NBCSports.com contributor Mike Celizic wrote a thoughtful study Thursday of former Miami quarterback Dan Marino, who joins the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend.
Celizic deserves praise for two reasons:
One, he differentiates between a great passer and a great quarterback. Marino is the greatest passer of all time. He holds virtually every passing record in the book. So it's hard to dispute this assertion. But there's far more to quarterbacking than just passing the ball. Most of it is about leadership. Hey, when a general loses a war, we don't celebrate his brilliant open-field tank tactics. Celizic, then, concludes that Marino is not one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. It's harsh. It's cold. But that's the way field generals are judged – on the battlefield and on the gridiron.
Second, Celizic backs up his commentary with Cold, Hard Football Facts (calling us "an iconoclastic" Web site). He dug deep into our archives and found this little gem from our infancy, "The Marino mythology," and used some of our data in his story.
In the article, we address many of the most pervasive myths that have propped up the Marino legend over the years: he had no defense, had no running game, had to carry undermanned Dolphins teams himself and was a big-game quarterback. All of them are false. We won't rehash the data here. You can, of course, check it out for yourself. Suffice it to say, few quarterbacks were put in a better position to win Super Bowls. When Marino came out of college in 1983, he joined the defending AFC champions – a team led by the league's No. 1 scoring defense, a top ground game and the winningest coach in NFL history. If that's not a formula for Super Bowl success, such a formula does not exist.
The biggest flaw we could find with the greatest passer of all time is something that has befallen many a field general: hubris. Marino seemed to believe that his proficiency throwing the ball was a skill that would carry his team to victory. It was not. At least not in the postseason. You know, if your tanks are destroyed every time you order a full frontal assault, maybe it's time for a different tactic. Marino never found one, believing in the end that his full frontal aerial assault would sooner or later break playoff defenses.
Does Marino deserve to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Absolutely. He's the greatest passer in NFL history. But just don't confuse that with being the greatest quarterback of all time.