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The Overrated Joe Namath

July 3, 2008 - Chris Masse
I was watching the NFL Network's "Top 10 Super Bowl Performances" the other day and I almost choked on my Honey Smacks while watching it when they revealed No. 9 as Joe Namath against the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Are you kidding me?

Joe Montana went 22-for-29 for 297 yards and a then-record five touchdown passes in a 55-10 Super Bowl XXIV win over the Broncos. Terry Bradshaw threw a then-record four touchdown passes against the defending world champion Cowboys in a 35-31 Super Bowl XIII win. John Elway threw for 336 yards and a touchdown while also running for a touchdown in a Super Bowl XXXIII thumping of the Falcons. Tom Brady completed 32 of 48 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns, while leading a fourth-quarter comeback in addition to the game-winning scoring drive in the final minute of Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers.

None of those performances were deemed Top 10 worthy.

Namath was 17-for-28 for 206 yards and no touchdowns. He did not throw a pass in the fourth quarter and had just one completion of more than 20 yards. And oh yeah, you might want to give credit to the defense that allowed just seven points instead of to a quarterback who led his team to a below-average offensive performance in relation to how they played prior to that game and who also led his team to just one touchdown. Namath himself admits that someone else should have won the Most Valuable Player Award.

But Namath was beloved by the media and the voters let that cloud their judgement.

Now the people who defended the decision said it was because of Namath's "guarantee to beat the Colts." Please. New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress guaranteed a super bowl win over an undefeated Patriots team being billed by many as the greatest team ever just a few months ago. Where was he on the list? At least he caught the game-winning touchdown. Granted, Burress only had two catches but, by the rankers' requirements, the simple fact that he guaranteed a win over a heavy favorite should get him on the list.

But I digress.

The point is that Namath is on that list and in the Hall of Fame because of that one game, and more specifically, that one guarantee. Yes, it was gutsy and it inspired his team. But it doesn't mean the guy is a Hall of Famer and certainly not one of the best ever.

Here are the stone cold facts: Namath completed only 50.1 percent of his passes and threw 47 more interceptions (220) than touchdowns (173). Once he led the league in touchdown passes...four times he led the league in interceptions. Only twice in his 13-year career did he throw more touchdown passes than interceptions. Granted the pass coverage rules were tighter back then but he averaged 17 interceptions a season, which actually is quite deceiving because in four of his seasons he only played in six or fewer games. The year after the Jets won the super bowl, Namath completed 14 of 40 passes for 164 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions in a 13-6 home playoff loss to the Chiefs. That also was his last playoff game even though he played until 1977.

Granted, it's not all about stats. It's more about winning. But here Namath fails the test again. He led the Jets to only three winning seasons, all from 1967-69. Three winning seasons in 13 years and that makes him a Hall of Famer? Come on.

I've heard others make excuses for Namath, saying that injuries hindered him and he would have been much better had he been healthier. I have no doubt that's true, but that's also too bad. Football is a rough game and thousands of players could make the same claim.

Terrell Davis would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and might have made a run at the all-time rushing record if he didn't blow out his knee the year after rushing for 2,000 yards and leading the Broncos to their second straight super bowl. Few out there are saying Davis is a Hall of Famer.

The bottom line is if Namath wasn't a media darling, playing in the media capitol of the world, who made a bold guarantee he wouldn't have even sniffed the Hall of Fame. Namath was an immensely talented quarterback.

He just wasn't a Hall of Famer...but he was overrated.


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