A generational talent in the NFL is one that has all the physical attributes to succeed at the highest level, along with the intangibles such as leadership, IQ, Poise. If we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard this…. Whatever the ‘IT’ factor is, Andrew Luck, as far back as we have followed him, had ‘IT’ and more. At Stanford, he was compared to Peyton Manning, and rightfully so. Despite lack of coaching talent and continuity, no one was surprised that he succeeded in the NFL, and succeeded right away. Luck has the record of ‘Most winning drives by a rookie QB’ in the NFL1. He also went to three straight Pro Bowls in his first three seasons. We all remember watching the playoff performances, and the come-from-behind wins, thinking, “This guy is the real deal”. Injuries made him a bit of an after-thought for two years, but he had a strong comeback year in 2018. And then, ‘Luck’ ran out and retired. You know the story.
Most students of history know that a ‘sure thing’ doesn’t exist. This is especially true in the NFL. But does that ever stop us from proclaiming the next great player? No. While he is last on the Montana/Elway/Marino triumvirate, I am quite sure that in 1984-85, Dan Marino was ‘Next’. That year, at least in my books, Dan Marino had the greatest QB season of all times. See the list below. While the top 6 are great players performing at the pinnacle of their profession, these records were made in modern times. But things were different a quarter-century ago! Defensive players could play. What is truly staggering, is the wide margin between what Marino accomplished vs. the average performance in the mid-’80s. Pre 1984, the single-season touchdown record was 34. He shattered most records with ease.
The top panel has the 6 best QB seasons, in no order. The bottom panel contains the stats from 1984
But after the epic sophomore NFL year and a Superbowl appearance, Dan Marino never quite attained the same heights. Whether it was coaching, injuries, overall team talent, or preparation and desire; the exact breakdown we shall never know. But the proclamations of multiple Super Bowls wins turned out to be false. His peers - Montana, Elway, Simms, Kelly - went on to play and win the Super Bowls.
Which brings me to the most recent sensation – Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes had an incredible season for any QB, but more so for a first-year QB. He is a ‘generational’ talent, and therefore, Mahomes is now ‘Next’. But we know better, don’t we? Money, fame, injuries, arrogance, team and coaching turnover will constantly push him off this pedestal.
The ultimate lesson and reminder in all of this is of our mediocre ability to forecast the future. We, along with the world are constantly changing, in ways, we don’t fully understand, and our tendencies to pattern-match people, situations, and businesses by putting them in certain boxes or using heuristics, isn’t enough. Excel couldn’t do it the past, and I doubt A.I. will come close in the future.
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I am an investor and these are my personal thoughts on investing, behavioral finance, markets, and sports viewed through the prism of a Latticework