions, whether its versus attempts or dropbacks, the QB never gets credit for well thrown balls that are dropped, and are penalized with an INT for balls that are tipped into opponents hands. STATS never tell the whole story. The game has evolved over the years. I think a QB should be compared to his contemporaries, and what he did for his team.

        On another note, Namath deserves credit for truly popularizing the NFL and drawing fans to the game that would otherwise not give a second glance.

        Great article!

    • Arif Hasan

      It should also be noted (anecdotally) that Namath’s interceptions tended to happen a) when passes were flung further afield, so INTs were not as bad then (so an INT adjustment of 67/45 yards would be bad, and instead perhaps closer to 25/35). b) Namath in particular threw interceptions much, much further downfield (sometimes his y/c was four standard deviations beyond his contemporaries) which meant his interceptions simply mattered much less than for others.

  • Brian A. Kirkland

    Joe Namath was a force of nature. He was one of the most extraordinary athletes of his time.

    He put people in the seats and made the AFL legitimate. He was one of THE most excting performers in any sport during his era, surpassed only by Muhammad Ali. He was the archetypal modern athlete. He was a man of his time, who spoke up about the world he lived in, unlike athetes today. He was a media magnet, and handled it with aplomb. He played at great risk, from the start, and was one of the most courageous players of his era and he; never boring, even when he was injured on the sidelines.

    There has never been another like him, before or since. Had he not been immortalized in Canton, the game would have been ignoring one of the seminal events, the coming of Joe Namath, in its history. What Namath was to pro football can’t be quantified.

    • John

      My reply below under Jim’s also applies to Brian’s post.

    • Richie

      This kind of gets into the area of discussing what makes somebody HOF-worthy. Do they have to truly be an all-time great player, or a great champion, or an important player? I don’t think the HOF in any sport really defines what makes a player HOF-worthy.

      It seems to me that Namath was a huge star coming out of college, and went to the biggest city. He was extremely famous, and was succesful enough early on to maintain the fame. By age 27 he was having injury problems, but he was already such a star that he was mostly able to “coast” for a few more years as an elite QB. Maybe even like Brett Favre was kind of able to “coast” the last few years of his career, where he would seem to make bad interceptions and hurt his team. But he had enough good will, to still be considered an elite QB (that goes for both guys).

      Besides, SOMEBODY has to be the worst QB in the HOF – although I think that might be Griese.

  • jim

    What makes Joe’s sack ratios even more impressive was the fact that he was fairly immobile. Although he had quick feet and could drop back quickly, once he got set in the pocket, he wasn;t going anywhere.

    I agree that 72 may have been one of his best years, but to offset an aging Don Maynard, he had Richard Caster and Eddie Bell, both excellent receivers. Caster, early in his career, was notorious for dropping balls, but developed into a fine receiver.

    He also threw the deep ball better than anyone. Today’s quarterback throws the ball as high as he can and let’s the reciever go get it. Joe used to throw darts 40 yards downfield and hit his receivers in stride. I used to get very angry watching him play, trying to make the big play, when it seemd he always had Boozer or Riggins in the flat wide open for a five to seven yard pick up. The other QB in New York, Fran Tarkenton was always throwing these dinky five yard passes to a running back or tight end which pumped up his completion %. But Joe lived and died by the sword and was always fun to watch. No quarteback before or since has had his charisma. Defensive players of his era feared playing against him. How many players actually changed the way the game was played? Because of Joe, the league allowed receivers coming off the line to be bumped by the defensive back

    • John

      Jim’s reply nails it. It is about influence and impact on the game. Joe Namath was a super star who transformed the professional football by his mere presence. No other single player has ever had that level of influence. His impact is immeasurable. Professional football was transformed from a blue collar sport to the mainstream entertainment giant it is today. A good analogy is the old MasterCard “priceless” ad, you can add up all the stats but at the end his value was priceless. For those who debate his deserving of the HOF truly missunderstand his significance to the game.

  • danny

    I watched Namath play on tv, He was the most exciting and pure passer the game has ever seen. He’s the reason The afl is part of the nfl today! I wished he had’nt got hurt in college and drank as heavy as he did, but he still deserves to be in the hall of fame even if he had’nt of won the super bowl! The Game changed when he stepped on the field!

    • http://Google Dan

      I vividly remember watching Namath play on TV and at Shea. He was and is the best quarterback I have ever seen. Two of the greatest and most successful, respected coaches of all time say that Namath was the best they have ever seen.

  • heywood friedman

    Reference to statistics alone, or even in part, can never capture the impact of an individual player. Joe Namath was an elite player. The Hall of Fame would be incomplete without him. Not unlike the omission of Pete Rose from Cooperstown. The eyes of the sporting world focused on Joe the entirety of his carrer. He was an irresistable force.

  • Andrew

    I would just like to remind everyone that popularity isn’t really a criterion on which you should get into the HoF, nor is the completely immeasurable “impact” you had on the sport. Those are arguments cited in favor of players or coaches who can’t get in (or shouldn’t) on measurables and statistical merit.

    • Alan

      Andrew I am a diehard Jets fan 47 years old and I agree 100% with you. I feel that he is so overrated just because he was a pretty boy on a NY team during the early years of the NFL on TV. I think he was very good QB and 1 of the best ones during his early career. But he was mediocre to poor the second half of his career. I had made a statement on A jets post on FaceBook that I wished that Testerverde was a Jet his whole career and I felt he was the best QB Jets ever had.

  • Rudy Iacono

    Joe Namath was a fearless competetor on and off the field. Yes Joe Namath had his own demons to deal with as many of us do however he was a player who took chances on and off the field. I laugh when young football fans try to compare today’s QB’s to those who played in the era of Joe Willie. I have been telling these same young fans that QB’s and WR’s were both mugged in broad daylight and DB’s and DL took pleasure on beating up the QB’s and WR’s. Joe Namath made the vertical passing game one of which transcended the game of football and their was no other QB who could throw a football so effortlessly down the field as Joe Namath. Bear Bryant called Joe Namath the greatest football player that he ever coached. Joe Namath was loved by New Yorkers for his charismatic personality and he became an instant icon when Sonny Werblin gave Joe Namath the most lucrative contract of any sports figure of his era. This idea of comparing touchdowns versus interceptions when most QB’s of today throw short range passes is quite laughable. Namath threw the ball long and his stats do not give him the justice that he deserves as the passing game of the Jets was a vertical game one of which these same Jets have not seen since Joe Namath was our QB. Today the young fans try to compare Joe Willie to Mark Sanchez and its a shame that most of us who saw Joe Willie play have to defend the greatness of Joe Namath. I am glad that Joe Namath has been outspoken about the Jets for the new ownership has done little to create excitement for their long starving fans. I will always think of Joe Namath as a HOF QB for what he did to change the game of football but more so for his brilliance as a QB for I have never seen a QB throw a football so effortlessly as Joe Namath and if their were one other QB that I could say comes to mind it would be Dan Marino. Joe Namath remains an Icon in Jet folk lore and no one will ever replace his greatness in the anals of NY sport.

    • DanNY

      I hate to be that guy, and I really loved your post, but you misspelled annals. That’s a word you really don’t want to misspell.

      • John Shook

        Priceless post … funny as hell!! -John5086

  • Bowl Game Anomaly

    I don’t want to denigrade Namath, but I hope that all the commenters talking about how exciting he was and how much impact he had are also planning to stump for Michael Vick to make the Hall of Fame. After all, all those arguments apply to him, too.

    • JWL

      Vick didn’t lead a team to a championship yet.

  • Richie

    There are only 17 QBs in the HOF who began their careers since 1950? I probably would have guessed 40 or 50! It seems like a QB is inducted almost every year.

  • Johann Cat

    I have said this before–without this excellent statistical backing, however. (I am the author of the Encyclopedia of Alabama article about Namath.) More subjectively put: I think one needs only to watch Namath’s performance in Super Bowl III and some footage, from various other games, of him throwing the ball ~ 40 yards to Sauer or Maynard to know exactly why he is a Hall of Fame QB. He got rid of the ball unbelievably quickly in Super Bowl III, by 1969 standards; he also called most of his own plays in that game in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage, and the Jets not only beat the Colts, they stunned them. The Jets were 18-point underdogs against one of the most feared teams of the decade (the Colts had defeated Cleveland 34-0 in the NFL championship game). Finally, as many point out here, the aesthetics of Namath’s passing game–and I echo Bill Walsh and John Madden here–define what a drop-back, long-range QB can look like. Madden said Namath had “the best-looking drop, release, and pass” that he had ever seen.

  • Chase Stuart

    Another good Namath quote I found, when Bill Walsh was talking about Ken Anderson:

    “At the moment,” says (Bill) Walsh, “I would say that (Kenny Anderson) is the most effective quarterback over a 14-game season. I think Namath’s the greatest quarterback in a given game to beat a team that has to be beaten, but Kenny—from the standpoint of 14 games, staying power against the rush, efficiency and everything that goes with it—is the best.”

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  • Gene

    Thank you! I agree completely. I am tired of defending Joe Willie’s career. You neglected to mention that he threw for 4,000 yards in ONLY 14 games. The next player to throw for 4,000 yards was 12 years later in a 16 game season. He truly does deserve to be in the HOF.

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  • Glenn

    Namath was a happening. He did more then any other payer to make the merger between the AFL&NFL happen. Without a strong NY AFL team, and Namath’s charisma and rifle arm the AFL would have failed. He helped make the Super Bowl what it is today. The Super Bowl never even sold out in It’s two previous years. You can also make a case for him being partly responsible for the NFL taking over as our nations number one sport, overtaking baseball in the late 60’s while Namath was getting world wide notoriety. You cant just look at the numbers with Namath. This young generation only looks at the numbers, and Joe was so much more then that for the NFL and deserves his place in the Hall.

  • Michael

    How about this. Not only should he be in the stupid Hall of Fame, they should name the building in his honor. He made the game what it is.

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  • murphy

    in a span of 9 years namath won a championship at every level he played at high school college and the super bowl, namaths game was vertical takeing the ball down field not short dump offs to pad his % stats ,as for the int’s my god could a qb have played for worse teams the jets just sucked after 72 and in namaths era the qb’s did not wear a dress they did not get coverd by the yellow flag, from 1970-1977 namath missed 58 starts due to injuries thats over 4 seasons in a 14 game season so a healty namath would have at least 75 more td’spasses and 10,000 more yards and close to 90 wins as a starter. in my view if namath was not in the hall of fame then the hall of fame would not be worth being in,

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  • Andy B

    The kids that say his numbers are not good look at the TDs by Marino and others in an offensive era where the game has been designed to be a “programmed” passing game. They only look at a few statistics. Joe was one of the best and his numbers as a mostly support that. Joe Willie played in an era where the receivers were beat up on their routes. As a pure vertical passer, try timing a pass in that environment. The rules have changed over the years to make the game more exciting. Joe called his own plays. No real time video with Offensive coordinators analyzing during the game, no real time info like today. His 4007 yards in his 3rd year is amazing in 14 game season for this era and was not broken until we had rule changes and high tech enter the game. Let’s face it – the NFL is moving closer to Arena – flag football.

    In 1972 in one game against the Colts, he completed 15 passes, for 496 yards and 6 TDs. Do the Math on the yards per completion. Unitas threw for almost 400 in the same game. What a game! I did not attend that game, but saw it on TV, and I was lucky to go to a few games and see him play at Shea. I think he is HoF for his play and what he did for the game as a whole. He played with thick knee braces that squeaked when he dropped back. Four knee operations in pre-arthoscopic times I do wish he dumped it off more often, and but he was a stubborn pure passer.
    I met Joe Namath when I was a kid and got his autograph at Hofstra University. Joe came out of the locker room last and the crowd erupted (during pre-season). I lived close by and saw him frequently. He did this every evening. He stood patiently and after practice he signed every single autograph, allowed photos and always polite, at no charge! As he walked away one night across the parking lot, my friend and I rode our bikes and yelled “hey Joe,how about a picture”? and he stopped and allowed us to take pictures with him with our Kodak. One other evening, his red convertible Cadillac was parked and a nice blonde was sitting on his hood hoping to meet him after practice. No one like Joe has come into the NFL since. His last 3 years he should have stayed home. He made so much money he had to keep playing. But his last 3 yr TD-INT was 22-49. a diff of 27 which is a big piece of the -47 above (his sophomore year -8 and in 1971 he was injured after 5 games and had a -7 ), so a few bad years, and then he played 3 yrs too long. So when you watched Joe the bulk of his career, he was amazing. Ask the defensive backs and coaches of the era.

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  • will

    Joe changed the way quarterbacks played. I swear , am I the only one who saw this? In the superbowl, unitas hunching over center, not even looking at rhe defense, being typical johnny. Namath standing behind center INTIMIDATING THE DEFENSE!, being condident, aware, and mixing it up, intimidating! If there was no Namath, no quick reads, maybe no marino, elway, or manning. He changed the position! That alone warrants hof

  • http://www.newyorksucksandeveryoneknowsit.org Dr. Bob Pettigrue

    Joe Namath is in Hall of Fame because he won a Super Bowl in New York, end of discussion. End of story. There is no other reason this loud-mouthed, noodle-armed nobody is polluting Canton except of the iron deathgrip the wretched scum of New York has on this country.

    The East Coast media bias is so blatant and transparent in this case that it absolutely proves how warped, destructive and dangerous US media has become, how narcissistic and self-indulgent it is. All of you New York journalists are vile, self-promoting liars who deserve to be thrashed.

  • Alex Wroblewski Jr

    Joe Namath record as a quarterback was horrible. The only reason is in the Hall of Fame is because of the New York sportswriters. His touchdowns to interceptions is horrible. His only clame to fame is when he beat the baltimore colts.

  • Marvin

    Great comments here. A couple of points that I can add:

    1) As it pertains to the HOF argument, it’s important to understand the conditions in Shea, where Namath played his meaningful home games. It was notoriously windy, being an open ring close to Flushing Bay. While the cold was not abnormal for his era, when weighing his performance against more modern QBs with domes and enclosed stadia, Namath’s playing conditions were certainly worse.

    2) There’s something to be said for freakish talent, gamechanging talent. Someone mentioned Vick. He doesn’t come close to Namath as a football talent. Namath’s first major knee injury was against NC State while he was at Bama. Prior to that injury, he was an incredible runner. Basically, he was Roger Staubach’s legs with Dan Marino’s arm. I think it’s very natural to want to compare QBs from different eras–difficult and fraught with peril–but natural. And once you more beyond the naive comparison of simple stats that a lot of young folks go by, you tend to ask yourself some version of the question: If you put other QBs into this guy’s career circumstances, how would they perform? I think of you plug Joe Namath into the modern game he’d have truly amazing numbers, even with the injuries, some of which he might never have sustained given the way the league polices contact with the QB today. Conversely, I don’t think any HOF QBs could have done what Namath did in his career circumstances. Granted, some might have won more because they played more conservatively, but none would have accomplished what he did as a passer . The game is constantly evolving with teams and players trying to find new ways to win, new angles to exploit. Namath signaled a new evolutionary stage in the passing game that prefigured the product we see on the field today, 50 years later. He was a game changer and a champion doing it his way. That’s HOF material.

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