Playoff “Quarterbacks”: Rajon Rondo or Tom Brady?
As an announcer, Mark Jackson sure loves to repeat himself. Whether it’s “Mama there goes that man,” “Hand down, man down,” or my personal favorite, “Grown man move” (clip unavailable), Jackson’s canned go-to phrases are a staple of any ESPN broadcast — especially when cutting to a commercial break, serving to punctuate an important replay with, well, words that have lost all meaning.
The general concept is, “Move over Tom Brady, Rajon Rondo is now the best quarterback in (New England).” I don’t know if that forced comparison even makes sense beyond the most superficial level, but I did think it would be interesting to look at the W-L record of point guards in NBA playoff series vs. NFL players’ playoff records as the primary QB, and see how they compare.
If the Boston Celtics close out their series against Orlando (and with a 3-0 lead, it would take a Bruins-esque — or is that Yankees-esque? — collapse to prevent that from happening), Rajon Rondo would move to 8-1 all-time as a primary PG in playoff series. Tom Brady famously started his career 10-0 (with 3 championships) before finally losing to the Broncos in the 2005 playoffs, so Rondo is not quite in Brady territory yet as a winning playoff “quarterback”, but here’s how he compares to other hot starts by NFL QBs in their playoff careers:
- Ben Roethlisberger: 8-2 career playoff record
- Troy Aikman: Started career 7-0, 11-1 before losing to Panthers in 1996 playoffs
- Joe Montana: Started career 7-1
- Terry Bradshaw: Started career 8-2
- Kurt Warner: Started career 8-2
That’s pretty heady company for Rondo, as far as winning early in one’s career goes. But how does he stack up to other NBA point guards?
Well, like Rondo, Magic Johnson started his career 8-1 as a primary PG… then moved to 15-2… then 25-3… and was a staggering 32-5 (!!!) going into the 1991 Finals before ending his career at 32-6. Here are some other notable fast starts by PGs:
- Tony Parker started his career 6-1, 11-2, & 17-3
- Dennis Johnson was 18-4 before the 1987 Finals
- Derek Fisher is 19-3 (working on 20-3 as we speak)
- John Paxson was 10-1 in his career
- Ron Harper ended his career 16-1
- Slater Martin started his career 14-1
- Bob Cousy was 5-7 through the 1958 season, but went 10-0 down the stretch to end his career
- K.C. Jones was 8-0 going into the 1967 East Finals
- Chauncey Billups was 17-6 before the Nuggets’ loss in the 2009 playoffs
- Isiah Thomas was 16-5 going into the Pistons-Bulls series in 1991
- Tom Henderson was 8-2 going into the 1980 East semis
- Lionel Hollins was 7-1 going into the 1980 Finals
- Maurice Cheeks started his career 9-3
Rondo is definitely in this group, but even if the Celtics win another championship, he’d be “just” 9-1. He’d have to go 6-1 over the next few years (that means another championship) to match Magic’s pace, which is to say nothing of Martin or Harper. 8-1 is very, very impressive (assuming the C’s don’t blow it vs. Orlando), but it’s not as good as Tom Brady’s record was through the same # of playoff games, and it’s far from being the most impressive career start among NBA point guards all-time.