What are the odds? The Giants have played in four Super Bowls, all since 1987. In those games, they have faced two Hall of Fame quarterbacks — John Elway and Jim Kelly — a certain Hall of Famer to-be in Tom Brady, and rag-armed vagabond Trent Farris Dilfer.
Yes that same Trent Dilfer who has played for five teams and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. The same Trent Dilfer who was recently released by a terrible 49ers team, perhaps signalling the end of a nondescript, 14-year NFL career.
The Giants won three of those four Super Bowls. The one they lost — a 34-7 beating in 2001 — Dilfer was the quarterback for the Ravens. Go figure.
Like I said, what are the odds?
1. Johnny Unitas (Colts, Chargers, 1956-73)
A three-time champ with Baltimore, nine times an All-Pro, seventh all-time with 290 touchdown passes. Holds the NFL equivalent of Joe Dimaggio’s streak, 47 straight games with a TD pass.
2. Joe Montana (49ers, Chiefs, 1979-94)
Joe Cool, a third-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, won four Super Bowls in nine years with the 49ers in the 80s, 45 playoff touchdown passes, and five passing titles. He was an All-Pro seven times.
3. Brett Favre (Falcons, Packers, 1991-2007)
All-time QB leader in virtually every category, including consecutive games started (253), wins (160), touchdowns (442), completions (5,377) and yardage (61,655). This Packer legend did it all with a certain joie de vivre.
4. Dan Marino (Dolphins, 1983-99)
Lifelong Dolphin set many standards later broken by others. His record 48 TD passes in a single season snapped by Peyton Manning and Brady; Favre broke his career record of 420 TD passes last year.
5. Otto Graham (Browns, 1946-55)
Talk about championship pedigree, Graham played for the league title in each of his 10 years in pro football, four in the AAFC and six in the NFL. A 10-time All-Pro, he won seven league championships.
6. John Elway (Broncos 1983-98)
This gunslinger from the Rockies played in five Super Bowls and won rings in his last two years. Noted for nearly 50 fourth quarter comeback wins, he’s fifth all-time with 300 passing TDs.
7. Roger Staubach (Cowboys, 1969–79)
The sole Heisman Trophy winner on this list (in 1963), this Navy graduate, aka Roger the Dodger, won two Super Bowls and five passing titles, and was named All-Pro five times.
8. Sammy Baugh (Redskins, 1937-52)
Slingin’ Sammy dominated the late 1930s and 1940s, winning six passing titles, two NFL championships, and nine All-Pro berths. And if that wasn’t enough, he could punt too….very well.
9. Bart Starr (Packers 1956-1971)
Starr quarterbacked the great Green Bay dynasty that won three NFL championships and Super Bowls I and II. The leader of Pack scored the winning TD in the Ice Bowl, and won three passing titles.
10. Terry Bradshaw (Steelers 1970-83)
A number one overall pick out of tiny Louisiana Tech, Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in a six-year stretch. A three-time All-Pro, his pass helped author the Immaculate Reception in 1972.
Fran Tarkenton, Vikings-Giants…third in passing TDs, fifth in yardage
Sid Luckman, Bears…four NFL titles with Bears in the ’40s
Steve Young, 49ers…six passing titles, one Super Bowl
He’s Joe Namath without the llama skin rug, the white shoes and the bravado. Broadway Joe and Easy Eli. Eli Manning plays Richie Cunningham (an older Opie) to Namath’s Fonzie; or Bill Gates to Namath’s Donald Trump. Where Joe squired stewardesses and models around Manhattan every night, Eli stays home and watches Seinfeld reruns with his college sweetheart. From “Hello beautiful” to “Aw shucks.”
But these two guys have more in common than you’d think. Both are New York quarterbacks, first-round draft picks out of the SEC, Namath out of Alabama and Eli from Ole Miss. Both overcame huge Las Vegas odds to become MVPs and lead their teams to stunning upsets in the Super Bowl
Check out these numbers after four years in the league. Namath threw 23 more interceptions and had a lower passing percentage than Manning…but those stats are also products of the times when the two QBs played. Defensive backs had more liberties in the late ’60s than they do today. The games played and touchdown totals are nearly identical, Namath has an edge in passing yards.
Namath 55 G 50.0 Pct. 12,753 YD 78 TD 87 INT
Manning 57 G 54.7 Pct. 11,385 YD 77 TD 64 INT
Makes you wonder, how will Eli’s career play out. Namath played eight more years with Jets and wound up his career in Los Angeles in 1977 with the Rams. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes, throwing for 173 TDs and more than 27,000 yards with 220 interceptions. He was voted to the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Joe Willie never won another Super Bowl — never even came close — but today nearly 40 years after that famous upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III, he’s still revered in sports circles and especially in New York, where he’s got the golden lifetime pass.
The future’s uncertain for Eli, but after four years he’s in mighty good company.