Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Oct 2013

Best Quarterbacks Ever: Results

Joe Posnanski polled his readers on the ten best quarterbacks in NFL history. Dissect, discuss.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 14 Oct 2013

134 comments, Last at 24 Oct 2013, 5:20pm by Mr Shush


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 12:55pm

Are we limiting to best at role of QB specifically, or including best players who also played QB?

Basically, I'm trying to understand how to rate two-way players and George Blanda.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 1:16pm

I can't really judge Baugh or Graham. I feel like Staubach gets really underrated historically, and I would give him one of the Baugh/Graham spots (I like to limit these lists to players who played any part of their career in the Super Bowl era).

I'm fine with the order of the rest of the list. Personally, I think Elway is a bit overrated historically, with many people using circumstance and anecdotes to protect numbers that aren't as impressive as those around him on that list, but enough people much older than me who remember his play in the 80's that I'm swayed.

Other than Staubach, probably Tarkenton, but I think Rodgers takes one of those spots before his career ends.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:36am

No, I saw Elway play and I agree with you. "Who's better, Elway or Marino?" wasn't even a thing until Elway won those Super Bowls late in his career.

The man with no sig

by Rick S (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 1:44pm

I would put Staubach in and take out Favre. How many awful turnovers did he have in the biggest moments. Favre's career can be summed up in Two phases (and not where you think)... Before SuperBowl 32 and after. He transformed into the guy that makes turnovers at the worst possible moments in that SuperBowl and never went back...

You can't argue with the top 5, but I've always wondered how good Elway would have been if he'd of had Montana's cast while in his prime ('85-89). Madden once said, John Elway is the closet thing there has ever been to a "one man gang" winning a SuperBowl...

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 2:38pm

"John Elway is the closet thing there has ever been to a "one man gang" winning a SuperBowl."

Making a Super Bowl, maybe. WINNING a Super Bowl, absolutely not. The 97 and 98 Broncos were loaded with talent, starting with Terrell Davis.

by Theo :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 6:11pm

Was that that team with a stellar offensive line, Rod Smith, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and a defense with Romanowski, Atwater and some other others like Trailor, Pryce and Mobley?

by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:07pm

That "one-man gang" comment is odd to me-- isn't it commonly understood that Elway failed 3 times in the SB in his "one-man gang" days, but finally won when a better team was put around him, including an excellent running game?

by Rick S (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 4:15pm

.... Hence the preface "Closest thing".

It's hard to win when you have average RBs & WRs, a below average OL, and an undersized defense. And by the way, unlike the Bills of the early 90s and Vikings of the 70s who have multiple HOF players, John Elway is the only player from the late 80s Broncos that has or ever will be in the HOF.

by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 4:21pm

Ah, thanks misunderstood the phrase-- the "closest thing" referred to closeness of winning the SB, not closeness to a one-man gang. Got it now.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 10:27pm

That's also a comment unfair to his pre-TD teams. Those Elway teams of the 80s had a lot of talent other than Elway.

by TomA (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 7:51am

Mecklenburg was about as good of a player as Elway was during the late 80s. Elway made it to the SB 3 times though largely because the AFC was so weak in those years. Yeah, the Broncos weren't a very talented team overall, especially on offense, but, neither were their AFC opponents. It's no surprise at all that teams that pulled out close comeback victories in the AFC playoffs got completely dominated by the top team of the NFC.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:41am

Yeah, you could say their defense wasn't very talented, but it was one of the best in the AFC

The man with no sig

by RTF (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:24pm

There is absolutely no comparing Karl Mecklenberg to John Elway. Meck was a fine defender during that period, and is a deserved Bronco Ring of Fame Member, but seriously....

I guess in your world Phil Simms was about the equal of Lawrence Taylor.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:14pm

I think the point is that it's an exaggeration to act like there were nothing but scrubs on those Broncos' teams other than Elway.

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 7:05pm

Personally, I think that his defense has always been underrated. I mean, sure, they didn't do well in the Superbowls, but their defenses had something to do with the team's success as well. Still, we all can't help but wonder what Elway would have looked like if he played under Walsh instead of Reeves.

by Eric (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 1:46pm

"Hey look, it's John Candy!"

by Not Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:06pm


by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:07pm

Poor Bengals.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 2:57pm

List was overall ok, though we can't help but be swayed by the media, can we? Fouts, Tarkenton, and Marino will forever be hit by the loser's stain and its sad. All three arguably were better pure passers than some of the others on this list, but 2 were never put in. Contrast that loser's stain with the ultimate winner's halo: Montana. I never watched montana play, so I don't feel it's accurate to judge him against those I have, but I suspect a good majority of the voters never did either. They voted Montana largely off the mass media perception that he was unbeatable and a clutch like a demigod. Fair? Maybe, though I'd prefer to ask someone who actually watched 80s football to tell me if Montana really was an overall better player than elway or marino. Hell, was he definitively better than Steve young? Or was it a matter of circumstance that dictated who got 1 ring and who got 4.

Otherwise, its fine I guess. Brady-Manning will likely stay in brady's favor until Manning wins another sb.

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:52pm

[This paragraph denied by spam filter :p]

I pretty much always had the top three from that time in this order: 1. Dan Marino, 2. Joe Montana, 3. John Elway.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 4:18pm

Try to beat that mean spam filter. I am really interested in hearing why you listed it the way you did.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 5:07pm

Tell me about it. I had a post about how Joe Montana is basically the new Otto Graham.

But I didn't send it directly to Aaron, so it will be lost in the ether forever.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 10:38pm

Marino was great, but after 1985 he never scared me. Nowhere near as much as the other two did. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt after all. As a Pats fan, I could count on seeing Marino twice a season, Elway once every year, and Montana once every three years. But when it came to playoff games, Elway played better than Marino, and Montana was the best postseason QB I saw. His arm wasn't as strong as Elway's, and his release wasn't as quick as Marino's, but he was incredibly accurate and always composed.

I don't know quite how to compare him to Brady and Manning. On the one hand, they have had to face each other, and for the most part, they've had to face each other every season (aside from the one lost season each one has had.) On the other hand, I really think that their mutual competition has made each of them a better player than either might have been alone, much as Magic and Bird made each other better.

So, probably, the answer to "who is the best QB ever" is either Manning or Brady, and not Montana. Not that the true answer really matters here. It's just an exercise.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 12:11pm

You could argue Elway wasn't very scary unless it was the 2-minute drill. This is where the "it's all Reeves' fault" argument kicks in. I think the difference is the Bronco defense kept them in games, affording Reeves the luxury of keeping Elway on a leash and letting him loose late to win the game, whereas in Miami it was up to Marino to keep the game close in the first place.

The man with no sig

by intel_chris (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 1:51pm

Good point and it has been made before. It is no surprise the Elway's SB wins came under Shanahan and not Reeves. Similarly, I've read elsewhere that Walsh specifically designed the 49ers offense to exploit Montana's strengths and cover some of the other weaknesses the team had. It might have been interesting to see what would have happened if Marino had played for either the 49ers or Broncos, but unfortunately those results are locked away in some other Quantum reality. West Coast offense might mean something entirely different there.

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 10:41am

Walsh specifically designed the offense to exploit Virgil Carter's strengths and cover his weaknesses. When Joe Montana came along, he was sort of the apotheosis of what Carter's strengths & weaknesses could be, the best possible package of those.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 4:18pm

If Lewis Billups executes a very, very, easy interception, Joe Montana likely drops significantly in the eyes of many. which tells you all you need to know about this manner of ranking.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 4:21pm

If you read games that changed the game, dick lebeau actually dialed up this perfect play in that final "john candy" drive. I don't remember the exact specifics, but Soloman Wilcots described how they baited montana into the throw that would be intercepted, but one of the defenders blew his assignment and it became a completed catch. Had that assignment been executed, they would have won because montana was fooled on that play. Again, course of history and reputations should not turn on 1 play, but they very nearly did.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 7:51am

1- Freddie Solomon

2- If the defender blew the assignment then how do you know Montana didn't read the blown assignment:-) . Seriously though, he did hit a Cindy safety in the chest and he threw a very catchable ball so no excuse for the db. Even if he'd been picked off he shouldn't have taken all the blame, stupid penalties and almost willfully poor special teams had kept the Bengals in it.

by Travis :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:18am

The Billups drop happened early in the 4th quarter, one play before the 49ers scored to tie the score at 13.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:31am

Yes. Your point is?

by Travis :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:32am

That the game was far from over, even if Billups holds onto that pass. (The two comments after yours both assumed that it came on the final drive.)

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:51am

That's odd, because I also remember a dropped interception on the final drive and it wasn't the one I saw in that video with Billups. Might be misremembering.

The man with no sig

by Travis :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 12:36pm

The only incompletion of the drive (seen at 4:10 of this video) was thrown out of bounds.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 6:57pm

Thanks, god know what the play in my memory is.

The man with no sig

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 10:52am

The Bengals lost their All-Pro NT Tim Krumrie early in the game (1st Q?), to one of the most gruesome leg injuries I've ever seen . In a game that came down to the final possession, you have to think something like that made a difference. Bengals were THIS close to winning as it is.

by Rick S (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 4:36pm

Montana's clutch play can not be denied. He also benefited from being in by far the most favorable circumstances of either Elway or Marino. Montana played for probably the best offensive coach ever. He also had much better talent around him on both sides of the ball (at least in the 1980s) than either Marino or Elway.

Marino never had a running game or great defense, and may have had too much control over the offense which led to an unbalanced offense which always seemed to suffer late in the season. Elway played with pedestrian skill players, a below average offensive line in a very predictable offense. Elway played with better defenses that were a little better than The Dolphins, but they were undersized and scheme driven were easily exposed.

If each of the three were to switch and play in the others situation, I would put my money on Elway being the best of this group, and consider Elway better than Marino every day of the week.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:47am

I'm a Dolphins fan and I'll be the first to bash Elway (see above), but Montana was something else. He never seemed to make any mistakes. When he couldn't find a receiver open he'd run for the first down. His passes always had perfect placement and he'd go through his progressions very smoothly.

That being said, I wonder how he'd have done on a bad team. Great, I imagine, but still.

The man with no sig

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 5:20pm

Saw Baugh play full agem one time. Guy tremendous presence on field. Greta passer. Big too.

Baugh, graham, luckamn best of pre super bowl era.

Super Bowl er top 7 in some order
MontNa, staubach, Tom Bardy, Peyton Manning, and 3 others

Will drink/think on this tonigje when watch Cots vs Chargers gamd

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 5:44pm

rj, Baugh played his last game 61 years ago! Did you ever see Bronko Nagurski play? Jim Thorpe?

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 10:13pm

Yes, have seen entire game of Baugh. Was guest of someone jwho showed me film of it.

by Jerry :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 6:49pm

No Unitas?

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 10:16pm

Had brain Clot. Yes , j. Unitas arguably best Cotl QB would be top 10 overall. For best Col Q it between Unitas and P. Manning. Might go Manning for Regular season but Ubitas for playofs.
So top 10 would have unitas, p. Manning, Brady, graham, baugh, staubach, luckman, and 3 more. Still thinking about ig

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 7:42pm

A lot of people have been talking up Elway based on the fact that he had a poor supporting cast for most of his career. To those people, I challenge you to look at Elway and Tarkenton side by side, taking their circumstances into context, and come up with a justification for ranking Elway higher that doesn't amount to "he won 2 Super Bowls late in his career with others carrying the team."

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 8:34pm

Many people really don't appreciate Tarkenton's career in the right context; that he was well into his 30s, and past his physical prime, before he was part of a roster with talent, and good coaching. Imagine Montana or Elway being drafted by the Bucs, traded to the Cards at age 28, and not getting traded to a go0d team with good coaching until age 32 or 33 (no, Dan Reeves was not a bad coach, compared to Norm Van Brocklin and Allie Sherman) and you start to get some sense of Tarkenton's accomplishment.

The numbers he put together on awful teams are just stunning, and there is a reason why Paul Zimmerman called a game he saw Tarkenton play, while with a hideous Giants team, against a championship caliber Cowboys team, in Dallas, the finest performance he ever saw from a qb. I was about 7 years old, and I remember that game on a Monday night. If an athletic performance can be called heroic, that was one that qualified.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 8:36pm

It's very simple. He doesn't have enough myth making or ass kissers that touted him so hes been a forgotten man. That's really all that it comes to. And that's why, we may laugh off media concoctions of greatness, but they ultimately matter because people who are far less circumspect will never hear of them or bother to look them up.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 8:40pm

Also missing in the contextual arguments, is the huge disparity between the NFC and AFC from the mid 80s to the mid 90s. Montana and the 9ers were having to go through the Giants, Redskins and Bears every year. Teams that crushed whichever AFC team was opposite them when they made to the Super Bowl.

by RTF (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:36pm


Tarkington is under-rated, but lets compare how many HOFers were on the 1970s Vikings and 1980s Broncos

VIKINGS HOFers from the 1970s
*Carl Eller, Paul Krause, Ron Yary & Fran Tarkington

BRONCOS HOFers from the 1980s
*Tony Dorsett (1988 only), John Elway

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:45pm

And Frank Tarkenton was 32 when he was on the Vikings in the 70s. When Elway was 32, it was 1992 already. So you should compare the 90s Broncos.

Plus, HoF is a bad measure of team strength. Terrell Davis played at a HoF caliber for a few years, but his career was too short to make it in (likely).

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:16pm

You could also make a case that Chuck Foreman was the Vikings' overall MVP during the 1973-77 period.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:35pm

That would be a very, very, weak case. Tarkenton was the MVP, and isn't even remotely close. He called all the plays, for goodness sakes, and was an extremely good play caller at that, along with being able to read a blitz like Stephen Hawking reading a simple mathematical equation. He was the best I've ever seen at selling play action, hiding the ball in a way that drove defenders crazy. If he'd have been blessed with an above average arm, or, by the time he arrived with the Vikings, even an average arm, it would have been unfair.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 5:06pm

You're not giving Foreman enough credit. He was basically the Marshall Faulk of his time.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 5:42pm

Saying he wasn't nearly as valuable as one the greatest qbs of all time is not a slight. He wasn't.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 10:02pm

That's just simply not true. Look at it this way. Tarkenton returned to the Vikings in 1972. They still had one of the better defenses in the league and the front office also traded for deep threat John Gilliam (another important addition during this time period). Despite all this, the team finished 7-7. Enter Foreman (who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award) in '73 and the team finishes the regular season 12-2 and goes to the SB. That wasn't ALL because of Foreman, but he represented a big missing piece of the puzzle.

Foreman ran for over 1,000 yards and scored 13 rushing TDs in both 1975 and 1976. He had 36 TDs combined for these two seasons. It's not to say that Tarkenton wasn't still one of the better qbs in the league during this time, but the Vikings don't go to three SBs in four seasons without Foreman. Fwiw, here's what Tarkenton himself said in the lead up to SB XI -

"Foreman is the most valuable player on this team. In fact, he's the most valuable player in the league."

Source - http://www.theraiderzone.com/superbowlXI/superbowlXI.html

In 1977, despite Tarkenton suffering a broken ankle and thumb in a week 9 game vs. the Bengals (and not playing particularly great overall before the injuries) and age becoming an increasing factor on the defensive side of the ball, Foreman again ran for over 1,100 yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth straight time. The Vikings again won the NFC Central and made it to the NFC title game.

Unfortunately, this would be Foreman's last really productive season. He began to decline in '78 and was done completely by 1980.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:36pm

That's simply not true. In 1971, the Vikings were 1st in points allowed, and 18th in points scored. In 1972, they were 11th in points allowed, and 12th in points scored. In 1973, with Foreman's arrival they went to 2nd in points allowed, and 9th in points scored. In 1974, they were 3rd in points allowed, and 5th in points scored.

Tarkenton was far more integral to their offensive success than Foreman, and it isn't close.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 3:26pm

In 1971, they were 17th in rushing yards and 22nd in YPA. In 1972, they were 20th in rushing yards and again 22nd in YPA. In 1973, they were 6th in yards and 9th in YPA. Foreman's rushing yardage and YPA slipped a little in '74, but he scored a league-leading 15 TDs in 13 games and averaged 11.1 yards a reception in route to being named NFC Player of the Year. Keep in mind that Jerry Burns, even before Walsh, was running his own version of the 'west coast offense' during this time to best take advantage of Foreman's abilities and a number of Tarkenton's passes were screens and swings that Foreman turned into first downs or more. Foreman was also used occasionally as a down field threat.

Saying that Foreman wasn't nearly as valuable/integral to the offensive success as Tarkenton to those Vikings' teams is like saying that Faulk was nearly as valuable/integral to the success of the 1999-01 Rams as Kurt Warner.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 3:26pm

saying that Faulk wasn't not was

by Go pats (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 9:07pm

No way Farve is top 10, no way.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 10:38am

Yes way. He did win three consecutive MVPs and get the Packers to two Super Bowls. He also got them to several playoff appearances on otherwise mediocre teams. Forget the late career diva and media obsession. Favre is an all-time to QB. Or are you still hurting from SB XXXI?

BTW, here are the top 10 career interception leaders: Brett Favre, Vinny Testaverde, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Warren Moon, John Elway, Ken Stabler, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson, and Peyton Manning. Not bad company.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 9:10pm

Tom Brady, #3.

Yup that sounds about right. He retains his crown as the most overrated player in the history of the game.

Putting the GOAT all the way down at #7 is disappointing too.

by NickB (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:54am

I'm guessing your (completely irrational) feelings towards Brady have nothing to do with the fact that he's 4-2 against your favorite team (2-0 playoffs) with 314 YPG, 14TDs and 3 INT. Probably totally irrespective of that.

by Buckfutter (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 2:56pm

Brady is completely overrated. I mean, lots of guys throw 50 TDs against 8 INTs while completing 69% of their passes. Oh... wait....

by V (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 10:44pm

Farve = Romo + longevity (with nearly opposite media slant)

In Montana days, the 49ers were the uber organization. Their backups would have started for most teams, had outstanding coaching, and made plenty of money so that they could outspend others in the pre-cap, but available free agent world.

Until Peyton, Brady, Brees (Rogers still needs to convince me he belongs with them):
- Physically, take Elway. Cannon, accuracy, running, anything!
- Mentally, Marino was tops. Varying calls to beat defense/personnel, lightning fast release, threw every ball with perfect pace
- Montana's strength was that he maximized the strengths of the radical (for that day) offense they played. Timing, progressions, pick plays, slant routes, passes to RB, TE ... these things were rarely seen before Walsh/Montana.

Staubach and Tarkenton were fantastic in their time. Both very worthy.

Warren Moon deserves more credit too. Started late (in NFL), dragged some mediocre talent into stardom, was scary when your team had to face him.

by Jerry :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:55am

Montana found himself in the ideal situation, and Walsh and the 49ers get credit for recognizing that. I suspect that if another team that ran a more conventional offense (for the time) had drafted him, Montana would now be looked at as a solid starter.

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 11:00am

I think this is a valid point. Bill Walsh's "Virgil Carter" offense gave the Niners a use for Montana, that other teams simply didn't have. That's the value of running something different from what everyone else is running. It's hard to imagine another team even drafting Montana, giving him a chance.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 12:59pm

I feel like Montana could have done what McMahon did in Chicago. It's not like McMahon had a super strong arm.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 7:44am

Favre had one of the best arms I've seen. Room has as quick a release but my memories of Favre are of him throwing thunderbolts through rain and storm winds, almost elemental performances at times. And every time he bootlegged to his left on a pkayaction you knew you were toast.

I always noticed that his receivers would go elsewhere and do practically nothing, he was the driving force behind that team.

Yes he became a bit of a overly coddled, interception spewing joke towards the end but we do ourselves a disservice if we don't remember that awesome passer in his prime.

by AnonymousQ (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 12:22pm

As a previous post said, Favre was never the same after SuperBowl 32, after that game he was never the same as the MVP years, as he became a stat compiling and inoperatune turnover prone prima doña.

by AnonymousQ (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 12:22pm

As a previous post said, Favre was never the same after SuperBowl 32, after that game he was never the same as the MVP years, as he became a stat compiling and inoperatune turnover prone prima doña.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 1:53pm

Gotta disagree that Favre was never the same after SB XXXII. 2009 was arguably the best season of his career. 2001 and 2007 were also very fine seasons. Yes, all three ended disappointingly, but you have to look at the overall body of work.

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 12:09pm

Favre was tremendous when he was younger. That long period at the end of his career when he was hanging on, and declining, has distorted people's perception of him as a player. He was unbelievable in the 90s.

He played a game against the Ravens in 2001 – this was the year after they won the Super Bowl. And in retrospect, you have to think that Favre circled his calendar when the schedule came out. "Best defense of all time? We'll just see about that." He went 27 of 34 (79%) for 337 yds (9.9 per attempt), 3 TDs and no INTs. That's good for a passer rating of 137.4. And this, of course, was against a great defense – 4th in DVOA that year, and probably underrated by that stat.

If anything, Favre's performance was more amazing to watch than to review statistically. He completed passes to receivers who just weren't open. Chris McAlister would be draped all over some guy, and Favre would laser it into a window that was basically nonexistent. One of the most phenomenal displays of quarterbacking I've ever seen – raw physical gifts (laser rocket arm) meeting great mental preparation and understanding of offenses/defenses. There are damn few QBs in history who could have done THAT to THAT defense on that day. It was unbelievable.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 3:43pm

I remember thinking that Favre was done after 2006, but he rebounded beginning in 2007. To me, that '09 season was remarkable.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 11:24pm

Context means so much with this kind of thing. I'd argue that the most physically gifted was Elway ( and, as a lifelong Broncos fan, I'll always appreciate how he made some average players better than they were ), but Montana was the most consistent. Did Montana ever have a bad playoff game? He seemed, in his heyday, to be as sure a thing as anybody I ever saw play. Marino was very good, but I remember thinking he always seemed to be more about yards than ever being particularly afraid of him. Tarkenton was getting older when I started watching football, but I know that Staubach could still scare you even in his later years. Fouts, to me, was really good, but, again, a product of a system that was really unique in it's time, and also gifted with some amazing talents ( JJ, Winslow, and the sadly underrated Chuck Muncie ) which never got anywhere.
Brady reminds me the most of Montana, Manning it's hard to make a comparison, they're both tremendous.
Would Brady or Manning thrive in the 80's era? Sure. Would Fouts or Staubach mean much now? Hard to say. Like I rambled earlier, it's so much about context, it's all a fool's errand. Fun to debate, though.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 11:31pm

Yeah, Montana stunk in 86 playoff vs Giants and hen come out due to Injury. Next year stunk vs Minnesota too. Think he shaky in 1985 playoff game too. But otheriwse guy pretty golden in lpayoffs.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 11:50pm

And in the 1982 NFC Championship game, he wasn't that good
overall (the whole game was pretty sloppy). But of course 'The Catch' erased all that went before it.

by AnonymousQ (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 12:30am

Fouts threw a lot of picks and bad ones, and acted like a dick on the sidelines,. But I would have to say that the Early 80s Chargers should be considered more as one of the greatest offenses ever. Fouts, Muncie, Winslow, Chandler/Jj and Joiner

by AnonymousQ (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 12:30am

Fouts threw a lot of picks and bad ones, and acted like a dick on the sidelines,. But I would have to say that the Early 80s Chargers should be considered more as one of the greatest offenses ever. Fouts, Muncie, Winslow, Chandler/Jj and Joiner

by Jerry :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:55am

How has a discussion of the greatest quarterback of all time gotten this far without mentioning Joe Webb?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 6:53am


by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:08am

Is poster's autocorewct drunk? Did it change Webb to Namath or Marino?

by jebmak :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:15am

I was disappointed to see Montana at the top. Aside from the terrible 'rings' argument, I think that he was overrated due to the same reason that I think that Brady is overrated (not that they both aren't amazing and probably in the top 30 QBs of all time) ... they both played for unfathomably brilliant coaches.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 2:12pm

Isn't it possible that Montana and Brady helped make Walsh and Belichick look as good as they did/do? I don't recall many thinking that Belichick was a great HC prior to 2001. And no disrespect to Steve DeBerg, who managed to last almost twenty years in the NFL, but I don't see the 49ers winning 4 SBs with him if he'd stayed there. I don't know, I'm just not a big fan of the "anybody could've won with _____x" argument.

by RTF (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:44pm

Elway and Marino aren't "anybody"

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:27pm

But, again, I think Montana and Brady had something to do with Walsh and Belichick being held in the esteem that they are. They weren't/aren't just puppets on strings. I don't recall much of anybody saying that Belichick was an "unfathomably brilliant" HC while he was in Cleveland or through his first 18 regular seasons games with the Pats. Unfathomably brilliant defensive mind? Sure, but that's two different things.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 5:02pm

Belichick won 3 sbs when Brady wasn't the demigod he is now. In fact, most of those sb wins were the result of overall team quality, so to say its brady isn't fair. Also, he won 11 games with a backup qb who we all recognize as consistently terrible.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 10:04pm

I'm not saying it's all Brady, just that it's not all Belichick (or Walsh, in the case of Montana). And the team did become more reliant on Brady once the D and running game declined.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 11:22pm

Sure, that's why hes one of the best qbs ever. I agree, the railing on brady is part anger at Ne in general. I've rooted against him all my life but I'm not going to let that blind me from what he really is.

by Led :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 2:24pm

I think there is something to that. In Montana's defense, however, in 1993 he was 3rd in DVOA and 4th in DYAR for the Chiefs.

by intel_chris (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:18am

I can't comment on pre-SB QBs as I only started watching in the 60s. However, I do remember great teams and teams that were only great b/c of their QB.

I'm definitely biased by being a Broncos fan, and while I think the 80's Broncos team had some talent other than Elway, he is definitely reason why they were in 5 SBs. Nothing against Davis, Sharpe, and co, but they didn't carry him to the final 2 victories, they just gave him the fighting chance to finally win them, against Farve who was much more in his prime. The Helicopter was all his.

I feel like Manning had that same effect, raising the Colts to a level they wouldn't have achieved otherwise. Brady has done so, but to a lesser extent. The Patriots were a contender before Brady and probably would have been even without him. It was really fun in the rock-paper-scissors years and I could cheer all three teams.

As to how things may eventually get written, if somehow the Broncos and Manning manage a "perfect season", the narrative might again change. Neither Elway nor Brady did it, although both only missed by 1 game, and both probably deserved to have a perfect season (as the TEAMS were that good).

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 8:47am

The Pats were 5-11 the year prior to their 1st SB win, and had a creaky OL plus leadfooted QB, not a good combo. After week 2 in 2001, Dr.Z. had them 32nd in his power rankings. Yes, Parcells had taken them to the SB a few years before, but they'd spent the previous 10 yr as a laughingstock, and the 4 yr post-(Parcells)SB in steady decline. Maybe good enought to be a contender, due to defense, but until Dillon came over, they had a mediocre run game and the smurf WR corps. Certainly it was Belichick as well as Brady, but I think it instructive how poorly those WR that went elsewhere did for their new teams. Brady, to me, is a solid top 5; where in that 5, I'm not dogmatic.

Agree with Will about Tarkenton, who actually held the record for passing yards when he retired. I don't think any QB did more with less than Francis. (And that goes for his own equipmwent as well as his teammates. His arm was middling at best for an NFL QB, though he was accurate when not being hammered by DL/LB etc.)

by Sifter :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 5:41am

Think Drew Brees definitely deserves to be acknowledged a bit more historically. I'm not 100% convinced he's in the top 10 all-time, but probably about 50% convinced. He's underrated in this era of epic passing yardage, and overshadowed by Manning and Brady.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 7:37am

I think you can make a very strong case that over the five years after his arrival in New Orleans he was the best qb in football. Strange that he's almost underrated.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:27am

I'm a big fan of Drew Brees, but, even in the years when his statistics lead the league, I've never thought he was a cut above any of Manning, Brady or (lately) Aaron Rogers. I think Brees gets the benefit of regularly throwing the ball 35 times a game. If you check his page on PFR, you can see that he is almost always among the league leaders in pass attempts. Here are his league ranks, working back by year from 2012; 2,2,2,10,1,1,5,7

Don't get me wrong, Brees is a very good QB, but "all-time top 10"? No way.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:47am

I'm not saying all time top ten because a career lasts more than five years. In that five years I think he was at or maybe slightly above their level.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:30pm

Drew Brees, at least by qbr, tends to be the most variable of the 4 elitemen. His big years tend to be monstrous, but his down years start to put him in the 10-15 range. For perspective, qbr goes back to 2006, Manning has led the league every year except in 2011(the year he missed), 2007 and 2010(where he finished 2nd both years). I think its fair to make an argument that he's been great and elite and on par, but he hasn't been better than Brady or Rodgers and certainly not PM.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 7:54am

Without wishing to invoke the irrational debate thread, I thought the Manning/Brady thing was done. Am I alone in thinking that Manning is clearly the much better quarterback?

by dryheat :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 8:35am

I think we have enough data points now that it's evident that the better one was the one with the better support at the "skill" positions. When Manning had Harrison, Wayne, Clark, and Edge, he was better. When Brady got Moss and Welker, and then Hernandez and Gronkowski, he was better. Now Denver has a Pro Bowl-caliber receiving corps, the needle has swung pretty definitively in Manning's favor again.

I guess this isn't very surprising.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 8:48am

I wasn't really going off this year or last year but rather basing my evaluation on Manning's last year with the Colts where he was able to operate behind a line that was truly offensive. For me Brady has hugely benefitted from the consistently superb offensive lines put together by Scarnecchia and the Hooded One.

As I said, I'm not trying to rehash the whole thing, just genuinely surprised that Manning isn't widely seen as the better quarterback. I kind of have him and Montana as tied as number one all time, which is pretty tough to swallow as a 49ers tragic.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:30am

As a long-time Pats fan, I can tell you that the O line is pretty good, but Scarnecchia was the O-line coach that didn't look too hot when Drew Bledsoe was under center. Brady benefits from having a good line, but he also does a great job of reading blitzes and moving around in the pocket. I would argue that (prior to the '10 season, when he developed the yips), Brady's pocket awareness was both his only elite skill, and at a level that I have never seen from another QB.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:51am

I think that it's probably overstating things, Montana, Marino and Peyton all move pretty well in the pocket too. And Bledsoe was becoming the league's poster boy for immobility.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 5:15am

I'm with you - baffled that there's still an argument (kinda baffled that there ever was). Brady's great. Manning is on a completely different planet. I think reasonable cases can be made for any of Manning, Unitas and Montana as the greatest ever, but where before this season I viewed it as essentially a three way tie, Manning's play at present (and the sheer accumulation of greatness - this is probably the year he passes Unitas on that front) is pushing me to the point of out-and-out declaring for him. Brady's not in the conversation - I'd have more time for arguments in favour of Marino, Tarkenton or Young. Manning's had some great supporting casts, but he's never not been obviously the best player on his own offense. I think Moss was more valuable than Brady in 2007.

by dryheat :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 8:50am

Who was more valuable to the 49ers -- Montana/Young or Rice? If you think Rice was more valuable to the team at least once, does that take Montana/Young out of the conversation?

It seems silly to remove a QB from the conversation because he had a transcendent WR have a record-breaking season.

I'm assuming that this argument was more icing on the cake of your position, and not its core argument. At gunpoint, I'd probably choose Manning as GOAT, but IMO it's essentially impossible to distill the argument further than arguing for/against Montana's 49er offenses, Manning's Colt/Bronco offenses, and Brady's Patriot offenses, plus any others you want to include. As I said above, among the current pair, history has shown that whomever has the better toys at his disposal has been the demonstrably better QB. I have no doubt that if you were to switch Brady and Manning right now, their teams' successes would be as they are, and their individual stat lines would essentially be reversed, and the narrative would be that Brady had put Manning well in his rearview.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 4:11pm

As a colts fan, I can readily admit that the current backlash against brady is still driven mostly by dislike for his team overall. You're also correct, whoever's toys are best, that player does well. That said, if there's one condition I'd like to see brady deal with, its the leaky defense condition. Even in their nadir, the pats defense was still 16th in scoring. I think most qbs's egregious ints are the result of trying to do too much because they are behind/can't trust their defense.

by nat :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 1:07pm

I'll assume you mean 2011 as the nadir.

I think the defense was actually 15th in Pts/Game. But that's a piss-poor stat to use, as it's heavily dependent on the number of drives per game.

Luckily, we have drive stats to deal with that.

The 2011 Patriots were last in yards/drive allowed, had a Drive Success Rate ranked 30th in the league, and managed to be 21st in points/drive, which is better than you'd expect, but still pretty bad.

How does a team get to be 15th in points/game while being 21st in points/drive? Fewer drives, of course. How do you get fewer drives? By having an offense that extends drives.

You may also want to know how a team that is so bad at preventing yardage or first downs manage to be less sucky at preventing scores on a per drive basis? Turnovers and Line-of-Scrimmage.

Is it turnovers or LOS in this case? Luckily we have VOA, which assigns a value to turnovers. The 2011 Patriots were 29th in defensive VOA. That's better than 32nd or 30th, but not by much.

So you have indeed seen Brady deal with a leaky defense. He extended his own drives, scored a lot, or ended the drives by putting the opposing team deep in their own territory.

Which is pretty much all you can ask of a QB with a bad defense.

by theslothook :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 3:16pm

WEll...on pts per red zone, they were 15th. I think the larger point of my statement was their horrendous yardage totals implies this was an inept defense across the board. That may depend on one's perspective, but 21s in pts per drive and 15th in red zone scoring meant they were definitely better at not yielding points relative to their hemorrhaging of yardage. I never meant to argue it was a good defense, merely it wasn't as detrimental to brady as the yardage totals might indicate.

by JimZipCode :: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 12:56pm

How is Rice's greatness relevant to a conversation about Montana's? Montana had won two Super Bowls (and made three Pro Bowls) before Jerry Rice entered the league.

Both SB wins (81 and 84), the Niners had no game-breaking talent on offense, except for Montana. Dwight Clark was the leading receiver both seasons. I love me some Dwight Clark, but he was not exactly Randy Moss. He was more the prototypical slow white-guy receiver. Google says he ran a 4.7 40 (from a 1985 Sun Sentinel article). He was a 10th-round pick.

The indispensable star was Montana.

The years when the Niners had overwhelming offensive talent came later, after Roger Craig and Jerry Rice blossomed. Montana's greatness was already well established before then.

by dryheat :: Mon, 10/21/2013 - 10:22am

Thank you for making my point. In the post I was responding to, Brady was getting dinged by the poster (one of my FO favorites), because in 2007 he wasn't the best player on his offense. Like Montana, Brady won Super Bowls before the Superstar receiver joined the team, although it's fair to point out that Brady wasn't the best player on the Patriots in 2001 either.

Point was, it's fine to say the Manning is a better quarterback than Brady. I lean that way myself. It's fine to say that it's not even close. What I find odd is the argument that Manning is superior because there was a year that Brady wasn't the best player on his team. Brady has been an even better quarterback since Moss has left the team.

He is nothing short of enigmatic this season however. And that's being charitable.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 10/21/2013 - 11:47am

It was a slightly silly/minor side-point, really just aimed at any kind of radical peak-performance argument based on Brady's most statistically dominant season (though I agree, not actually his best, which I'd almost be tempted to say was 2006). Moss really was silly that year, though, in a Madden-on-rookie, throw it in his general direction in triple coverage and he'll come up with it sort of way. Manning's played with some fine receivers, but no-one who did that.

I should expand a bit, though: for me, Manning and Unitas have essentially the same type of case (huge volumes of astonishing production, era-adjusted, over a hell of a lot of seasons), and for me this is the season that Manning moves narrowly but fairly definitely past Unitas on that score. Montana has an entirely different type of case, based on his astonishing post-season play (the nearest comparison I can think of to Montana's GOAT case is Warner's HoF case). Brady's career regular season numbers, spectacular as they are, don't even remotely stack up to Manning's or (era-adjusted) Unitas's. He doesn't have Montana's ridiculous post-season personal track record. Unless you think his supporting casts have been drastically worse in aggregate than Manning's, I can't see an argument for him over Peyton that doesn't come down to 3 rings vs. 1.

by dryheat :: Mon, 10/21/2013 - 3:05pm

This is undoubtedly true if one's measure of QB success is who has the best passing statistics. For me, passing the football is only one component of the job, albeit an important one.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 10/21/2013 - 7:50pm

Well, running the ball (or opening up space by threatening to) is obviously an important component of how some QBs do the job, but unless you're a huge peak performance guy who'd argue for Young I don't think that affects the #1 spot much, and certainly not a Brady-Manning argument, so I assume that's not what you mean. And I take it you're not talking about things like identifying blitzes pre-snap, because Peyton's hardly likely to lose out on that score. Durability - Peyton beats anyone else in the serious GOAT conversation. I don't suppose you mean leadership, because that's so impossibly unquantifiable and all the players we're talking about have it in spades anyway. Clock management? Not sure anyone's ever done that better than Peyton.

What am I missing?

by dryheat :: Mon, 10/21/2013 - 10:32pm

Well, this isn't a Manning-Brady thing, but if a quarterback throws for 4200 yards and 46 touchdowns for a 4-12 team, and the other quarterback throws for 2800 yards and 30 touchdowns for a team that goes 13-3, I'd have a hard time giving QB 1 the edge.

So I guess wins? Again, not Manning-Brady specific, because Manning doesn't take a back seat to anybody in that dept. but the QBs job is to lead the team to wins. I don't care if a QB wins double-digit games every year 21-17 on the back of a running game and defense. That guy has done his job.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 10/24/2013 - 5:20pm

Ok, we've definitely got to the bottom of the philosophical difference there. I'd take QB 1 every day of the week and twice on Sundays (or Mondays, or Thursdays). I don't give Brady any real credit - at least at the level where it becomes relevant to GOAT-type discussions - for 2001-2003. Not that he was a bad player then, obviously, but I don't really mind how many seasons of playing fairly well a guy has when it comes to evaluating his historical greatness, and the team success in that period makes no odds to me.

by DrP (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 9:30am

Sammy Baugh also led the league in interceptions.

Not as a QB, but as a DB. He also led the league in punts.


from his HOF bio:

Over the next 16 seasons “Slingin’ Sammy” not only helped establish the pro game in the nation’s capital, he also was a major influence in the offensive revolution that occurred in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

When Baugh first started with the Redskins pro football was largely a grind-it-out ground game. The forward pass was something to be used with caution, and never inside your 30-yard line, except in desperate situations. By the time Baugh was through, the forward pass was a primary offensive weapon. Obviously, such a change could not be totally brought about by one individual. But Baugh was the catalyst that changed the game. No one had seen a passer who could throw with such accuracy.

Yet for those who believe in rings:

When the Chicago Bears defeated the Redskins, 73-0, in the famous 1940 NFL title battle, a Redskins end dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone. Reporters asked Baugh if the outcome would have been different had the pass been caught. "Yeah," Baugh answered, "It would have made it 73-7."

by Buckfutter (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 2:54pm

Seeing Marino that high is insane. Besides his one monster season, his passer rating was aggressively average, and his comp% was never great.

One little-brought-up fact about Marino that sticks in my mind is that in his entire career Dan Marino did not run for 100 yards. Being immobile is one thing, but not running for 100 yards over a 17 year career is just bonkers. How many 3rd and 2-7 did Brett Favre (1844), John Elway (3407), Joe Montana (1676), etc. convert by running when all receivers were covered.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, not known runners, have run for 761 and 706 yards in their career. Think about that. The statue that is Peyton Manning has run for 7x more yards in his career than Dan Marino! It's almost impossible to exaggerate how immobile Dan Marino was in the pocket. It's the final nail in the "Dan Marino was a top 10 QB" coffin for me.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:22pm

How are we defining "aggressively average"? Marino finished in the top 10 in passer rating 10 times after 1984, including top 5 finishes in '85 (5th), '86 (2nd), '87 (4th) and '94 (3rd), which was the year after he suffered the Achilles injury.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:33pm

This is where you're using todays standards to grade marino. Its more instructive to compare marino to his contemporaries and there you get a much better picture of how awesome he was, statistically. I remember being miffed initially at how elway was so well thought of when his stats looked so pedestrian. Instead, you had to put in the era they were in. In addition, I doubt either supporting cast was any good, especially in comparison to the mighty 49ers. People are ignoring this, but Montana had arguably the greatest offensive mind as his head coach and the great player the nfl has ever seen at wide receiver. And that latter statement, seems to be pretty universal.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 7:03pm

"It's almost impossible to exaggerate how immobile Dan Marino was in the pocket"

Marino was actually masterful in the pocket. Think Tom Brady. But it's true he couldn't run and he would have helped his team more if he could've.

The man with no sig

by Dino Velvet (not verified) :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 6:58pm

Your criticism of Marino is insane...and flat-out incorrect.

Marino's passer rating was above league average every year but his last, almost always *well* above. Indeed, 7 times his passer rating was a full standard deviation above.

Outside of his final season, there were only four times in Marino's entire career that he was below league-average in a major passing metric: Int% in '89, Y/A in '90, TD% in '97, and Y/A in '98.

As to his lack of rushing ability, he was so outstanding at avoiding sacks—almost 2 standard deviations better than league-average for his *career*—that it more than made up for it.

Take a look at Marino's career indexed stats at PFR:
Y/A+ - 109
NY/A+ - 120
AY/A+ - 112
ANY/A+ - 119
Cmp%+ - 110
TD%+ - 112
Int%+ - 109
Sack%+ - 125
Rate+ - 113

They dispel pretty much every criticism you made.

Marino is easily in the top 6 or 7. If anything, you should be criticizing that list for ranking Elway ahead of Marino, which is objectively indefensible.

by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:04pm

But what about Namath? He won a superbowl with a pretty lousy team- was a big underdog. He was seriously injured throughout his career- had bad knees from college- still was the first to throw for 4,000 yards. Had nobody to throw to... if he had Dez Bryant he probably would have won a couple more superbowls. He probably changed the game forever-

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:13pm

Jets were not lousy team. Jets, Raiders, cheisf , Chargers all good AfL teams 1967-69. AFL caught up to Nfl by then. No difference between great afl and great NFL teams

by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:23pm

But when the Jets played the Colts in the Superbowl -- weren't they one of the biggest underdogs in history?
Didn't just about everyone in the country pick them to lose? Did Namath even have 2 really good receivers?

It was always my understanding that it was Namath and Snell... and that was about it. It's not like he had a Reggie Wayne or a Duper/Clayton tandem out there.

Over 40 years later I'm still wondering how Namath pulled it off!

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:41pm

Wasn't Don Maynard like the Randy Moss of his era? Except without the motivation problems?

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:49pm

Not to be insulting, but anyone who thinks that Jets' team was just Namath and Snell should do their homework. The main reasons why the Jets were such underdogs was the general lack of respect for the AFL at the time + the relative ease with which the Lombardi' Packers (one of the greatest teams of all time) had beaten the Chiefs and Raiders in the first two SBs.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:54pm

Is poster smoking too much dope?

Maynard in pro football Hall of fame. Great WR. Jets other WR arguably better than Maynard. Only reason G. Sauer not in PFHOf is because retired in prime becuauuse he got sick of football. 68 Jets full and complete team.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:25pm

Seeing a list like this without Fran Tarkenton is pretty insane. He was clocking 60%+ completions at the height of the dead ball era in the mid 1970's, in his 30s, for teams that were not great. Peyton Manning's amazing (to me, his most amazing season of all) 2010 season where he and Reggie Wayne basically carried the rest of the team to the playoffs? That was the entire last half of Tarkenton's career. He retired with the NFL yardage record, too.

It's hard to kick someone off, but I would at least kick down the 49er QBs. They were great quarterbacks on very talented teams, but Montana and Young both had fairly short peaks (due to injury) and fairly pedestrian counting stats. Neither ever led the league in passing yardage, and between them, they lasted 16 games five times.

I'm very much into thinking about how good players were over what success they had though. With that criteria in mind, I would think the top 3 are Unitas, Manning, and Tarkenton in some order, with honorable mention to Marino.

[I consider "rings" to be basically a teammate and funble-luck crapshoot from the perspective of evaluation of single players.]

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:42pm

Well, the Vikings teams from 1969 through 1975 were great defensively, especially from 69-71, and once they added Tarkenton in 72, they were really good on offense as well. It is just that the '73 Dolphins were historically great, and the '74 Steelers were steroidally great, and the best Trakenton-led team was in '75, and that group lost in a fluke to a rapidly improving Cowboys team in the playoffs. The '76 team was on the decline due to age.

by Steve B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 4:55pm

"the '74 Steelers were steroidally great"

Way to be objective there, Will

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 5:38pm

That was a bit of a cheap joke, because it isn't established that the Steelers were roided up until later, and mostly on offense. It is more of a certainty that the '69 Chiefs team that beat the Vikings and the '75 Cowboys team, and the '76 Raiders team were heavily aided by steroids. Here's a decent piece....


by jackinabox2 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 5:40pm

Just imagine its the 2014 Draft and your the Jacksonville Jaguars with a time machine. You can go back and get the greatest quarterback of all-time at 21 or 22 years old and then rebuild your franchise. Does anyone seriously think they would go back and get Joe Montana first?

Joe is an incredible player, a Hall of Fame talent, who also happened to be on a team with a brilliant head coach and stocked with other Hall of Fame talent and Pro Bowlers, but there is no way he is at the top of my list.

Give me Elway or Young… even with a lack of wide receiving talent or a porous offensive line, my team would still be competitive. And if somehow I get some elite complementary players, I’ll have multiple rings and playoff wins.

by Led :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 6:00pm

Check out the roster of the 1981 49er team that won the SB. Montana played with Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark at WR, Ricky Patton at RB, Early Cooper (a rookie 1st rounder) at FB, Charle Young at TE. Yes, Montana definitely benefited from Jerry Rice and others later on, but the team was not stocked with Hall of Fame talent when he got there.


by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 8:36pm

It's pretty ironic that you chose Steve Young as an example of a guy you would pick first overall in a draft to rebuild a terrible team, being that Steve Young was drafted first overall by a terrible team and he did nothing for them! Young's record as a starter in Tampa was 3-16. That doesn't sound very "competitive" to me. (It's also slightly less ironic that your other example was Elway, who famously refused to play for the terrible team that drafted him and forced a trade to a not-quite-as-terrible team.)

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 5:49am

Greg Cook?

No, it would be Peyton. But Cook is definitely a player I would be targetting in my time-travel draft if I didn't hold the #1 pick.

by geanmartin :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 11:07am

If you are talking yardage, you've gotta go Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Brett Favre, or Peyton Manning. (Of those four, only Favre and Manning have rings, and both are 1-1 in the Super Bowl).

If you are talking position play, you've got to with the likes of Starr, Elway, Bradshaw, Montana, Aikman, Rothelisburger, Brady, and Eli Manning. (Of these eight, all have at least two rings; two have at least three, and two have four).

This is the beautiful thing about football. Even though you are a competent enough quarterback to start for an NFL team, the concept of team makes the most difference. Given equal talent and coaching, I don't think anyone comparing these two lists would prefer Eli Manning for 16 games per year over Peyton, Moon, Favre, or Marino.

Playing quarterback is about winning championships. The more championships you win, the greater claim you've got at being a better quarterback than the next man.

by DollaDollaBill (not verified) :: Sat, 10/19/2013 - 2:53pm

Starr actually has 5 rings... people seem to forget that.