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Comparing the Top Three Quarterbacks from the 1983 and 2004 Drafts 65

When comparing two of the greatest quarterback classes of all time, many compare the 1983 QB class’ entire body of work to the first eight seasons of the 2004’s class.  Why compare their full careers when the 2004 class is still in their prime?  Instead, the best way to truly compare the two classes is to calculate only the first eight seasons of the 1983 draft class, stack them together and then judge.

In this table, listed are Dan Marino’s, John Elway’s, and Jim Kelly’s individual stats for their first eight NFL seasons.  I have also included the team achievements in playoff wins and Super Bowls as win-loss records are most directly attributed to coaches and quarterbacks.  This is a straight-line comparison without giving the 1983 class any “inflation boosts” for the increased emphasis on the passing game.  Note that Jim Kelly did not start his NFL career until 1986.

  Games Yards Per Game Comp Per Game Attempts Per Game YPA TDs INTs
Marino 119 264 20.8 35.1 7.52 241 136
Elway 116 213 16.9 30.8 6.92 135 128
Kelly* 118 224 17.9 29.6 7.57 179 126
Average 117.67 234 18.5 31.8 7.33 185 130
  Comp % Total Yards Rating Playoff Wins** Super Bowl Wins**
Marino 59.3% 31416 88.5 3 0
Elway 54.9% 24721 74.3 6 0
Kelly* 60.5% 26413 86.0 8 0
Average 58.2% 27517 82.9 17 0
           

Below are the individual career stats (covering eight seasons), playoff wins, and Super Bowls wins for Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Manning (behind Kurt Warner) and Rivers (behind Drew Brees) did not start their first season.

  Games Yards Per Game Comp Per Game Attempts Per Game YPA TDs INTs
Manning 121 228 18.9 32.4 7.04 185 129
Rivers 100 243 19.3 30.4 7.99 163 78
Roethlisberger 114 233 18.3 29 8.03 165 100
Average 111.67 235 18.8 30.6 7.69 171 102
  Comp % Total Yards Rating Playoff Wins** Super Bowl Wins**
Manning 58.4% 27579 82.1 8 2
Rivers 63.6% 24285 95.5 3 0
Roethlisberger 63.1% 26579 92.1 10 2
Average 61.7% 26148 89.9 21 4
           

**Totals

Even with the increased emphasis on the passing game in modern-day football, the 1983 quarterbacks edged out their 2004 counterparts in passing yards and touchdowns.  This can be attributed to the older quarterbacks having six more games to pad those stats.  The modern-day quarterbacks dominated in passing percentage by 3.5%, quarterback rating by 7.0 points, fewer interceptions 102 – 130, and yards per attempt, 7.69 versus 7.33.  And we haven’t even looked at playoff and Super Bowl wins yet. In this category, the modern-day quarterbacks blow away the 1983 quarterbacks, totaling 21 playoff victories to 17 and posting four Super Bowl victories to none.  This doesn’t mean at their end of their careers they will still be considered better. However, the evidence is clear: At this point in their careers, Manning, Roethlisberger, and Rivers are clearly cumulatively better than Marino, Elway, and Kelly.

 

Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, and Eli Manning have clearly outshined their 1983 counterparts.

 

 – Follow me on Twitter: @Shaner021

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