Donovan McNabb and the Greatest NFL QBs of All Time by Franchise
Who is the Greatest Quarterback of All Time?
It is a tough question with lots of good choices but no clear answer.
It could be Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Sammy Baugh, Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas or even Roger Staubach.
But who was the Greatest Quarterback in the History of Each Team in the NFL?
A different question. And perhaps a more fun one.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Here's the thing about Drew Brees—his only competition all time with the Saints would be Archie Manning and Bobby Hebert.
It wasn't Hebert. I love Bobby, and he is third all time, but it wasn't him.
Could it have been Manning?
In 11 seasons with the Saints he went 35-91-3 with a 55.4 completion percentage and a 67.4 passer rating. He threw for 115 touchdowns and 156 interceptions.
Meanwhile, Brees has set the NFL record for completion percentage in a season, came within one pass of the NFL record for yards in a season, and has led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory.
I know the Saints were bad in Manning's day, and I know they're great now, but that can only carry him so far.
Atlanta Falcons: Steve Bartkowski
This could have been Michael Vick, but it won't be. It could one day be Matt Ryan, but we're a long way off.
From 1975 to 1985, Bartkowski played in 123 games, winning 55 of them. He had a 56.2 completion percentage, 154 touchdowns and 141 interceptions.
His passer rating was 76.0. He went to two Pro Bowls and led the NFL with a 97.6 passer rating in 1983 and a 67.2 completion percentage in 1984.
Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme
It is either Delhomme, the guy whom the Saints cast away and became a star, or Kerry Collins, who the Panthers cast away and became a star with the New York Giants.
If not for the damage Delhomme did to his career numbers in 2009, he'd be the Panthers career leader in just about every category at this point.
Plus, he took the team to its only Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brad Johnson
The Buccaneers have had four quarterbacks play more games than Brad Johnson, and they ranged from terrible to mediocre.
Vinny Testaverde was so bad in Tampa that it still boggles my mind that so many people remember him as a good NFL quarterback.
Steve DeBerg was rarely a full time starter, and put up merely modest numbers.
Trent Dilfer finished with a break-even 38-38 record and a 69.4 passer rating.
Doug Williams also managed a break-even record, but also had a hilarious 47.4 completion percentage.
Meanwhile, Johnson spent four years in Tampa, completed 61.8 percent of his passes, threw 23 more touchdowns (64) than interceptions (41), and had an 83.2 passer rating.
And he won a Super Bowl.
Minnesota Vikings: Fran Tarkenton
Daunte Culpepper put up some gaudy numbers with an amazing offense. Tommy Kramer played for a long time.
And any article about the NFL is required to have the words "Brett" and "Favre" in them.
But Tarkenton is a hands-down no-doubter.
Green Bay Packers: Bart Starr
You know what? Obviously, Favre leads Starr in almost every category, but not by so much, and at the end of the day, Starr was a far better quarterback in his own time than Favre has been in his.
For example, Favre only leads Starr in passer rating 85.8 to 80.5. In this day and age, Favre's 85.8 passer rating is above average but not elite, while Starr's 80.5 was in the top five of all time.
On several occasions Starr led the NFL in completion percentage, interception percentage, yards per attempt, yards per catch and passer rating.
Favre has led the NFL in yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns, but do you know what Favre has led the NFL in a lot? Attempts, completions and interceptions.
And then there's this:
Championships: Starr 5, Favre 1
Chicago Bears: Sid Luckman
Sid Luckman retired in 1950. It is now 2010, and the Bears haven't even put up a quarterback worth discussing since then.
Of course, for Chicago fans (the same people who root for the Cubs, White Sox and Blackhawks) 60 years isn't all that long.
Detroit Lions: Bobby Layne
Forget about the numbers, because no quarterback in Detroit Lions history has what you would call "good numbers."
From 1950 to 1958, Layne led the Lions to a 53-29-2 record and won two NFL Championships. The Lions would lose a third championship game and then win a fourth with Tobin Rote subbing for the injured Layne.
Somehow, the Lions traded Layne to Pittsburgh during the 1958 season, and the city of Detroit has never recovered.
New York Giants: Phil Simms
It is kind of amazing how many noteworthy quarterbacks the New York Giants have had.
From Y.A. Tittle at the end of his career to Kerry Collins post-rehab to Fran Tarkenton during a five year break from the Vikings to Phil Simms and Eli Manning.
But Simms takes it.
Dallas Cowboys: Roger Staubach
Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s are having a reunion. They rent a bus and go on a cross-Texas tour. At one point on the tour, the bus pulls into a gas station and out comes Steve Walsh to pump their gas.
Aikman looks at his former teammates and says "Wow guys, imagine, if you had traded me instead of him in 1990, you would have had a gas station guy for a quarterback."
Jimmy Johnson looks at Troy with a smile and says "No, Troy, if we'd traded you instead of him, he would have won three Super Bowls."
Staubach was a better overall quarterback, was better with respect to his league, and led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls.
Staubach also missed almost all of his twenties due to Navy commitments, and didn't play his first full season until the age of 29.
Given that he led the NFL in passer rating and went 85-29 with four Super Bowl appearances, Staubach might have been the greatest quarterback of all time if not for his Navy duty.
Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb
If you look at the career records of Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks, this isn't even really a debate.
Washington Redskins: Sammy Baugh
Not really up for debate.
Sammy led the NFL in the following categories multiple times (number of times in parentheses):
Completion Percentage (9)
Yards per Attempt (3)
Yards per game (6)
Passer Rating (4)
Sonny Jurgensen was also very good.
San Francisco 49ers: Joe Montana
The 49ers are to quarterbacks what the Los Angeles Lakers are to centers.
The 49ers have had three of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Joe Montana, Steve Young and Y.A. Tittle. They also had a three-time Pro-Bowler in Jeff Garcia and a future Super Bowl winner in Jim Plunkett.
Ironically, the 49ers' all time leader in games played at quarterback is John Brodie, who is also ranked second in yards and third in touchdown passes.
At the end of the day, though, Montana edges out both Young and Tittle.
Seattle Seahawks: Dave Krieg
Here's something bizarre: in the 33 year history of the Seattle Seahawks, only five quarterbacks—Dave Kreig, Matt Hasselbeck, Jim Zorn, Rick Mirer, Jon Kitna—have attempted over 1000 passes.
Krieg and Hasselbeck have very similar career numbers, which Krieg compiled in a non-pass-happy era. Hasselbeck will probably surpass Krieg very soon if he stays healthy.
St. Louis Rams: Norm Van Brocklin
Weird as this may seem, it is really Van Brocklin vs. Kurt Warner here. Van Brocklin took the Rams to three Championship Games and won one of them, while Warner took the Rams to two Super Bowls and won one.
Van Brocklin had a longer career with the Rams, whereas Warner was only there for three full seasons.
Arizona Cardinals: Jim Hart
Strangely, Arizona and St. Louis have the same problem: Their most successful quarterback, and best overall from a per-attempt perspective, was Kurt Warner, but because of the brevity of his stay with each team, it doesn't seem right to call him the best quarterback in franchise history.
For his part, Hart was with the Cardinals for 18 seasons, went to four Pro Bowls, and had a winning record going into the final few seasons of his career.
Houston Texans: Matt Schaub
Schaub has accomplished the least of the players who are currently considered the greatest quarterback in the history of their franchise.
Of course, so to have the Houston Texans.
Tennessee Titans: Warren Moon
It is either Moon, Steve McNair, or... George Blanda? What's he doing here?
Moon was much more prolific than McNair or Blanda (and Blanda once threw 42 interceptions for the Oilers). McNair has the Super Bowl, but I still give the nod to Moon.
I might be wrong about that though.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Brunell
Not much of a question here.
Indianapolis Colts: Johnny Unitas
I've addressed this before: I think Peyton Manning will in all likelihood one day be the Greatest Quarterback of All Time, but I think we should be absolutely sure before we start anointing him in the middle of his career.
Bill James said Craig Biggio was the 35th greatest baseball player of all time in the middle of Biggio's career, and that looks ridiculous now, in retrospect.
Let's not make the same mistake here.
Besides, if you asked Peyton, he'd tell you the same thing.
Denver Broncos: John Elway
Oakland Raiders: Ken Stabler
Frankly, I've always been suspicious of Jim Plunkett's numbers with the Raiders. Plunkett was a bad quarterback for years with the Patriots and 49ers before winning two Super Bowls with the Raiders.
Doesn't it seem like maybe the Raiders just had a great team?
Stabler, on the other hand, stunk up the place for the Oilers and Saints after he left Oakland. Of course, he was also in his late 30s, so maybe that had something to do with it.
Kansas City Chiefs: Len Dawson
This is another one that doesn't require much conversation, largely because the Chiefs have really only had one great franchise quarterback.
San Diego Chargers: Dan Fouts
One of the most under-appreciated, and most prolific passers of all time.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Terry Bradshaw
One Quarterback, four Super Bowls.
Does it matter that he couldn't spell the word "cat" if you spotted him the "C" and the "A"?
Cleveland Browns: Otto Graham
Five time Pro-Bowler and seven time NFL All-Pro, Graham led the NFL in everything constantly. His 86.6 career passer rating—for a guy who played in the 1940s and 1950s—is simply shocking.
Graham, himself, was a freak. He was an All-American in basketball at Northwestern, where he was convinced to play football by the football coach.
He spent two years in the Coast Guard before going into the NFL, during which time he played football for Navy coach Bear Bryant. While in the Navy, Paul Brown signed him to play for the Cleveland Browns. However, before joining the Browns, Graham spent a year playing for the Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings) of the National Basketball League, and won a Championship in the 1945-1946.
Once he joined the Browns in 1946, Graham led the team to the league championship game for ten straight seasons, and won seven championships.
The guy was the Bill Russell of football.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ken Anderson
Really just an incredibly under-appreciated player. A four time Pro-Bowler and one time NFL All Pro, Anderson led the NFL in completion percentage three times, yards twice and rating four times.
He had a career record of 91-81 in 16 seasons with the Bengals, and took them to the Super Bowl in 1981.
Boomer Esiason is second to Anderson, and his numbers don't even compare that favorably.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Not a whole lot to work with in Baltimore.
Trent Dilfer may have been the Super Bowl-winning quarterback that had the least to do with his team winning the Super Bowl in NFL history. Otherwise, this would be Dilfer, for at least another year.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Brady succeeded Drew Bledsoe as the Patriots starting quarterback, and then succeeded him as the greatest Patriots quarterback of all time.
New York Jets: Ken O'Brien
Yes, we all know that Joe Namath won a Super Bowl. He predicted that the Jets would win, and the Jets' defense came through for him.
It doesn't mean he was better than O'Brien.
Here's a brief statistical rundown:
Games: O'Brien 124, Namath 136
Win: O'Brien 50-55-1, Namath 60-61-4
Completion Percentage: O'Brien 58.8, Namath 50.2
Touchdowns: O'Brien 124, Namath 170
Interceptions: O'Brien 95, Namath 215
Passer Rating: O'Brien 81.0, Namath 65.8
I just don't think winning the Super Bowl delivers Namath when O'Brien was a better overall QB.
Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly played in 160 games, and Joe Ferguson played in 164.
That is where the similarities end.
Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino
This single player hurt the most by failing to win a Super Bowl. Had he won even one bowl, we could eliminate half the guys that come up in the Greatest Quarterback of All Time debate, because for regular season performance and physical athleticism, only one or two quarterbacks ever could have matched Marino.