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Football Explained: Debunking Joe Namath

When Joe Namath drunkenly propositioned Susie Kolber on Monday Night Football, young fans could be forgiven if they thought it a sad epilogue for a once great quarterback. Namath remains, now more than 30 years past retirement, one of the most recognizable names and faces in the history of the NFL. An icon, a star from the modern NFL’s fountainhead, the man who called his team’s victory and delivered, Broadway Joe—the worst quarterback enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Namath was immobile, inaccurate, a poor decision maker and injury prone. Even adjusting for a deflated offensive environment, especially pass offense, Namath was rarely better than average as compared to his peers. His first standout season, 1967, in which he was the first professional quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards, Namath was 1st in yards per attempt and 2nd in completion percentage, but 4th in passer rating, 6th in interception percentage and 5th in touchdown percentage among only 9 teams and 8 quarterbacks with 300 or more attempts. His second and only other very good season was in 1972. That season he ranked 1st in adjusted yards per attempt. The rest of his career was spent on the statistical wrong side of Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, Ken Anderon, Bert Jones and the rest. Post merger, Namath recorded only one Pro Bowl and only one season where he started all 14 games.

Namath was purely the product of hype. In the modern NFL, his mix of high-profile and inferior ability compare to Eli Manning. Broadway Joe was a big personality in a bigger city. Who rode a broad smile, feather boa, a timely quote and an upset victory to far more than his fair share of fame. A barely above average player, a nominative Hall of Famer; Namath's legend stands as one of the greater frauds in the annals of the NFL. All feather, no football.