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Beyond the Stats: Jim McMahon

Who is Philadelphia’s worst starter? Easy: Ron Solt[1]. Ron Solt is terrible. Ron Solt wins the booby prize as Tecmo Super Bowl’s worst offensive lineman. Only two stats count for TSB’s big ‘n’ uglies: Max Speed and Hitting Power. Solt, a one-time All-Star at the end of his career by 1991, scores a 19 and 38, respectively. For comparison, teammate Harper Le Bel[2], TSB’s worst TE, hits harder than Solt. Only a handful of backup QBs–among them BAMF Steve Grogan–run slower.

On the other hand, how often does a player really notice Solt? The Eagles entire O-line is a bag of hot garbage (assuming that bag is made of swiss cheese). Ron Heller, the Eagles’ best lineman ranks 112 out of 140. So really, Solt isn’t so bad. Plus, most people playing with Phillly are too busy breaking land speed records with QB Eagles to notice that all their O-linemen have collapsed and died.

The real stinker for the TSB Eagles is QB2 Jim McMahon. Forget that McMahon is TSB’s 5th-worst quarterback. McMahon is TSB’s reminder that life is short and cruel. You’re playing a season, racking up literal miles with QB Eagles, and then — BAM! The screen goes black for a quarter second longer than it usually does. Your stomach drops. That damn music plays. “Not Randall,” you say, “Not Randall.” But then there he is, slung between those beefy male nurses: “Injured! QB Eagles.”

QB Eagles Injured Crying JordanMight as well burn your cart and buy a new one. Without QB Eagles, Tecmo Super Bowl just ain’t as “super.”

This isn’t to rag on McMahon. He was a Pro-Bowler. He played 15 years in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl with the ‘85 Bears. Even as an aging veteran in Philadelphia, McMahon still had juice in the tank. When Randall “QB Eagles” Cunningham blew out his knee in Week 1 of 1991, McMahon stepped in and led Philadelphia to a 10-6 mark. If not for a stacked NFC and a series of tiebreakers, McMahon’s Eagles would have made the playoffs[3].

McMahon is Philly’s achilles not due to his bizarrely low stats (more on that in a bit), but because he is the anti-QB Eagles. Most TSB squads have a QB2 with similar skills but lower stats. If Phil Simms goes down during the Giants’ season, at least Jeff Hofstetler can still throw the ball reasonably well.

Philadelphia, though, is another story. The Eagles aren’t built on pocket passing. The Eagles thrive on QB Eagles’ ability to break plays and make things happen both with his arm and his feet. With most teams, the drop from QB1 to QB2 is like going from a Corvette to a Datsun; both will get you there. Going from QB Eagles to McMahon, though, is like totaling Doc Brown’s Delorean and replacing it with a ham sandwich. McMahon’s depressed stats magnify the o-line’s deficiency and completely kill the Eagles’ offense.

Jim McMahonWait. What? McMahon gets a 6 for Max Speed? He’s one of the few players slower than Ron Solt? McMahon had a history with injury, yes, but a 6 MS, 38 Pass Control and 38 Avoid Pass Block seem cruel. He scores at or near the bottom in every statistical category. As subsequent NFL seasons would show, however, Jim McMahon was a capable signal caller. His Eagles went 10-6 in 1991. In 1993, the Minnesota Vikings went 8-3 with McMahon under center. Sure, his accuracy and total yardage never came close to the likes of Montana and Marino, but for TSB to say Cody Carlson and Jack Trudeau are better QBs is insane. Why all the Jim McMahon hate from Tecmo?

The answer is San Diego[4].

Jim McMahon was a character. His off-field flash and joie de vivre never gelled with Coach Mike Ditka’s button-down Bears. Prior to the 1989 season, Ditka dealt McMahon to the Chargers for a conditional draft pick[5]. The Chargers were near rock-bottom of the complete rebuild which would eventually see them in Super Bowl XXIX. But as the TSB Chargers show, 1990 was a rough year in San Diego.

With limited offensive weapons, McMahon and the Chargers struggled. McMahon’s oft-abrasive quirks, tolerable when a team is winning, became the Chargers’ scorn. Even though the Chargers lost 4 of McMahon’s starts by a combined 11 points, the front office and coaching staff, exhausted by his antics, benched McMahon in favor of rookie Billie Joe Tolliver for the season’s final 4 games. When the Chargers campaign came to a merciful 6-10 end, the team gave McMahon an outright release.

McMahon signed with the Eagles in time to make TSB’s roster cuts. TSB programmers took his stats, depressed by a horrible San Diego team, and simply plugged them into the Eagles’ QB2 slot. The rest, unfortunately, is Bad Tecmo Player history. McMahon should be a capable TSB backup. Instead, haunted by a bad year in San Diego, he is the Tecmo Eagles’ version of a punch in the groin.


NOTES:

[1] With DB Andre Waters a close 2nd.
[2] According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, “The Fresh Prince of Le Bel Air” had one catch for 9 yards and a single 1-yard run in 10 NFL seasons. Still better than me.
[3] Side note, 1991 was the first post-season with 3 Wild Cards.
[4] Stay classy, San Diego.
[5] Eventually a 2nd-Rounder the Bears used to snag LB Ron Cox.

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Keith Good

Keith Good is a future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and 8-bit game geek. A perpetual optimist, he convinces himself every September that this could finally be the Cleveland Browns' year. He was once told to eff off by Tecmo great Kevin Mack. You can check out his other work at www.keithisgood.com and follow him on twitter @keithisgood.

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