What is the difference between a quarterback that wins the big game and one who gets the rep for not being able to get it done when pressure is at its highest? It seems like this is the conversation du jour every single year as Peyton Manning drives the Colts toward another run at the Super Bowl.
And every year, it gets a little bit more uncomfortable for Dan Marino in the TV studios as he is pegged as a great QB who never won a Super Bowl. There is definitely something to be said for coolness under pressure at the quarterback position, but havenâ€™t we carried this argument just a bit too far? There are definitely some inherent personality traits that make a player good under pressure, but letâ€™s not forget that a football game canâ€™t be won or lost by a single player — not even the quarterback. What better way to illustrate my point, than to showcase a couple of guys who have been able to keep themselves out of the conversation.
John Elway couldnâ€™t get it done in the big game, until he did in 1998. Up until then, John Elway had taken his team to the Super Bowl on three separate occasions. In 1987 the Broncos lost to the Giants. In 1998 they lost to the Redskins in a blowout, 42-10. And in 1990 the Broncos got plastered by the 49ers 55-10. John Elway couldnâ€™t perform under pressure according to critics everywhere. John Elway was the face of the team, therefore it must be his fault that the team couldnâ€™t get it done. We all know that kind of thinking is baseless. When was the last time you saw a 55-10 shellacking that wasnâ€™t a team effort? But the rap on Elway remained.
And then in 1998 something happened. All of a sudden Elway drove his team to victory with a 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers. And magically enough, Elwayâ€™s rep as a guy who couldnâ€™t get it done in the big game completely disappeared. He no longer enters into the conversations about Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, or any of the other QBâ€™s who â€ścanâ€™t get it doneâ€ť in the big game.
I canâ€™t help but sit here and think about how silly that is. Why? The Super Bowl MVP in 1998 was Terrell Davis, not John Elway. When Denver won Super Bowl XXXII in 1998, Elway completed 12-22 passes for 123 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. This is the kind of line in the box score which cleared Elwayâ€™s name as a big game choker? Meanwhile, Terrell Davis ran the ball 30 times for 157 yards and scored 3 touchdowns.