Top 10 Quarterbacks in NFL History

Leo HayesCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2009

Browsing the B/R NFL section lately will undoubtedly bring you to an argument about who is the best quarterback in NFL history. This is my take on that argument.

10. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning is easily in every discussion for the top five quarterbacks playing today. He has great leadership qualities and has lead his team to an impressive seven consecutive twelve win seasons.

Manning holds NFL records for consecutive seasons with over 4,000 yards passing and the most total seasons with 4,000 or more yards passing in a career. He also has the second efficiency highest rating of all time.

He also holds the NFL record for the most consecutive seasons with 25+ touchdowns. He has achieved this feat eleven times.

Manning is most well known for his responsibility to call his own plays. He is extremely effective at this job as with Peyton the Colts are the best 3rd-and-4th-down team in the NFL today.

He is rated as 10th overall because despite the above statistics, Manning has only had one Super Bowl win. Considering Manning has achieved an amazing nine consecutive seasons with playoff appearances, he has built a reputation for failing in the biggest moment.

9. Tom Brady

Tom Brady is the most impressive quarterback playing football today. He has won a record three Super Bowl championships before he was 26 years old. In two of these games he has earned the honor of Super Bowl MVP.

Brady also broke Bart Starr's record by winning 10 consecutive playoff games. Brady also has completed the most passes in a Super Bowl of any quarterback in history. In four games, he has completed 100 passes.

Tom Brady has only lost one game in 85 attempts in which his team had the lead at any point in the game's final quarter (during the regular season).

Unfortunately for Brady our most recent memory of him is losing the Super Bowl after an undefeated season, and the Spygate controversy. If he comes back within the next two seasons in his usual form, he will likely move up this list.

8. Bart Starr

Bart Starr was one of the most accurate and clutch quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. He lead his team to five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.

He lead the NFL in passer rating five times, only Young has surpassed this mark.

When you consider Starr you have to remember that he played in a time that was less of an offensive and passing game, and despite this, he still is one of the greatest passers in NFL history.

Starr was an awful head coach.

7. Steve Young

Steve Young is often underrated as he spent his career in the shadow of Joe Montana, who appears a little further up this list. His poor performance toward the beginning of his career has also lead most to underrate this quarterback.

Some of my former picks will have informed you that Young has several passing records. Aside from those young had four straight seasons where he lead the league in passer rating. He was over 100 in each of these seasons.

Young also rushed for 43 touchdowns over his career, which is an unbelievable number for a quarterback.

Young may be the most accurate passer in the history of the NFL.

6. Otto Graham

Believe me this is hard to admit. I am a Steelers fan, and he is a Browns quarterback.

Graham lead his team to an un-freaking-believable six straight NFL championship games and four straight AAFC championships before that. That is ten straight championship games. I still cannot believe I am saying that.

He won seven of these games.

Graham had a career passer rating of 86.6, the best mark by a quarterback before the live ball era. His career yards per attempt is nine. That is the best in NFL history.

He ranks sixth as much of his career was spent in the lesser AAFC. His numbers declined significantly when he moved to the NFL, and as such would likely not have been as impressive if he played his whole career there.

5. John Elway

In 234 games, John Elway threw for 51,475 yards, 300 TDs and 226 INTs. He also rushed 774 times for 407 yards and 33 TDs.

Elway won two Super Bowls with the Broncos and appeared in several more.

The primary reason Elway makes my top five is the fashion in which he won. Elway is well known for his late game winning drives. His clutch performances have helped to elevate him in to being one of the all time greats.

4. Johnny Unitas

The Golden Arm's record of 47 consecutive games with a touch down pass is certainly an impressive feat.

Unitas set the NFL record for 10 Pro-Bowl appearances; this feat has only been matched by Favre.

Unitas played in what has been titled the Greatest Game Ever Played. He lead his team to defeat the much favored Giants in overtime.

In 1959, Unitas threw for 32 touchdowns. This season was 12 games. That would amount to roughly 42 touchdown passes if he maintained his pace through today's 16-game schedule.

That is not the current record, but considering, in 1959, in the game of football it was much more difficult to be a successful quarterback, his feat is very impressive.

Unitas lead his team to three championship games during his career.

3. Dan Marino

Dan Marino is quite possibly the best passer in NFL history. If you look to the stat books, Marino is in second place in all of these:

Most Attempts, Career: 8,358
Most Completions, Career: 4,967
Most Yards Passing, Career: 61,361
Most Touchdown Passes, Career: 420
Most Touchdown Passes, Season: 48
Most Seasons, 3,000 or more Yards Passing: 13 (1984-92, 1994-95, 1997-98)
Most Consecutive Seasons, 3,000 or more Yards Passing: 9 (1984-92)
Most Games, Three or more Touchdown Passes, Career: 62
Lowest Percentage, Passes Intercepted, Rookie Season: 2.03 in 1983 (296-6)

His name is first place in a wide variety of other statistical categories, but the reason I chose what he was second in is that even the categories in which his records were surpassed, no one player was able to do all of them.

That means that even though he may be second in a lot of categories, no one player can be ahead of him in enough of them to be considered better.

Also in many categories in which he has been surpassed the players who surpassed them have had two things, longer careers, and better surrounding teams throughout the career.

The only reason Marino is not first on my list is the obvious, he never won a championship. I will admit that if Marino had won even one Super Bowl I would consider him the greatest quarterback in history.

2. Terry Bradshaw

The Blond Bomber is my No. 2 overall pick. I may take some heat for this pick, and I will admit that I am a bit biased in this decision. Here is my rationale for this decision.

When Bradshaw began his career the team around him was awful. The Steelers were really bad before Chuck Noll. Really bad.

He had to lead this team, and though this should not increase considerations of his skill, he had to do it with numerous mental illnesses.

Bradshaw set numerous passing records in his day including passing for 932 yards and nine touchdowns in four Super Bowls. Bradshaw also had 3,833 postseason passing yards.

The most important thing when considering Bradshaw is this. He played in a time when scoring and gaining offensive yards was the most difficult in NFL history. It is even referred to by some as the NFL scoring drought.

Defenses during this period were bigger, stronger, and faster than they had ever been. There are reports that almost the entire NFL began to experiment with and abuse steroids during this period, which made matters worse.

During this time, players pads were larger, which made it more difficult for players to sneak by defenders, preform finesse moves, and do any of the amazing athletic things we see today.

Along with this offenses during this time had almost no protection. Defensive players could hit the quarterback late, hit him anywhere on his body with and part of their body, and there would be no repercussions.

With all of that in mind, Bradshaw played hurt almost his entire career and still managed to produce the results that he did.

Considering all of that one of the biggest reasons that I consider Bradshaw so highly is that clutch performances weigh heavily on my mind. If a player is at his best when it matters most, they get bonus points.

Bradshaw is the only player in NFL history to go on four late game Super Bowl winning drives. He is also only one of two players to have won four Super Bowls, guess where the other ranks on my list.

1. Joe Montana

I don't have to write nearly as much for this one. Montana is almost unanimously the greatest QB in NFL history.

Montana won four Super Bowls over his career while throwing for over 40,000 yards and earning a passer efficiency rating of 92.3.

This decision doesn't need much justification. If anyone argues with me on this one, I will expand my explanation.

Well everyone, the time has come, tell me why I'm wrong.


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