The Toughest NFL QBs in the Super Bowl Era

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2012

The Toughest NFL QBs in the Super Bowl Era

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    Toughness is difficult to quantify. Pain thresholds vary, and some team doctors are more lenient than others.

    Yet for NFL quarterbacks, toughness is actually very easy to judge. It comes down to one question: Can he take the field when his team needs him?

    It's normally not a good idea to distill a broad subject like this down to just one stat, but in this case, there's only one stat that matters.

    Could he consistently take the field every single week?

Brett Favre

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    Injuries, family emergencies—Brett Favre played through it all.

    At a position that is more exposed to devastating hits than any other, Favre didn't take a day off in more than 15 years.

    He was knocked out of his fair share of games, but whether the injury was a broken thumb, sprained ankle, separated shoulder or torn biceps, Favre always took the ball the following week.

    Including the playoffs, Favre started 321 consecutive games at quarterback.

    It's an impressive mark, but one made even more impressive by the fact that no current streak is within 190 games of Favre's record.

Peyton Manning

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    It's odd to have a player on this list who just missed an entire season, but prior to this injury, Peyton Manning had been one of the most durable quarterbacks in NFL history.

    He played right out of the gate as the No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts, and prior to this season, he hadn't missed a game in his career.

    On top of playing through run-of-the-mill bumps and bruises, Manning recovered from his first offseason neck surgery to play the entire 2010 season without even being listed on his team's injury report.

    After two more neck surgeries, Manning's career may be over, but no matter what, he deserves to go down as one of the toughest quarterbacks ever.

Eli Manning

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    With his big brother sidelined, Eli Manning has taken over the mantle as the most durable quarterback in the NFL today.

    Including the playoffs, next week's Super Bowl will make an even 130 consecutive starts since Manning began his career for the New York Giants.

    Manning's laid back personality doesn't exactly exude toughness, but he approaches the game with the attitude of a hockey player.

    It might take a couple of stitches now and then, but Manning is going to be out there.

Ron Jaworski

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    Every week, making the murderous commute to the NFL Films office in New Jersey. Fighting with Gruden for the other captain's chair on the bus.

    There's no analyst tougher than Ron Jaworski.

    OK, maybe there's no such thing as a "tough" studio analyst, but during his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Jaworski was one of the toughest quarterbacks in football.

    Before Favre and the Mannings came along, Jaws owned the longest starting streak in NFL history, taking the ball in 123 consecutive games from 1977-1984.

Tom Brady

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    Much like the elder Manning, Brady has only one blemish on his perfect starting record.

    If not for Bernard Pollard's ligament-shearing hit back in 2008, Brady might be on pace to challenge Favre's mark.

    Prior to that hit, Brady has started 128 straight games since taking over the starting job back in 2001.

    Since the hit, he's started every game of the last three seasons for the New England Patriots.

    Brady is one of the most competitive players in football, regardless of position. He still has a few years left, and he's got a great chance to become the first quarterback in NFL history to have two separate starting streaks of 75 games or more.

Joe Ferguson

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    Truthfully, I'd never heard of Joe Ferguson before I sat down to make this list, but while Ron Jaworski was setting NFL records for quarterback toughness, Ferguson was right alongside him, starting 110 consecutive games for the Buffalo Bills.

    Numbers like that don't seem as impressive against the recent feats of Brady and Manning, but remember that Ferguson accomplished his feats or fortitude in an era that was much less protective of his quarterbacks.

    Ferguson took 209 sacks during the streak, and I'd estimate that he wasn't drawing a whole lot of penalties for roughing the passer.

Philip Rivers

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    No player on this list has put on a more impressive singular display of toughness than Philip Rivers.

    Rivers played the entire 2008 AFC Championship game with a torn ACL, an injury that usually sidelines an athlete for at least eight months.

    Rather than sit out against the New England Patriots, Rivers elected to patch up his knee with arthroscopic surgery before the game, holding off on repairing all of the damage until the offseason.

    Rivers didn't play particularly well, but he earned the eternal respect of his teammates with that performance.

    On top of that, we has able to rehab from his ACL repair before the start of the 2009 season, keeping alive his consecutive-games-started streak, which has now stretched to 103 games.

Dan Marino

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    Dan Marino's 99 consecutive starts proves his physical toughness, but beyond that, Marino is one of the most mentally strong quarterbacks of all time.

    More so than any quarterback in his era, Marino carried his team on his back every single week.

    His teammates, coaches and fans all looked to him to make big plays at big times, and more often than not, he delivered.

    In the six seasons that made up his streak, Marino attempted at least 530 passes five times, leading the league in pass attempts twice during that span.