Sammy Baugh vs. Sid Luckman: Impact of Postseason Performance on Legacies

Posted on May 18, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Sammy Baugh is considered by many to be one of the finest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He was an early pioneer of the forward pass, a two-time NFL Champion and perhaps most importantly, he retired in 1952 as the league's all-time leading passer by a considerable margin.

As far as legacies go, it didn't matter that his arch rival Sid Luckman won four NFL championships—twice out-dueling Baugh on the game's grandest stage. It didn't matter that Baugh regularly under-performed in the postseason and in championship games as his team's season hung in the balance.

Baugh (postseason career): 40 of 69 for 496 yards, 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. 60.1 passer rating (72.2 in regualr season).

Luckman (postseason career): 45 of 85 for 721 yards, 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. 89.4 passer rating (75.0 in regualr season).

Postseason statistics above are post-1940, when detailed box score information became available.

During the 1940 NFL championship, Baugh quarterbacked the Washington Redskins to the worst loss in NFL history (73-0). As was often the case in postseason play, Luckman was sharp and Baugh was not. While the passing game hadn't evolved to the extent it would in the coming years, Luckman's 156.3 passer rating was ages above Baugh's putrid 36.5. Peyton Manning's critics won't forget Super Bowl XLVIII the way public perception now overlooks the 1940 NFL championship for Baugh.

Baugh (1940 NFL championship): 10 of 17 for 102 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 intercetpions. 36.5 passer rating.

Luckman (1940 NFL championship): 3 of 4 for 88 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 intercetpions. 156.3 passer rating.

People's perception of history is subjective. What isn't disputable is the following in respects to the Baugh vs. Luckman rivalry:


  • Luckman won twice as many championships (4) as Baugh (2).
  • Luckman twice out-performed Baugh in the NFL championship game (1940 and 1943).
  • Luckman's performance improved in the postseason (89.4 passer rating in postseason vs. 75.0 passer rating in regular season).
  • Baugh's performance decreased in the postseason (60.1 passer rating in the postseason vs. 72.2 passer rating in the regular season).

However, there is good reason why, despite the hype of the Baugh/Luckman rivalry, that Baugh is the one recognized as the premiere quarterback of his generation. The QBS Classic formula illustrates Baugh's utter dominance at the quarterback position during the 1930's and 1940's. As good as Luckman was, Baugh's career QBS is a staggering 109.0 points higher. For as much as Luckman out-performed Baugh in postseason play and title games, it's nonsensical to apply an inordinate amount of value to such a small sample-size of work. The reality of Baugh's superior performance in totality is what overshadows Luckman's great success in crucial moments.

Had the Baugh/Luckman rivalry unfolded during the 21st century, Luckman would have been placed on a higher pedestal—with his superior postseason play and plethora of championship rings overshadowing Baugh's body of work that excelled mostly during the regular season. Ironic perhaps, knowing that for however archaic analysis was during the Great Depression, they were actually more competent in respects to evaluating a quarterback's individual contributions to his team's chances of winning.

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