Dan Marino, fair or not, will be referred to as the Greatest Quarterback never to win the Super Bowl for as long as he is remembered. He may as well change his first name to "Never won a Super Bowl." Casual sports fans seem to have a compulsion to label athletes as either Clutch or Chokers. Champions or Losers. Magnificient or Disappointing. Especially superstars. There's an upper eschelon of athletes and if a guy has won a title, he is given a lifetime free pass into the "clutch VIP club." At that point, failures are forgotten, and the tall tales begin. The act of reminiscing washes away antiquated memories of failure on behalf of the athlete. Past transgressions forgotten, the athlete may compete for the rest of his career with "Champion" imprinted in the public mind, causing them to see him in a completely different light. This is bull crap.
Every athlete begins on the the other side of the fence looking in. Few are allowed pass through, and there is a branded stigma on all those who never make it into the club. The brand reads:
"Can't win the Big One"
It is preposterous. No one states "Hasn't won the Big One," or "May win the Big One." It is always "can't" Let's look into some examples to show just how twisted the perspective of the common fan has become.
Peyton Manning. This is more recent, so I'll be brief. Don't ever forget that before the 2006-07 Playoffs Manning was regarded as a stat-hungry, can't lead his team, playoff-choking, "will never beat Tom Brady" quarterback who may look pretty in the pocket, but lacks the intestinal fortitude to ever win when it counts. Where are the people who GUARANTEED Manning would never win a title? There were quite a few of them. I'll wait.
(***tumbleweeds blow by***).
Phil Mickelson. He was the "best golfer never to win a major." He couldn't compete with Tiger, didn't work hard enough, didn't want it enough, a supreme choker. From 1999-2003 he had six finishes in the top 3, but never won. "He'll never win!" was the cry. Three Major titles later, everyone shut the heck up. However, the theme continues...no one will fess up to leading the "Phil can't win the big one" bandwagon, let alone being a member.
Michael Jordan. Mr. Clutch. Greatest basketball player of all time. Always wins. Never rattled. Always hits "the dagger" shot. Wills his team to win. That's his legacy right? It was a very different story early on.
He was Vince Carter before Vince Carter. He won scoring titles, dunk contests, and flashed an incredible amount of talent. Year after year, the playoffs would roll around, and young Jordan and the Bulls were shown the door. The Celtics and the Pistons were too much for Jordan to contend with. He was the "most talented player who can't win the Big One." Let that sink in. Michael Jordan was thought of the same way Dominique Wilkins is. The criticisms of Jordan were the following: He was too selfish, he wasn't a team player, he only wins scoring titles, he can't lead a team, he just wants to get his stats.
For 6+ years he had to hear that. When he finally won, out came the revisionists. Now, every time "the shot" over craig Ehlo is replayed, there is no mention of how the Bulls got clocked by the Pistons later in the playoffs (as there was pre-championship). Now, no one even remembers how many potentially game-winning shots Jordan missed. At one point in his career Jordan was quoted
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed"
Since that quote, those totals rose considerably. How many game-deciding shots that Jordan missed do you remember?
My point, exactly.
I grew up in Colorado in the 80's and 90's, so I'm quite familiar with the career of John Elway. Captain Comeback, one of the best Qb's of All Time, "The Drive"--destroyer of the Browns, Hero of Denver, a legend.
Not so much. For just about his entire career, he was a loser. A choker. Could not have played worse on the Big Stage. He and Marino pushed and shoved each other clamoring for the "Greatest never to win..." throne. Sure, sports fans remember his airborne, helicopter dive against the Packers near the goal line in Super Bowl XXXII, and him walking off the field with the Lombardi trophy. However, they've forgotten everything preceeding those moments.
John Elway was a 3-time Superbowl loser. The Broncos were clubbed 39-20 by the Giants, 42-10 by Washington, and, very memorably, 55-10 by San Francisco. That was Elway's legacy. At the end of 1996 John Elway was 36, had played 14 seasons, and could barely jog witout a limp--it was time to rebuild around Terrell Davis. "Let's not waste Davis' prime the same way we did Elway's" was the thought. That was what the newspapers, columnists, radio hosts, fans, everyone short of Elway's family thought. They wanted Elway gone. He'd had his chance. His window had closed. He was as popular then as Donavan McNabb is in Philadelphia today (that is, if McNabb had lost two more Super Bowls).
Two years and two Super Bowl wins later, he's the icon of Colorado sports. He never screwed up, never lost his cool, always won, and was "clutch." When Elway retired, fans were preemptively preparing to run Brian Griese out of town for having the audacity to replace their beloved legend.
Think you'll find anyone in Colorado willing to own up to thinking Elway should have been run out of town after 96? You'll have an easier time finding a beach in Colorado.
This list goes on and on. What this "Never won a Title" nonsense boils down to is simple: Guttersnipes. That's all it is. People don't like someone, and hunt for any reason they can latch on to, to justify why they don't like them. Plenty of people resent Peyton Manning, whether justified or not, and the Championship thing was just a way to kick him in the ribs then run. He's a hell of a quarterback, always has been, and when a persons prejudices can't make a good case against "facts" and "reality" they'll just shout insults while hiding behind whatever flaky logic wafts in and out of their head.
A players career stands on its own. Measuring individual success by team success is sometimes useful. Other times? meaningless. On average, 1 in 9 NFL players will win a title. That's it. It's not the best "1" either.
What do Dylan Gandy, Gilbert Gardner, Josh Thomas, Darrell Reid, Keith O'Neal, Ryan LaCasse, Charlie Johnson, Tim Jennings, and Tyjuan Hagler have in common? They're all reigning NFL Champions.
It doesn't take much to win a title. Everyone got that??? Maybe I'll repeat it, that seems to be a tough concept for some folks. It doesn't take much to win a title! In team sports, especially. Any practice-squad worthy player can win a title. An injury here, one there, and your up to the squad as a gameday inactive! Woo-hoo! You ride the pine for 60-minutes and all of the sudden you're a better football player than Dan Marino!!!
It doesn't matter how clutch an athlete is, how much intestinal fortitude they have, how determined they are, how hard working they are, even if they are the best to ever play the game, they may not win.
Manning is no better now than he was in 2005. Jordan was not worse before 1991 than he was after. Mickelson? Elway? Same old song and dance. Would Jason Taylor have been a better player if he were traded to New England in 2001? No. Would be remembered as a better? Absolutely.
That, is total crap.