I recently read an article on Pro Football Talk that mentioned Brett Favre’s opinion on which current NFL quarterback most resembled his gun-slinging game. His answer was Tony Romo. Both played for smaller schools at the collegiate level. They entered the NFL without much hype and were eventually groomed for success by coaches with a strong personality. That’s background noise. The real similarities are on the field where both Romo and Favre play(ed) the quarterback position with reckless abandon. Underhand passes, no-look throws, wild scrambles and highlight reel plays have been the signature of their respective careers. As have the late-game collapses, the mind-numbing mistakes and the gun-slinging mentality. Romo is basically Favre 2.0.
I found this comparison intriguing and decided I would expand upon it here with my take from The Spotter’s View. All 32 current NFL Quarterbacks compared historically to a passer from the past. Interesting concept…here we go.
32. Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo = Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre
31. Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert = Los Angeles Rams QB Jim Everett
Disclaimer: Everett enjoyed a couple of really good years in Los Angeles (1998 and 99) when he averaged 30 TD passes and 4,100 yards passing per season. I make this comparative claim recognizing that Gabbert will likely never approach those numbers in any of his seasons.
That said, both were former first-round picks with prototypical size and tools. Gabbert is 6-4. Everett, 6-5. Tall, pocket-passer types with quick releases and a command over their accuracy. They even kinda look-alike if you can find a photo of Gabbert minus the flowing locks (which I’ve done for you here and here). But the real similarities emerge in crisis situations of a heavy pass rush where neither Gabbert nor Everett appeared to be that tough. Here is a Video Sampler of why people feel that way about Gabbert. Stepping away from throws. Feeling pressure too soon. Always anticipating the hit. This is the historical tie in. Remember this? It happened because of Everett’s fear of contact. Taking phantom sacks. Playing “soft”. I think the Jaguars got Everett 2.0 when they drafted Gabbert – minus the Pro Bowl seasons.
30. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton = Philadelphia Eagles QB Randall Cunningham
I can’t think of a more fitting comparison for Cam Newton than Randall Cunningham. They’re climb towards NFL success was not all that similar but their styles of play and the transcendent athleticism certainly is. People haven’t been historically kind in their remembrances of Cunningham who has been marginalized into a few NFL Films highlights. He was more than that. Much more. Let’s take his first full year as a starter in 1988:
Randall threw for 3,800 yards and 24 TDs while rushing for another 624 yards and six TDs. Total offense accounted for: 4,400 yards and 30 TDs.
Now look at Newton’s record-setting rookie campaign:
4,051 yards passing with 21 TDs. Another 700 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. Total offense accounted for: 4,700 yards and 35 TDs.
Pretty similar, no? Both Cunningham and Newton possess dominating physical talents. Unique athleticism and escapability. HUGE arms. Even bigger personalities. The thing that hurt Cunningham is ironically the same thing that will help Newton. Timing.
Cunningham was the first of the hybrid quarterbacks. Sure, guys like Archie Manning and Fran Tarkenton were mobile athletes. But not like Randall. He was sort of a gimmick in an era with truly statuesque pocket-passers. Marino, Montana, Simms and Schroeder to name a few. People look back at his career and forget the other part of being a “dual”-threat. He could wing it! He threw for 30 or more TDs twice in his career and surpassed 3,000 yards passing (when that meant something) five times. As a reference, Joe Montana – widely regarded as the best QB of all-time – accomplished that feat 8 times during his.
Newton – who possesses Cunningham-esque skills – is not a gimmick. A freak of nature, yes. But not a gimmick. Thanks to guys like Randall and Steve Young and Michael Vick who have paved the way for Newton can reap the benefits. His rookie campaign was slightly better than Cunningham’s first full year as a starter but only slightly. Maybe Newton goes on to win a Super Bowl or two, something Cunningham never accomplished thanks to this, but overall – Newton and Cunningham are near clones.
29. Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan = New York Giants QB Phil Simms
This one seemed relatively easy to me. Afterall, Ryan and Simms are only separated in stature by a half-inch and a mere three pounds, They look like brothers from another mother. But the similarities don’t end on the surface level. They also share similar mechanics throwing the football (look and look - the only difference I can see is that Simms rocked the old school elastic in his jersey sleeve whereas Ryan wears the more casual loose-fit) and have been associated with being clutch players. Both have eleven 4th Quarter Comebacks and 17 game-winning drives. Granted, Ryan has accomplished those impressive numbers in a shorter span but still the “ice” factor was a part of both players’ games.
Furthermore, consider this. Ryan’s stats from last year (his fourth in the league) are eerily similar to Simms’ fourth year (technically his fifth but he missed most of the 1983 season after suffering a gruesome thumb injury against the Philadelphia Eagles).
Ryan: 4,177 Yards 29 TD 12 INT
SImms: 4,044 Yards 22 TD 14 INT
Allowing for the differences of today’s game (rules tilted in favor of the offense), one can safely assume these numbers are even more similar than their face-value. There are arguments that can be made in favor of other historical comparisons for Ryan (and for every QB on this list) but I felt most comfortable using Simms as our benchmark. Similar look, clutch performer, a winner and someone who fits the mold of being a first-round draft pick and a franchise quarterback. Simms also won a Super Bowl as a starting QB and helped the Giants position themselves for another title (though he didn’t play in the 1990 SB due to injury). I can see Ryan’s skill set leading to a similar outcome – one, maybe two titles.
28. Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford = Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman
Two first overall selections in their respective draft classes, Stafford and Aikman were thrown into very tough situations as rookies. The teams that used the first overall pick on them in the draft were obviously holding that pick due to their inability to win the year before. This explains the similar career arch for our two subjects in #28 of the historical comparison of quarterbacks.
As a rookie, Aikman was winless going 0-11 after replacing Steve Walsh as the starting quarterback. Rough start. Stafford wasn’t much better in his first year under center managing just two wins en route to a 2-8 record as a rookie. In his next two seasons, Aikman middled around .500 as a starter before making the leap in year 4 when his Cowboys posted a 13-3 record. Stafford was 11-8 over his next two years (similar to Aikman) and is about to embark on his fourth season where a leap seems possible. He’s playing with the best WR in football – like Aikman did in the early nineties – and he has the experience under his belt to now challenge as a legitimate contender.
I doubt Stafford will end his career with as many rings as AIkman (3) but if the Lions can find their Emmitt Smith to complement their versions of AIkman (Stafford) and Irvin (Johnson), then…well, it’s possible to contemplate some measured success for Stafford in the post-season.