Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marino and Favre

Dan Marino played in 242 games, while Brett Favre played in 273 games. Here is the average game for each:

Dan Marino: 20.5 of 34.5 for 253.5 yards, 1.7 TDs, 1 INT
Brett Favre: 20.9 of 33.9 for 238.5 yards, 1.7 TDs, 1.1 INT

Other numbers are extremely close, most with a slight advantage to Marino: TD % (Marino 5%, Favre 5%), INT % (Marino 3%, Favre 3.3%), Yards Per Attempt (Marino 7.3, Favre 7.0), QB Rating (Marino 86.4, Favre 85.6). Favre has a better completion percentage (61.6% to 59.4%), but Marino has a better sack rate (3.1% to 4.8%).* Marino's winning percentage as a starter was 61.5%, and Favre's was 62.8%.

The team contexts for Marino and Favre were also similar: both usually had good coaching, usually had good pass protection, both played with often good but rarely great skill position players.

When I consider the careers of Dan Marino and Brett Favre, I see few ways to argue that one or the other was far superior to the other. It's not that you can't make the argument, or find data to suggest one was superior to the other. It's just that their production was so similar, such arguments won't be convincing--they merely reinforce what one was already predisposed to believe.

Oh, but there's that one thing: Favre won a Super Bowl, Marino didn't. For some, that may swing the argument to Favre. But I think that would be blinkered.

These are two QBs that shared remarkably similar careers, QBs that share similar statistics, that share similar winning records. To determine one was better than the other because of one team championship just doesn't make sense.

Marino's best team was the 1984 Dolphins, who went 14-2 and reached the Super Bowl. There they met a juggernaut: the 1984 49ers went 15-1 (their only loss by three points), ranked 2nd in points scored and 1st in points allowed, with a point differential of 15.5 points per game.

Favre's best team was the 1996 Packers, who went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. The '96 Packers had the league's #1 defense in both points allowed and yards allowed.

So Favre is better than Marino because in his prime he played with a #1 defense? Marino is not as good as Favre because when he reached the Super Bowl his team was beaten by one of the greatest teams of all-time? This doesn't really make logical sense.

See Also:
Marino and Favre (September 27, 2007)

Some relevant (and great) posts at pro-football-reference.com:

All-Time NFL QBs: The Best Overall QBs Ever

The Best QB of all time?

A last look at QBs

Favre vs. Marino (this is a detailed, researched, analytical, and superb comparison of the two QBs)

*Marino was a gem at avoiding sacks in the pocket--he made slight movements to avoid rushers, instinctively buying time, and also avoiding sacks with his quick release. 10 times Marino had the lowest sack rate in the league, including his first seven seasons.


  1. Anonymous2:00 PM

    Favre owns Marino. Laces out.

  2. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Well, I guess that you know what my response will be - I feel Favre was the better player, though not by much.

    HOWEVER, I agree that looking at their statistics and records there is a strong case to be made that they are equally great - and this case may even be correct! Just so long as you don't say Marino was better than Favre!

  3. Joe-I know you've got a huge man crush on Marino. That being said, you make a very good case for Marino being on par with Favre. Where's Rob?

  4. Anonymous7:56 PM

    I wouldn't say that Favre was clearly better, but don't discount that Marino's home field had much better conditions for passing, although this is somewhat offset by Favre having two divisional opponents in domes, and one in Tampa, whereas all of Marino's divisional opponents' home fields can easily have bad weather late in the year.

    Before he hurt his thumb, Favre was easily the best bad weather passer I'd ever seen. He could throw laser beams when the average NFL qb was completely outmatched by the weather.

    1. Anonymous9:58 PM

      Favre was a far better QB in the playoffs and far more consistent in the regular season as well. The biggest difference of all-Favre was a far better QB in championship (conference and S.B.) games. Marino led his teams to 3 championship game losses (vs. only 1 win) because of his mediocre to bad play (too many INT's). Marino had 2 Defenses that were No. 1 in Least Points Allowed, but couldn't do squat with them in the playoffs because of his mediocre to bad play.

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