Bring on the bourbon.It's part of the build-up to Mr Starr's forthcoming 80th birthday. It's also an opportunity to revisit the art of improving by simplifying.
"Take your drink," he says, "I have to show you something."
And the man who coached Bart Starr in high school takes calculated, six-inch steps toward his time machine of a garage. Lined across the wall are yellowed photographs. There's a photo of Moseley with his coach at Kentucky, Paul "Bear" Bryant. There's a portrait of Starr and Moseley together at the quarterback's Hall of Fame induction, where Moseley introduced him.
Sonny Jurgensen still remembers sharing lunch with Starr in Washington in 1969. Lombardi was leaving Green Bay for the Redskins. The preparation would be intense, Starr told him. The game plan, extensive.Just being smart enough to not overthink the fundamentals. (That's one of the hardest things to instill in economics students. Substitution. Opportunity cost. Indifference. Arbitrage. Do those things well, and the analysis will take care of itself.
"And he said that when you play the games, the games are fun," Jurgensen recalled. "I said, 'What?' I said, 'I'm running for my life.'"
Jurgensen is the only other quarterback who truly understands the whole one-of-a-kind coach, one-of-a-kind player theory. He spent one season with Lombardi himself — in 1969. That one season, Jurgensen, like Starr, had access to a mind, a man no other quarterback did.
Like Starr, Jurgensen still reads those notebooks from his days with Lombardi.
He's a legend in his own right. Jurgensen has a bust in Canton, too. Five Pro Bowls, the best passer rating of his era. One championship. If Jurgensen did have Lombardi for any of those other 17 pro seasons, "it would have been like stealing," he says.
Only two coaches — any era, any sport — had this ability, he adds, to mash a complex game into a simple one. Lombardi in football, Red Auerbach in basketball. Jurgensen has talked to Sam Jones, to John Havlicek about this. The Boston Celtics had six plays in 12 years and options off those six plays. Like Lombardi.
Starr took this system and mastered it. Jurgensen says Starr will be remembered as "one of the very smartest quarterbacks to ever play the game."
"He ran that football team," Jurgensen said. "He was the leader of that football team. That's how he'll be remembered — as a great field general."
Dan Fouts calls Starr one of the most underrated quarterbacks of all time. If you judge quarterbacks by championships, well, "he's No. 1."
As the son of the San Francisco 49ers' play-by-play man, Fouts saw Starr up close at Kezar Stadium. A ball boy, Fouts had a front-row seat to the most accurate quarterback of the era. When Starr retired, his 57.4 completion percentage was the best ever.
"They always kicked the 49ers' ass," said Fouts, now a CBS analyst. "His command and consistency was just, I don't think he ever, ever, it just doesn't seem like he ever made mistakes."
Yet "Bart Starr" might not resonate today. The personalities of Lombardi and Hornung and Nitschke and Taylor were overwhelming, Fouts explains, and Starr never sought the limelight. No guarantees. No fur coats or flashy nickname.
There's no reason to revise this list. Or disregard the five rings.