Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Tall and Short of Winning a Super Bowl

Saints quarterback Drew Brees can make history Sunday. He could become the first Dallas-born quarterback to win the Super Bowl (NOTE: There is some Obama-like discrepancy about Brees' birthplace. Some records say Dallas, others say Austin. But, unlike Obama, we are sure Brees is an American citizen, so that's that). He could also reverse a trend that has been growing for the last 15 years--the trend that says if you're a signal caller shorter than 6'3, you're not winning the Lombardi Trophy.

Much like the trend of overweight coaches not winning it all (exposed on this very blog two weeks ago--and something that will continue with either the fit Caldwell or the svelte Payton winning this weekend), this quarterback/height trend cannot be ignored, and will not be ignored by this reporter.

Brees stands 6'0. He also stands to tie the record for shortest quarterback to win the big game. The last time a quarterback as short (relative term here) as Brees won the Super Bowl was Joe Theismann in 1983 with Washington. The only other Super Bowl winning quarterback who measured 6'0 was KC's Len Dawson in 1970.

Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have been getting taller and taller. Since the 6'2 Kurt Warner won it all in 2000, no one shorter than 6'3 has led his team to the title. That list includes recent giants Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Brad Johnson (all 6'5), as well as Eli Manning, Trent Dilfer and Tom Brady (6'4).

Why do tall guys seem to have a much better chance than shorter guys? Pretty simple, methinks. The average size of an NFL lineman has grown quite a bit in the last 15 years, so to see the defense (and your receivers) over those monsters up front, you better be pretty tall. Not that a shorter QB can't succeed, it's just simply more difficult for him to see the lanes and hidden defenders when he's having to stand on a phone book to throw.

Being a quarterback in the NFL is a tall man's job. There is a reason that no QB under 6'0 has won the Super Bowl. If you are a Doug Flutie (5'10), it's going to catch up with you. If you are an Eddie LeBaron (5'9), you should think about elevator shoes. It's the reason that scouts drool over a college thrower who stands 6'5. It doesn't always work out for that kid--but as they say, you can't coach height.

Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are getting taller. There is no doubt about this. In the 1960's and early 1970's, the aforementioned 6'0 Dawson, along with Bart Starr, Earl Morrall and Bob Griese (all 6'1) and Broadway Joe (6'2) won titles. Then, over the next ten years, the SB winning QB's grew, led by Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler, and Jim Plunkett (all 6'3). Doug Williams was the first 6'4 QB to win it all, matched a few years later by the 6'4 Troy Aikman. Only Theismann, Joe Montana (6'2) and Jim McMahon (6'1) brought the average down a bit during the 80's.

Average height of Super Bowl winning QB's by decade:

1960's: 6'1
1970's: 6'2 1/2
1980's: 6'2 1/2
1990's: 6'3
2000's: 6'4 1/2

So, Drew Brees has his work cut out for him. I guess there is a chance he could grow a few inches before the game (that's what she said), but probably not. So, based on this theory, I'll take the 6'5 Manning and the Colts to win, 34-24.

Hope you enjoyed this tall tale.


  1. Jr-
    I know another reason why Brees shouldn't win. When he's in the huddle, he has this weird, half squat, half lean thing he does. Almost like he's stretching his hamstring. he looks like my grand pa trying to pick up a penny off the ground.

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