Examining Elway then and now

The dawn of the Elway legend

Theismann: Feeling a Super impact

No cries of 'Win one for John!'

Focal Point: In the line of fire

Focal Point: Here's the kicker

Focal Point: Reeves vs. Shanahan

Focal Point: Chandler vs. Broncos secondary

Focal Point: Romo vs. Tuggle

Focal Point: Super backs

  Saturday, Jan. 30 5:25pm ET
Focal Point: Elway the best of his era?

The Matchup:
Broncos QB John Elway vs. history.

The Question:
Is Elway the greatest quarterback of his era?

Yes   No
By Mark Malone
Special to ESPN.com

The best quarterback of his era? You can make a very strong argument that John Elway is the best quarterback of all-time.

There are only two quarterbacks who have ever thrown for 50,000 yards -- Elway and Dan Marino. Not even Marino, even though he owns most of the records, has the complete package Elway has.

Unfortunately, we measure greatness too often by how many Super Bowl rings you own or how many times your name might be in a record book. Football is a team sport, and Elway is a perfect example of why you can be perhaps the greatest player to ever play the position and not be regarded as such by a lot of people because you don't have your name on many Lombardi Trophies.

Elway has been as effective a scrambling quarterback as anyone who has played the game, including Fran Tarkenton. Steve Young has certainly thrown for a lot of yards and is a very mobile quarterback. But given the fourth-quarter comebacks, "The Drive," his ability to put up 50,000 yards, his durability over time, his ability to not only rush the ball, Elway is as good as anyone who's ever played the game. Even now as his skills have eroded with age, he has the ability to work within the confines of the pocket and slip away from pressure to buy some more time.

People will say, "Well, he only won one Super Bowl." Some detractors think his performance in big games hasn't been up to par. Look at the Super Bowls he has played in, and his numbers have not been good. In the victory over Green Bay last year, his numbers weren't even that good. You could argue that if it weren't for Terrell Davis, he still wouldn't have a Super Bowl trophy. But I think that's a narrow-minded approach.

You have to look at the big picture. Take Elway's skills and his abilities, look at them individually in terms of his ability to play the position in a team sport. You then come to one conclusion: He might be the greatest of all-time.

  By Joe Theismann
Special to ESPN.com

I think Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback to play during John Elway's era in the NFL because of his four Super Bowl championships. Like Elway, Montana won early and late in his career. He also won after returning from back and elbow surgeries.

I still gauge the success of a quarterback on the amount of championships you win, with maybe Dan Marino being the exception to the rule. In many ways, Elway has accomplished the same things as Montana, but the difference is Montana's four championship rings. Elway only has one.

The only reason the Broncos went to Super Bowls before Terrell Davis arrived was because of Elway. He was the single biggest factor; there's no question about that.

The quarterback position is the most dependent position in football. It depends on the system, the supporting cast of players, the coach, the defense and special teams. Just ask Jim Kelly, who went to four Super Bowls without winning, how much he depends on kickers. That's how important it is.

I'd have Montana at No. 1, then Elway and Marino. Montana had total and complete command of the game. He was so proficient and efficent at how he ran the 49ers offense.

It was sort of a shame to see Montana finish his career in Kansas City instead of San Francisco. But Joe Namath finished his career with the Rams. Johnny Unitas finished his career with the Chargers. Montana in Kansas City. But Namath will always be a Jet, Unitas will always be a Colt and Montana will always be a 49er.

Picking the best of all-time is one of the most arbitrary choices you can make. If you asked 10 people who they thought was the best quarterback, you might get five different answers. You might get Terry Bradshaw, Montana, Elway, Marino or Unitas. But I believe Montana is the best ever.

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