Tag Archives: Tom Brady

Finally Eagles, Finally!

Embed from Getty Images

“Fly Eagles, Fly!” is the official fight song for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.

After winning the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history last night, we can at least temporarily change those first three words of the song to “Finally Eagles, Finally!

The Eagles and New England Patriots threw haymakers at one another all night long on Sunday night during Super Bowl LII in Minnesota in a game that was reminiscent of the climactic fight of the film “Rocky II“.

In that epic slugfest, Philly’s favorite fictional underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa, traded big blows with and ultimately defeated a legendary unbeatable champion named Apollo Creed.

Last night it was a real, live legendary champion named Tom Brady who was throwing bombs at the Eagles. For most of the night, Brady found the Birds weak spots, landing punishing shot after punishing shot.

But the Eagles kept taking those shots and answering back with big shots of their own. Leading the way was a man every bit the underdog that the fictional Rocky had been in that film series.

Nick Foles has had big moments as an NFL quarterback before, including in an Eagles uniform. But his career had gone a bit off the rails over the last couple of years to the point where he was ready to retire from the game.

Given another shot at NFL life, Foles was signed by the Eagles for the 2018 season. Brought in to serve as a backup to rising stud Carson Wentz, most Eagles fans thought – in fact hoped – that Foles would never see the field.

As everyone now knows, the unthinkable happened. Wentz led the Eagles to the NFL’s best record and was the leading NFL MVP candidate. But it all seemed to evaporate when Wentz suffered a debilitating knee injury, ending his season in a Week #14 victory in Los Angeles.

In stepped a cold Foles. With no training camp, having taken no game snaps all year long, the 28-year old in his sixth season was suddenly put under center for the NFC’s top team.

It was a no-win situation for Foles. If the Eagles collapsed at that point, blame would all go to the Wentz injury. If they lost at any point in the playoffs, there would always be those who would wonder “what if Carson” had stayed healthy?

In retrospect – if it had to happen at all – the timing of Wentz’ injury could not have been better. His great play had been the biggest key in the Eagles having clinched a playoff berth. He put the team in position to finish as the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs.

That timing allowed Foles to come in and play in two full games and parts of two others before the playoffs would begin. It was just enough time to get him up to game speed and ready to perform once again on the big stage.

Perform he would. Foles threw for 246 yards and managed the game well as the Eagles held off the tough defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons by 15-10 in the Divisional Round.

Taking it up a notch, Foles put on a show in throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles crushed the Minnesota Vikings dreams of hosting the Super Bowl in their home town with a 38-7 victory in the NFC Championship Game.

That all led to last night, and the battle with Brady and his Patriots. Brady threw for an unreal Super Bowl record 505 yards and three touchdowns.

But for nearly every Brady drive of excellence, Foles had an answer. He threw for 373 yards himself, and matched the great Brady with three touchdown passes of his own.

He also did Brady one better. While Brady dropped a possible TD reception on a second quarter trick play, Foles caught one tossed by tight end Trey Burton. Foles thus became the first player in NFL history to both pass for and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

The game itself was much like those fictional Balboa-Creed battles. Big shots. Back and forth action. When each seemed within a blow of landing a knockout punch, the other would come roaring back to life.

After the two teams traded early field goals, Foles was first to put his team into the end zone when he connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 34-yard TD pass with 2:41 to play in the first quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, former Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount bulled his way in from 21 yards away with the help of strong blocking from his teammates to give the Birds a 15-3 lead.

That lead nearly got even bigger. On their next possession from the New England 43-yard line, Foles tried to connect with Jeffery down along the sideline at the eight-yard line.

The receiver nearly made a tremendous one-hand catch. But the ball somehow flipped out of his hand, and popped directly to Duron Harmon for the only interception that Foles would throw in the entirety of this postseason run.

At this point, I was feeling a bit cocky that my pregame 41-10 prediction in favor of the Eagles was going to materialize. I would turn out to be only halfway correct.

Brady became nearly unstoppable for much of the rest of the contest. He started by leading New England on an eight-play, 90-yard drive, aided along by a key defensive holding call. When James White rolled in from 26-yards out, the Pats had cut their deficit to just 15-12.

However, Foles answered right back, leading the Eagles down to the Patriots one-yard line with just :38 seconds remaining in the first half. The key play of the drive was a 55-yard catch and run by rookie RB Corey Clement, who had a tremendous game in all phases.

On fourth-and-one, coach Doug Pederson could have kicked a field goal, putting points on the board for his team as they entered halftime. But Pederson showed all night long that he wasn’t playing it safe. His team was going to play to win.

Pederson called for a schoolyard trick play, and his players ran it to perfection. Clement would find himself right in the middle of things once again.

Foles lined up in the shotgun to take the snap, but then suddenly split out to the right as a receiver. The direct snap went to Clement, who started to his left, then pitched the ball off to backup tight end Trey Burton, who was moving right.

While all this misdirection was happening, Foles had slipped off unseen into the right side of the end zone. Burton threw a perfect strike while on the run to Foles, who cradled the TD reception into his arms. The Eagles thus took a 22-12 lead into the locker room.

After a lengthy halftime break in which Justin Timberlake put on quite a song and dance show, the action continued with Brady remaining hot.

Leading the Patriots on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, Brady found his favorite target on half of those plays. Rob Gronkowski had receptions of 25, 24, and 14 yards. Then he snared a 5-yard TD catch, and just a couple minutes into the second half, it was again a three-point game.

Not to be outdone, Foles again drove the Eagles back right away. An 11-play, 85-yard drive culminated with a 22-yard TD pass to Clement, and the Eagles were back up by 10 again at 29-19.

And then Brady got the ball back, and guess what happened? Yup. Eight-play, 75-yard drive resulting in a 26-yard TD pass to Chris Hogan making it a 29-26 game. That was how the third quarter would end.

Early in the fourth, a 42-yard field goal by Jake Elliott pushed the Eagles lead out to 32-26. That gave Brady the ball back, and he remained unstoppable.

A 10-play, 75-yard drive led to a four-yard pass to Gronkowski for the touchdown. When Stephen Gostkowski booted the extra-point, New England had their first lead of the night at 33-32.

With 9:22 to play, Foles got the ball back, trailing for the first time. On a third and six play from his own 29-yard line he found TE Zach Ertz for seven and a first down. But three plays later, with the clock showing under six minutes to play, the Eagles faced a fourth down.

On fourth and one from their own 45-yard line, Pederson faced another key decision. The odds said to punt, try to pin the Patriots deep, have the defense hold Brady, and get the ball back in better field position.

But as I said earlier, Pederson didn’t come to U.S. Bank Stadium to play it safe. He came to win. And so he rolled the dice again, going for it on fourth down. Foles came through once again. A quick hit to Ertz over the middle resulted in a two-yard gain and another first down.

Seven plays and three more minutes off the clock later, Foles again found Ertz, this time streaking towards the end zone. Foles hit his tight end in stride at the five. Ertz turned up field, took a couple of strides, and dove into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

With just over two minutes remaining and holding a five-point lead, Pederson called for a two-point conversion attempt. For the second time in the game, the Birds failed to convert, and the Eagles held a 38-33 lead.
Brady would get the ball back with one timeout and the two minute warning in his pocket. This was way too much time and opportunity for any Eagles coach, player, or fan to feel anything but uncomfortable.
The Eagles clearly needed someone on the defense to step up with a big play, which really hadn’t happened the entire game. Now, at the biggest moment, that big play would finally come.
Brady began at his own 25, and immediately completed a pass to Gronkowski for an eight-yard gain. It looked to all the world as if he was ready to begin yet another late-game drive to victory.
On second down and two, Brady again dropped back to pass. But this time, the Eagles defense charged through the Patriots line.
Brandon Graham reached Brady, bursting the football from his hands. Derek Barnett pounced on the loose ball, recovering a fumble that now stands as the single most important defensive play in Eagles history.
Foles took over and drove the offense back down the field once more. That drive resulted in key points put up on the scoreboard in the form of a clutch 46-yard field goal from Elliott. The Eagles now had a 41-33 lead. But Brady would get the ball back with just over a minute to play.
On the ensuing kickoff return, Patriots coach Bill Belichik showed that he wasn’t going down without a fight, calling for a reverse. Once again it would be Clement who would come up big, this time on special teams. The first man down field on the kickoff coverage, he disrupted the return enough that the Eagles were able to pin the Patriots deep.
Brady was forced to begin at his own nine-yard line. He had no time outs, and just :58 seconds to drive his team to a touchdown. He would then still need to be successful on a two-point conversion just to force a tie and send the Super Bowl to overtime.

The Eagles defense stiffened, and the pass rush put relentless pressure on him. Three plays later the Patriots faced fourth and ten, still at that nine-yard line. And then Brady tried to miraculously raise his team from the canvas one last time.

Completing passes to his two favorite targets, Danny Amendola and Gronkowski, Brady got the first down and then drove the Patriots out to midfield with nine seconds remaining. There was enough time for one last-gasp ‘Hail Mary’ play.

The plan was for Brady to throw up the ball in the end zone, hoping that the massive Gronkowski could out-leap and out-fight the Eagles defensive backs. That, or have him tip the ball to Amendola or one of the other receivers.

As Brady dropped back to pass, the Eagles put on another strong rush. Graham nearly got him again, but the New England QB slipped away and stepped up for one final heave.

He couldn’t have made a better throw. Brady’s long pass was on the money. The ball came down just inside the end zone, and Gronkowski was right there, leaping to make the catch. However, he was swarmed upon by a gaggle of Eagles defensive backs.

The ball was swatted around, appearing to bounce off two or three players before finally falling harmlessly to the turf. There were no flags, the clock was at 0:00, and the Philadelphia Eagles were finally world champions.

13 years ago, Brady and the Patriots had defeated the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Now in a rematch of sorts, the greatest quarterback in NFL history had done battle with one of the biggest underdogs in NFL history.

Like that showdown fight in “Rocky II, the underdog had defeated the defending champion.

All of that tells you the story of the game. But it fails to convey the emotion that comes with being a fan of that underdog. I have been such a fan for something like 47 years.

My earliest memories of the Eagles are from the opening of Veteran’s Stadium for the 1971 season. My age peers and I lived through mostly losing teams in those early Vet years with quarterbacks named Pete Liske, John Reaves, Roman Gabriel, and Mike Boryla.

Finally, an energetic young coach named Dick Vermeil arrived, and we began to believe that we could join the NFL’s elite. Though we had many great moments and great players over the next four decades, even reached the Super Bowl twice, we could never claim the ultimate victory.

There were no guarantees that it would ever come either. Just ask fans of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, both with loyal and passionate fan bases.

For 86 years in the Bosox case, and for 108 years in the Cubbies case, generations of fans were born, lived a full life, rooted on their teams for decades, and died never experiencing a World Series victory.

No, there was no guarantee that any of us would ever live to see the Eagles win a Super Bowl. But last night put an end to all of the frustration.

When Graham knocked the ball from Brady’s hands and Barnett recovered it, a realization hit me that I would not allow myself to feel all night. The Eagles were about to win the Super Bowl. Seriously, tears began to well up in my eyes.

Those emotions remained exactly that raw for the next 15 minutes or so of real time, the final two minutes of the game time. Could the Eagles pick up the one more first down that they needed to drive the stake through Brady’s heart? No. Could the defense stop him on fourth down at his own nine, driving that stake through his heart? No.

But could the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League pull one final miracle out of his bag? Could he add one more unbelievable last-second play to his personal highlight reel? No as well.

What Vermeil, Ron Jaworski, and Bill Bergey were unable to do, these Eagles finally did. What Buddy Ryan, Randall Cunningham, and Reggie White were never able to do, these Eagles finally did. What Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, and Brian Dawkins were never able to do, these Eagles finally did.

As the Eagles players, coaches, and families began to celebrate on the field nearly a thousand miles away, at my house, with those tears now fully in my eyes, my wife and I embraced. Out on the streets of Philadelphia, tens of thousands poured out onto Broad Street from north to south to celebrate.

The Philadelphia Eagles had finally won the Super Bowl. And like our fictional hero decades ago, they did it as underdogs. It only made the victory that much sweeter.

Team owner Jeffrey Lurie took to the stage to accept the Super Bowl trophy. GM Howie Roseman, for whom this victory must be justifiably ridiculously sweet, took part in the trophy celebration.

Foles was honored as the Super Bowl MVP, joined on stage by his quarterback brother Wentz, who will now hope to one day lead the team back to this moment.

There will be a parade here in Philly on Thursday. Millions are expected. It will be a street party like none this town has ever seen, and with the Flyers of the 1970’s and the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, I’ve seen some pretty big ones.

Finally, Eagles fans, it was our turn to see our heroes on the stage accepting the Lombardi Trophy, green and white confetti pouring down on them. It was our turn to party late into the night. It was our turn to know that championship feeling. Finally, Eagles fans. Finally!

Book Review: Two new books on President Trump

Embed from Getty Images

 

Two books penned by folks with access to the White House in the early days of the Trump administration have begun to fly off book shelves and online stores.

Each paints a picture of, at least in the early transitional weeks and months, a top-level staff surrounding the President that, while intelligent and talented, was seriously flawed and certainly not functioning as a team.

Sitting in the #8 slot (with a bullet) on the current New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller book list is Let Trump Be Trump” by Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

Released today, Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff is sure to quickly enter and rise towards the top of that list as well.

The two books deal with the same subject matter – Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.Lewandowski and Bossie were two of Trump’s most intimate campaign advisors as he captured first the Republican nomination and then won the general election in 2016.

Their respect and admiration for the man, at least as a candidate and as a leader, appears to be beyond doubt, as revealed in this snippet from their tome:

“…Donald J. Trump is the greatest big-game player in American political history. Period. There is no second. None. Not in modern times. No one is even close. If you disagree, show us someone who has never run for office before, and watch him become the leader of the free world in spite of the media, some of the Republican establishment, and the Democratic Party all being against him. We’ll argue with you any day of the week.”

There was volatility in the early months of the Trump administration as top officials came and went with alarming regularity. This was with the notable exception of the fiercely loyal Kellyanne Conway, who always had the trust of the President.

“In the coming months, we would watch as the fundamental flaw in the Trump White House made it shake and crumble, until the whole thing split in two with the American people watching. First out  of the White House was General Mike Flynn, followed by Katie Walsh and shortly thereafter Sean Spicer. They were followed closely by Reince Preibus. Sebastian Gorka has left…We watched Anthony Scaramucci flame out…and now, (Steve) Bannon, too, is gone.”

But as Lewandowski and Bossie point out, that volatility was mostly a by-product of a man who was not a politician, who was not used to putting together a political team, being suddenly thrust into such a role.

He’s not, nor will he ever be, a politician in the traditional sense of that word. And he is not someone who goes back on his word. For Donald Trump loyalty is the currency of the realm, and nothing hurts him deeper than when someone he trusts is disloyal.

Wolff is a columnist and author who, thanks to a series of pro-Trump pieces during the campaign, was able to gain the confidence of enough staffers that he could frequently camp out in the West Wing during the first year of the Trump presidency.

The liberal news media have been parading Wolff out for interviews at any opportunity, as his book paints the President in a far less favorable light. This is, as we have all learned by now, in lock-step with their own anti-Trump agenda.

Wolff puts his own spin on the very first days of the Trump team in a piece for New York magazine released to accompany the book just two days ago:

Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate. He trusted his own expertise ­— no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said (Deputy Chief of Staff Katie) Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”

Unlike the Lewandowski/Bossie book, which is a first-hand account of the campaign from two men who were actually working inside and having daily conversations with Trump, the Wolff book is largely his opinion of what was happening during the first year of the administration. This opinion was allegedly drawn from conversations that Wolff claims to have had with staffers.

Wolff addresses this himself in the introduction to the book pic.twitter.com/4gSebnhJCB

— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) January 3, 2018

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It’s important to note what that Tweet by Benjy Sarlin of NBC News (no friends of Trump) says is contained in the introduction to Wolff’s book. “Many of the accounts…are baldly untrue” and “In other instances I have…settled on a version of events I believe to be true.

Whether predisposed to be defenders of President Trump or not, numerous folks have come out publicly charging that Wolff’s credibility is open to challenge. Some believe that allowing him any access to the White House was representative of the old “fox in a hen house” analogy.

In a “Fourth Estate” piece on Thursday for Politico, Jack Shafer opined:

“Wolff’s penetration of the White House presents two equally damning conclusions about Trump – that he’s too much of an egoist to care who might be loitering around the White House, gathering string on him, and that he’s too incurious about the world to spot a potential danger to his presidency.”

As pointed out by Kieran Corcoran of Business Insider, sources cited by Wolff in his book have come out publicly and “disputed claims made made about them.” These include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and longtime Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

As Lewandowski and Bossie point out, President Trump is not a typical politician. In fact, that was one of his major selling points to the Republican voters who handed him a surprisingly easy primary victory, and who swarmed to the polls in November of 2016.

Though he has built an enviable business empire, Trump has learned the hard way that building a political administrative team can be far more difficult. Just as he had to do at times in his role as a boss in business, Trump has found that he is going to have to fire people, or otherwise ease them out.

When it becomes clear that certain folks are not acting in the best interests of his team, in forwarding his agenda, they have to go. When this becomes obvious, Trump is unafraid to act. Both of these books make that clear.

Now, which book are you going to purchase and read, if not both? That is likely to be driven by your own already formed opinion of the President.

If you are positively disposed to the man and his policies and/or are interested in a history lesson on the inside story of an outsider rising to the highest office in the land, then you will add “Let Trump Be Trump” to your book shelf.

If you are in the camp that feels he is an abomination to the office and the nation, then “Fire and Fury” will be on your nightstand.

One thing is sure, no matter what your opinion of the President. During his first year in office, Trump has accomplished or is pushing forward the exact agenda on which he ran.

Rolling back numerous Obama-era policies and programs, reducing burdensome regulation, re-directing the courts back towards Constitutional originalists. Leading the fight on tax reform, directing tougher immigration policies and actions.

Despite the high-level staff turnovers, the Trump agenda continues to march forward. The man himself is the one indispensable piece to the puzzle. He is the unquestioned leader of what has quickly proven to be a winning team.

Trump is to this administration and its agenda what, as Lewandowski and Bossie compare him, Tom Brady is to the New England Patriots. Other pieces may come and go over time, but as long as Brady is leading them, the Pats are a Super Bowl contender. The analogy to this White House works well.

Me? I’m much more a history fan. I enjoy reading actual insider accounts of real events told by folks who were present when they happened, such as Lewandowski and Bossie. I am not at all a fan of gossipy sensationalism of the type released by Wolff.

These are not the first books written about Trump or his rise to the presidency. They will certainly not be the last. Two books, one POTUS, and more for supporters and detractors alike to digest regarding the most fascinating person to ever hold the office of President of the United States.

NFL Playoff Predictions

There is really only one way to make predictions on the outcome of some game or tournament and have yourself taken seriously, and that is to make them before even a single moment has been played.

So here we are, just moments away from the kickoff of the first game of the NFL playoffs, and that makes it time for my personal predictions on how this month-long tournament will play out.

Let’s start at home with our Philadelphia Eagles. What a tremendous, in some ways over-achieving season it has been for the Birds. When the team left training camp in early September, most fans were planning on a rebuilding year as Kevin Kolb took over at quarterback after a decade behind Donovan McNabb. An 8-8 finish that showed positive signs for 2011 would probably have been considered a success at that point.

But in the opening game against Green Bay, Kolb was injured. In stepped Michael Vick. The rest, as they say, is history. Vick emerged as an uncommon weapon, and an NFL MVP candidate. The team took off behind his acrobatics, bolted to the front of the NFC East, and then capped it all with a rally for the ages in a late December game against the rival New York Giants to take the division crown.

That the team faltered in it’s final two regular season games should not be as much cause for concern as it seems to have become for some fans and members of the media. The team was obviously thrown off by the sudden switch of the Vikings game from Sunday night to Tuesday night due to snow a couple of weeks ago.

That surprising defeat led to the full-scale benching of regulars for the finale against Dallas, as Andy Reid basically gave them a bye week. The result was a close, last-minute loss by the Eagles subs to the Cowboys regulars.

The more important factors for the Eagles entering the opening week matchup are their opponents, and the condition of their own players. The Eagles have lost key contributors in the past couple of weeks, while the Packers have played extremely well since the return to health of their outstanding quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

I want the Eagles to win. I will be rooting hard for it to happen.
I want to be wrong. Because putting a gun to my head, which is what you basically do when you come out in public with predictions, and I will pick the Packers to advance.

Most of Eagles Nation cannot be upset with me, because they feel the same way. In a poll taken at Philly.com, a full 50% of fans believe “The Pack will prevail”, while 38% said the Eagles will “win – barely” and another 12% said “The Birds will win big.”

Let’s call the final score something along the lines of 27-20, Green Bay. The Eagles best chance will be for a beat-up offensive line to find a way to give Vick enough time to make a handful of big plays and have the Eagles win a high-scoring affair. I see the banged-up offensive line and a defense that still needs 1-2 more playmakers falling just a bit short. I hope I am wrong.

So with the Eagles fate out of the way with, time to turn attention to the rest of the tournament. In the rest of the opening weekend, I am looking for wins from Baltimore over Kansas City, New Orleans over Seattle, and Indianapolis over the New York Jets.

I think the Ravens are just physical enough to edge out KC on the road. The defending Super Bowl champion Saints are back, are hot, and are much better than the host Seahawks. And I am going to always find it hard to bet against Peyton Manning at home.

This means that my 2nd round matchups will have New England beating Baltimore, Pittsburgh beating Indianapolis, Atlanta beating Green Bay, and New Orleans beating Chicago. The Pats are just too good right now for anyone.

The Steelers get Manning in wintry western Pennsylvania. The Falcons have too much offense, especially inside their dome. And the defending champs are just better than Da Bears, even outside on the road in winter.

In the respective conference title tilts, I will go with the Pats over the Steelers and the Saints over the Falcons. Again, until someone shows me that I am wrong, New England looks like the best team in football right now. And heading back indoors for the NFC Championship, I will pick Drew Brees over Matt Ryan in what should be an epic title game.

That brings us to the Big Game, the NFL Championship at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, Texas. With the Cowboys thankfully not in attendance, I am looking for Tom Brady to lead the Patriots to the title for the fourth time in 10 years. This will put the New England Patriots franchise behind only the Steelers (6), Cowboys (5) and 49ers (5) for all-time Super Bowl victories. Brady should be the MVP.

There ya have it. Let the games begin. Again, I would absolutely love for Michael Vick to become a true miracle worker and lead the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title. The team certainly has some of the top offensive weapons, has the 2nd best head coach, and has a rabid fan base. But it will again be the Patriots year come February 6th, 2011 in ‘Big D’.

The Top Twenty QB’s in Pro Football History


Every fan has their opinions and everyone has their favorites. The following list represents the opinion of this sports fan who has followed pro football for 30 years as to the greatest quarterbacks to ever have played the game of football at the highest level.

The only restrictive criteria for me was that he had to play in what I consider the ‘modern era’ of pro football, though that era stretches back further than it would for baseball and other sports. For me that era begins post-World War II, when the NFL truly began to racially integrate.

The quarterbacks on this list would probably make most lists of this type, but I know for a fact that there are a couple guys who would not make many lists, and others who would be listed in different orders. At the bottom of this post is a ‘label’ for comments. Feel free to leave your own commentary and your own ranking.

Some have said that a quarterback should be judged by the number of championships that he has won. I firmly disagree with that statement. There have been any number of marginally talented QB’s who have won the Super Bowl, and there have been tremendous talents who never got it done. That said, most of these men have won championships, some of them multiple times.

My list reflects what I have witnessed personally and what I have learned about the history of the game over these three decades as a fan. I have judged the players on my own list according to their overall accomplishments and talents, as well as factoring in that championship factor when I feel it was the QB who particularly made the difference.

So in honor of tomorrow’s Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, two teams with great quarterbacks of their own in Peyton Manning (pictured here helmeted with fellow listee Tom Brady) and Drew Brees, and with particular apologies to Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb and Boomer Esiason, here goes my listing of the ‘Top Twenty Quarterbacks in Pro Football History’:

#20> DAN FOUTS – the 9th-highest of all-time with 43,040 passing yards and 12th with 254 passing TD’s who was selected for the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team. As leader of the storied San Diego Chargers ‘Air Coryell’ he was the first QB to ever throw for 4,000 in consecutive seasons, and is one of only 7 NFL QB’s to throw 30 or more TD passes in consecutive seasons. He was a 2-time AP NFL and UPI AFC MVP including in 1982 when he was also selected as the NEA NFL MVP and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. In last year’s celebration of the franchise’ 50th anniversary, Charger fans voted him the ‘Greatest Charger of All-Time’.

#19> WARREN MOON – the 5th ranked yardage passer in NFL history with 49,325 yards and 6th with 291 touchdown passes, Moon was black-balled out of the NFL in the late 70’s because he was a black QB who refused to change positions, and thus played his first six seasons in the Canadian Football League. There he helped Edmonton win 5 straight Grey Cups while throwing for over 21,000 more yards and 144 more TD’s. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is also a member of the CFL Hall of Fame.

#18> JOE NAMATH – he would make this list if for no other reason than his incredible ‘guaranteed victory’ MVP performance in Super Bowl III which truly put the AFL on the map. A first round draft pick in 1965 of both the NFL and AFL, he was alternately known as ‘Broadway Joe’ or ‘Joe Willie’ and threw for over 27,000 yards and 173 TD’s in an injury-plagued and shorterned career. In 1974 he was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. Namath was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is also a member of the AFL’s All-Time Team.

#17> JIM KELLY – the 15th-highest yardage passer in NFL history with 35,467 and 18th with 237 TD passes, Kelly began his career with two seasons in the USFL. There he led was the league MVP in 1984 and threw for 9,842 more yards and 83 more touchdowns. When the USFL collapsed, Kelly moved to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills where he led the team to the playoffs in 8 of his 11 seasons, including to the Super Bowl four straight years (losing each.) He was elected in 2002 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

#16> PHIL SIMMS – the MVP of Super Bowl XXI in 1987 and a career member of the New York Giants who ranks 20th in all-time NFL passing yards with 33,462 and threw for 199 career touchdowns. A two-time Super Bowl champ with the Giants, he was the winner of the NEA player’s poll for 1986 NFL MVP, and was the MVP of the 1985 Pro Bowl. Coming out of college in 1979, Bill Walsh actually wanted to draft Simms rather than Joe Montana, but the Giants surprised many by taking Simms with their 1st round selection.

#15> TROY AIKMAN – the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 who threw for 32,942 yards and tossed 165 TD’s as a 3-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys. He was the #1 overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft and led the Cowboys franchise, which had fallen on hard times, back to prominence. He was the winner of the Walter Peyton Award as the NFL Man of the Year in 1997, and in 2006 was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

#14> KURT WARNER – the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 when he threw for a record 414 yards who led two teams to the NFL’s ultimate game. Warner threw for 32,344 yards and tossed 208 touchdowns and is widely recognized as one of the most accurate passers in NFL history. He holds the NFL record for highest completion percentage in a single game, is one of only 2 NFL QB’s with a passer rating over 120 in 4 consecutive games, and is one of only 3 QB’s to record 3 games with a perfect passer rating in their careers. He was the winner of the Walter Peyton Award as the NFL Man of the Year in 2008, as well as the 2-time AP and 3-time NEA NFL Most Valuable Player.

#13> KEN STABLER – the left-hander nicknamed ‘the Snake’ who threw for 27,938 yards and 194 TD’s mostly with the Oakland Raiders. He led the Raiders to a victory in Super Bowl XI and was selected for the NFL’s All-1970’s Team. He was the NFL passing champion in 1976, a 2-time AFC Player of the Year, the 1974 NFL MVP, the 1976 Bert Bell Award winner as the top pro football player, and also was the last winner of the Hickock Belt as the top pro athlete of the year in 1976. He has been black-balled by the Pro Football Hall of Fame due to off-field antics including at least 3 DUI arrests while in retirement.

#12> BART STARR – the Most Valuable Player of the first two Super Bowls in history and the iconic leader of the great Vince Lombardi-coached 1960’s Green Bay Packers. He threw for 24,718 yards and 152 TD’s for a team and in an era when running the ball was the dominant philosophy. Selected to the 1960’s NFL All-Decade Team, he remains the only player to ever quarterback his team to 5 NFL Championships. He later went on to become the head coach of the Packers, leading them in 1982 to their only playoff appearance in a 2-decade period. He was the consensus 1966 NFL Most Valuable Player and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

#11> FRAN TARKENTON – the 1975 NFL MVP, Bert Bell Award, and Offensive Player of the Year Award winner who led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls during a four year stretch in the mid-70’s only to lose them all. He is 6th all-time with 47,003 passing yards in the NFL and 4th with 342 touchdown passes. Nicknamed ‘The Mad Scrambler’ early in his career, he is considered perhaps the greatest scrambling QB in NFL history and rushed for 3,674 yards and 32 TD’s in his career. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

#10> DAN MARINO – ranked 2nd in NFL history with 61,361 yards and 420 TD passes, it’s amazing that he is this low, until you see the nine names ahead of him and factor in that he never won an NFL championship, leading his Miami Dolphins to an appearance in the Super Bowl just one time early in his career. He was the consesus NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1984, and a decade later was still good enough to be named the 1994 UPI AFC Player of the Year and the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He was the first QB to pass for over 5,000 yards and the first to pass for over 4,000 six times. He was the 1998 Walter Payton Award winner as the NFL Man of the Year, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

#9> TERRY BRADSHAW – the first player selected in the 1970 NFL Draft when the Pittsburgh Steelers won a coin toss for the chance to get him, he became a 4-time Super Bowl champion and the only back-to-back Super Bowl MVP in XIII and XIV. He threw for 27,989 yards and 212 passes in his career with the legendary ‘Steel Curtain’-era Steelers teams before injuries derailed and then ended his career prematurely in the early 1980’s. A member of the 1970’s NFL All-Decade Team, he was the 1978 NFL MVP and Bert Bell Award winner. He has enjoyed a lengthy and popular post-playing career as a TV analyst. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

#8> JOHNNY UNITAS – the man nicknamed ‘Johnny U’ was also considered as ‘The Man With the Golden Arm’, an appendage that threw for 40,239 yards which is 11th all-time and 290 TD passes which is 7th all-time. Between 1956 and 1960 he threw a touchdown pass in 47 straight games, still a record. He led the Baltimore Colts to 3 NFL Championships, including the 1958 title that has been nicknamed ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’ as well as a title in Super Bowl V in 1970. He was selected to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, is a 3-time winner of both the NFL MVP and Pro Bowl MVP honors, a 3-time winner of the Bert Bell Award, and was the 1970 NFL Man of the Year. In 1994 he was one of four QB’s selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

#7> ROGER STAUBACH – ‘Roger the Dodger’ whose Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry described as “possibly the best combination of a passer, an athlete and a leader to ever play in the NFL.” He threw for 22,700 yards and 153 TD passes, and ran for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns despite a career that started late due to a 5-year commitment to the U.S. Navy, which included a stint serving in Vietnam. He was a 2-time Super Bowl champion and the MVP of Super Bowl VI. Upon his retirement, his 83.4 completion percentage was the highest of all-time. Selected to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

#6> STEVE YOUNG – the great-great-great grandson of Mormom icon Brigham Young and the 2nd lefty on this list, Young is also another who began his career in the USFL. Perhaps the greatest dual-threat QB in history, he threw for 33,124 yards and 232 touchdowns while rushing for another 4,239 yards and 43 TD’s in the NFL. In his brief USFL career, Young became the first pro QB to ever pass for more than 300 yards and rush for more than 100 in a single game. He was a 3-time Super Bowl champion including as the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX. He was a 2-time consensus NFL MVP and 2-time Bert Bell Award winner and retired with a 96.8 career quarterback rating.

#5> PEYTON MANNING – the man best-positioned to some day move up on this list, he will try to lead the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl title for the 2nd time in 4 years tomorrow night. He was the MVP of Super Bowl XLI, and is 4th in NFL history in passing yardage with 50,128 and 3rd with 366 touchdown passes. He turns 34 years old next month, is healthy, and appears poised for many more years of prolific passing. He is a 4-time AP NFL Most Valuable Player, and was selected for the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade Team. There is no doubt that he will wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame upon completion of his playing career.

#4> BRETT FAVRE – the all-time NFL leader in passing yardage with 69,329 and passing touchdowns with 497 says (again) that he will retire, but might a shot at 500 career TD’s and 70,000 career passing yards as well as another shot at a Super Bowl cause him to (again) reconsider? He was a Super Bowl champion as the long-time QB of the Green Bay Packers and was selected to the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade Team. He was named the AP NFL MVP three straight years from 1995-97, and is a 5-time NFC Player of the Year. He is also the NFL’s ‘Iron Man’ having started a record 285 consecutive games, and as with Manning he will undoubtedly be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his final legitimate retirement.

#3> JOE MONTANA – the 10th highest yardage passer in NFL history with 40,551 and 9th with 273 TD passes, he is widely considered the best ‘big-money’ QB the game has ever known. ‘Joe Cool’ won 4 Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and was named the MVP three times in XVI, XIX and XXIV. He was a 2-time winner of the AP NFL MVP Award including in 1989 when he was the consensus league MVP, the Offensive Player of the Year, and the Bert Bell Award winner. He won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1986, and was named to the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team. In 1994 he was one of four QB’s selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

#2> JOHN ELWAY – perhaps the most naturally gifted quarterback in NFL history and arguably the flat-out strongest arm, he passed for 51,475 yards which is 3rd all-time in the NFL and for 300 touchdowns which is 5th all-time. He led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl three times early in his career but lost all three times. After almost a decade passed he finally returned Denver to the NFL’s ultimate game and they won Super Bowl XXXI in an upset over Favre’s defending champ Packers. The following year he was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXIII as he led the team to it’s 2nd straight title, meaning that he led the team to five total Super Bowl appearances. He was named to the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade Team, won the 1987 NFL MVP Award, and was a 2-time AFC Offensive Player of the Year. In 2004 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

#1> TOM BRADY – anyone surprised to see him at the top of the list should consider the offensive weapons that he has had to work with compared with those behind him. He has passed for 30,844 yards and 225 TD’s in his career, and at age 32 is poised to make a big move on the all-time NFL leader boards in both categories over the next several years. He is the undisputed leader of what is already a 3-time Super Bowl championship dynasty with the New England Patriots, including as the MVP of both Super Bowl XXVI and XXXVIII. He was the SI Sportsman of the Year in 2005, and in 2007 was the AP Male Athlete of the Year, and both the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. This past year of 2009 he was selected as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year after missing all of ’08 with a severe knee injury. He has a career 93.3 quarterback rating, and will undoubtedly be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame some day after retiring, which may not happen until the 2nd half of this decade. To top things off, Brady is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, with whom he now has two children.