Throughout the illustrious history of The National Football League, the position of quarterback has been the glamor position. From Joe Namath to Don Meredith the quarterback is the one that gets all of the media attention and all of the women. Hands down it is the toughest position on the football field as the quarterback is responsible for knowing the assignments for all 22 players on the field. The game has produced playboys as well as some of the toughest guys to walk The Earth. For my all-time quarterbacks it comes down to winning, motivating his teammates, and showing up to play on every Sunday; with that here are my all-time quarterbacks.
1. Joe Montana 1979-1994 (San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs)
When Joe Montana took the field you knew that both The Niners and Chiefs were in good hands. In The Super Bowl era, Montana is the only three-time Super Bowl MVP. Montana was drafted in the third round by San Francisco in 1979 out of Notre Dame. Critics felt that at 6’1″ that he wasn’t big enough and that his throwing arm wasn’t that strong. What 49er head coach Bill Walsh saw was a man that was accurate and knew how to execute The West Coast offense. Montana made a name for himself by leading game winning drives in the playoffs. In The 1981 NFC Championship Game Montana led San Francisco down the field on a 92-yard drive that ended with Montana finding Dwight Clark for a touchdown pass versus The Dallas Cowboys. This is when The Cowboys were truly “America’s Team” and the nation was not accustomed to seeing The Cowboys losing a big game when they had a lead. Montana’s drive led to a changing of the guard in The NFC as The Niners would go on to be the team of the 80s. In Super Bowl 23 Montana pulled his magic once again as he lead San Francisco on another 92-yard touchdown drive which culminated with Montana finding wide receiver John Taylor in the endzone for a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the game. Montana may not hold some of the big passing records, but on Super Bowl Sunday he is undefeated and that is the best stat.
2. Johnny Unitas 1956-1973 (Baltimore Colts, San Diego Chargers)
Years had gone by before modern era quarterbacks broke some of Unitas’ passing records. Unitas did it in an era where defenses had more freedom to be aggressive and he got it done. Unitas will always be remembered for The 1958 NFL Championship Game versus The New York Giants. Unitas led The Baltimore on a game tying touchdown in regulation and and the game winning touchdown in overtime. The Giant defense consisted of future Hall of Famers Andy Robustelli and Sam Huff along with defensive coordinator Tom Landry. Unitas called his own plays which is something that most quarterbacks do not do currently. At the end of every college football season, The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award is awarded to the top quarterback in the nation. During his career, Unitas threw a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games which still remains a record.
3. Tom Brady 2000-Present (New England Patriots)
Fans of both The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts may not want to hear it, but yes Tom Brady is that good. I am still surprised that Brady was drafted in the sixth round in 2000. I remember seeing Brady playing in college and Michigan and I saw a tough minded quarterback. In 1997 Brady was the backup to senior Brian Griese who went on to lead The Wolverines to a national championship. In 1998 Brady was named the starter for a Michigan team that came into the season ranked #5. The Wolverines lost the first two games of the season and everyone was calling for freshman phenom Drew Henson. Brady responded by leading The Wolverines on an eight-game winning streak and finished the season by leading Michigan to a Citrus Bowl win over The Arkansas Razorbacks. In 1999, Brady had to constantly look over his shoulder as Henson was trying to take his job. Brady remained a cool customer as he led The Wolverines to an Orange Bowl win over The Alabama Crimson Tide and earned The Orange Bowl MVP.
In week two of The 2001 NFL season, Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe. The Patriots lost the game to The Jets and most figured that the season was over. Before you knew it The Patriots were in the playoffs. At first critics felt that Brady won because on The Patriot defense. After “the snow game” in The Divisional Playoffs versus The Oakland Raiders that saw the infamous “tuck rule” people felt that Brady was lucky. Brady and The Patriots then upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 with Brady earning The Super Bowl MVP. Brady followed this up by leading New England to consecutive Super Bowl wins in 2003 and 2004. The Patriots became the first team to win 14 games in consecutive seasons in NFL history. For an encore Brady was the quarterback of the most prolific offense in NFL history in 2007. Brady passed for over 4,800 yards with 50 touchdowns that season in helping The Patriots to become the first team to go undefeated in the regular season since The 1972 Miami Dolphins. Yes for this era Tom Brady is the face of NFL quarterbacks.
4. Otto Graham 1946-1955 (Cleveland Browns)
Some young bucks my wonder about this, but Otto Graham led The Cleveland Browns to The Championship Game every year that he played. During his career, Graham was a three-time NFL MVP and led The Browns to three NFL Titles. Graham’s career record as a starter was 105-17-4.
5. John Elway 1983-1998 (Denver Broncos)
It’s hard to believe that John Elway only passed for over 4,000 once in his career. Elway was busy shattering the playoff dreams of teams in The AFC, especially The Cleveland Browns. Elway led The Broncos to three victories over The Cleveland Browns in The AFC Championship Game over a four-year span. Elway’s crowning moment was in The 1986 AFC Championship Game in which Elway led The Broncos on a 98-yard to drive to tie the game and The Broncos won in overtime. When the drive started, Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was going crazy as fans had visions of heading to Pasadena, California for The Super Bowl. Once Elway was done the place sounded like a funeral as he buried The Browns. During his career, Elway led The Broncos to 34 fourth quarter comebacks. Elway was one of the few players selected first overall that was able to live up to the hype. Elway was drafted by The Baltimore Colts and refused to play for the organization. Elway was traded to The Broncos and the rest is history. Elway is one of four quarterbacks to pass for over 50,000 yards in his NFL career. Elway played in five Super Bowls, winning twice and was a one-time Super Bowl MVP.
6. Sammy Baugh 1937-1952 (Washington Redskins)
“Slingin” Sammy Baugh is considered by many as the father of the forward pass. Baugh played in an era where quarterbacks didn’t have facemasks and they actually got hit by defenders. Baugh led The Redskins to The NFL Championship is his rookie season. Baugh passed for 335 yards in The NFL Championship Game versus The Chicago Bears which is a record for a rookie. Baugh always dreamed of playing football in the modern era as he would have loved to torched defenses.
7. Peyton Manning 1998-Present (Indianapolis Colts)
From the moment that The Indianapolis Colts made Peyton Manning the first overall selection in 1998, Manning has been a student of the game. Manning is arguably one of the hardest workers that the game has ever seen. Manning strives for perfection and he expects his teammates to put forth the same effort. In 11 of his 13 seasons, Manning has passed for over 4,000 yards. Manning’s hard work made the combination with wide receiver Marvin Harrison one of the best in history as the duo hooked up on 112 touchdowns which is the best of any quarterback-wide receiver duo. In 2009 Manning set a record with seven fourth quarter comebacks. Before each season starts for The Colts, you can pencil them in for at least 12 wins with Manning under center.
8. Roger Staubach 1969-1979 (Dallas Cowboys)
People talk about Tom Brady being overlooked as a sixth round pick, but Roger Staubach wasn’t taken until the tenth round. Some of that had to do with Staubach’s commitment to The Navy after his collegiate days. Staubach was given the nickname “Captain Comeback” as he constantly brought The Cowboys back especially in big games. In 1972, The Cowboys were trailing The San Francisco 49ers 28-13 in the fourth quarter in The Divisional Round. Staubach led The Cowboys on a comeback to win 30-28. In 1975 Staubach defeated The Minnesota Vikings on a “Hail Mary” pass which propelled The Cowboys to a Super Bowl appearance. During his career, Staubach directed 23 fourth quarter game winning drives. Staubach is one of four players along with Desmond Howard, Jim Plunkett, and Marcus Allen to be a Super Bowl MVP and win The Heisman Trophy. Staubach helped The Cowboys reach four Super Bowls as a starter winning twice.
9. Brett Favre 1991-2010 (Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings)
Brett Favre might be remembered as a player who constantly wavered about retiring, but no one can deny he was one of the best quarterbacks that the game has ever seen. Favre always had that “gunslinger” mentality. Favre was always one to take risks throwing the ball and wound up with over 70,000 passing yards which is a National Football League record.. Favre may have won a Super Bowl, but his best moment may have come in 2003. Favre’s father Earl died and Favre still played on Monday night and torched The Oakland Raiders in a 41-7 victory for The Packers. Favre is a three-time NFL MVP and despite changing teams in the past few seasons, Favre will always be remembered as a Packer.
10. Dan Marino 1983-1999 (Miami Dolphins)
When Dan Marino took the field, fans of The Miami Dolphins were thrilled while opponents cringed. Marino was an assassin as a quarterback and he knew how to make opponents look bad. Marino made the laid back fans of South Florida embrace him with his play. In his second year, Marino led The Dolphins to a Super Bowl appearance. The Dolphins fell short and many including Marino figured that they would be back consistently. It didn’t work out that way, but Marino still put up great performances in the 80s and 90s. 1993 saw Marino go down to an achilles injury which put his career in jeopardy. Marino returned in 1994 with a bang. In the opener Marino went at it with New England Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The two combined for 894 passing yards and Miami won the game 39-35. That same season The Dolphins trailed The New York Jets 24-6 in the third quarter. The score was 24-21 with The Dolphins driving. Marino faked the spike and surprised The Jets with a pass to Mark Ingram. When Marino retired, he was the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. both records have since been passed but that cannot diminish Marino’s accomplishments.
Just missed the cut: Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw