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Matthew Stafford vs. The Greats: Dan Marino

Seeing how Matthew Stafford stacks up against Dan Marino.

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Last week I wrote an article that questioned what the legacy of Matthew Stafford would be if he decided to retire tomorrow. In that piece, I compared Stafford’s career to that of Dan Marino.

This quickly became the general topic of the comment section of the article and thus inspired me to take on a new project: Comparing Matthew Stafford to the greats of NFL history.

But first I had to determine who the greats were. So I went to the people and I asked who they thought the top five quarterbacks of all time were. I got a lot of interesting responses, including this one from Derrick.

While Derrick is right, it wouldn't be fair to try to compare Stafford to Dylan. So we’ll instead do the next best 5.

Making the cut will be Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Joe Montana and Dan Marino.

Today we start with the star of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dan Marino. The man that started this whole argument.

These two are a lot alike. Both pass the ball an awful lot. Both have had 5,000 yard seasons, Both have “won nothing” and both lost a ton of weight on the Nutri-System.

Let’s put weight-loss shakes aside for a moment and get into how these article are going to work.

We will compare the career stats of the quarterback to Stafford’s career stats. Then we will compare the first eight years of the quarterback’s career to Stafford’s eight years. Lastly we’ll talk about play type. Are they the same or are they worlds apart?

I want to make one last point here. This is merely a comparison to see how Stafford holds up to these quarterbacks. This is not at all a way to say Stafford is better than or as good as some of these guys. So reserve that judgement.

Also, this is about the quarterback as a singular player. This isn’t about team achievements. So simply saying so-and-so was on a team that won the Super Bowl is not a way to look at this piece. Remember, quarterback wins is not a real stat.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right into this.


Stafford vs. Marino (Full career)

Quarterback Dan Marino Matthew Stafford
Quarterback Dan Marino Matthew Stafford
Completions 4,967 2,634
Attempts 8,358 4,285
Comp % 59.4 61.5
Yards 61,361 30,303
Touchdowns 420 187
INT 252 108
Rate 86.4 86.8

So after taking a look at total career stats, what I’m coming away with is vindication in my comparison of the two in last weeks article.

As you can see, Stafford and Marino are two guys that threw the ball an awful lot. Stafford has led the league in attempts multiple times, and his total career attempts are just 400 short of Aaron Rodgers, for example. Rodgers has played in almost 40 more games than Stafford.

As for Marino, he’s ranks fourth all time in pass attempts. So it’s clear their teams have asked a lot of these guys.

Now that we looked at the career numbers, what does Marino’s first eight years tell us?

Stafford vs. Marino (First eight years)

Quarterback Dan Marino Matthew Stafford
Quarterback Dan Marino Matthew Stafford
Completions 2,480 2,634
Attempts 4,181 4,285
Comp % 59.3 61.5
Yards 31,416 30,303
Touchdowns 241 187
INT 136 108
Rate 88.5 86.8

What I see here is that Stafford is the more accurate quarterback. You can see this from the differences in interceptions and completion percentage, but Marino is the more efficient quarterback. 241 touchdowns in eight years is no joke.

The other thing that catches my eye is that Marino really peaked early in his career, while Stafford seems to be approaching his peak in the coming years. Peak doesn’t necessarily mean peak in stats. Stafford will never throw for 5,000 yards again. It just won’t happen. But I do mean peak in terms of accuracy and all around play.

I think Stafford may win that battle in the end. Marino had his phenomenal early years. But the second half of his career left something to be desired.

Stafford vs. Marino (Final nine years)

Quarterback Dan Marino Matthew Stafford
Quarterback Dan Marino Matthew Stafford
Completions 2,487 2,634
Attempts 4,177 4,285
Comp % 59.5 61.5
Yards 29,945 30,303
Touchdowns 179 187
INT 116 108
Rate 84.3 86.8


Here’s where things differ. I still think they’re both gunslingers in a sense, but in very different ways.

Marino is your classic pocket quarterback. Very rarely did he get out and move around. In his 17 year career, he only ran for 87 yards.

Stafford is a lot like another quarterback that’s coming up in the next piece of this series. It’s not out of the ordinary to see Stafford get out of the pocket and make crazy throws or take off for a first down. Stafford has ran for 857 yards in his career.

In terms of arm talent, I’ll take Stafford over Marino any day of the week. I’m sure Dan himself would make Matthew all-time QB in a backyard pickup game. Marino could sling the ball, but I stand firmly in the belief that nobody can wing the pig like Stafford can.

In Conclusion

Perhaps I was a bit wrong in my last piece. While Dan and Matthew share similar traits in terms of achievements—or lack thereof—these are two different quarterbacks. I have a feeling the next quarterback on the list will find that a comparison to Stafford fits him as well as a new pair of Wrangler jeans.

Oh yeah, laces out, Dan.

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