On the Tunney Side of the Street 35

by Jim Tunney

  After Further Review ...Should the victory by the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl diminish what most people say about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning that he may be the "best of all time?"

I always have difficulty with those types of opinions: "Best of all time."  My difficulty stems from the many changes that have occurred during the 50 years of my involvement with the NFL.

Let's take the best quarterback question.  Technology and equipment have made a huge difference.  My concern is about the various conditions players faced.  Manning has demonstrated an excellent knowledge of the game and superb ability to "read" defenses.  However, so did Starr, Unitas, Montana, Young, Staubach, and Jurgensen as well as many others.

In today's NFL game:  when a play ends, the 40-second play clock starts; for 25 of those seconds, the quarterback is receiving information through an audio headset in his helmet - -which play to call, defensive alignment, etc.  Quarterbacks of the past didn't have that technological help.  In fact, I watched Washington Redskins' quarterback Sonny Jurgensen diagram a play in the dirt, like we used to do as kids on the sandlot.

            Emmitt Smith's performance as a Dallas Cowboys running back (1990-2002) produced outstanding rushing numbers.  How does former HOF Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown (1957-1965) compare?  Consider this:  In 1978, the NFL changed its blocking rules whereby an offensive player could use his hands and arms extended to block or push an opponent.  In Brown's day, offensive players had to keep their hands at or near their chest and block opponents only with their shoulders and/or body.

Jerry Rice is arguably the best wide receiver there ever was.  Jerry, and this is not to take anything away from his performance, had the opportunity to wear gloves.  Those gloves had "grips" on the fingers which enable today's receivers to more easily catch a pass.  Receivers in other days didn't have gloves.  Times, equipment and rules have changed.   

   And finally, Manning threw an errant pass near the end of Super Bowl 44, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by the Saints Tracy Porter to seal the victory.  In Super Bowl 11, Minnesota's quarterback Fran Tarkington experienced the same fate when Oakland Raiders DB Willie Brown intercepted Tark's pass and ran 75 yards for a score with the Raiders winning 32-14.  As Tarkington left the field, he turned to me (as referee) and said, "I'll be back."  So will Manning.

Will you consider all factors when comparing athletes of different eras?

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