Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk fell into the same trap that way too many writers fall into when comparing Terry Bradshaw to superstar and/or Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have come after him.

They compare his stats (apples) to theirs (oranges) without taking the differences in the eras into account. Smith found lots of ugly stats from some of Bradshaw’s post season games and he makes the mistake of saying that Bradshaw had little to do with the Steelers’ first two Super Bowl wins.

Johnny Unitas had 7 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in the post season and put up a 68 passer rating. Quarterbacks took all their snaps from under center in those days. They had two running backs lined up behind them and rarely had more than two wide receivers in the formation.   And their offensive lineman had to keep their hands off of pass rushers. There was a penalty called illegal use of the hands. And defenders  could knock receivers on their asses whenever they felt like it as long as the ball wasn’t in the air.

When those rules were changed to the ones that Manning plays under now Bradshaw put up great numbers. It’s scary to think what  Bradshaw, who did EVERYTHING better than Manning would do in today’s flag football offenses.

You know how many touchdown passes Joe Namath threw in that famous Super Bowl win over the Colts? None. You know what his completion percentage was the week before in the AFC  championship game? 38%. The Jets won the game. His career post season completion percentage was 42%. Namath, like Bradshaw, threw the ball downfield. There was no dinking and dunking.

In 1972, on the way to winning the Super Bowl, Roger Staubach, who also did EVERYTHING better than Manning, threw for 99, 103, 119 yards and had a total of three touchdown passes in three games. In 1978, the first season under the new rules, Staubach was 7-17 and 13-25 in the two playoff games before losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.

You just can’t compare Bradshaw to modern quarterbacks with stats alone. The guys today are playing a completely different game. Compare Bradshaw to his contemporaries and he looks just fine.

  • Brett Abrams

    You are correct about simply comparing stats without taking into account the rules changes to football and the different ways the game was played.

  • Howie Rosenberg

    very good points . Bradshaw childhood hero of mine, but manning is better more consistent play- but maybe not as much as many would think

  • Carlos

    I was just looking through some of your past blog post. Have you ever been right about anything?

    • Bobzilla

      What’s “wrong” with the above post? Please enlighten us. After Bradshaw’s 10th season, he was a four-time Super Bowl winner, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, a Super Bowl record-holder in TD passes (4 vs. the Cowboys in SB 13) a league-leader in TD passes (28 in 1978) and he was a league MVP (’78). Name another Steelers QB who accomplished as much his first 10 seasons.

    • John Steigerwald

      The list is too long.

  • Bobzilla

    The QBs of yesteryear take a sever beating when compared to the QBs of today. I always laugh every time the Pittsburgh sports media want to a hold parade for Roethlisberger because he eclipsed another Bradshaw team record. Here’s an idea: keep the comparisons to each QBs respective eras. I’ll take Bradshaw!!!