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Talk pro football with SI.com's Andrew Perloff in Huddle Up, a forum to discuss the hottest topics around the NFL.
8/02/2006 04:56:00 PM

The great QB debate: system vs. talent

Troy Aikman
Troy Aikman was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible for enshrinement.
AP

If Troy Aikman hadn't been surrounded by so much talent in Dallas, would he still be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday?

I believe Aikman would have had an excellent career on most teams. In fact, he may have had Dan Marino-like numbers if he hadn't played for the run-first Cowboys.

The same question could be applied to any great quarterback, including Joe Montana. It's no coincidence that the QB many consider the best of all time threw to the greatest receiver in NFL history in Jerry Rice. Both benefited from the system. Montana probably wouldn't have had as much success in a more vertical offense.

Everyone is ready to carve Tom Brady's bust in Canton, but he might not even be playing now if he hadn't landed in New England, where a brilliant coaching staff fueled three Super Bowl wins. The only number that got Terry Bradshaw into the Hall of Fame was his four rings, success he wouldn't have had on another team.

A few quarterbacks seem to transcend the system they were in. Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Brett Favre and John Elway seemingly did a heavier lifting job for their teams than Montana or Aikman did. But that doesn't mean they were any better, because Montana and Aikman may have been able to do the same.

Let me know if you think Aikman deserved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and your thoughts on the system versus the individual when it comes to debating quarterbacks' greatness.

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