The 10 Most Clutch Quarterbacks in NFL History

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIMay 24, 2011

The 10 Most Clutch Quarterbacks in NFL History

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots signals during their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Image
    Elsa/Getty Images

    There is nothing in the NFL more respected than a great quarterback. You know, the type of quarterback who can lead a last-second, game-winning drive, especially those who can do so in the postseason.

    Part of being an NFL quarterback is that you only receive the respect for completing your job if you can deliver when it matters most: down by four, two minutes left, Super Bowl on the line. 

    The following slides highlight the 11 most-clutch quarterbacks in National Football League history, with one honorable mention thrown in. 

11. Troy Aikman, 1989-2000, Dallas Cowboys

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    29 Oct 2000:   Dallas Cowboys quarterback #8 Troy Aikman throws the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.  Aikman left the game with reported back problems after thowing for 5 attempts and 4 completi
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Aikman's regular-season statistics won't impress anybody. But in the clutch moments of the postseason, he was at his absolute best.

    He earned MVP honors in his first Super Bowl, throwing for 273 yards and four touchdowns. He led the Cowboys to victories in three Super Bowls in a span of four years. 

10. Kurt Warner, 1998-2009, St. Louis Rams/New York Giants/Arizona Cardinals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Quarterback Kurt Warner #13 of the Arizona Cardinals drops back to pass during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game against  the Green Bay Packers at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Warner won eight of his 11 postseason games and established himself as one of the top postseason performers in league history.

    He threw a game-winning, 73-yard touchdown pass to beat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. He threw go-ahead or game-tying touchdowns in the final three minutes of his next two Super Bowls, although the Rams lost both.

    His career fourth-quarter statistics in the Super Bowl are as follows: 26-for-40, 457 yards, 4 TD.

9. John Elway, 1983-1998, Denver Broncos

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    25 Jan 1998:  John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos runs into the end zone for the touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl  XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24. Manda
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    John Elway was master of the fourth-quarter comeback/game-winning drive, leading a total of 50 in his career.

    He won 14-of-22 postseason starts and is the only quarterback to play in five Super Bowls. He also led one of the most famous drives in NFL history, a 98-yard game-tying drive against the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC championship game. 

8. Roger Staubach, 1969-1979, Dallas Cowboys

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    1978:  Quarterback Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys looks to pass the ball during a game. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Staubach was nicknamed "Captain America" for a reason. He helped the Cowboys become "America's Team" during the 1970s. 

    Staubach played in four Super Bowls during the decade. He led the Cowboys to blowout victories in two of them and played extremely well in their two losses, both to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Staubach authored one of the most famous plays in NFL history in the divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings in 1975.

    With the Cowboys trailing 14-10 and under a minute remaining, Staubach hooked up with receiver Drew Pearson for a 50-yard touchdown pass, the first known "Hail Mary" pass.

7. Sid Luckman, 1939-1950, Chicago Bears

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    Luckman's first playoff game came in the 1940 NFL championship against Sammy Baugh and the arch-rival Washington Redskins.

    The Bears throttled the Redskins, 73-0. That's right, 73-0.

    It remains, to this day, the single most-dominating performance by any team in any championship in any sport throughout history.

    In the 1943 NFL championship, Luckman turned in arguably the greatest single-game performance in postseason history. He completed 15 of 26 passes for 286 yards and five touchdowns, rushed eight times for 64 yards, intercepted two passes for 33 yards and handled the punting and punt-return duties.

    Overall, Luckman won four of five NFL championships and posted a spectacular 89.4 career postseason rating.  

6. Otto Graham, 1946-1955, Cleveland Browns

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    Otto Graham is the only quarterback to play in the postseason in every season of his career.

    Not only did he play in every postseason, but he appeared in a record 10 championship games, four straight in the AAFC and the final six in the NFL. His teams emerged victorious seven times. 

    In the 1950 NFL championship, Graham led a come-from-behind, game-winning drive against the Rams, giving the Browns a 30-28 victory. Graham tossed four touchdowns and rushed for 99 yards.

    Graham's feat was even more impressive because, despite the fact that the Browns had moved from the AAFC to the NFL after the 1949 season, the victory showed that the Browns could compete with any team in any league. 

5. Terry Bradshaw, 1970-1983, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Bradshaw won four Super Bowls in a six-year span, posting a passer rating above 100 in all four games. In fact, his fourth-quarter statistics in the Super Bowl are 11-for-16, 292 yards, four TD. 

    He also threw the Immaculate Reception, a 60-yard touchdown to Franco Harris to beat the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 playoffs.

    In 19 postseason games, he averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt and posted an 83.0 passer rating, significantly higher than his regular-season passer rating.   

4. Johnny Unitas, 1957-1974, Baltimore Colts/San Diego Chargers

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    Unitas was the first, great master of the two-minute drive, and used a classic drive to tie, and then win, the 1958 NFL championship against the New York Giants, a game that many have since dubbed "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

    Unitas played parts of two Super Bowls, throwing a 75-yard touchdown against the Cowboys before being knocked out in Super Bowl V.

    In the regular season, he led a ridiculous 43 fourth-quarter drives and comebacks.

3. Joe Montana, 1979-1994, San Francisco 49ers/Kansas City Chiefs

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    SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Joe Montana #16 of the San Francisco 49ers prepares to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 1992 in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 21-14.  (Photo by George Rose/Getty Ima
    George Rose/Getty Images

    Montana is one of two quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. In those four games, he threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions, including a five-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos.

    He also led a 92-yard, game-winning drive to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. And he threw a last-second, game-winning touchdown to Dwight Clark—The Catch—to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 conference-championship game. 

    Along with a 16-7 record in the postseason, 34 of Montana's 117 regular-season victories came in the fourth quarter.

2. Bart Starr, 1956-1971, Green Bay Packers

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    Starr led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships, including victories in each of the first two Super Bowls. He won nine of his 10 postseason starts, with the only loss coming in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles that probably would have ended in a Packers victory if the game lasted one more minute.

    His most famous victory came when he led the Packers over the Dallas Cowboys in the Ice Bowl by virtue of a quarterback sneak with 13 seconds remaining in the game. 

    Starr has the highest career postseason passer rating in history at 104.3, and he posted a 106.0 rating in two Super Bowls.  

1. Tom Brady, 2000-Present, New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws the ball against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Ima
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Brady boasts a 14-5 postseason record, including a 10-0 start to his career. He led the Patriots to victories in three Super Bowls in a four-year span, including last-second, game-winning drives in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII.

    He also threw a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of all four Super Bowl appearances. 

    From his first playoff game, when he led a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback against the Oakland Raiders, to a last-second, game-winning drive against the Tennessee Titans in the 2003 divisional playoffs to a last-second, game-winning drive against the San Diego Chargers in the 2006 divisional playoffs, Brady has been Mr. Clutch all the time.

    It's not just the postseason, either. Brady is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead more fourth-quarter comebacks or game-winning drives (33) than he has games lost (32).