The Best QB in Each NFL Team's History
Quarterback is the NFL's glamor position. Nobody on the football field gets more attention or is more highly scrutinized than the man under center.
The great ones often put up impressive statistics but, more importantly, they make the players around them better and repeatedly lead their franchise to victory.
Here is a look at the best quarterback in each NFL team's history. At the bottom of each slide, we listed some other contenders who were considered for the top slot for their respective team, but fell just short.
Some of these choices are bound to be controversial. Feel free to comment whether or not you agree or disagree with my selections, stating why you feel your candidate is the better choice.
Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino
No quarterback in Miami Dolphins history comes close to the great Dan Marino, at least statistically. In fact, many football fans say few quarterbacks in NFL history have matched the excellence of the former-University of Pittsburgh star, who spent his entire 17 year NFL career in Miami.
Marino threw for 61,361 yards in his NFL career and 420 touchdown, an NFL record until Brett Favre broke it.
The only major knock against Marino is that he never led the Dolphins to a Super Bowl victory, although he did get the Dolphins to the Big Game in 1984, when he threw for a then-record 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns.
Few players in NFL history had a quicker release or better command of the football than Marino. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Runners-up for the Dolphins spot included Bob Griese and Don Strock.
Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly has accomplished something that no other NFL quarterback has ever done: he led his team to the Super Bowl for four consecutive seasons. The fact that the Bills fell short in each of those games resulted in Kelly not receiving all of the respect he deserves when great quarterbacks are discussed.
Kelly joined the Bills in 1986 after a stint with the USFL's Houston Gamblers. He spent 11 seasons in Buffalo and is the Bills all-time leader in yards, touchdown passes and quarterback rating.
The Bills won six straight AFC East titles under Kelly's leadership and won four consecutive conference championships.
Kelly excelled in the no-huddle or "K-Gun" offense which allowed the Bills to stay a step ahead of most defenses. He was surrounded by talented weapons, such as Andre Reed, James Lofton and Thurman Thomas.
Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Runners-up for the Bills all-time quarterback include Joe Ferguson and Jack Kemp.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Tom Brady was an afterthought when the Patriots selected him in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. By the time he retires, the-former University of Michigan star will go down as one of the most successful quarterbacks of all-time.
Brady took over as the Pats' starter in 2001 and hasn't looked back since. He led the Patriots to five Super Bowls, winning three of them.
In 2007, Brady led the Patriots to a 16-0 record, throwing for a record 50 touchdowns, but the club was upset by the New York Giants (the first of two times) in the Super Bowl, spoiling their chance for the first perfect season in the NFL since 1972.
Brady is presently New England's all-time leader in nearly every career passing category.
Runners-up for the Pats all-time quarterback include Steve Grogan, Drew Bledsoe and Babe Parilli.
New York Jets: Joe Namath
There is no question who the greatest quarterback in Jets history is; when it comes to the Jets, there's Joe Willie Namath and then there's everybody else.
Namath had one of the strongest arms in NFL history, a lightning-quick release and a brash style that nobody could ignore.
When the Jets signed the former-Alabama star to a $427,000 contract in 1965, the AFL was given instant credibility.
In 1967, Namath became the first quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season.
One year later, the led the Jets to a victory in Super Bowl III, a huge upset over the highly favored Baltimore Colts after "guaranteeing" a victory. Namath was named MVP for a game that is remembered as a crucial moment leading up to the AFL-NFL merger two years later.
Namath was also one of first football players to become a big media personality. He appeared in numerous commercials, movies and TV shows.
Unfortunately, Namath's bad knees caught up with him and he retired after the 1977 season.
Runners-up for the Jets all-time quarterback include Ken O'Brien, Richard Todd and Chad Pennington.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has finally led the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl this season. That may serve to silence some of the quarterback's critics, who claim he didn't win big games despite the fact that he won at least one playoff game in each of the last five seasons.
Flacco possesses a strong arm and good leadership qualities. The former-University of Delaware star holds every career passing record in the Ravens' brief franchise history.
Runners-up for the Ravens' all-time quarterback include Kyle Boller and Vinny Testaverde.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Terry Bradshaw
Ben Roethlisberger may have gaudier numbers, but the best overall quarterback in Steelers history remains Terry Bradshaw.
Nine years into Roethlisberger's career, Bradshaw still has thrown more touchdowns than any other signal caller in Pittsburgh history and has four Super Bowls victories, double Roethlisberger's total.
Bradshaw struggled early in his career (a 38.1 completion percentage and 1:4 TD-INT ratio as a rookie in 1970) and clashed with Steelers' Coach, Chuck Noll but, by the midway point of the 1974 season, he had won the starting job for good. Later that year, he led the Steelers to their first championship.
Bradshaw won a pair of Super Bowl MVP awards and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1970's.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
In addition to Roethlisberger, runners-up for the Steelers all-time quarterback include Neil O'Donnell and Kordell Stewart.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ken Anderson
Ken Anderson led the Cincinnati Bengals to their first playoff appearance and their first Super Bowl berth.
Anderson became one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL by the mid-70s. He ran Bill Walsh's short passing game to perfection.
In 1981, Anderson led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI after being named NFL MVP. One season later, he set an NFL record by completing 70.6 percent of his passes.
Anderson holds the Bengals career record for yards, completions and touchdowns.
Runners-up for the Bengals top spot include Boomer Esiason and Carson Palmer. Expect Andy Dalton to join this list shortly if he continues to play the way he has over his first two NFL seasons.
Cleveland Browns: Otto Graham
Otto Graham holds a mark for excellence that will likely never be broken: for 10 consecutive seasons between 1946 and 1955, the Northwestern-alum led the Cleveland Browns to the Championship Game of his league. The Browns won seven of the 10 games, a record for excellence that has never been surpassed.
Graham led the Browns to all four championships in the brief history of the AAFC, a league that competed with the NFL just after World War II.
Cleveland joined the NFL in 1950 and the Browns continued to be one of the elite teams in the game.
Graham still holds the Browns' franchise mark with 174 career touchdowns.
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Runners-up for the Browns top spot on this list include Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar and Frank Ryan.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Brunell
The Jaguars have only been in the NFL since 1995, but their best quarterback was one of their first: lefty Mark Brunell.
The Jaguars acquired Brunell from the Packers and Brunell led the club to the AFC Championship Game in just their second season of existence and then did it again just three years later.
Brunell's mobility added another dimension to the Jags' offense and helped him play in three Pro Bowls, one in which he was named MVP.
He is the franchise's all-time leader in yards, touchdowns and completions and has won more games than any other quarterback for the Jaguars.
Runners-up for the Jaguars all-time quarterback include David Garrard and Byron Leftwich.
Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts: Johnny Unitas
It was a very close battle, but Johnny Unitas edged out Peyton Manning as the Colts' all-time quarterback.
Unitas gets the nod because, in the 1950's and '60s, he was considered the best quarterback in the game, while Peyton never really held that title unanimously.
"Johnny U" also won three championships for the Colts (1958, 1959 and Super Bowl V) while Manning only won one.
Unitas was daring in his play calls, tough as nails and overcame being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers to become the best quarterback in the game.
He threw a touchdown pass in 48 straight games, a record that stood until Drew Brees broke it in 2012 and Unitas did it before the rules were changed to open up the passing game.
By the end of his career, Unitas was the NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes and yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
After Peyton Manning, Bert Jones would be the next quarterback among the Colts' runners-up.
Houston Texans: Matt Schaub
The Houston Texans entered the NFL in 2002. 11 years later, there is little doubt who their best-ever quarterback has been: Matt Schaub.
Schaub joined the Texans in 2007 in a trade with the Falcons that saw Houston dealing away two second-round picks, as well as trading down in the draft, a risky transaction that has paid off.
Schaub was selected to play in two Pro Bowls while a member of the Texans and has twice as many wins as a Texans quarterback (44) as his nearest competitor.
The runner-up for the Texans all-time quarterback is David Carr, the team's first-ever draft choice. Carr had potential, but became shell-shocked playing behind an expansion team's mediocre offensive line.
Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers: Warren Moon
Warren Moon edged out Steve McNair to be named the Titans/Oilers all-time best quarterback.
The numbers were close, but Moon threw for more yards, touchdowns and had more yards-per-attempt than McNair.
Moon spent part of his time with the Oilers, playing in the run-and-shoot offense, which was designed to be wide-open and pass-oriented. Moon led the NFL in yards passing in both 1990 and 1991.
The former-CFL star spent 10 seasons at the helm of the Oilers and was selected to six Pro Bowls. He led Houston to the playoffs six times but never managed to guide the team to a Super Bowl.
Moon was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Besides McNair, other runners-up for the Oilers/Titans include George Blanda and Dan Pastorini.
Kansas City Chiefs: Len Dawson
Len Dawson joined the Chiefs franchise in 1962 when they were still the Dallas Texans. He led them to the AFL Championship in 1962 and 1966 and a victory in Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings. He was also named MVP of that game.
Dawson also quarterbacked the Chiefs to Super Bowl I, a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers.
He is the Chiefs' all-time leader in yards, wins, touchdowns and completions.
He remained with the franchise until 1975 when he retired to start a broadcasting career.
Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
While no candidates came close to Dawson, Bill Kenney and Trent Green were the runners-up for the Chiefs.
Denver Broncos: John Elway
There should be no doubt as to who the Broncos all-time quarterback is: former-Stanford star John Elway.
Elway threw 300 touchdown passes in a Broncos' uniform, no other quarterback has more than 74. Elway has thrown for more than 51,000 yards; the runner-up has less than 12,000.
Elway also led Denver to five Super Bowls, winning the final two. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and led 35 comeback wins (including the 15-play, 98-yard "Drive" against the Cleveland Browns) in his career, tied for third all-time in league history.
Elway had a rifle arm and could scramble out of trouble when necessary. He is the only player in NFL history to pass for 3,000 or more yards and rush for 200 or more yards in seven straight seasons.
Today, Elway serves as Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Broncos. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
While there was no close second, Craig Morton would be the next quarterback on the Broncos all-time list.
San Diego Chargers: Dan Fouts
Stan Humphries led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance, but there is no doubt that the best quarterback in Chargers' history is Hall of Famer Dan Fouts.
Fouts led the great Chargers' passing attack of the early 1980's, known as "Air Coryell" after the coach who invented it.
The attack was aggressive and took advantage of the rules changes passed in 1978 to limit the contact defensive players could have with receivers. Fouts led the NFL in passing yards for four straight seasons from 1979-1982.
Fouts threw to great receivers like John Jefferson, Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler and tight end Kellen Winslow.
The Oregon alum holds nearly every significant Chargers' passing mark.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Runners-up for the Chargers include John Hadl and Philip Rivers.
Oakland Raiders: Ken Stabler
The late Al Davis always loved to throw the ball deep, so the Raiders franchise has featured several great quarterbacks since they were formed in 1960.
In a very close race, Oakland's all-time best quarterback is Ken Stabler.
"The Snake" led the Raiders to a win in Super Bowl XI, the team's first championship. He also holds the Raiders' record for wins, yards and touchdown passes.
Stabler was one of the most accurate passers of the '70s and specialized in last-minute comebacks.
He took over as the starter in Oakland in 1973 and the Raiders reached the playoffs in each of his seven seasons at the helm.
Runners-up for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders all-time quarterback include Daryle Lamonica, Rich Gannon and Jim Plunkett.
Dallas Cowboys: Roger Staubach
The Dallas Cowboys have had plenty of great quarterbacks in their day. While Tony Romo has the most yards and Troy Aikman the most championships, Roger Staubach remains the best signal caller the Cowboys have ever had.
The former Heisman Trophy winner from the Naval Academy didn't join the Cowboys until 1969. By 1971, he won the starting job from Craig Morton in mid-season and led Dallas to their first Super Bowl title.
"Roger the Dodger" led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls before retiring in 1979, winning two of them. His only missed the playoffs once during his tenure as the club's starter and was named to six Pro Bowls.
Staubach (sometimes referred to as Captain Comeback) led some famous last minute playoff comebacks, including big wins over the 49ers in 1972 and Minnesota in 1975.
Staubach had the second-highest quarterback rating of all-time at the time of his retirement and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Runners-up in Dallas include Troy Aikman, Danny White, Don Meredith and Tony Romo.
New York Giants: Eli Manning
Eli Manning didn't have a great season in 2012, but he still narrowly beat out Phil Simms to be the Giants best quarterback of all-time.
Manning has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, upsetting the New England Patriots with last-minute drives on both occasions. He was also named the game's MVP both times.
Eli has thrown more touchdown passes than any other Giants quarterback and is rapidly closing in on Simms for the all-time franchise yardage lead and nearly joining the "5,000-yard club."
Runners-up beside Simms include Charlie Conerly and Y.A. Tittle.
Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb
It's been three years since Donovan McNabb left the Eagles and Philadelphia fans may just now be realizing how much they are going to miss him.
McNabb led the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl, but his ultimate failure to win a title weighs heavily on his legacy.
The former-Syracuse star is the Eagles all-time leader in touchdown passes, passing yardage and wins.
Runners-up for the Eagles best starting quarterback include Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham.
Washington Redskins: Sammy Baugh
It's been 60 years since Sammy Baugh retired from football but the former TCU star has still thrown more touchdown passes than any other Redskins' player.
"Slingin' Sammy" led the NFL in passing six times during his career and was named All-Pro seven times. Twice he led the Redskins to NFL championships.
Baugh was named to both the NFL's 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.
Baugh played both offense and defense and was also one of the greatest punters in NFL history. When the Pro Football Hall of Fame introduced its inaugural class in 1963, Baugh was one of the 17 inductees.
Runners-up for the Redskins' top quarterback include Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Theismann.
Chicago Bears: Sid Luckman
There have been great quarterbacks throughout NFL history, but only a choice few have changed the way the game is played. Bears' great Sid Luckman is one of those rare quarterbacks, as he was the first pro signal caller to master the T-formation.
Luckman played for the Bears from 1939-1950 and led Chicago to four NFL championships. In 1940, the Columbia grad led Chicago to the most one-sided victory in any NFL postseason game when the Bears defeated the Redskins 73-0.
It's been more than 60 years since Luckman retired, but he still owns the Bears' franchise record for yards and touchdown passes.
He was named to five All-NFL teams and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Runners-up for the Bears best QB include Jim McMahon, Jay Cutler and Jim Harbaugh.
Detroit Lions: Bobby Layne
Daring Texan Bobby Layne came to Detroit and helped make the Lions champions.
Layne led the Lions to two NFL Championships in 1952 and 1953 and was injured on the way to a third which the Lions won with his backup in 1957. Detroit hasn't won a championship since.
Layne was known as a guy who worked hard and played hard. He could stay out late drinking Saturday night, but cleaned up quick, often playing excellent football on Sunday.
Although he last suited up for the Lions in 1958, he still has more wins, more touchdown passes and more yards passing than any quarterback in franchise history.
Layne was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.
Runners-up in Detroit include Matthew Stafford and Greg Landry.
Green Bay Packers: Bart Starr
In a close competition, Bart Starr barely edged out Brett Favre to be named the Packers all-time best quarterback.
If you just look at statistics, Favre has a huge edge. He is the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and many other categories. The Kiln, Mississippi, native has thrown for nearly three times as many touchdown as a Packer (442) than Starr (152).
But the reason Starr edged Favre out is that the former-Alabama star led the Packers to five NFL titles in seven years while Favre won just one. Starr also led the Pack to three championships in a row in 1965, 1966 and 1967, a feat that has never been duplicated.
Starr was the MVP of the NFL in 1966 and was named MVP of the first two Super Bowls.
His leadership ability and toughness were unparallelled in Packer history and Starr was nearly perfect at orchestrating Vince Lombardi's simple but effective offense.
The former 17th-round draft choice was named to four Pro Bowl and the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1960's.
Starr was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Besides Favre, other runners-up for the Packers top slot include Aaron Rodgers, Lynn Dickey and Tobin Rote.
Minnesota Vikings: Fran Tarkenton
Nobody comes close to Fran Tarkenton when you look at the history of Minnesota Vikings' quarterbacks.
The former-University of Georgia star was the starting quarterback for the expansion Vikings from 1961-1966 and then returned to Minnesota to a team that had become a perennial NFC power from 1972-1978.
Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances in four years, but Minnesota lost each game. He was also named to five Pro Bowl teams while with the Vikings and was the NFL's MVP in 1975.
Many scouts doubted Tarkenton. He was only 6' tall and had a tendency to scramble around in the pocket and improvise which many coaches found frustrating. But, by the time Tarkenton finished his playing career, he was the NFL's all-time leader in yards and touchdown passes.
Tarkenton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
Runners-up for the Vikings all-time best quarterback include Tommy Kramer and Daunte Culpepper.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
The New Orleans Saints have had some very talented signal callers since they came into the NFL in 1967, but the best by far is Drew Brees.
The Purdue star joined the Saints in 2006 and already holds the team mark for wins, touchdown passes and yards.
Brees also led the Saints to their only Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XLIV and was named MVP of the contest.
In 2012, Brees also broke Johnny Unitas' record by throwing a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games.
Other prominent Saints quarterbacks include Archie Manning, Bobby Hebert and Aaron Brooks.
Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme
Jake Delhomme spent seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers and holds the franchise record for yards, touchdown, wins and completions.
Delhomme also led Carolina to their only Super Bowl appearance after the 2003 season and threw three touchdown passes in the game. The former Louisiana-Lafayette star also set a Super Bowl--record by completing an 85-yard touchdown pass.
Delhomme was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and last played in the NFL in 2011.
Runners-up for the Panthers all-time best quarterback include Kerry Collins, Steve Beuerlein and Cam Newton.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
In a very close contest, current Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan edged out Steve Bartkowski for the top spot in franchise history.
Ryan has only played for Atlanta for five seasons and he already has more wins than any other quarterback in Falcons' history.
"Matty Ice" also has a higher touchdown percentage and lower interception percentage than Bartkowski.
Ryan was selected with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He has already been selected to two Pro Bowl squads and has led Atlanta to the playoffs in four of his five seasons.
Besides Bartkowski, other standout signal callers for the Falcons include Chris Chandler, Chris Miller and Michael Vick.
Tampa Bay Bucs: Brad Johnson
It was not easy selecting an all-time best quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There has not been one dominant signal caller in the franchise's history.
Vinny Testaverde has thrown for the most yards, Josh Freeman the most touchdown passes and Trent Dilfer has the most wins.
But the winner is Brad Johnson, who led Tampa Bay to its only Super Bowl title in 2002.
Although he was only withe the Buc's for four seasons, Johnson had the most success in franchise history. In 2001, he set a new record for yards in a season. In 2002, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and led the NFC in passer rating, the first time a Tampa Bay quarterback achieved that honor.
Runners-up for the Buc's top quarterback slot include Testaverde, Dilfer, Freeman and Doug Williams.
St. Louis/Los Angeles/Cleveland Rams: Norm Van Brocklin
The St. Louis Rams have had many top caliber quarterbacks over the history of the franchise, but the best of them all was Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin.
"The Dutchman" played for the Rams from 1949-1957 and was the leader of the most high-powered attack in NFL history up until that time. In 1950, the Rams averaged 38.8 points-per-game as Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield were throwing to great receivers like Tom Fears and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch.
The Rams reached back-to-back NFL title games in 1950 and 1951, winning the title in their second try. Van Brocklin also led them to the NFL Championship in 1955.
On September 28, 1951, Van Brocklin threw for 554 yards in one game, a record still stands more than 60 years later.
Van Brocklin was a six-time Pro Bowl selection while with the Rams and later led the Eagles to an NFL championship in 1960.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Runners-up for the Rams top quarterback include Roman Gabriel, Jim Everett, Kurt Warner and Bob Waterfield.
Seattle Seahawks: Dave Kreig
Dave Krieg was always an underdog. He attended Milton College, a school that no longer had a football team while Krieg was playing in the NFL. He went undrafted and barely made the Seahawks as a free agent.
But Krieg rose to become Seattle's best starting quarterback ever. He took over as the starter in 1983 and promptly led the Seahawks to the AFC Championship Game.
The following season, Krieg led the Seahawks back to the playoffs and made his first of three Pro Bowl trips. He led Seattle to the playoffs four times during his career.
Krieg is Seattle's all-time leader in touchdown passes and wins.
Runners up for the Seahawks' all-time top quarterback include Matt Hasselbeck and Jim Zorn.
Arizona/St. Louis/Chicago Cardinals
Jim Hart spent 18 seasons playing for the Cardinals' organization and he stands as the top quarterback in the franchise's long history. The Cardinals have represented Chicago, St. Louis and Arizona since joining the NFL as a charter member in 1920.
In his prime, Hart led a high-powered offense featuring wide receiver Mel Gray, tight end Jackie Smith and running backs Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis. Coach Don Coryell made the Cardinals one of the most successful teams in the NFL from 1974-76.
Hart is the Cardinals' all-time leader in wins, touchdown passes and yardage. He was selected to four Pro Bowl teams and was named NFC Player of the Year in 1974.
Runners-up for the Cardinals best ever quarterback include Neil Lomax, Kurt Warner and Jake Plummer.
San Francisco 49ers: Joe Montana
The San Francisco 49ers have had many great quarterbacks in their history, but none have been better than Notre Dame alum Joe Montana.
"Joe Cool" led the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories and was named MVP of the Big Game three times.
Montana was an expert at running Bill Walsh's "West Coast Offense" which relied on short, accurate passes to move the ball up the field. Montana never had the strongest arm, but he was very accurate, highly intelligent and played his best in pressure situations.
Montana was named to seven Pro Bowls while with San Francisco and won a pair of league MVP awards.
His most famous moment remains, "The Catch" which helped beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. Montana found Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone in the final minute to send the Niners to their first Super Bowl.
Montana was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Many consider him to be the greatest quarterback ever to play the game.
Runners-up for the 49ers best ever quarterback include John Brodie, Steve Young and Y.A. Tittle.
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