It was one of the more awkward moments in sports broadcasting that didn’t involve Rush Limbaugh or the term “bulging disc.” With only Shannon Sharpe’s puce tie acting as a buffer, Boomer Esiason referred to Peyton Manning as this generation’s Dan Marino. It was the equivalent of Kate Winslet calling Glenn Close the new Susan Lucci in front of flashing cameras as the two starlets stop for the obligatory Ryan Seacrest interview on the red carpet.
As we all know Manning eventually shook the Marino label by besting Rex Grossman in the Super Bowl. Still, the truth is there is some QB out there that will put up gaudy numbers yet will never taste championship champagne. Esiason might have missed on his Manning prediction but that doesn’t mean we can’t devise a complex system of statistical analysis, Madden simulations, Ace Ventura references and good old fashioned guess work to determine who among the current crop of QBs has the Dan Marino Factor.
Our Marino scales ranges from 0 to 13 in honor of the man that helped Ace to finger Ray Finkle as the kidnapper of Snowflake. On the 0 end of the scale you’ll find the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, both Mannings and Aaron Rodgers. The closer you approach Marino’s 13 the more likely you are to find ringless QBs with Hall of Fame credentials yet only have the prospects of a broadcasting career or a brief flirtation with a figurehead front office position once their playing days are complete.
So, without further adieu, let’s find out who has the Marino Factor.
Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III
To be sure this is very premature. These two haven’t even taken a snap in an NFL game much less begun their journey down the Marino-bricked-road. But why should that matter? If teams can “Suck for Luck” and Mike Shanahan can go all Ditka-Ricky Williamsto draft RG3 then why can’t we guesstimate the prospects of these two becoming All-Pros with no jewelry to show for their accomplishments?
Of the two you’d have to say RG3 has more of the Marino Factor. For starters his boss is Dan Snyder. Safe to say that if Roger Goodell allowed owners the option to outright purchase a Lombardi Trophy Snyder would still insist on blowing $100-million on an Albert Haynesworth tackling dummy. There’s also the unconscionable psychological damage RG3 is sure to suffer at the hands of the Shanahan clan, a ruthless father-son duo out to destroy every quarterback they come across leaving only the soulless carcasses of John Beck and Kirk Cousins in their wake.
As for Luck, he’s got his own demons to deal with. Luck is being asked to replace Peyton Manning while he’s still playing. That would be like Ashton Kutcher moving in with Demi while Bruce Willis is still sleeping in the guest house. You might not see the dude everyday but his presence will be felt everywhere.
Luck/RG3’s Marino Rating: 1
Just to be fair we’re going assign Luck and RG3 a preliminary Marino Rating of 1. However this can and will change drastically on a weekly basis. Keep in mind you’ve got to be among the leagues best to gain a Marino rating. If history has proven anything it’s that one of these two could go the Marino route while the other might just be headed down Tim Couch Lane.
After a record setting rookie season Newton is not only well on his way to Marinoville but he has the potential to redefine the Marino Factor all together. Should Cam continue to put up numbers the likes of which we’ve never seen before while managing to avoid a Super Bowl ring we could be looking at the Newton Factor for the next generation.
The curse of the NFL expansion team weighs heavily in our Marino rating of Newton. Not counting the AFL-NFL merger, since 1976 only two expansion teams have won a Super Bowl. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Brad Johnson and the Baltimore Ravens who were helmed by Trent Dilfer (side note: one day we’ll revisit the Dilfer Factor to determine which current QBs have that Super Bowl it even though they’re more Brady Quinn than Tom Brady). Realistically we could cut this down to one team considering the dicey subject that is the history of the Ravens and the non-expansion/expansion version of the Cleveland Browns.
That being said, should Newton pull a Marino and remain with the same team for his entire career then odds are he’ll pull a real Marino and leave the game with only the jewelry he’s purchased from Jared.
Newton’s Marino Rating: 3
It’s still too early to give Newton a higher number. As stated previously, he’ll have to keep himself in the elite conversation for a few more years to truly earn a place in the Marino Factor discussion.
Vick, like Newton, has the potential to redefine the Marino Factor. He’s also got a lot more to accomplish before he can truly be graded on the Marino scale. Newton already has one 4,000-yard season under his belt with the chance to become the first ever 4,000-1,000 player in football history. That would be baseball’s equivalent of going 50-50 or the feature film version of Alien-Aliens.
To date Vick has just two 3,000-yard seasons in his career both of which have come in succession the last two years. Thanks to Andy Reid (aka the Kevin Kolb whisperer) there is a good chance we’ll see Vick go for 4,000 if he can remain healthy. Unfortunately his lesser production early in his career combined with the two-year stint in Leavenworth leaves Vick with too much ground to make up before he can even get on the Marino board.
Vick’s Marino Rating: -3
This is a tough call. Grading Schaub on the Marino scale is a test of your football philosophy. Schaub is one of those modern day conundrums that could only exist in a world dominated by Fantasy Football. Since ’09 his numbers are among the best in the biz. Two 4,000 yard seasons which should have been three had injury not robbed him of participating in Houston’s long overdue first playoff appearance.
However his stats are largely inflated due to the death-to-the-defense era of ball in which he plays. He also didn’t start a full compliment of regular season games until his sixth year in the league leaving a lot of work to be done in the second half of his career in order to approach Marino status.
None the less Schaub has a chance to be the guy we all overlook until decades from now the cyborg of Steve Sabol narrates a piece on the career of Schaub and we all realize how comparable his numbers were to any other QB of his generation. He won’t be considered the best QB of his era but Schaub is well deserving of being graded on the Marino scale.
Schaub’s Marino Rating: 5
You’d have to say Ryan is making a real case for his Marino Factor. He’s started every game he’s ever played in the NFL thus far, his numbers continue to climb as he eclipsed the 4,000-yard barrier last season for the first time and he’s failed to win a playoff game despite being talked up as a title contender in recent years.
Well played, Ryan.
All that’s missing is a loss in the Super Bowl and we’ll be ready to push Ryan’s rating all the way up to 13. But he’s not quite there yet.
Ryan’s Marino Rating: 7
He’s more than halfway there at only four years into his career. Ryan has a chance to be among the leaders in most every statistical category there is for QBs while also failing to ever live up to the Matty Ice moniker. That’s just call kinds of Marino clutch.
Oh the potential we have here. Stafford is only 24 and he’s already got a Marino rating that exceeds that of many vets out there. Finally healthy for an entire season Stafford unleashed a 5,000-yard/40-TD season on the league…while playing for the Detroit Lions.
Let that sink in for a second. Before Stafford the last Lions QB to eclipse 4,000-yards was Jon Kitna. Before Kitna the last Lions QB to hit 3,000-yards was Joey Harrington. That Stafford is even being given a rating on the Marino Scale while playing in the house that Scott Mitchell destroyed is saying something. It’s also a big reason why he gets a place on the Marino mantle.
Let’s be honest. No matter how improved the Lions are they’re still the Lions. Even the Cincinnati Bengals made it to a couple of Super Bowls. But the public forgot about that quicker than they did the W stimulus checks. All that remains of Bush Jr.’s legacy is “Mission Accomplished” and countless YouTube reels of flubbed public speeches. Same goes for the Bengals as we’ll always remember them for what they’ve always been – the Bengals.
Stafford’s odds of putting up obscene numbers while never touching a Lombardi are very good at the moment.
Stafford’s Marino Rating: 9
Grading Cutler on the Marino Scale is a tough task. He’s got a few things working against him. He began his career under the scrutiny of Shanahan who we’ve already established as a QB confidence killer. None the less, by his third year Cutler was nearing Favre-ian heights by racking up yards, TD and INTs with an arrogant reliance on his arm strength.
Then disaster stuck again as Cutler’s butt-hurt response to Josh McDaniels flirtation with Matt Cassel took JC away from a pass-happy offense and delivered him right into the hands of a pass-crazy offense designed by Mike Martz. All those slow developing pass plays with 20-step drops and an O-line that couldn’t block a one-legged pass rusher led to a slight dip in Cutler’s production.
But the good news is the Bears finally had the epiphany that a return specialist who was once a DB turned wide receiver wasn’t going to cut it. Insert Brandon Marshall, finally address the O-line issues and we should see Cutler produce Marino-like numbers. All that remains are playoff flops which surely seem possible so long as he continues to tease Bears fans.
Cutler’s Marino Rating: 11
Rivers has that it. He’s got the Marino Factor and his date with destiny seems inevitable. Rivers has already been putting up numbers that will keep him on pace to move into the top tier of NFL QBs. But that doesn’t do justice to his Marino Rating.
Rivers plays for a franchise that cranked out the first Dan Marino – Dan Fouts. Luckily for Rivers not much has changed since Fouts developed the Marino Factor before it existed. The Chargers are still a franchise that does just enough to win but not enough to win it all. They underachieve every season and consistently find selfish players like LaDanian Tomlinson who would rather see a bust in Canton than a Lombardi in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Even better is Norv Turner seems to have some great dirt on A.J. Smith and the entire Spanos family enabling him to have a lifetime contract coaching the Chargers to new lows via blackmail. And we’re talking legit blackmail of the incriminating photos kind not the Dwight Howard; I’ll opt-in for a massive payday, kind of blackmail. The only thing that could screw this up would be Rivers doing what Eli did on draft day by refusing to play for San Diego. Otherwise we’re looking at a near lock for the new Marino.
Rivers’ Marino Rating: 12
In this Highlander-esque quest to determine the new Marino there can only be one.
Behold – Tony Romo.
While Rivers still has the chance to seek his Lombardi elsewhere Romo looks destined to remain a Cowboy for his career so long as Jerry Jones doesn’t find Jesus or a general manager. Romo has everything working in his favor. He’s got an outside shot at 50,000 career yards, 300 career TDs and zero Super Bowl rings.
For good measure Romo’s even experienced a Marino-like laces-out moment. All that remains is for the sizzle of the Cowboys cachet to consistently outweigh the measly beef portions of their postseason steak and we’ve got ourselves the makings of a man with the Marino Factor if there ever was one.
Romo’s Marino Rating: 13