Sam Brownback got into a bit of hot water with a Wisconsin crowd Friday by implying Payton Manning wasn’t as good as Brett Favre.
The GOP presidential hopeful drew boos and groans Friday at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention when he used a football analogy to talk about the need to focus on families. “This is fundamental blocking and tackling,” he said. “This is your line in football. If you don’t have a line, how many passes can Peyton Manning complete? Greatest quarterback, maybe, in NFL history.”
Oops, wrong team to mention in Wisconsin, once described by Gov. Tommy Thompson as the place “where eagles soar, Harleys roar and Packers score.” Realizing what he had said, the Kansas Republican slumped at the podium and put his head in his hands. “That’s really bad,” he said. “That will go down in history. I apologize.”
His apology brought a smattering of applause and laughter. He tried to recover, saying former Packer Bart Starr may be the greatest of all time, but the crowd was still restless. “Let’s take Favre then,” Brownback said. “The Packers are great. I’m sorry. How many passes does he complete without a line?” “All of them!” more than one person yelled from the back. “I’m not sure how I recover from this,” Brownback said. “My point is we’ve got to rebuild the family. I’ll get off this.”
From a political angle, this is probably a wash for Brownback, since his recovery was handled well enough. Not to mention the fact Starr and Favre both have far more chance of getting elected president in 2008 than he does; Manning would, too, were he old enough to be eligible.
In a football context, comparing quarterbacks from three eras is tough. Starr is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Starr and Manning will surely join him the first year they’re eligible. Starr led the Packers to five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls. That’s an unmatched achievement. That was in a much smaller league in an era long before free agency, though, so a great team could stay on top much more easily than today.
Favre is a three-time NFL MVP, the only man with that distinction. He led the Packers to two Super Bowls, winning the first. He has been famous in recent years not so much for his excellence, though, but his endurance and tenacity. He’s started more consecutive games, by far, than any quarterback in history, a streak that looks like it’ll only be broken in retirement. That streak is all the more impressive because of the personal tragedies he’s endured in recent years.
Manning is fresh off his first Super Bowl win and is statistically the best passer of the three. He may, indeed, be the best pure quarterback ever to play the game from a technical standpoint. He’s got a ways to go, however, to move ahead of the likes of Starr, Favre, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Joe Montana, and Troy Aikman on the accomplishments scale.
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