100 Greatest Quarterbacks in NFL History Part II: 50-21

Boris GodzinevskiCorrespondent IINovember 27, 2010

100 Greatest Quarterbacks In NFL History Part II: 50-21

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    SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Brian Sipe #17 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass under the protection of offensive tackle Cody Risien #63 during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Jack Murphy on September 25, 1983 in San Diego, California
    George Rose/Getty Images

    The list continue; be sure to check out Part One. In this segment, the detail gets a little heavy and I've added videos for the 50-21 group.

    This may have been my favorite section of the list to write because I have feelings for most of the quarterbacks, most that are undervalued to no extent.

    Hopefully you will learn something about the forgotten QBs. Had they played today, you would be running around like a crazy person thinking " He's No.1, no He's No.1, no He's No.1, No He's No.1! ".

    Enjoy, and hopefully you gain new perspective on the position through the many decades the NFL has existed.

50. Joe Namath

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    What can I possibly say about Namath that has not already been said, whether it is criticism or praise? Yes, he was one of the most prolific strong arm Quarterbacks in NFL history and helped legitimize the AFL by guiding the Jets to their only Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl III, still counted as one of the greatest upsets in sport history.

    His career statistics, even for his time, are humbling, but he did have some all-pro seasons. He was the first QB to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season (albeit in the more pass happy AFL) and won two AFL MVPs, in 68 and 69. He also nabbed a Comeback Award in 74 where he threw 20 TDs, seven seasons from the last time he got to that mark. His playoff career is extremely limited; he only played in three playoff games, his 68 run was quite good where he threw three TDs to beat the Raiders in the AFL Championship and threw no picks and won SB MVP honors against the Colts. His last playoff game the following season against the Chiefs was one of the worst, completing 35 percent of his passes (14 of 40) with three INTs to the eventual Super Bowl Champs.

    Watching film of the guy does speak volumes, I would say at least for his first five seasons he was a huge offensive weapon; he had Elway’s arm when Elway was in the womb you see. After the 69 season, Namath’s career, in my opinion, took a downturn due to the injuries. He came back in 72 in pro bowl form leading the league (the NFL at this time) in yards and TDs. A lot of people criticize his career statistics, how many INTs he threw and how he barely completed half of his throws, but what is interesting to note is for his career he averaged a 14.7 Yards a completion, still 13th all time, and even after his last two seasons slightly brought down that average.

    Since his retirement in 77, no quarterback has been able to average a higher yards a completion than him. They said about Namath, when he had the opportunity to go short or long, Joe Willy would always go deep.

49. Drew Bledsoe

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    27 Jan 2002: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots presents the championship trophy after the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Patriots won 24-17. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    As a recently retired QB, the question of whether he’s Hall of Fame material or not is prevalent. I’m still on the fence about the issue and certainly if he gets in, I’d move him up higher. The pros are that statistically, he’s top tier: he sits eighth in yards, a member of the 40,000 club, he is 13th in TDs and sixth in completions. He also has over 100 career wins (including playoffs).

    His cons, as some have stated, are not being Tom Brady and having a pitiful playoff resume both statistically and performance wise. If you get to see the games, they are some of the all-time worst in the Super Bowl era for 5+ starts. I’m not going completely dissect his playoff spreadsheet; I will just say his rating in seven games is 54.9, his best playoff game was his last, a second half performance against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship that helped get the Patriots a date with the juggernaut Rams.

    My opinion is that Bledsoe threw the ball a lot and he reminds me of Namath from all the tape I’ve seen of him, but unlike Namath, Bledsoe wasn’t able to win a Championship. He had a much more consistent career, but his playoff failures, albeit he did get the Pats to the Super Bowl in 96, hold him back. On his Hall of Fame candidacy, I’ll say I wouldn’t be shocked or angered for him to make it in, but he would be one of the bottom tier Hall of Fame QBs.

    He wasn’t bad, and he did succeed to an extent with the Bills; he also lacked some credible offensive weapons both on the Bills and Patriots, but putting him higher, I don’t see too many convincing arguments. He’s Top 50 because he had a pretty darn solid career and helped his teams win games, at least in the regular season.

48. Brian Sipe

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    SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Brian Sipe #17 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Jack Murphy on September 25, 1983 in San Diego, California.  The Browns won 30-24 in overtime. (Photo by George Ros
    George Rose/Getty Images

    Yes Cleveland fans, Sipe is ahead of your beloved Bernie Kosar, at least on my list. The reason being not only that Sipe was named League MVP in 1980 (and second team all-pro in 79) but also how productive he was on some pretty bad teams.

    You will be interested to find out that despite having Hall of Fame TE Ozzie Newsome, Sipe actually utilized his entire receiving core, most lackluster. For evidence, take his MVP season 1980, in where Sipe threw a franchise record 30 TDs (still the only Browns QB to hit 30 in a season).

    That year of his 30 TDs, no receiver caught more than six of them, that being RB Calvin Hill, who was actually utilized as a receiver that season. Also, of Sipe’s 4,100 yards only Dave Logan lead the team with 800 receiving. Mike Pruitt was the only other Pro Bowler on the offense that year for the Browns, yet Sipe guided the Kardiac Kats to an 11-5 record and would lost one of the coldest games against the Raiders where a field goal could have won the game but Sam Rutigliano called Red Right 88 which resulted in SIpe being intercepted on a TD attempt in the endzone. Both Quarterbacks did not perform well in the horrid passing conditions that day.

    Sipe remains the Browns franchise leader in passing yards and left the NFL and the Browns abruptly in 83 and joined the USFL. He didn’t went a playoff game, but he was one of the more consistent QBs of his generation and on a pretty bad team to boot. Maybe it’s out of sympathy, but considering what Sipe did for the Browns organization, I don’t think he’s placed too high. In regards to being somewhat similar to Bert Jones, Sipe’s played longer and put up better numbers on a less talented team.

47. George Blanda

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    LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 6:  Hall of Famer and former Raiders quarterback, George Blanda, attends the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 6, 1987 in Los Angeles, California.  The Raider
    George Rose/Getty Images

    Probably most well known for being the all time career leader in INTs until Favre broke it, Blanda was actually one of the more prolific passers of his generation. His early 60s seasons were quite monstrous, and he lead the Oilers to two AFL Championships in 60 and 61. After 66, he was confined to kicking with the Raiders, where he made a Pro Bowl appearance in 67.

    His career longevity is the stuff of legends, retiring at age 48. Back to his days as a QB, despite only nine seasons of noted production, he finished with a career 236 passing TDs (top five in his day), doing so by having, like I said, monstrous seasons, most notably in 61 where he threw for 36 TDs, which stood as the single season record for pro football until Marino shattered it along with Y.A. Tittle, who set his 36 two years after Blanda. He was an AFL MVP in 61 and won the Bert Bell in 1970.

46. Ben Roethlisberger

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 21: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Too soon? No. Roethlisberger is a two time Super Bowl Champion, a special distinction he shares with eight other quarterbacks, as a starter. Although his first Super Bowl was one of the worst performances as a winning QB, and under questionable circumstances, his game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLIII, still fresh in our minds, is one of the single greatest performances on the NFL’s grandest stage.

    Avoiding sure sacks more than once on the drive, Big Ben was simply magnificent. Unlike the drive held by Eli Manning just the year before which resulted in a last minute TD to go ahead, Roethlisberger wasn’t sloppy, and he wasn’t lucky, he was just on. It is a very rare thing to compare any present-day QB to Montana, and one must give out such a comparison carefully, but that was it, that drive was Montana-esque, and it wasn’t the first nor last time Roethlisberger drove his team down the field to win the game. His record as a starter is other worldly, coming into the league winning his first 14 games (including his first playoff game). His current starter record in the regular season stands at 61-26 (week six of 2010). His playoff record stands at 8-2. Ironically, his most prolific passing performance in the playoffs ended in a two point loss (he passed for 337 yards), and that is to note what Roethlisberger means to his team.

    People now say he doesn’t have the stats, but he had shown everyone he can put up the numbers, in his 2007 and 2009 campaign his TD numbers, along with his TD:INT ratio, are of Top end quality. But in both seasons, his teams failed to make the playoffs. This is just to point out that a QB can put up big numbers but always needs a good defense to go all the way. Roethlisberger can put up pretty stats, but what’s more important to him is winning and the guy is a born winner. He can only move up on this list and has the potential to be the greatest ever.

    Among his many intangible quality to be a winner, Roethlisberger is also one of the toughest QBs since Steve Young, and of course there is Favre. Roethlisberger on a massive frame is still able to run and dives head first in most situations. This makes him more susceptible to concussions and for his sake I do hope that doesn’t cut a certain legendary career short. As of now, he only needs to pad his stats or win another championship to be immortalized in Canton.

45. Jim Plunkett

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    LOS ANGELES - 1985:  Jim Plunkett #16 of the Los Angeles Raiders passes the ball against the New York Giants at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Giants defeated the Raiders 14-9. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    There are two things you absolutely have to know about Plunkett. First and foremost, he is the only two-time Super Bowl winning QB (as starter) to not be in the Hall of Fame. And secondly he was drafted first overall by the Patriots and thereby doomed to waste his younger years in the league. Still, in his time with the Patriots, he had some great performances.

    In his first season, he beat a pair of playoff teams including the AFC Champion Dolphins in a 34-13 romp. Plunkett presented both arm strength and grand stature making him an intriguing prospect. Unable to get the Patriots to the playoffs, he wasted two seasons with the lackluster 49ers before going the Raiders in 79 after a year out of the NFL. Twice in 1980 and 83, Plunkett came off the bench to lead the Raiders to the playoffs and Super Bowl Championships, once as a wild card team, the very first wildcard team in history to go all the way. Plunkett won SB-MVP honors in Super Bowl XV and amassed an 8-2 career playoff record. Plunkett is often presented as the ultimate comeback story (indeed he won the AP Comeback in 1980) from fallen prospect to the ultimate winner. I wouldn’t say he’s a Hall of Famer, due to lack of consistently productive seasons, but he should be remembered well as one of the great 50 QBs in NFL history.

44. Earl Morrall

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    The Greatest Backup, Morral was not only reliable, but he was also one of the more likable football personalities of his day. He had three great statistical seasons, but you need only concentrate on his two greater than thou seasons to understand what kind of value he was.

    In 68, under coach Shula, the 34 year old Morrall lead the Colts to a 13-1 record while also leading the league in TDs and coming away League MVP. He was, however, unable to hold down the Jets and one of the greatest upsets in sport history, Unitas relieved Morrall and came up with the only TD for the Colts that day. Morrall, however, was not finished.

    He would go 9-0 in the 1972 regular season for the still lone undefeated Dolphins of NFL lore, where he was named first team all-pro. In the AFC Championship that 72 season, he was replaced by Brian Griese, who lead the Dolphins on two TD drives to win the game 21-17. Griese was named starter for the Super Bowl, and Morrall was forced to watch on the sidelines while the Dolphins finished 17-0. His career playoff record is what holds him back, but Morrall did actually win a Super Bowl, though he did not start it. In Super Bowl V, he replaced an injured Unitas to lead the Colts to a 16-13 win.

    Overall, his regular season record finished at 63-37-3. I would say Morrall wasn’t a complete choker, as he did lead the Colts to that Super Bowl V victory, but was benched twice, by Unitas in Super Bowl III and Griese, so two playoff games being benched for poor play certainly loses you some points. The other thing is to understand how much Shula helped Morrall, but I still feel confident in Morral’s career placed this high.

43. Drew Brees

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images)
    Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

    You might think he hasn’t played long enough, but you would be wrong. Brees has put up six consecutive seasons going into 2010 at star quality. In fact, Brees has statistically outperformed the vaunted Peyton Manning from 2006-2009. He fell 16 yards short of surpassing Marino’s single season yards total in 2008 and set the single season pass completion mark of 70.6 (beating the previous record with over 100 more completions) in 2009.

    Brees also set the single season completions record in 2007. In terms of winning, Brees had to put up with injuries and a largely lacking receiving corp. For instance, in his 5,000 yard performance of 2008, he didn’t have a single receiver eclipse 1,000 yards, the closest being Lance Moore who has yet to make a Pro Bowl or have a notable season. As for his playoff resume, Brees has, in six games, put up impeccable numbers throwing for 13 TDs and only two INTs with a 103.7 QB Rating. In his 2009 Super Bowl run where he finished with SB MVP honors, he completed more than 70 percent of his passes (including 82.1 in the Super Bowl) and threw for eight TDs with not a single pick. He still has the opportunity to walk away with the Greatest of all Time title.

42. Roman Gabriel

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    The 1969 League MVP, Gabriel carved up a Canton worthy career going 86-64-7 and eclipsing 200 TDs with four Pro Bowl honors on some questionable offenses. I’ll say right now his weakness was protecting the ball, not in the air so much as fumbling 105 times in 157 starts. He lead the league in passing TDs twice.

    As to the talent on his teams, he had Harold Carmichael and Charle Young in Philadelphia and nobody in his time with the Rams. In fact, his 69 MVP season came with no run game and no receiver showing any star power, he threw 24 TDs to only seven INTs that year, still one of the greatest passing seasons in terms of efficiency in NFL history.

    Fun fact, if you look up the single season leaders for lowest INT percentage in a season, Gabriel ranks 61st; however, he is one of only two QBs before 1985 in that top 61. The other QB is Bart Starr, who had the No. 1 and No. 2 lowest INT percentage seasons ever when he retired. If that doesn’t give you an impression of how efficient Gabriel was, look at the highlight film. The defenses he had were one of the best all time with the Fearsome Foursome, including Hall of Famers Olsen and Jones, but Gabriel made the offense relevant to win games.

    Unfortunately for Gabriel and the Rams, 10-3-1 record in 68 wasn’t enough for a playoff game (same division as the 13-1 Colts), and the two playoff games resulted in losses to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Packers in 67 and Super Bowl upset Vikings in 69, a game in which the Rams were up 17-7 at the half. His two playoff games did not yield victories, but neither were terrible performances (his 35.5 completion percentage against the Packers in 67 came in Green Bay weather, and he threw one TD to one INT).

    Gabriel actually should be in the Hall, for his time he finished ninth in career TDs, sixth by NFL numbers and if he had more offensive weapons, I am confident he would have won at least one championship; after all, this is what separates him from contemporaries such as Len Dawson and Starr. And his lack of star receivers is what keeps him from putting up Jurgensen and Y.A. Tittle numbers.

41. Don Meredith

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    It is Don Meredith who holds the record for longest pass in the air, an 83 yard strike to "Bullet" Bob Hayes. His career was cut short, by his own decision, some say due to his inability to deal with angry fans when he was unable to supplant the Packers in back to back NFL Championships. His career may be short, but the greatness is not diminished.

    As mentioned, physically, he is one of the greatest passers in NFL history, Dandy Don was in Dallas when it all began: the 1960 season which saw a putrid record of 0-11-1 on a team of misfits. He stuck through and came out a winner leading the Cowboys to their first winning season in 66. Statistically, he was a productive and efficient passer for his time, finishing with 135 TDs to 111 INTs, and he could get out of the pocket when he had to. Looking at games from 65-68 you get a real nice sense of what a pioneer he was for some high powered offenses to come, particularly in Dallas. It is beyond unfair how the fans treated him; what's worse is that when Staubach came around many probably forgot about Meredith. He was a three-time Pro Bowler.

40. Neil Lomax

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    Call me a homer all you want; Lomax spent his entire career on a consistently lackluster squad and came out one of the most productive QBs of his time. Yes, that is correct. In the time of Marino, Moon and Montana, Lomax etched out a pretty consistent and immensely underrated career.

    Despite the fact that only once did he get the Cardinals to the post-season, he only had two of his eight seasons end in a losing record. He got injured almost every season, injured to the extent where he had to miss a couple of games or more, and undoubtedly played through injury most of his seasons. The numbers speak for themselves, his finest full season in 84 ( one of only two full seasons ) he put up a still Cardinals single season record 4,614 yards with 28 TDs and only 16 INTs. That season was largely overshadowed by Marino, who had arguably the greatest season by a QB to date, though Lomax made the Pro Bowl and named 2nd team he was behind Marino in most of the meaningful passing statistics. He would come back in 87, strike shortened for the pro players and in 12 games lead the league in yards and completions.

    Aside from his first two years, he never threw more picks than scores for the Cardinals, eclipsing 20 TDs in a season four times, a mark still not surpassed in Cardinals franchise history, in 87, he was again named to second team. He would retire after the 88 season due to hampering injuries, primarily to his leg and hip.

    In his time on the Cards, his coaches were Jim Hanifan and Gene Stallings. He had Ottis Anderson as a RB for a few seasons and no notable receivers aside from Roy Green, who, although he made two first team all-pros, benefited largely from Lomax, and I will maintain that. But, he did have a good LT in Luis Sharpe. If you're interested there are, for some reason, a few full (split scene) games of the 84 and 87 Cardinals playing the Rams on youtube.

    Although I wish I could find you the video where down 28-3 to Tampa Bay, Lomax led one of the greatest and largely forgotten comebacks in NFL history, coming back to win it 31-28. That was what Lomax could do, and given a better supporting case, I have no doubt in my mind he would have won more than one Championship.

39. John Brodie

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    The 1970 League MVP carved out a pretty extensive career, both statistically and leadership wise. But he is probably best remembered for losing to the Dallas Cowboys every freaking time. Indeed, his three playoff losses to the Boys (two in the NFL Championship) were horrendous performances. Collectively, however, his body of work speaks for itself.

    He retired top 10 in essentially every meaningful career passing statistics, except for Championships. He lead the league in passing three times and in TDs twice. In terms of winning, it's not so cut dry, largely up and down depending how one looks at it. What Brodie had was a good team that he played well for, but just not good enough to beat the arguably better built Cowboys. I'm not going to call him out on it completely, but that's why he isn't higher, maybe if he did beat those Cowboys he would have some Super Bowl rings. In the end, he spent 17 seasons with the same team, and was the face of the 49ers for a long time, by default I think he was a step below Favre really, and who's to say how he would have fared under some better coaches.

38. Daryle Lamonica

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    Nicknamed "The Mad Bomber", Lomica was a beast, both statistically and with winning in his day. He was named league MVP by the Associate Press in 67 and by the UPI in both 67 and 69 (beating out Namath in 69, who won AP). To start, the man didn't lose a game he started until his fifth season, and in 67, his first full season as starter, he went 13-1 and as mentioned, was unanimously voted MVP. He would finish his career with a mesmerizing 75 win percentage, of his regular season starts, going 66-16-6. In five playoff runs, he would go one and done only once, in his last playoff game of his career. He would lose in Super Bowl II, but his most memorable big game should be against the Jets where he posted 400 yards and his team failed to stop Namath in the last minutes.

    My closing thoughts on him and his career from what I've seen, including the famous Heidi Game, is that he was a physically gifted quarterback, and immensely gifted QB, and was one of the most efficient and productive of his day in that he didn't risk as many turnovers as his contemporaries. He was a winner in both the regular season and yes, the playoffs where he did win games and got his team to title games in the AFL and counting the Super Bowl. Naysayers who point to his inflated stats due to the style of the AFL ignore his two Pro Bowls while in the NFL in 70 and 72.

37. Bob Waterfield

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    One of the earliest Hall of Famers, Waterfield lands at No. 37. He was able to lead his team to the NFL Championship in his rookie year, something only Sammy Baugh matched and has not been done since. He ended up sharing time on the juggernaut Rams offense with Norm Van Brocklin.

    On his own, Waterfield was named to three first team all-pros. Due to his generation, it's hard to find more than highlights of his playing days, though there is the 45 NFL Championship. What I have to go on is his accolades, winning the MVP in 45, and his team accomplishments which he helped to bring about.

    Being a Hall of Famer, I can't place him too low because what kind of message would I be sending? From what has been said of him ESPN and NFL Network, he seems to be one of the pioneer passing QBs of the NFL, and that itself is worth a ton.

36. Boomer Esiason

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    25 Sep 1988: Quarterback Boomer Esiason of the Cincinnati Bengals throws the ball during a game against the Cleveland Browns at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won the game, 24-17.
    Allen Steele/Getty Images

    Not many QBs have such large peaks in their careers which put focus on their once shinning brilliance and then some harsh valleys to show how somewhere along the line, they just lost it. Aside from his few brilliant seasons with the late 80s Bengals in Sam Wyche's no huddle offense, Esiason can be classified as a compiler, never having the same success aside from perhaps 93, statistically and with winning.

    He did show flashes of brilliance late in his career, namely the 522 yards while with the Cardinals in an OT thriller. He's never making the Hall of Fame, and I wouldn't even make an argument for him being there, but with a good coach and a solid supporting cast, Boomer would get you the wins and put up nice numbers while doing it. He came oh-so-close to winning the Super Bowl, but you just can't beat Montana, and that's where Esiason's story of success really ends.

    He does have a pretty big mouth which suits him for broadcasting, his play is, well, he had the arm to do what he wanted, and I will give him respect for doing what he did on those Jets teams and his renaissance season in 97 with the Bengals is one of Hollywood. I'm just not going to go any further than that.

35. Steve McNair

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    NASHVILLE - DECEMBER 18: Steve McNair #9 of the Tennessee Titans scrambles out of the pocket aganst the Tennessee Titans December 18, 2005 at The Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Air McNair gets on here because of his duel threat and uncanny leadership skills which time and again saw him lead his teams to success and at times valiant performances in defeat. He was named the 2003 League MVP ( shared with Manning ) and named to three Pro Bowls. Statistically, the man was a nuclear warhead having a tremendous agility scrambling, a great TD:INT, reliable accuracy and simply winning mentality that wim 96 games, including playoffs in his illustrious career which was cut short by his own decision to retire at 33.

    He still holds the record for most rushing yards by a Quarterback in the Super Bowl and his drive that saw ended with " One Yard Short " is something every sports fan must see for it is a thing of beauty. Note McNair had a largely average receiving core, with a good but perhaps overrated Derrick Mason ( and his tendancy to drop balls at bad times). He did have an all time guard in Bruce Mathews and a great runningback in Eddie George, but without McNair, his teams would be .500 at best.

    His first season on the Ravens saw him elevate the offense two fold and guide them to a 13-3 record, which saw them lose against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Colts. Like his last playoff game, McNair had his downfalls, but from roughly 99-03, he was electric and simply unstoppable.

34. Joe Theismann

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    1983:  Quarterback Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins passes the ball during a game. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Who knows what Theismann would have done had he not tried being a rebel and played for the Argos in the CFL the three seasons his would be NFL team, the Dolphins, made three consecutive Super Bowls, winning two.

    Don't get me wrong; I like the fact he played in Canada, but his late push for glory ended up costing him a spot in Canton, which I am certain he would have had with a longer career.

    As it is, Theismann made two Super Bowls, winning one and getting named a League MVP in 83 on, at the time, the highest scoring offense in NFL history. His 6-2 playoff record adds to his mystique, having only put up one bad playoff performance (and it's subjective as to whether it was actually bad and not Joe Gibbs' fault). Lawrence Taylor ended his career in 85 in one of sports' most brutal injuries and that was that. I say the man had some hard stones to pull off the one bar facemask, which he defended as allowing him better visibility.

    What we as fans can take of Theismann's rather late but shining career is the game film, and for the early 80s seasons of the Washington Redskins, there's plenty. You see Theismann was also a culpable scrambler; his highest rushing yardage total of his career came in his second to last season, so again, how great he could have been is simply a wondering fantasy. He could have well been the first Steve Young and probably would have won another Super Bowl title with the late 80s Skins.

33. Dave Krieg

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    25 Oct 1987: Quarterback Dave Krieg of the Seattle Seahawks passes the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Seahawks won the game, 35-13.
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    I have heard some reference Krieg as the poor man's Bledsoe, to which I agree. Krieg put up solid numbers and won games on several different teams. He helped the Seahawks, Lions and Chiefs to playoff berths and did it most with limited talent. Yes, Steve Largent is an obvious choice and in Seattle Krieg would lead the Seahawks to the NFC Championship, territory they would not reach for 20 years after. It was Krieg who managed the playoff Chiefs the season before Montana came in and it was Krieg who put up a valiant effort to help Barry push the Lions into contender status.

    He also wasn't bad on the Bears his last season, giving them the best chance to win, if only they had sufficient talent. Krieg is in my books THE most underrated player at Quarterback, I think like Lomax he wasn't given his fair due, but unlike Lomax, he was able to have some decent teams around him and was able to have a long career.

    When he retired, Krieg was seventh in passing yards, seventh in passing TDs and fifth in most games played. He belongs in the Hall of Fame because he showed time and again succeeding on multiple teams, that he had the tools, the leadership and in the end the collective body of work to deserve merit. Hard to say who I would replace who's in the Hall now with Krieg, but I would say he should at least be remembered as an all-time great.

32. Y.A. Tittle

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    Starting his career with the Baltimore Colts, Tittle became known famously as the leader of the Million Dollar backfield in San Francisco. He finds himself in the Hall of Fame largely due to his 15th and 16th seasons on the Giants, where he was 36 and 37 years of age.

    The numbers he put up were staggering. Tying an NFL record with 36 passing TDs in one season in 63 after throwing 33 the year before. His downfall well documented in a photo I don't want to tread on his legacy by posting. He would lose all five of his playoff games, two division and three consecutive championship games from 61-63. His three Championship losses in particularly saw him overwhelmingly under-perform and perhaps may be the first QB widely labeled a choker.

    I'm not going to be as harsh, the man made seven Pro Bowlers and was named the best QB in the league on three occasions. Notching an AP MVP in 63, two UPI MVPs in 57 and 62 and two NEA MVPs in 61 and 63. He retired all time leader in career passing yards, touchdowns and completions and finished with a starter regular season record of 78-52-5. Less we forget the Favre/Marino of his generation.

31. Donovan McNabb

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Some say Hall of Famer, and some will laugh at the notion, I am the former. His passing ability is impeccable (greatest TD-INT ratio in NFL history), his physical abilities, tantamount (scrambling and cannon arm). His accomplishments are many, save for the one, and I mean one blotch on his resume, lack of a Championship.

    Like Marino, however, McNabb lacked the consistent surrounding talent on offense, albeit Westbrook offered a Marshall Faulk type weapon. Though he never won a Super Bowl, McNabb is one of the best playoff performers, up until last season he had never lost his first playoff game in six outings. He would make five NFC Championship Appearances, a mark he shares with Brett Favre and only Montana has a higher count ( six ). For all the bad rep he's gotten for under-performing in the playoffs he completed nearly 60percent of his passes for over 3,700 yards with 24 TDs to 17 INTs, and frankly if his receivers didn't drop so many balls he would have made more than one Super Bowl.

    His valiance in defeat is also underestimated. He showcased one of the greatest would be comebacks in NFL history when he brought the Eagles all the way back from 24-6 to take the lead 25-24 before Kurt Warner marched the Arizona offense down field against an Eagles defense which had, as times before, failed McNabb. If he played on most other teams, he would never get booed, but playing for the Eagles he had to consistently hear of hate chants calling him a loser.

    No Eagles QB has won more games for the franchise, and no Eagles QB has had the consistent playoff success as McNabb, decades from now, Eagles fans will talk of him as if he were a Greek God. For now, his career is yet to be completed and I think a stamp to Canton is all but a certainty

30. Phil Simms

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    Simms will probably never make the Hall of Fame in Canton, but he carved out a pretty consistent career, mainly on winning and putting up above-average statistics every season. His playoff resume sees him losing his first playoff game only once, he would go 6-4 in the playoffs as a starter with 10 TDs to 6 INTs. Though his 77 QB Rating isn’t eye-popping his “Perfect” Super Bowl MVP performance was.

    He had a star studded cast, though mainly on defense, but he was the Quarterback for the job. It would be interesting if Simms had in fact was the guy at the helm for the 1990 run, and it went just as it did with Hostetler. I wouldn’t call Simms a game manager and I wouldn’t say he had an amazing cast of receivers. Compare him to Bradshaw and I think Simms stands fairly well. Can’t offer much more opinion than that, maybe he’s just one of the luckier QBs but he had the skill to be a leader and throw the ball deep and throw it a lot, and that’s all you really need in a Bill Parcell’s offense.

29. Randall Cunningham

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    With minimal receiver talent and arguably no offensive line for much of his career, if this were a top 100 players list, he would be top 10. On that subject, all one needs to do is look at offensive yardage those late 80s, early 90s Eagles teams put up and the percentage Cunningham was responsible, he lead his team in rushing four consecutive seasons.

    Solely as a passe,r he did not post up many abundant passing totals, but his TD:INT ratio was one of the best. He was consistently careful when passing the football, and was able to win games with his legs and his sheer intangibles for the big play at the right time.

    Early in his career he had elite punting ability as well, but that’s besides the point of his Quarterback skills. Any critics of his pocket passing were silenced in the resurgence with the Vikings, for once a team with great talent, contender talent. In 1998, Cunningham would put up one of the great single season passing performances, throwing for 34 TDs in 15 games ( 14 starts ) with only 10 interceptions. He would lead the league in TD percentage, 8.0 which was the highest since 1984 and has only been surpassed three times since. His 34 TDs were, at the time, top ten in a season ( note the 14 starts ).

    The 1990 season collectively, was one of the greatest by a player ever, when Cunningham was still being criticized for taking too many sacks ( but did pass for over 3,800 yards in 88 ), the Human Highlight Reel put up 30 TDs to 13 INTs, with 942 rushing yards and five TDs on the ground. His only pro bowler on offense was Tight End Keith Jackson. Cris Carter was before his prime in Philadelphia and it was only with the Vikings Cunningham found both a solid offensive line and trustworthy top level receivers, and Moss’ rookie year may have been average without Cunningham’s ability to throw the long ball. He is the only three time Bert Bell Award winner.

    As a player, he should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer years ago, but I digress, Gary Anderson cost many on that fabled 98 squad a possible ring that would have probably elevated Cunningham to Hall of Fame status. Regardless Cunningham was the most electrifying Quarterback in NFL history, until, perhaps Michael Vick took the NFL by storm, though his legacy has yet to be concluded.

28. John Hadl

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    His onslaught on the AFL and in his later years some top end seasons in the NFL as well is most noteworthy for his high powered passing ability. On the Chargers in the AFL he would lead in passing yards twice in the AFL, and once more in the NFL after the merger. He would be named to six Pro Bowls including a first team all-pro in 1973 when with the Rams he went 12-2 and got them to a division title. His long career saw him finish Top five in most career passing categories. He helped engineer some of the most prolific offenses with Hall of Fame WR Lance Alworth. His omission from Canton is no doubt based on his lack of a Championship and his best days ( save for one great season ) in the AFL, which has been diminished by voters.

27. Bob Griese

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    The ultimate game manager? Perhaps, while Griese didn’t have a particularly strong arm, he was a great leader and a perennial pro bowler, making eight appearances and being named to two first team all-pros. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his fifth ballot and though many may question his greatness among the other QBs, in his time if you look carefully it was really only him, Staubach, Bradshaw and Stabler.

    Though he only played six games for the 72 Dolphins, his career winning percentage including playoffs was over 62 precent. Despite not putting up the biggest passing numbers, he was actually top five in most seasons, and lead the league in TDs in 77 and being one of the highest rated and accurate QBs of his time. He did win two Championships with the Dolphins, being chosen to play in the Super Bowl for the 17-0 squad where he played well.

    Though like Aikman, Griese wasn’t called on to do much as a result of his team’s solid defense and consistent rushing attack, when needed to however, he would use Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield and made an all pro out of Nat Moore.

26. Ken Stabler

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    Stabler was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1990, 91 and 2003, and a semifinalist on six additional occasions. He is now resided to be a Senior nomination if he does indeed get the credit. Like a Snake, he was nicknamed to wait for the perfect strike, and his legacy is filled with magical plays, like the Holy Roller, Sea of Hands and what would have been a great game winning TD had the immaculate reception never happened.

    A one time League MVP, Stabler lead the league in passing TDs and completion percentage twice. His 7-5 playoff record on the Raiders is a testament to his teams and John Madden but his contribution to those teams is quite significant. Unlike Plunkett, Stabler put up big numbers and was an all-pro, as well, though some may argue, he did have success with the Oilers after his tenure with the Raiders. In 1980, though he did throw a whopping 28 picks, Stabler helped the Oilers ( albeit with Campbell carrying the rock ) to an 11-5 record, though he went one and done.

    Perhaps his career numbers aren’t all across the board highlights but he was the fastest QB to get to 90 career wins at the time, at one point having a career 51-12-1 regular season record and a Super Bowl Championship with 7-5 in the post-season. Call him what you will he was no a game manager, and few other QBs could run that offense as well as Kenny “The Snake” Stabler did.

25. Dan Fouts

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    Fouts played in a prolific offense created by Don Coryell. On a team with brimming offensive talent, he was the captain. A first ballot Hall of Famer, Fouts is the only Super Bowl era QB to lead the league in yards four consecutive seasons and retried second in passing yards and 4th in passing TDs ( though only one shy of Sonny Jurgensen ). He’s no higher because of his disastrous playoff performances. He did have two marvelous playoff outings, one in the memorable OT classic against Miami in the 82 playoffs, and one against Pittsburgh in the 83 playoffs.

    Although he put up big passing numbers in his playoff losses, his accuracy and propensity to throw picks ended up costing his teams. In the 1980 AFC Championship against the Raiders, Fouts threw for 336 yards and 2 TDs, but ended up completing less than half of his passes and throwing two interceptions while his contemporary Plunkett completed 14 of 18 passes for two TDs and no picks. He had two five-interception games ( only the second QB to throw that many picks in a playoff game ), in one throwing for 333 yards where his team lost by only three.

    Though he did have a fairly good game against the Bills as well in the 81 playoffs the point I’m trying to make it his high-rise passing numbers did not help his team when it mattered most. Some will blame that despite the powerhouse offense Coryell had in place, his defenses were consistently bottom tier, while it’s true the Chargers gave up 34, 27 and 34 points in three of Fouts’ playoff losses, throwing five interceptions in a game doesn’t help your defense considering they are on the field more and have to hold teams getting the ball in good field position.

    Furthermore, Fouts only put up massive numbers because of his offensive system and all the all-pro players at receiving, including Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner. He was named AP Offensive Player of the Year in 1982 and NEA & PFWA MVP

24. Bobby Layne

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    A two-time first team all-pro and a first ballot Hall of Famer. Layne was known as one of the most prolific passers of his generation but more notably as a winner. Getting the Lions to the 52 and 53 NFL Championships, both times over the vaunted Browns and Otto Graham.

    His most memorable victory must be the 53rd NFL Championship where he put up an MVP performance in a close victory against the Browns 17-16. His 57th season would be the last with the Lions as suffering a broken leg Tobin Rote put up better numbers on route to getting the Lions to the 57 NFL Championship without Layne. Bobby Layne famously stated the Lions would not win another Championship for 50 years as he was traded to the Steelers, the prophecy turned out correct even though it was most likely made in blinding anger. From the 50s, it’s Otto Graham, Bobby Layne and later Johnny Unitas, he truly was one of the greats of his time. At the time of his retirement, he held every career passing record.

23. Warren Moon

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    Many will say he elevated teams to the playoffs that would be picking top five in drafts. Others will point to the fact he came into the NFL at 28 years of age discounted earlier for his skin tone, and destroyed defenses with his arm. What I see is a Hall of Famer who was not only a leader but a valuable weapon to his teams. What I also see is the inability, in numerous playoff outings to even reach the Conference Championship and ending with a 3-7 playoff starter record.

    Though looking closer at the number his playoff resume is not as bad as some may think, with an 84.9 QB Rating in ten playoff games, he would rank as one of the more proficient passers of his day. Indeed, three of his playoff losses came by three points or less, another two came within one major score. So you could say Moon was unlucky, and that’s how you could describe the greatest comeback in NFL history. It was against the Moon-led Oilers the Bills came back down 32 points. While the defenses failed Moon more than anything, it was also in the 92 playoffs that saw Moon’s Oilers give up a 4th quarter lead, this time to the Broncos.

    Sadly, fair or not, I cannot praise Moon for his clutch ability. Sticking to his statistical numbers however, he can be measured as a giant. He would retire behind only Marino and Elway in career passing yards and 4th in TDs. He became the first Quarterback while with the Vikings, to throw for over 4,000 yards in back to back seasons, twice in a career. Elected to 9 Pro Bowlers he seems certain to retain his record for oldest Quarterback to be named to the Pro Bowl, at 41 years of age playing for the Seattle Seahawks in 1997 ( Favre isn’t doing so well this year ). At least earlier on in his career he was also able to move out of the pocket for short gains, and his cannon arm as mentioned, was one of the strongest in NFL history. He was named AP Offensive Player of the Year in 1990 and NEA MVP.

22. Ken Anderson

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    Twice a Hall of Fame finalist, Ken Anderson is one of the more underrated Quarterbacks in the NFL’s history. Universal League MVP in 1981 ( multiple different bodies gave him the ward ) and AP Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player. Anderson’s efficiency for his time is monstrous, having lead the league in completion percentage three times, including setting the single season record of 70.6 percent ( albeit on 218 completions ) that would stand for over 20 years. He was also the highest rated Quarterback on four occasions. His legacy is one of those where a Championship puts him in Canton, without it he seems destined for the Hall of Very Good. Not sure this is all that fair of a system but such as it is, Kenny Anderson was integral in helping the Bengals to legitimacy with Paul Brown in the Cincinnati franchise’s beginnings. His performance in the famed Freezer Bowl is one of the best in harsh conditions.

21. Sonny Jurgensen

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    Hard to judge Sonny’s career, even by his contemporaries. He has a marvelous arm and put up big numbers, but was never on a Championship team and often on bottom feeding teams. The counterargument to his massive stats is that his teams were often behind, became one dimensional and the defenses let up.

    He was a Hall of Fame Finalist twice before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame ( though his failed years saw strong classes ). In 1961, he became only the second NFL QB to pass for 30 TDs in a season, after Unitas in 59 ( though Blanda also did the same in the AFL in 61 ). His team, the Eagles, would go 10-4 but fail to make the NFL Championship off the Giants who finished 10-3-1 and would get pounded 37-0 by the Packers. Jurgensen’s only playoff appearance came off the bench in 74, at age 40 where he completed half of his passes and threw three interceptions. Looking at the numbers, five time league leading passer, and the TDs where he would retire third career he seems his generation’s Warren Moon, but better.

    Watching the tape, then understand where the Skins went when Billy Kilmer came in to run the conservative George Allen run first offense, it begs questions of Jurgensen’s true value. Although a very valid argument is his lack of supporting cast, Jurgensen had Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald his early years in Philadelphia and Hall of Famer Charley Taylor much of his time on the Redskins. He did have that top end receiver, but he lacked an offensive line and was part of the failed coaching project by the vaunted Otto Graham. Jurgensen’s career entails consistent production and in a large measure, but his lack of winning holds him back from the top 20, right or wrong he couldn’t do enough to carry his teams and I do think the very great Quarterbacks can do that ( and by carry I mean more winning seasons than Jurgensen ).


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