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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top 10 Quarterbacks in NFL History

Today's top ten list will focus on the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. It was a daunting task to separate the 10 greatest signal callers from all of the others. However, once I began writing my "Top 10 Tuesdays", I knew that my views on the greatest QBs to play the game, would have to be explored.

I anticipate the inevitable backlash, as it is hard for any two fans to agree on the 10 best quarterbacks. However, I promise that I will have a thoughtful and logical reason for my picks. So, here we go:

10) Steve Young (San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Steve Young does not have multiple Super Bowl rings or multiple Super Bowl MVPs like most of the players on this list. What Young does have to his credit is the best performance ever by a quarterback in the big game. After years of riding the bench behind 49er star quarterback Joe Montana, Young was finally given the reigns as the starter in the 1993 season. No player (probably in the history of sports) had bigger shoes to fill than Steve Young.

Montana had already won 4 championships for the 49ers. After several huge losses to the Dallas Cowboys, multiple injuries, and a skeptical fan base, Steve finally made it to the Super Bowl in 1994. He and the 49ers would enter that game heavy favorites.

In Super Bowl XXIX, Steve Young would show the world that he could take over for Joe Montana and even surpass him. Young would throw 6 touchdowns in that championship game; breaking the record of 5 TDs thrown in a Super Bowl set by Joe himself. He would become the game's MVP and his Super Bowl touchdown record still stands today; some 15 years later.

Steve Young earns my 10th spot not only for his unbelievable performance in that Super Bowl, but for the player he was in every game he ever played. His never-say-die attitude was infectious to the teammates that he loved to lead. He still holds the records for highest career passer rating (96.9), most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (43), and most passing titles (four consecutive).

9) Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers, New York Jets )

Brett Favre is synonymous with the word "gunslinger". The former Green Bay Packer quarterback is known to go into a game with an innate desire to make every throw and every play; no matter the coverage. For this reason, Favre holds the record for most interceptions thrown by a QB in the NFL. For that same reason, he still holds records for throwing yards, touchdowns, and completions.

Favre has also played in 2 Super Bowls; winning his ring in Super Bowl XXXI. When you add the records, the Super Bowl, and his iron man record of most consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback, Favre had to be represented on my list. His retirement from the Packers and subsequent return to the field with the New York Jets may have tarnished his legacy with some fans. But, his stats, records, and big game performances stand alone and will pave his way to the NFL Hall of Fame.

8) Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys)

He was the captain of "America's Team". Roger Staubach, or "Captain Comeback" to some fans, was the leader of the Dallas Cowboys offense for 11 seasons. In that time, he went to 6 pro bowls and appeared in 4 Super Bowls; winning two of them.

Staubach was known for his 4th quarter heroics. He led the Cowboys back to victory 23 times and 17 of those came in the last 2 minutes of the game. It was Staubach who coined the phrase "Hail Mary" as a description for the long, deep pass thrown to the end zone in a last ditch effort to win the game.

The Cowboys teams led by Staubach, set the tone for the franchise. His play making abilities, leadership, and "fight to the end" mentality helped Dallas to make its mark on league history. At the time of his retirement, Roger Staubach had the highest all-time passer rating with 83.4. He retired in 1980 and was in the Hall of Fame by 1985.

7) Bart Starr (Green Bay Packers)

Bart Starr was quarterback for coach Vince Lombardi's Packers. And, that was no joke. He would deliver victory to his team and help them win championships before, during, and after the start of the Super Bowl era. All in all, Starr would win 5 NFL championships by the time he left the game in 1971.

Starr was the quarterback of the team to win the first 2 Super Bowls in NFL History. He was also the MVP for both Super Bowl I and II. Quarterbacks called the plays back in Starr's day. One of his most infamous calls came during one of the NFL's most famous games: The Ice Bowl. Against Dallas, Starr would call the "quarterback sneak" for the winning touchdown to win the Packers third straight NFL championship. Starr even went on to coach the Packers from 1975-1983.

6) Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Terry Bradshaw might have started off his time in Pittsburgh on shaky ground, but he would leave them with 4 Super Bowl rings and a legacy that brought him all the way to the Hall of Fame. In his first year as starter, Bradshaw was interception prone and he seemed lost at the professional level. Once Terry got control of his game, he began to win championships; in bunches.

He also liked to win them back-to-back. Bradshaw and the Steelers won two straight championships... twice. He led the team to victory in Super Bowls IX & X, and again in Super Bowls XIII and XIV. He was also the championship game's best player back-to-back. He was Super Bowl MVP of his last two Super Bowl wins.

Bradshaw also was the quarterback on one of the NFL's most famous plays. The "Immaculate Reception" was a last ditch effort pass by Bradshaw in the 1972 AFC divisional playoff game. The pass was made on a broken play as time ran out in the 4th quarter and miraculously landed to running back Franco Harris who ran in the winning touchdown.

5) John Elway (Denver Broncos)

As a quarterback, John Elway was known for his competitive spirit and his rocket arm. Drafted first overall in 1983, Elway would reach the Super Bowl in just 3 seasons. He orchestrated "The Drive" in the AFC championship game that year in which he drove his team 98 yards in just over 5 minutes to tie the score. Although he reached the Super Bowl in a relatively short time span, winning the Super Bowl was a much more daunting task for Elway. It would take three losses in the big game before he would have a championship ring.

Elway didn't stop at just one Super Bowl win. He won back-to-back championships in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. In his last Super Bowl, Elway became the oldest player to ever score in the big game at age 38. He was also the game's MVP. John Elway still holds many NFL quarterback records including: most total touchdowns (334), most career passing yards (51,475), and most touchdown passes (300).

4) Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins)

Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl. But, his statistics, talent, and overall accomplishments as an NFL quarterback gets him to the 4th spot on this countdown. In his first NFL start, Marino posted a 96.o passer rating; a rookie record at the time. He also made the Pro Bowl that first year and was the first rookie quarterback to start in the Pro Bowl game. But it was in 1984 that Marino had his breakout year. He broke 6 passing records, comprise a 14-2 regular season record, and was named the league's MVP.

In a league where success is measured in Super Bowls, Marino let his numbers do the talking. As of today, he still holds records for: most passing yards in a season (5,084), most 400+ yard games (13), and most games with 4 or more touchdown passes (21), just to name a few. Marino also made 9 pro bowls before his retirement in 2000. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2005.

3) Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

Tom Brady sits at the 3rd spot on my list and he's only 31 years old. That's what happens when you win 3 Super Bowls in 8 seasons. Brady became the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl in 2001. In that game, Brady put up modest numbers. But, it was his calm, precise drive to put the Patriots in field goal range with :07 seconds left on the clock, that earned him the Super Bowl MVP.

Brady would do it all again in 2003, but this time he posted the numbers to impress as well. Brady threw for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXVIII. He also set the record for most completions in the championship game (32). Once again, Brady drove the team down field with a methodical and precise drive to place them into field goal range. The Patriots won their second Super Bowl in 3 seasons and Tom Brady was named the game's MVP yet again.

In 2004, Brady won his third Super Bowl for a back-to-back championship. He was not named MVP for that game, but his performance was still stellar with 236 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tom Brady has a lot of NFL football left in him. With his career already at a Hall of Fame level, Brady could win more Super Bowls which could lead to him surpassing all NFL quarterbacks to become the best ever.

2) Johnny Unitas (Baltimore Colts, San Diego Chargers)

Johnny Unitas was as tough as they came and he knew how to win. Many would argue that Unitas is the greatest quarterback of all time and they would have a logical argument. As the quarterback for the Baltimore Colts, Unitas played in what many call "the greatest game ever played" against the New York Giants in 1958.

It was the NFL Championship game, before the Super Bowl era. It was the first overtime game in NFL history. In the "sudden death" format, the first team to score in the overtime would win the game. Unitas would make play after play in the winning drive to give the Colts their first Championship and launch the NFL into worldwide popularity.

Unitas would go on to win a total of 3 NFL Championships and Super Bowl V. Upon his retirement in 1973, he had set records for most completions (2,830), most pass attempts (5,186), and most consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass (47) to name a few. He entered into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1979.

1) Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs)

Many fans agree that Joe Montana is the best quarterback in NFL history. With 4 Super Bowls and 3 Super Bowl MVPs it is an easy argument to make. He took over as starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in 1981 and he would finish that first starting year as a Super Bowl champion. With a dramatic win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI, in which he led the game winning drive, Joe Montana would also win his first Super Bowl MVP in his first full year as the starter.

He would win another Super Bowl in 1984 against the Miami Dolphins. With three touchdowns and 331 yards passing, he was named the game's MVP once again. However, the road to greatness came with pot holes as well. Montana would suffer injuries and defeat following the 1984 season and it would be 4 years before he made a return to the championship game.

Once there, he would win again. In 1988, Montana led the 49ers to another dramatic finish in the Super Bowl over the Cincinnati Bengals. This time, in Super Bowl XXIII, Montana threw for 357 yards and 2 touchdowns. He still needed to rally back, however and he would lead another dramatic drive from his own territory to beat the Bengals in the final seconds of the game.

Montana and the 49ers went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1989. Super Bowl XXIV was a lot easier for Joe as he and the 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 55-10; which is still the most lopsided Super Bowl win in NFL history. Montana was the game's MVP yet again, with 428 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is still the only player in NFL history to win 3 Super Bowl MVP trophies.

There you have it. My top ten quarterbacks of all-time. I know that many of you will have arguments and opinions about the names missing on this list. Just know that there are several missing names that I wrestled with myself. Fran Tarkenton, Troy Aikman, Joe Namath, and Peyton Manning were all considered as well. But, with so many great players to choose from, you can't please every fan.


Pete said...

Elway at 5? Behind Marino and Brady? Tsk tsk...

Scot said...

Sammy Baugh may have been the greatest player ever, and definitely deserves to be on this list. He revolutionized the game.

Otto Graham was one of the best winners the game has ever seen. He had a 105-17-4 career record and won 7 NFL titles in 10 years.

It's a shame that they played before the TV era of football.

"Q" the fan said...

I knew you would say that Pete :). But that had to be in record time. I just gave Daina the link! All I can say is that Brady has more SB rings and Marino's #s are staggering.

I do notice that you question Elway's spot behind Marino and Brady, but not behind Montana. I like it!

"Q" the fan said...

As always, very good points Scot. Otto Graham was definitely in the mix, until I made some late cuts. Sammy was on my radar.

For me, it came down to Super Bowls and both were before the Super Bowl era. I did manage to nab Bart Starr and Johnny U; both players who started before the Super Bowl era but went on to win a few of those early Super Bowl rings. And, you're right the TV thing plays a big role.

Love the debate and comments! Keep 'em coming :).

Lionluver said...

Brett Farve at #9? Please! He IS the NFL and you don't need John Madden to tell you that. The Gunslinger makes us all feel like that little kid again, you know, the one that wanted to be Brett Farve when he grew up. As sure as his grin is impetuous, he is the definition of a football player personified, and yet, it's still just a game to him. Sometimes when watching one of his tapes, I mistakenly think I'm just watching a group of kids playing football out in a park, having the time of their lives. I'm not sure if you've ever heard this but he could throw the ball so hard it would break the fingers of his own receivers, IN PRACTICE! Also one time he played 10,000 games in a row! Has Joe Wyoming ever done that?

Whether it's reveling in his enthusiasm as he high-fives an official, or mourning with him as he overcomes the loss of a father and the Oakland Raiders, we as a nation are lucky that we will be able to point to this time in history and say, "We were there!" We were there.

I hate him so much.

"Q" the fan said...

You and your bogus comment didn't fool me for one second. You had me at "impetuous" :). I am a bit disappointed, however. I figured you would have said something about how it was a travesty that Charlie Batch or Joey Harrington missed the cut.

Joe Wyoming? Now you're just being mean.

Keep 'em coming :)