Top 10 Quarterbacks in NFL History

Chase SummersCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2011

Top 10 Quarterbacks in NFL History

0 of 11

    History is full of great quarterbacks. Their names echo across the NFL even today. Every great young quarterback is compared to these legends. This will continue throughout their career until they retire or rise to join the ranks of these legends.

    Montana, Elway, Unitas and others wowed us with their smarts, skill and athletic ability. They made plays mere mortal quarterbacks could never make and boosted their teams to new heights.

    As fans, we often debate which of the many legendary quarterbacks are the best. It's a hard choice there are many great options, but only 10 made this list and they are truly in a class of their own.

Honorable Mention

1 of 11

    Troy Aikman: He was a great leader who led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls and played well under pressure. The only problem was, even though he was a great player, he never put up great numbers.

    Terry Bradshaw: Good playoff performer and solid all around player, Bradshaw was never as good as many say he was and is probably the most overrated quarterback ever.

    Steve Young: Young was my No. 11 guy. I love what Young did with the 49ers and leaving him off the list was tough, but he was the odd man out.

    Fran Tarkenton: He was a great scrambler and accurate passer. Tarkenton had stats that really stood out in the era he played and still stand out today. He is really one of the most underrated players ever. 

10. Warren Moon

2 of 11

    Awards: Nine Pro Bowls, three time All-Pro, 1990 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

    Stats: 49,325 yards, 291 touchdowns, 233 interceptions, 58.4 completion percentage.


    Warren Moon is truly one of the best in football history. He wasn't drafted out of college because he was black, and the common perception was that black quarterbacks weren't smart enough to lead NFL teams.

    Moon said fine and went north of the border to Canada to prove the doubters wrong. During his time in the Canadian Football League, Moon passed for 144 touchdowns to only 77 interceptions and won five Grey Cup championships.

    Realizing that Moon could play, the NFL came calling, and Moon signed with the Houston Oilers and went on to dominate secondaries for the next decade. 

    The biggest knock on Moon is his lack of playoff success. He wasn't particularly good in the playoffs and he never won or even played in a Super Bowl. In my opinion, if he had won just one Super Bowl, he would have been much higher on this list. 

9. John Elway

3 of 11

    Awards: Nine Pro Bowls, three All-Pros, 1987 NFL MVP.

    Stats: 51,475 yards, 300 touchdowns, 226 interceptions, 56.9 completion percentage.


    John Elway at No. 9. Blasphemy! Yeah I know, I originally had him at No. 3, but then I looked at the stats and saw his career as a whole. I came away less than impressed, and while I still feel that Elway was a great player and Hall of Famer, I just can't put him any higher than nine. 

    Elway had a lot of hype coming out of college. He was an All American and Heisman finalist, and thus was selected first overall by the Baltimore Colts, who then traded him to the Denver Broncos.

    He never lived up to the hype in his first 10 years. Although he led his team to three Super Bowls, which he lost, during this time he was inconsistent. He wasn't a good passer in this era of his career. During the first 10 years of his career, he had a passer rating over 80 only once, threw for more than 20 touchdowns once and never had a 4,000 yard passing season. He also threw more interception than touchdowns four times during this time, including the only year he had 20 touchdowns.

    What saves Elway, though, is the last six years of his career. During this time, he threw for 20 touchdowns in all but one year, had his only 4,000 yard season and never threw more interceptions than touchdowns. He also completed a higher percentage of his passes and had a much better quarterback rating. Oh, and he won two Super Bowls.

    Still, the final six years of his career don't bump him up higher than No. 9 in my book. He still finished his career 44th on the all time passer rating list and only led the league in any passing category twice, completions and yards in 1993.

    Don't get me wrong. Elway deserves to be on this list, just not as high as some people say he should be.

8. Dan Marino

4 of 11

    Awards: Nine Pro Bowls, nine All-Pros, 1984 NFL MVP

    Stats: 61,361 yards, 420 touchdowns, 252 interceptions, 59.4 completion percentage


    Marino was special from the start. After stepping in Week 6 of his rookie career, he passed for 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions and was named the starter for the Pro Bowl.

    The rest of his career went well, too. He broke many records, including passing yards in a career, passing touchdowns in a career and passing touchdowns in a season, although most of his records have now been broken.

    Marino, like Moon, is held back by the fact that he never won a championship, but with all the other stats and awards, it was impossible to put him lower than this.

7. Johnny Unitas

5 of 11

    Awards: Ten Pro Bowls, seven All-Pros, and three time NFL MVP. 

    Stats: 40,239 yards, 290 touchdowns, 253 interceptions, 54.6 completion percentage.


    Unitas is a classic American success story. A blue collar workaholic who became a legend through hard work and grit.

    He succeeded in every aspect a quarterback should; stats, championships and accolades. He was also clutch and was on the winning side of the 1958 NFL Championship, known as The Greatest Game Ever Played.

    Besides all of his accolades, he is also the prototype for quarterbacks everywhere: a smart, strong armed leader who never gives up.

6. Tom Brady

6 of 11

    Awards: Six Pro Bowls, three All-Pros, tree time Super Bowl Champion, two time NFL MVP

    Stats: 34,744 passing yards, 261 touchdowns, 103 interceptions, 63.6 completion percentage


    Tom Brady had no expectations. He was a lowly sixth round draft pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. After a year of sitting, he became the backup to Drew Bledsoe. Then in 2001, he got his break. Bledsoe was hurt in the second game of the year, and Brady took over and never looked back.

    At the end of the year, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions and Tom Brady was Super Bowl MVP.

    Now Brady has been at it for a decade and has astounded. Besides winning three Super Bowls and being named league MVP twice, Brady has also broken records, including most touchdown passes in a season with fifty. 

    Recently, though, Brady has been sub par in the playoffs. This is strange considering how clutch Brady has been throughout his career. I don't expect this trend to continue. In a few years, look for him to be higher on this list.

5. Brett Favre

7 of 11

    Awards: Eleven Pro Bowls, six All-Pros, three time NFL MVP

    Stats: 71,838 yards, 508 touchdowns, 336 interceptions, 62 percent completion percentage


    Favre gets a lot of heat. He has been called overrated, a choker and a pest. He never gets called what he deserves, though: one of the best ever. 

    Look past the last few years. Forget his mediocre stretch near the end of his tenure of Green Bay, forget his great last season with the Packers, forget the interception in the Giants game, forget the season with the Jets, the amazing comeback in Minnesota, the horrible end of the comeback last year, the retire/comeback circus and the lewd pictures he may or may not have sent. Forget it all; the great moments too. That period of his career never happened.

    Now remember the 1994-2004 seasons. Remember the MVP's, the All-Pros, the Super Bowl he won, his dominance, the Monday Night game after his dad died, the guts and heart he showed and Favre before he had Jets or Vikings on his jersey. Remember the Brett Favre we all loved.

    Was there anything overrated about that Brett Favre. Not to me. To me that period alone would land Favre on this list because during that period no one dominated like Brett.  

4. Otto Graham

8 of 11

    Awards: Five Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pros, two time AAFC MVP.

    Stats: 25,384 yards, 174 touchdowns, 135 interceptions, 56 completion percentage.


    Otto Graham led his Cleveland Browns team to either the AAFC or NFL league championship game in all 10 years of his career and won seven of those. During that 10 year period, he threw for statistical totals that were astounding for the era. He was so dominant that he was named All-Pro every year he played; that is ridiculous.

    People tend to discount Graham because of the early part of his career. He and the Browns played in the AAFC, which was considered a lesser league, but I think his continued dominance once he went to the NFL more than justifies his inclusion at number four on this list. 

3. Peyton Manning

9 of 11

    Awards: Eleven Pro Bowls, eight All Pros, four time NFL MVP

    Stats: 54,828 yards, 399 touchdowns, 198 interception, 64.9 completion percentage


    Manning is the most prolific passer of all time. When he is done, he will probably have set every relevant passing record and will be the most statistically accomplished quarterback ever.

    He has done it all: won MVP awards, been to Pro Bowls and won Super Bowls. While he hasn't been great in the playoffs, he has been decent, but that won't cut it past three on this list. To be the greatest ever, you need great regular season stats and great postseason performances.

2. Bart Starr

10 of 11

    Awards: Four Pro Bowls, four All-Pros, 1966 NFL MVP

    Stats: 24,718 yards, 152 touchdowns, 138 interceptions


    Bart Starr may not look like he has great stats, but he does. Although Johnny Unitas played in the same era as Starr and had almost twice as many touchdowns he was never as efficient as Starr, who won five NFL Championships, including the first two Super Bowls.

    Star led the league in passer rating five times and had one of the best completion percentages of the era. Though never prolific, he had steady stats and a strong touchdown to interception ratio.

    Although forgotten by many, Starr was truly one of the best. 

1. Joe Montana

11 of 11

    Awards: eight Pro Bowls, six All-Pros, two time NFL MVP

    Stats: 40,551 yards, 273 touchdowns, 63.2 completion percentage


    Joe Montana was obviously the greatest ever. He won four Super Bowls and was named game MVP in three of them. He was also a surgeon on the field; he sliced up defenses with perfect passes and marched his team down the field.

    Montana is probably best known for his postseason performance. In the postseason, Montana threw for 45 touchdowns and 5772 yards, best for first and second all time respectively. Incredibly, he never threw an interception in a Super Bowl.

    No matter the situation Montana was ready. In his career, he had 31 career fourth quarter comebacks. He was clutch 

    All of these reasons and many more are why, in my opinion, Joe Montana was the best ever.