This is a modified version of: If your life hinged on the outcome of one football game, who would you want as your quarterback?
Let’s word it this way: If you absolutely had to win an NFL season opener — or be sentenced to a lifetime of leaf raking with a salad fork — your QB (post-1960 only) would be . . .?
Joe Montana, you say? Surprisingly, he was only 7-5 in opening-day starts (and just 5-5 with the Niners). Johnny Unitas? A little better, but still “only” 9-5 (if you fudge a bit and count his first few years with the Colts in the ’50s). Peyton Manning? Getting warmer at 11-4, though his winning percentage (.733) isn’t as good as — gulp — Lynn Dickey’s (7-2, .778) or Craig Morton’s (6-2, .750).
OK, I’m going to stop torturing you. Here are the top QBs in terms of winning percentage (minimum: 6 starts):
BEST WEEK 1 RECORDS FOR STARTING QUARTERBACKS SINCE 1960
|2002-13||Michael Vick||Falcons, Eagles||6-1||.857|
|2007-13||Jay Cutler||Broncos, Bears||6-1||.857|
Quite a group, isn’t it? You’ve got a guy who served four years in the Navy, including a stint in Vietnam, before starting his NFL career (Staubach). You’ve got a guy who’s married to a supermodel (Brady). You’ve got a guy who did time in prison for running a dogfighting operation. And you’ve got a guy who titled his doctoral thesis in math: “Characterization of the Set of Asymptotic Values of a Function Holomorphic in the Unit Disc” (Ryan).
(The latter will always get a laugh at parties, by the way. Just say, preferably when one of your friends has a mouthful, “I’ll take ‘Characterization of the Set of Asymptotic Values of a Function Holomorphic in the Unit Disc’ for $1,000, Alex.”)
Anyway, would have expected to see Vick on this list? Or Cutler, for that matter? (Flacco I had a vague awareness of just because he plays up the road.) Some other factoids that might interest you:
● Dan Marino (10-6, .625) didn’t make the cut, but he did win his last eight openers (1992-99). Heck of a streak. Dan Fouts (9-3, .750) didn’t make the cut, either, but he won nine of 10 openers in one stretch (1976-86, an injury keeping him out in ’77). Another terrific streak.
● Brady has won his last 10 (2004-13), though he made only a cameo appearance in the ’08 game, when he blew out his knee against the Chiefs.
● Peyton Manning is almost as good in openers as his father Archie was bad (2-9, .182). Of course, his dad got stuck playing for the Saints in their Paper Bag Days. Brother Eli, meanwhile, is 4-5 (.444).
● If you go by passer rating, the Top 5 in Week 1 starts (minimum: 6) are Tony Romo (110.2), Aaron Rodgers (101.4), Brady (100.1), Fouts (98.5) and Drew Brees (96.9), with Peyton (96.4) and Philip Rivers (96) close behind.
● Wins by Brady (vs. Miami) and Manning (vs. Indianapolis) on Sunday would give each of them 12 opening-game victories, as many as any QB has had in the modern era. That list currently looks like this:
MOST WINNING STARTS IN WEEK 1 BY A QUARTERBACK SINCE 1960
|1992-10||Brett Favre||Packers, Jets, Vikings||12-6-0||.667|
|1961-78||Fran Tarkenton||Vikings, Giants||11-6-1||.639|
|1998-13||Peyton Manning||Colts, Broncos||11-4-0||.733|
So who did you choose?