Starr is the perfect man for the meticulous, grinding Green Bay offense and he has just as much cool and just as much generalship as Unitas.
"We're different types," Unitas comments. "Bart's an excellent quarterback, but he calls plays to control the ball, and I gamble. I throw anytime. But he's a line passer. Look at his statistics."
On Sunday, Starr played only the first half in the Packers' 56-3 rout of the Falcons, and he did nothing but good for his statistics by completing eight of 11 passes for 217 yards. Remember the Packers' million-dollar rookies, Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski? They had not been playing a great deal on the veteran-oriented team, but against the Falcons they exploded Anderson for two touchdowns, including a 77-yard punt return, and Grabowski for 52 yards rushing. Fullback Jim Taylor caused a different kind of excitement by announcing that he was playing out his option.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Unitas was concerned only to prove that the Colts could win when it was essential, and he accomplished that aim.
Sunday's victory put Baltimore in position for a strong run down the home-stretch. The Colts have eight games to play, two against Eastern opponents—one of them hapless Atlanta, the other Washington, which is hardly a powerhouse. Green Bay, with seven games remaining, must play the dangerous Vikings twice during the next eight weeks.
The championship of the West might well be decided on December 10, when the Packers and the Colts meet in Baltimore on the next-to-last weekend of the season. Both teams have strong defenses, both have good receivers. The Packers have an edge in running, with five exceptional backs. But the outcome almost certainly will depend on which of the two golden arms is the better on that afternoon. Starr's was superior in that gaudy opening win in Milwaukee (SI, Sept. 19), when he was throwing to Boyd Dowler and Unitas was throwing interceptions to Packer defenders.
Until they meet again, their merits will be endlessly debated.
"It's like comparing cheese and chalk," says Baltimore's Orr. "Johnny has freer control of the club, I think. Bart follows a fairly strict game plan. But he is a brilliant play-caller. Johnny gambles more, we're more of a gambling team. I've seen John throw a ball into a spot you'd think no one would throw to and get away with it. But Starr calls a beautiful game. When we're in trouble. John usually throws. When Green Bay is in trouble, Starr can do anything—run or throw, call a draw, sweep, whatever."
"He's confident," a Bear player said after the Packers beat Chicago a week ago. "You can't ruffle him. You can't make him mad. He's got more confidence than almost anyone."
This is the new Starr, of course. It was not always so. Bryan Bartlett Starr (see cover) is a quiet, diffident man who has spent much of his professional life sitting on the bench in the shadow of smaller men. He is now, and for six years has been, the starting quarterback of the Packers. During those six years, if you go by statistics, he has been just about the best quarterback in the league, and the Packers have the championships to show it. Unitas is generally accepted as the nonpareil among quarterbacks, but the accompanying charts will show that he is not that much better than Starr, if at all. This year Starr is leading the league. In seven games he has completed 91 of 145 passes—an amazing 62.8 percentage—for 1,429 yards. This is better than Johnny U.'s 1966 performance by a significant amount. He has had only three passes intercepted, as compared to Unitas' eight—one of the real tests of the ability of a passer. Yet if you asked the average pro football fan which of the two is the better quarterback, the answer, except from inhabitants of Green Bay, would be Unitas.