Almost every team in the league (besides the Panthers and Texans) has had at least one truly elite quarterback in their history. Some, like Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Roger Staubach, are still household names today. Others, like Dan Fouts, Norm Van Brocklin and Len Dawson, have sadly faded into obscurity despite their accomplishments. This list honors all those QB's in a slideshow of each team's greatest quarterback of all time.
I had honestly never heard of Jim Hart before I started this article. Sorry, Cards fans. And looking at his stats, he didn't seem that good. However, you can never judge QBs on stats alone.
Hart led the Cards to three straight season with 10-plus wins and helped them win the division twice. Hart also threw for almost 35,000 passing yards in his career with 209 touchdown passes, which is another reason why he is the greatest Cardinal QB of all time.
Sorry, Mike Vick and Matt Ryan (who in a couple years could actually have this spot), but right now, Steve Bartkowski is the man for Atlanta. He is the all-time leader for the Falcons in passing yards and touchdowns, and his No. 10 is retired in Atlanta. He also still serves on the Atlanta Falcons Board of Directors. Steve is a great example of a player who cared about the franchise and city when he was on the team and continues to care as a retired player living outside Atlanta.
Yes, I know Unitas was on the Colts and they are currently in Indianapolis. However, when the Colts moved out of Baltimore, Unitas was furious and declared that he would always be a part of whatever organization was in Baltimore, not the Colts. He also lobbied for another NFL team in Baltimore for years, and because he is my favorite quarterback of all time and he means so much to Baltimore, I will honor his request. Unitas dedicated most of his life to the city of Baltimore, and he is also one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. There is no real competition here, especially because the closest competitors are Joe Flacco and Steve McNair.
Here is a guy who will never be considered one of the greatest just because he could never win a Super Bowl. However, leading the Bills to four straight Super Bowls still counts for something. He is one of the smartest quarterbacks to play the game, which was exemplified through his running of the no-huddle offense. He didn't have his plays handed to him; Jim Kelly was the definition of a field general who called the shots and got things done for his offense. He will be forever treasured by Bills fans whether or not the rest of the league embraces him or not.
Give him some credit; he did lead the relatively new Panthers to a Super Bowl, which they lost in the final seconds to the Patriots. Of course, Delhomme is pretty terrible now, but he did have a few great years with the Panthers. Those few seasons and the lack of competition make Delhomme Carolina's greatest quarterback of all time (sad, isn't it).
The Bears have always been a defensive team. However, in the midst of all the mediocrity at quarterback, there was Sid Luckman. Luckman was one of the pioneers of the passing game, and he remains one of the greatest. He was a five time All-Pro, led the league in touchdown passes three times and has the record for most touchdown passes thrown in a game: an incredible seven. He also holds the record for highest touchdown pass percentage in a season (13.9 percent) and is second all time for yards per attempt in a season (10.9).
Sid Luckman and the Monsters of the Midway won four championships during his career, and he still leads the Bears in passing yards and touchdowns despite having retired over 60 years ago. Oh, and he once beat Sammy Baugh and the Redskins 73-0.
Yes, the lesser-known Ken Anderson beats out Boomer Esiason. Anderson played his entire career with the Bengals and almost won a Super Bowl but was beaten by the powerhouse 49ers 26-21 (Boomer would later lose 20-16 to the same team).
Although Anderson doesn't have "greatest of all-time" numbers, he still meant a lot to a struggling Bengals franchise and was a solid QB during his time with them. Boomer Esiason, while showing a lot of talent as well, only played half his career with the Bengals, his other half with the Jets. Anderson was with the Bengals from 1971 to 1986, when he retired, and served as a coach with the Bengals for 10 more years from 1993 to 2002. Although he could never bring them a championship, Anderson was still the best quarterback to ever play for the Bengals.
Absolutely no question about it. Sorry, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar; Otto Graham is the greatest Browns quarterback of all time. Many Browns fans go so far as to say he is the greatest of all time.
In his 10-year career, Graham led the Browns to seven championship wins out of 10 appearances. Every year of his career, the Browns went to the championship, and even though there weren't as many teams back then, that still says a lot about his leadership ability. He also threw for 174 touchdowns and 23,000 passing yards, making him the best QB the league had ever seen at the time. He could scramble too; Graham had 44 rushing touchdowns in his years with the Browns. No more really needs to be said: Graham was the best.
Not Troy Aikman; that's for sure. Roger Staubach is the best Dallas QB of all time and one of the few Cowboys that I respect. Captain Comeback did incredible things during his career (hence the name), and he didn't have the benefit of an amazing offensive line, Emmitt Smith or Michael Irvin. He won two Super Bowls during his career and threw for 22,000 yards with 153 touchdowns, making him quite the passer.
Staubach made both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and his number is retired at Navy. Roger Staubach was successful as a college football player, pro football player and Naval officer, and is still the greatest Dallas Cowboys quarterback as well as a great role model.
John Elway is the most important athlete in the history of Colorado sports. He brought the Denver Broncos to more Super Bowls than Joe Montana did the 49ers, the latter noting: "I couldn't have done what John did in Colorado".
Besides getting praise from an all-time great, Elway brought the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl wins in his final two seasons, showing that he hardly fizzled out during his last years. In his career, Elway threw for over 50,000 yards with 300 touchdowns, and after suffering through three heartbreaking Super Bowl losses, Elway finally won in 1997 and 1998, being named MVP of the last game he played in the NFL. There is no other Bronco QB who can hold a candle to John Elway, and few in the NFL as a whole. He is one of the greatest to play the game.
Detroit does not exactly have a happy history of quarterbacks. However, they could boast one who was one of the greatest of his era. His name was Bobby Layne. Layne led Detroit to three championships in the 50's and was one of the greatest clutch players the league has ever seen. Over his career, he threw 196 touchdowns and 22,000 yards, which is a lot more than any other QB who spent most of their years with Detroit.
Layne was also the biggest partier in NFL history. As then rookie Harley Sewell noted, "One time I went with Bobby to get a tube of toothpaste and didn't come back for three days". Layne and a band of teammates would always go to parties and bars and drink after games, and sometimes his teammates had to dump Layne in ice water to wake him up before games. Layne knew how to have a good time, but he also knew how to play football.
Putting aside the fact that my personal safety would be at risk if I put Brett Favre, Starr is the greatest Packers quarterback in history. He came from a low background and was almost cut by Vince Lombardi many times, but in the end, Bart Starr knew how to win, and he brought the Packers two Super Bowl wins once he hit his stride. He could also throw, exemplified by his 152 career touchdown passes and 24,000 passing yards. Starr has the stats and championships to earn him this honor, and he is possibly the most brave player in NFL history; he once stood up to Vince Lombardi, who shockingly backed down.
Assuming Oilers history belongs with Houston and not Tennessee, Warren Moon definitely takes the cake here. He threw for 49,000 yards and 291 touchdowns during his incredible career, which was only marred by the fact that he never won a Super Bowl. The Oilers had a good quarterback in Dan Pastorini before Moon, but Moon was truly great. He held the NFL record for pass attempts in a career until it was broken by Brett Favre, and Moon is one of the best passers in league history. Behind Bruce Matthews' supreme blocking and with Earl Campbell's powerful running style, Moon could truly flourish in the Run-and-Gun Oilers offense. No other Houston quarterback stands a chance when compared to Moon.
Absolutely no competition. Peyton is a winner, a clutch quarterback, an incredible passer and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
The Jaguars don't exactly have a long, storied history, but they did once have a great quarterback in Mark Brunell. In his nine seasons with the team, he brought them to the AFC Championship game twice and to the playoffs several times. Although eventually Byron Leftwitch took over for him, Brunell was very successful in Jacksonville and remains their greatest QB to date.
Len Dawson is definitely an underrated QB. He led the Chiefs to Super Bowl I (a loss to the Packers) and Super Bowl IV, in which they upset the powerhouse Vikings. In his career, he threw for 239 touchdowns and 28,000 yards, and yet he never gets mentioned in a discussion of the greatest QB's. He was a great leader, a terrific passer and a deserving Hall of Famer.
Probably his most inspiring performance was in 1969, when he suffered a huge knee injury in the second game and was told he would be out for the season. However, Dawson only missed five games and came back in time to lead the Chiefs to wins over the defending champion Jets and the talented Raiders on their way to a Super Bowl win. Dawson is by far the greatest Chiefs quarterback of all time.
Dan Marino may be the best pure passer in the history of the NFL. He was never able to win a Super Bowl, but he brought the Dolphins to a Super Bowl and many playoff games despite a mediocre defense and terrible running game. Although the Dolphins went undefeated and won a Super Bowl under Bob Griese, he does not come close to Marino's level of play.
Testing on Dan Marino's arm even revealed a plethora of fast-twitch muscles which allow him to release the ball quicker than any other quarterback in history, part of the reason why he could stay successful while being the center of attention and fake a spike before throwing a touchdown pass to Mark Ingram against the Jets. Without question, Marino is the greatest Dolphins quarterback in history and a top five quarterback of all time.
It seems like a lot of what people remember of Fran Tarkenton is his 0-3 record in the Super Bowl with the Vikings. However, Fran Tarkenton retired with NFL records in career pass attempts, completions, passing touchdowns, yards, rushing touchdowns and wins by a quarterback. He could get things done on the ground as well as through the air, and he threw for 47,000 yards in his career with 342 touchdowns; both stats are still among the most by a quarterback.
"Scrambling Fran" could always be counted on to make a play, even if he had to avoid several defenders in the backfield first. The Vikings have never been able to win a Super Bowl, so players like Tarkenton are often overlooked during discussions of the greatest of all time, but Fran Tarkenton was one of the best.
So what if his Super Bowl rings were the product of cheating? He's still way better than Drew Bledsoe or Tony Eason.
Drew Brees, since he joined the Saints, mimicked the story of the New Orleans as a whole at the time. He joined the Saints at the lowest point of his career, having just been let go by the Chargers after a shoulder surgery, and New Orleans had just been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. However, Brees was able to revive his career and got better and better as the city of New Orleans continued to rebuild.
Then, in 2009, Brees had the best season of his career with over 4,000 yards, 34 touchdowns, a 109.6 passer rating and a 70 percent completion percentage. It was that year that he delivered New Orleans what meant so much more than simply a championship: a Super Bowl win and hope for the future. What the Saints did brought life and happiness back to New Orleans as well as a huge boost to morale.
Archie Manning also did a lot for New Orleans as one of the only good players on a horrendous Saints team, but he was narrowly beat out by Brees for the honor of the greatest Saints quarterback of all time.
If you aren't a big New York Giants or Ole Miss fan, chances are you haven't heard of Charlie Conerly. And if you have, it may be only because he was the New York quarterback in the Greatest Game Ever Played. In fact, Conerly is one of the greatest New York Giants (and Ole Miss Rebels) to date.
Conerly led the Giants to four championships over his career, including a win over the Bears in the 1956 championship. He ended his career with almost 20,000 passing yards to go along with 173 touchdowns, and his number is retired by the Giants, with whom he played his whole career.
Although Phil Simms is a very close second to Conerly, the latter did more for the Giants during his career and has earned his place atop the list of Giants quarterbacks. He also has an award named after him at Ole Miss, which Eli Manning won twice.
Joe Namath has been called overrated over the years, but he was deceptively tough and had a successful career despite bad knees. He also brought the Jets a Super Bowl and was the first quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards in a season. Ken O'Brien was another great Jets quarterback who had some great games, but Namath is possibly the greatest player in Jets history (give Revis a couple years though...). Joe Namath was a solid quarterback throughout his career, and finished with 173 touchdowns and 27,000 passing yards. He is by far the greatest Jets quarterback in history.
There has only ever been one Snake in the NFL, and it's not Jake Plummer. It's Ken Stabler. Stabler was embraced by Raiders fans of the 70s and today because of his winning instincts, his sometimes not-entirely-legal plays (Holy Roller) and his Raider attitude. Stabler still is not in the Hall of Fame for some reason, but that probably makes him more popular among Raiders fans, who identify with being the nastiest team in the NFL, full of rejects and outcasts.
What makes the Snake better than guys like George Blanda is he just knew how to win. He had a passer rating of 75.3 and 222 interceptions in comparison to 194 touchdowns, but he got to 100 wins faster than any other quarterback before him (he beat Unitas by three games). It couldn't fully be explained, but Stabler just knew how to make plays and win games, which is why he brought a Super Bowl win to Oakland. Ken Stabler was a great player, a clutch quarterback and a true Raider, which is why he is No. 1 in Oakland.
This one was close, seeing as Donovan had to compete with "The Ultimate Weapon" Randall Cunningham. However, although he received a huge amount of criticism last year, McNabb is still a very capable quarterback who did a lot for the Eagles during his time with them. He is the all-time franchise leader in pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns, and he brought the Eagles to five NFC Championship games.
McNabb has never been the best quarterback in the league, but he led the Eagles for a decade, and the fans' love for him was shown during their standing ovation for him when his Redskins faced the Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field (the Skins won 17-12). Big name players like Norm Van Brocklin, Sonny Jurgensen and Randall Cunningham have had success with the Eagles over the years, but none has done more for the franchise than McNabb.
Terry Bradshaw was often called one of the dumbest players in the league. Of course, he did win four Super Bowls in six years with the Steelers, so that insult may have sprouted from jealousy. Bradshaw threw 212 touchdown passes with 27,000 passing yards during his 14 year career, which was played entirely with Pittsburgh. And although the Steelers don't officially retire numbers, it is pretty much an unwritten rule that no quarterback will be given Bradshaw's No.12 again.
Bradshaw finished his career as the greatest Steelers quarterback of all time, and no other quarterback after him has come close to rivaling him. Ben Roethlisberger has proved to be a clutch player, great passer and Super Bowl winning quarterback, but he is still not on the same level as Terry Bradshaw, who was a true leader every season of his career.
It is a shame that Dan Fouts isn't a very well-known quarterback these days, because he was one of the best during his time with the Chargers. A steal out of the third round of the 1973 draft, Fouts was the pilot of the famed "Air Coryell" offense that included Fouts, Kellen Winslow Sr. and Charlie Joiner.
Throughout his career, Fouts established himself as a tough quarterback due to his ability to take brutal hits and continue to lead the Chargers and play well. Fouts averaged an NFL record 320 passing yards per game in 1982 and kept the Chargers exciting to watch because his high-powered offense and San Diego's mediocre defense led to many shootouts, most of which had Fouts coming out on top. However, it was sadly this mediocre defense that led to Fouts' inability to win a Super Bowl for San Diego, which in turn is the reason why he is not considered an all-time great today. However, Fouts was still able to retire with a whopping 43,000 yards in his 14 year career with 254 touchdowns.
Philip Rivers has established himself as one of the league's top passers, but he seems to be plagued by the same issues as Fouts: He hasn't been able to win a Super Bowl. However, when Rivers retires, he may be considered the greatest Chargers quarterback, but for now, it is unquestionably Dan Fouts.
Four Super Bowl wins. Three Super Bowl MVPs. Never threw an interception in a Super Bowl. Joe Cool was the definition of clutch, and no other 49ers quarterback can compare to his ability and success. Joe is considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (and in most cases the greatest), and he was one of the greatest players ever to step on the field. There is absolutely no doubt about it: Joe Montana was the greatest 49er of all time.
Who? Not many people have heard of Dave Krieg, but the undrafted quarterback out of Milton College (again, what?) made the Seahawks first as a third-string quarterback before he finally got his chance to start late in 1981 after Jim Zorn went down during a game. Krieg was able to win two games with the Hawks that season and was named starter in the strike-shortened season of 1982.
Although Krieg never reached the Super Bowl and had limited postseason success, he threw for 38,000 yards and 261 touchdowns in his impressive career, most of which he spent with Seattle.
Seattle's passing tandem of Jim Zorn and Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent was unforgettable, but Dave Krieg's ability far surpassed that of Zorn.
Aside from playing with a receiver with possibly the coolest nickname in NFL history (Crazylegs Hirsch), Norm Van Brocklin was one of the most prolific passers of his day. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams in his illustrious career, during which he won a championship in 1951 with the Rams and compiled 23,000 passing yards with 173 touchdowns.
Although he wouldn't be considered a great quarterback today, Van Brocklin was one of the best of his day and still holds the all-time record for passing yards in a game (555). He finished his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but spent the majority of his 12 seasons with the Rams, providing them with a huge offensive playmaker.
Everyone knows the classic story of Kurt Warner's rise to Super Bowl MVP from working at a supermarket, and he brought the Rams a Super Bowl win during his very successful career as the head of the "Greatest Show on Turf", but his accomplishments do not quite equal those of Van Brocklin.
Let's be honest: The Buccaneers were absolutely pathetic from their entrance into the league until the late 1990's, when players like Warren Sapp emerged. And from the way he's been playing, give Josh Freeman two years, and he will take Doug Williams' place easily. But for now, Williams has this "honor".
During his four year stint with the Bucs, Williams did about as well as anyone could do with a team that bad. He threw for 73 of his 100 career touchdowns and racked up over 10,000 passing yards. And although he never brought them any success, he had some decent years in Tampa Bay and is their greatest quarterback of all time...for now.
Steve McNair was an extremely talented quarterback and one who was drafted by the Houston Oilers, whom he played with for two seasons before they switched to the Tennesee Oilers and finally, the Tennessee Titans, whom he led to a Super Bowl, which they were one yard away from possibly winning.
McNair threw for 31,000 yards in his career with 174 touchdowns and a 60.1 completion percentage. Sadly, McNair passed away at the age of 36 after a very successful NFL career, but he will always be remembered by Titans fans and the league as a whole. Throughout his career, McNair brought success to the Titans, and he has solidified his place as their all-time greatest quarterback.
Players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are who they are today largely due to Sammy Baugh's revolutionizing of the passing game. Before Baugh entered the league, it was thought of as a joke and was only used in late-game situations when a comeback was needed.
However, Baugh became the Redskins' starting quarterback in 1937 and changed the way football was played during his 16-year career. He threw for 21,000 yards during those years with 187 touchdowns and is one of the greatest quarterbacks (and punters) of all time. He was selected to five All-Star teams and made the All-Pro team nine times to go along with his two NFL championship wins.
Baugh was also one of the most versatile and durable players in league history. He played defensive back, punter and quarterback, meaning that he was on the field for 60 minutes every game without any breaks except when timeouts were called. He excelled at every position, becoming an incredible passer and punter and a very good defensive back. In possibly the best game of his career, he threw four touchdown passes while also picking off four passes. There is no doubt that Baugh is the best the Skins have to offer.