Pro sports is a business. We all know that. But it’s become a numbers business, and I’m not talking about contracts.
I’m talking about analytics and statistics.
They’re everywhere, including the NFL where passer ratings and completion percentages have superseded won-loss records as measuring sticks for quarterbacks. But that’s how it should be, a friend of mine once said. Won-loss records for quarterbacks, he insisted, are outdated and overrated.
I disagree, pumping my fists every time I hear former Jets’ coach Herman Edwards say, “You play to win the game!” But I’m not alone. Hall-of-Fame GM Ron Wolf makes this a party of three. A guest on last week’s “Eye Test for Two” podcast, Wolf said he, too, measures elite quarterbacks the old-fashioned way
“I believe that they keep score for a reason,” he said on the broadcast, “and wins and losses are a key as far as I’m concerned.”
Wolf’s remarks were in response to questions about quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning – all of whom will be up for Hall-of-Fame discussion one day. Ryan and Rivers still play. Manning retired after last season. He’s the only one who won a Super Bowl
In fact, he won two.
But the knock-on all three – especially Manning – is that they don’t have overwhelming won-loss records. Manning was 117-117 in regular-season play (8-4 in the playoffs). Ryan is 110-85 (4-6 in the playoffs). And Rivers is 127-103 (5-6 in the playoffs).
All have been durable. All have had long careers. And all put up big numbers. Each quarterback is in the NFL’s top 11 in career yardage, completions, and touchdowns, and that’s enough for some to consider them Hall-of-Fame worthy.
Wolf is not one of them.
“It’s not how many times you won a Super Bowl or didn’t go to a Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s your overall won-loss record. And I would think all three of those guys are a little questionable.
“To me, that’s what a Hall-of-Fame player is: A dominant player at his position, and I don’t think any one of those guys you could say was a dominant player at (his) position.”
That should provoke debates, but Wolf is on to something. Manning and Rivers were never All-Pros. Ryan was one once. Ryan was an NFL MVP (2016), and Rivers was a Comeback Player of the Year (2013), while Manning was a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
That will give Manning the edge, with at least two Hall-of-Famer voters already telling me they believe he’ll be a first-ballot choice.
“If you’re going to consider him then certainly Charlie Conerly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Wolf.
The former Giants’ quarterback led the Giants to three championship games in four years, won one, and was a league MVP and second-team All-Pro. He was never elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he was a seven-time finalist.
Oh, one other thing. He won nearly twice as many regular-season games as he lost (57-31-1).