Formation | Culture | Mission

Fidelity Sports Review MMXIV (Part Two)

 “I know how everybody keeps talking about how ‘hot’ this team is,
but they’re pretty damn good.”

***

We return, sports fans, to the ten greatest memories—moments, games, teams, individuals, etc.—of the Year MMXIV.

Read Part One of the Fidelity Sports Annual Review here.


#5: Is Peyton Manning (or Tom Brady) the Greatest of All Time?

On the evening of October 19th, when Peyton Manning threw his 509th career TD pass, moving past Brett Favre for the NFL record, for the first time, I began to think that Peydey had etched his name into stone as the Greatest QB of All Time (GOAT—QB). Not that he had passed Favre—I have long considered Joe Montana as the gold standard for the most demanding position in any sport. I was most relying on my gut and a few foggy memories of Montana in his prime (have I mentioned that I saw Joe with his kids in a South KC grocery store during his years with the Chiefs?). But since I have a three week winter sabbatical to rest from a long year of ministry… and to catch up on my sports writing… let’s figure out, once and for all, who the GOAT—QB is. Let’s look at the:

Official Fidelity GOAT—QB Rankings

(Reg season stats are averaged across the player’s entire career, including seasons spent on the bench or recovering from injury.)

#5: Dan Marino, Dolphins, 17 seasons
Reg Season: 3600 yards, 25 TD, 15 INT, 51 GWDs, 86.4 rating
Playoffs: 8-10 record, 250 yards/game, 32 TD, 24 INT, 77.1 rating
Super Bowl record: 0-1 (1 TD, 2 INT, 66.9 rating)

Marino is the founder of the category: “Regular Season Stud QB,” which I now prefer to call the “Marino-Style QB.” His numbers over 17 seasons are unreal—especially considering that QB’s and WR’s could still get destroyed by defenses. The young guys (Manning, Brady, et al.) have put up bigger regular season numbers primarily due to officiating and game-speed changes. But Marino is permanently stuck outside the top 4 QB’s due to his playoff QB ratings. You just can’t be the GOAT without a Super Bowl ring. ‘Nuff said.

#4: Brett Favre, Packers/Jets/Vikings, 20 seasons
Reg Season: 3600 yards, 25 TD, 17 INT, 45 Game Winning Drives (GWDs), 86.0 QB rating
Playoffs: 13-11 record, 244 yards/game, 44 TD, 30 INT, 86.3 rating
Super Bowl record: 1-1 (5 TD, 1 INT, 97.6 rating)

Favre is basically the second coming of Marino: gaudy regular season stats spread over a couple decades. He’s beat Marino at his own “Marino-Style QB” game, and even put up an over 50% win pct in the playoffs and won a Super Bowl. But his 17 INT’s per season are just flat-out unnecessary, and with guys averaging half those in just as many attempts, Favre just ain’t the GOAT.

T-2nd: Peyton Manning, Cots/Broncos, 17 seasons
Reg Season: 4100 yards, 31 TD, 14 INT, 52 GWDs, 97.6 rating
Playoffs: 11-12 record, 286 yards/game, 37 TD, 24 INT, 89.2 rating
Super Bowl record: 1-2 (3 TD, 4 INT, 81.0 rating)

T-2nd: Tom Brady, Patriots, 15 seasons
Reg Season: 3550 yards, 26 TD, 10 INT, 44 GWDs, 95.9 rating
Playoffs: 18-8 record, 247 yards/game, 43 TD, 22 INT, 87.5 rating
Super Bowl record: 3-2 (9 TD, 2 INT, 93.8 rating)

That’s right. I have Brady and Manning tied for 2nd in the GOAT—QB rankings. In a sense, it’s apples and oranges: Manning is the greatest “Marino-Style QB”; and Brady is the “Montana-Style QB” mold. It’s interesting to note, though, that Brady’s regular season numbers are very close to Manning’s, and that Manning’s playoff QB rating is actually higher than Brady’s. But in the end, it’s safe to say that Manning is the best regular season QB of all time, while Brady has been the superior postseason QB.

Both QB’s can come close #1 with another Super Bowl win or two. (Did you know that neither Manning nor Brady have won a SB in the last eight years? It’s true. Eli freaking Manning has won two during span, and Joe Flacco even won one. And you tell me that the GOAT—QB played in the same generation as Eli Manning and Joe Flacco but didn’t win a SB during their collective primes?) But for now, my gut/memories were right. The GOAT—QB is still…

#1: Joe Montana, 49ers/Chiefs, 15 seasons
Reg Season: 2700 yards, 18 TD, 9 INT, 33 GWDs, 92.3 rating
Playoffs: 16-7 record, 251 yards/game, 45 TD, 21 INT, 95.6 rating
Super Bowl record: 4-0 (13 TD, 0 INT, 127.8 rating)

Sure, his reg season numbers can’t match the Marino-style guys, but they don’t have to. His career 2-to-1 TD/INT ratio beats gunslingers Marino and Favre, and when you consider that he put up his 2700 yards/season and 92.3 rating over 15 seasons in a much more run-and-defense-oriented NFL, his career stats are at least as good as Brady’s. But his playoff stats? Unreal. Only one QB on this list got significantly better from regular season to postseason: Montana. And only one QB put up a Super Bowl rating above 100: Montana. Are these stats real? 13 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 4 SB wins without a loss, and a 127.8 rating. HOLY SMOKES!!! I don’t care that he had Jerry Rice. We have never seen a prime-time QB like Montana, and unless Aaron Rodgers maintains his pace to the age of 40 and wins three more SB’s (which is a possibility), the GOAT—QB debate is permanently on hold.

Joe Montana was, still is, and probably always will be, the best NFL player ever.

Now, what does any of this have to do with MMXIV?

Peydey had a chance to win his second SB but got BLOWN OUT. Who saw this coming? And who would have predicted a 2014 dropoff in production and accuracy? That’s right, Fidelity Sports saw ‘em both coming.

For the record, in my mid-season review, I picked the Broncos over the Packers 42-31 in SB IL (49). Right now, both are looking very beatable. But as the playoff seeds are taking shape with one weekend left, here’s your updated Fidelity Sports NFL Predictions:

AFC Championship: Patriots over Broncos, 30-23
NFC Championship: Packers over Seahawks, 24-20

Super Bowl IL: Packers over Patriots, 35-34


#4: LeBron Goes Home (To Have a Better Chance of Winning)

#3: Pop, Timmy, and the Greatest NBA Team of Our Generation

I’ve written a fair bit on the NBA here, so I’m going to refer my readers to this prediction of LeBron going back to Cleveland and this celebration of all things Pop, Timmy, and Spurs.

As “wisdom is known by her fruits,” both of my predictions (about the Cavs and Spurs this season) have been dead on. The Cavs have spent most of the season looking lost: LeBron looks past his prime (he fled Miami knowing he, Wade, and Bosh were all past their prime and would never reach another Finals), averaging only 25/5/7.5, shooting 49% with a player rating of 43. Still great numbers, but compare them to the previous nine years (his prime): 28.5/7.5/7, shooting 51% with a rating always between 47-53.

LeBron has peaked, folks.

Similarly, as predicted, Kevin Love’s productivity is way down: from 24/14 over the past four seasons to 17/10 with the Cavs. K-Love’s player rating has dropped from a 4-year avg of 42 to 32.

As for Kyrie Irving? His numbers (20/3/6 with a rating of 33-34) have dropped only slightly with the additions of LBJ and K-Lovey. But at only 22, they should be trending upward at a quick rate. Irving’s 5-year prime (seasons 4-8) looks like it will be wasted playing third-fiddle on a crowded court. He could have been—and could still be if the Cavs can adjust—the best PG in The League, but it just won’t happen. Not like this. Not with that organization’s complete rejection of the Three Rules.

When you put this all together, you get a Cavs team that is currently about 15th best (out of 30) in the NBA. In a word, AVERAGE.

Oh, and meanwhile, while the Spurs have been resting their stars at a historic rate—Pop simply wants to keep his guys in the top 8 of the West in order to make the playoffs with as little injuries and starters’ minutes played as possible—they’re still ranked as the 7th best team in The League. Tim Duncan’s stats, when translated to starters’ minutes (40), are still 19-and-13. And despite playing with 38 years under his belt and very limited minutes, Timmy D still has a player rating of 34.5. That’s right:

38-year old Duncan is outplaying 26-year old Kevin Love with less playing time!!!

That in a word? FIDELITY.


#2: Suddenly, the NBA is the Cleanest Sports League (And the Fall of the NFL)

The Scandals of Sterling and Goodell were, sadly, among the top stories of MMXIV. It’s sad, really. But here’s what we’ve learned.

The NFL is a complete mess, and Roger Goodell should be gone about six months ago. I wrote about it here and here, and since then, it has only gotten worse.

Meanwhile, the NBA, whose image suffered significantly from 2000-2010 with junk like the Ron Artest Malice in the Palace, the high school to the pros draft debacles (see: Kwame Brown, et al.), and some lame competition (76ers, Pistons, Mavs, and Nets making the Finals with teams that wouldn’t make the playoffs in today’s West), has seen all of its star power (LBJ/Kobe/Durant), historic greatness (Spurs), and young talent (Anthony Davis/Steph Curry/Dante Exum) return in force just in time to deal with the greatest scandal since Jordan’s first “retirement”: the Donald Sterling Scandal.

But what threatened to return the NBA’s public image to its 2004 low point, tying it with the NFL for Suddenly-the-Sleaziest-Pro-League Award, turned it into the moment’s best pro sport. Newly-installed Commissioner Adam Silver delivered a powerful (albeit, awkward-as-heck) press conference manhandling Sterling and all his racism out of power—permanently. Just compare Goodell’s pre-packaged, super-nuanced, politically-savvy press conferences to Adam Silver’s power-packed, no-tolerance, Donald-Sterling-is-a-thing-of-the-past stunner. That’s why I’m giving out this triple platinum award…

2014 Sportsman of the Year:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver


#1: The KC Royals Basically Win the 2014 World Series!!!

Ah, you knew it had to be this way. Win or lose, this was the greatest thing that happened in the Sports Year of MMXIV, and probably the whole decade.

After the Royals lost the World Series by 90 feet, I was so stunned I couldn’t write anything about it. Some 60 days later, I can still can’t bring myself to write anything significant about it—that’s how deep the pain goes.

The other day, when I was walking out the front door to write Part One of this Annual Review, my darling wife asked if I was going to write anything about the Royals. “I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not sure if I’m ready.”

For those of you who think I might be abusing hyperbole, I’m not. This is the guy who named his son Jackson Royal Linneman—after Royals great Bo Jackson—DESPITE THE TEAM HAVING A LOSING RECORD AT THE TIME. By the way, since Jackson Royal was born, KC had the best record in the MLB. I don’t have the stats to back it up, because I can’t face the heartache of working back through all the details, but it’s true. I’m sure of it.

And not to be lost in the Royals’ historic October run: the greatness of the Royals’ entire season. It wasn’t a lucky month. We made the playoffs, fair and square and with a day to spare. We beat the A’s in one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all time, and then SWEPT the two best teams in the AL (Angels & Orioles). But we were very good—if not great—all season long. We went 100-77 for Pete’s sake. We had the most wins in the American League, and were only one short (that’s fitting, isn’t it?) of the Giants’ win total. It was a great team and a great season. It also just happened to be a HISTORIC playoff run.

Anyway, we basically won the 2014 World Series. You’ll never be able to convince me otherwise. October was, without question, one of the greatest months of my entire life.

***

Twenty to thirty years from now, I’ll be sitting around with my wife and some friends. Someone will reference the year 2014—maybe in reference to a movie that came out or some geo-political event—and most of the memories recorded on this page will be long lost. I won’t remember any statistics; I won’t remember if this was the year that the Spurs or the Heat won the Finals; I won’t remember if this was the year of the summer or winter Olympics. No, in a few decades, as we casually chat on the back porch under a beautiful setting sun, I’ll have only two enduring memories of the Year MMXIV.

Oh, 2014? That was the year Jack was born.
And that was the year…

*tears*

See you in 2015, sports fans.

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