Who are the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history? Pretty complicated question, but after Sunday night, there’s no question who’s #1. These are my picks for the top 10 quarterbacks in the nearly 100-year history of the NFL (yes, there was football before the Super Bowl era).
10. Johnny Unitas
Truth be told, I’ve never seen Unitas’ games. I do know that, not only did he win a Super Bowl, but that his numbers were far before his time. Who knows how far he would have risen had he played today.
9. Steve Young
Young changed the way the quarterback position was played. He was a scrambler, able to escape any bad situation by running away from pressure. His success culminated in a victory in Super Bowl XXIX, when he set a Super Bowl record with 6 touchdown passes. Sadly, concussions kept him from going back to the big game.
8. Troy Aikman
Aikman was the quarterback of the nineties, winning three Super Bowls in four years. He may not have the numbers or the big comebacks. He just was extremely successful. I think he gets underrated a lot by stat geeks who overlook what he brought to the table.
7. Brett Favre
Favre has the numbers, the wins, the MVPs (3 in a row) but not the rings. Sadly, only one Super Bowl victory despite all the regular-season success. Nevertheless, he remains one of the greatest, just a little lower on the totem pole.
6. Terry Bradshaw
Bradshaw doesn’t have the gaudy numbers, but he does have the championships: four of them, to be exact. If he was around when Madden was out, he’d have 99 Throwing Power and 75 Throwing Accuracy. Nevertheless, he won the big game more than most.
5. Peyton Manning
Manning has the sheer numbers to blow anyone away, but he had to be dragged across the finish line in Super Bowl 50, and in a way that Super Bowl win hurts his legacy because it was clear he was unnecessary. Even so, how can you not include him in your top 5? Greatest regular-season quarterback of all time.
4. John Elway
Elway had the video game-esque numbers playing in a more balanced era of football. (The 80s and 90s were the best decades of football; man, I could write a book on that!) But he also went to a lot of Super Bowls – 5, to be exact. And he won the last two of them, going out on top. The master of the fourth-quarter comeback was also the master of the grand exit to retirement.
3. Bart Starr
Starr remains one of two quarterbacks to win five NFL championships. His first three championships came in the few years preceding the Super Bowl era. His accuracy and mistake-free football was something you’d see today, but you wouldn’t see it in his day in the quarterbacks that played at the time. He was truly ahead of his time.
2. Joe Montana
Montana didn’t just win 4 Super Bowls and 3 Super Bowl MVPs, he did it without throwing a single interception in a Super Bowl. And the Super Bowl victories? Some of them were massive victories, such as 55-10 and 38-16. Hard to argue with the sheer accuracy and brilliance he showed in those big games.
- Tom Brady
Maybe he and the Patriots skirted the rules on a few occasions, but you have to recognize greatness when you see it. And besides, even with the edge the Patriots may have gained with their advantages, you still have to prove it on the field. Brady more than proved it on the field. 5 Super Bowl wins, 4 Super Bowl MVPs, 2 MVPs, and the greatest performance in Super Bowl history Sunday night in Houston. There’s no way to wiggle your way around it: Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history, witch-hunt or no witch-hunt.