Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Top T-Formation Quarterbacks in NFL History

OPINION
By John Turney
Quarterbacks are always hard to evaluate. All we can say is we DO look at stats, but we also look at championships. To the stat-obsessed that is verboten. But winning is the object of the game "we play to win the game" said Herm Edwards. Bill Belichick said, "Stats are for losers".

The T-formation followed the Single Wing and the A-Formation in the NFL. Sid Luckman and Sammy Baugh made the transition, all the rest played fully in some form of the "T". The earlier passers will be handles by Chris Willis of NFL Films.

In addition to the numbers and the winning, we also look at honors and awards (All-Pros and MVPs/Players of the Year). These awards that are voted on by panels or writers and players give a good sense of the season a player had. Sure, statniks (those who think stats the best measure of performance) object, but they are simply applying their own standard to what is performance.

The voters with the AP or PFWA or NEA or Sporting News have their views of on-field performance and when they fill out their ballots and those ballots are tallied, we get a diversity of views. Some, in fact, may prefer stats, others (like us a combination of things) and that is why there are few unanimous picks for any position. So, these awards are a constant, they don't change over time.

Thus, he with the most votes for All-Pro or MVP or Offensive Player of the Year gets the award, no matter if it's 1955 or 2015.

Finally, we have our own eye test and look at intangibles like toughness or intelligence. Our 'eye' test includes the 'gut test' which is this:  Did you get nervous when a particular quarterback was going to face your team? If your gut told you this QB could beat you with his legs, arm, smarts, clutch play or whatever, then he moves up the list. That is why Elway and Rodgers and Staubach are higher than their 'stats' on wins—They were just a cut above when you watched them. They were scary.

To ascertain these things we read the literature of the era, speak to people in the NFL we respect and put it in a blender and make a list.

We will not spend time writing a lot of prose for this installment of the "Best-ever". For one reason it's been done to death. Another reason is it's such a subjective thing, as all of these are, but quarterbacks even more so because there is the additional burden of the Super Bowl/Championships and the W-L record.

There are many websites and blogs devoted to only evaluating quarterbacks. There are numbers, metrics, then more numbers then statistics, then more metrics then more stats and so on. It's just too mind-boggling. We understand how they were, there was a time we liked to create our own so we get it. But AV or DVOA can be useful, we don't count on it.
And after all the numbers, it still comes down to some people have a favorite and will devote thousands of hours trying to "prove" that their view is better than someone else's.

Our take is this: This is the list. Agree or disagree, that's fine. But don't try and 'sell' us your metric of why "QBWinz" is not a "stat" and so on. All people are saying with that argument is that they like Peyton Manning better than Tom Brady. And that's fine. We have our view, others have theirs.

So you can bet someone who is a fan of player A who is a stat king will say "if QB Winz" matter then why isn't Bart Starr higher?

And someone who thinks 'QB Winz' are the only thing will ask why player B who is few Super Bowl rings is higher than he should be will complain.

We say "A pox on both their houses".

We list the players and we take all the things we mentioned and come up with our score. And we will show the score below the player's name. We will also show the MVP awards (a * denotes consensus MVP) and the NFL titles and passing titles and yardage titles listed separately and then "black ink".

The 'black ink' is leading the league in key stats and it includes passing championships and passing yardage titles plus completions, touchdowns, lowest interception percentage and completion percentage.

Back in the day, the NFLPA gave awards (called Mackey Awards) to those who led the league in passing, rushing, interceptions, sacks, receptions, receiving yardage and other categories. They don't get written about much but essentially 'black ink' (denotes bold type and was coined, we think, by Baseball Reference.com) is that same thing.

We are thinking about calling the passing version "Bennys".  Why? The first big-time passer in the NFL was Benny Friedman. He was the first, according to researchers, to throw at least 20 touchdown passes in an NFL season. Of course, we don't want it to be confused with 'bennies' for obvious reasons. But for now, we call it 'Black ink'

CAP = Consensus All-Pro
1AP = First-team All-Pro
2AP = Second-team All-Pro
PB = Pro Bowls

When you see win-loss% in italics, it means some of their career is estimated. And we don't count 'rings' if a player was a backup and barely played.

We have grouped the quarterbacks but also have ranked them. So, before you complain, make sure you check the rank, not the order we show them. A few players are out of order in terms of how we display them.

Here are our rankings—

Mount Rushmore (1-4)
1. Tom Brady
9.62
4-time MVP/POY (2007*, 2010*, 2016, 2017*)
5-time AFC POY (2007, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017)
6-time NFL Champ
2-time passing champ
3-time passing yards champ
Black ink—14
CAP = 3
1AP = 4
2AP = 1
PB = 14
W-L% = .775
HOF lock

Brady checks all the boxes to a greater degree than anyone—Wins, stats, rings, stats, intangibles. he never looked like he was in a hurry, just calm and smooth. And when it's 4th and 1 he will get you the first down.

The only knock is that it's not implausible to think the Patriots could have lost more of their Super Bowls since they were all close games. Well, then there is the 'Spygate' allegations.

2. Johnny Unitas
9.44
5-time MVP/POY (1957, 1958, 1959*, 1964*, 1967*)
3-time NFL Champ
2-time passing champ
4-time passing yards champ
Black ink—17
CAP = 5
1AP = 6
2AP = 2
PB = 10
W-L% = .649
HOF

His touch is what stood out about watching him throw. That, and his courage in the pocket.

3. Joe Montana
9.33
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1989*, 1990)
1-time NFC POY (1989)
4-time NFL Champ
2-time passing champ
Black ink—10
CAP = 3
1AP = 3
2AP = 3
PB = 8
W-L% = .713
HOF

Like Unitas, great touch, also cool in the pocket. Also mobile and never got rattled.


4. Otto Graham
9.20
6-time NFL/AAFC MVP/POY (1947*, 1948*, 1949*, 1951*, 1953*, 1955*)
7-time NFL/AAFC Champ
5-time NFL/AAFC passing champ
5-time NFL/AAFC passing yards champ
Black ink—23
CAP = 8
1AP = 8
2AP = 2
PB = 5 (AAFC did not have All-Star game)
W-L% = .841
HOF

Master of the square-in. Had a better arm that he gets credit for. He's the ultimate winner.


The Elite (4-13)
5. Peyton Manning
9.10
5-time NFL MVP/POY (2003*, 2004*, 2008*, 2008*, 2013*)
8-time AFC POY (1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013)
2-time NFL Champ
3-time passing champ
3-time passing yards champ
Black ink—16
CAP = 7
1AP = 7
2AP = 3
PB = 14
W-L% = .702
HOF lock

Excellent arm and great brain—A coach on the field. There are some knocks, among them is that he played a lot of his games indoors. If you  switch the numbers from the splits from indoors versus outdoors and then do the same for Brady, the then all-time leader in many of the statistical categories switches from Manning to Brady.

6. Sammy Baugh
8.90
3-time NFL MVP/POY (1947, 1948, 1949)
2-time NFL Champ
3-time passing champ
4-time passing yards champ
Black ink—27
CAP = 5
1AP = 7
2AP = 2
PB = 6 (Pro Bowl didn't exist at the beginning of Baugh's career)
W-L% = .620
HOF

The passing pioneer. Expanded what Benny Friedman did and at one point held all the major passing records.

7. John Elway
8.76
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1987)
3-time AFC POY (1987, 1993, 1996)
2-time NFL Champ
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 2
PB = 9
W-L% = .643
HOF

More than anything, it was the fear of facing him that ranks him so high. Teams knew Elway could beat them. Really, the Broncos of the 1980s don't get near the Super Bowl with anyone else at quarterback. Once he played in the West Coast Offense (1993-98) he put up excellent numbers, too.


8. Aaron Rodgers
8.74
2-time NFL MVP/POY (2011*, 2014*)
2-time NFC POY (2001, 2014)
1-time NFL Champ
2-time passing champ
Black ink—6
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 1
PB = 6
W-L% = .636

Today's Elway. However, he's at a crossroads in his career. Will he stay healthy and happy enough to really become upper-upper echelon? Could throw his 400th touchdown before he throws hi 100th interception.


9. Brett Favre
8.55
3-time NFL MVP/POY (1995*, 1996*, 1997)
4-time NFC POY (1995, 1996, 2002, 2007)
1-time NFL Champ
2-time passing yards champ
Black ink—10
CAP = 3
1AP = 3
2AP = 3
PB = 11
W-L% = .624
HOF

The epitome of the 'gunslinger' quarterback. Set all the passing records until surpassed by Manning and now others. The Vikings brain trust at the time thinks he's the best ever. Rocket arm.

10. Roger Staubach
8.43
2-time NFL POY (1971, 1976)
2-time NFC POY (1971, 1978)
2-time NFL Champ
4-time passing champ
Black ink—8
CAP = 0 1AP = 0 2AP = 1 PB = 6
W-L% = .746
HOF

Amazing that he was never All-Pro. Sometimes a player belies is honors and The Dodger does that. Got a slow start due to his service commitment in the Navy but he had a good arm, good legs, and tremendous competitiveness.



11. Steve Young
8.33
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1992*, 1994*)
2-time NFC POY (1992, 1994)
1-time NFL Champ
6-time passing champ
Black ink—17
CAP = 3
1AP = 4
2AP = 2
PB = 7
W-L% = .657
HOF

Also had a slow start in his career due to choosing money over competition by signing with the USFL. He would have made less, but the Bengals would have taken him and he'd have succeeded Ken Anderson rather than Boomer Esiason. When the upstart league folded he went to the Bucs and then was traded to the 49ers and he sat for four years. Extremely accurate and a great runner. What could have been.

12. Drew Brees
8.27
1-time NFL POY (2009)
4-time NFC POY (2006, 2008, 2009, 2018)
1-time NFL Champ
2-time passing champ
7-time passing yards champ
Black ink—24
CAP = 1
1AP = 3
2AP = 1
PB = 11
W-L% = .589
HOF lock

Exploits his scheme to the maximum. Great touch, amazing timing.


The Winners (14-18, 25)
14. Troy Aikman
8.25
3-time NFL Champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 6
W-L% = .570
HOF

The prototype pocket quarterback, he was tall and a great arm and threw a great ball. But, the Cowboys had a Hall of Fame runner and one of the best run blocking lines of all time, so he didn't fill the sky with balls. He ran the offense, threw strikes and won three titles.


15. Terry Bradshaw
8.10
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1978)
4-time NFL Champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .677
HOF

He had a slow start because he was simply not ready to play in the NFL. Became a good passer with great arm and good deep touch later in his career.



16. Bobby Layne
7.94
3-time NFL Champ
2-time passing yards champ
Black ink—5
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 4
PB = 6
W-L% = .603
HOF

A winner. A leader. A partier. Once in camp Layne was arrested for driving under the influence. He decided to hire a lawyer and fight it. On his court date he had a couple of teammates come to watch the trial.

 Layne's lawyer, to answer the prosecution charge that he was intoxicated retorted that Layne was simply suffering from a "case of laryngitis".  One of the teammates at the back of the courtroom said to the others, "Wow! A whole case".

17. Bart Starr
7.83
1-time NFL MVP (1966*)
5-time NFL Champ
4-time passing champ
Black ink—11
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 3
PB = 4
W-L% = .618
HOF

Like a Troy Aikman of his time, except he didn't have Aikman's tools.

18. Len Dawson
7.76
1-time AFL POY (1962)
1-time NFL Champ (3 AFL Champ)
6-time AFL passing champ (1 led all pro football)
Black ink—19
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 2
PB = 7
W-L% = .616
HOF

In a way, the AFL's version of Bart Starr, but a bit better arm.

24. Bob Griese
7.44
1-time NFL MVP (1971)
2-time AFC POY (1971, 1977)
2-time NFL Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 1
PB = 8
W-L% = .619
HOF

Another of the winners, Griese was good scrambler earlier in career, but now would be called a 'game manager'.

The Stat Monsters (13, 19-23)
13. Dan Marino
7.57
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1984*)
4-time AFC POY (1983, 1984, 1986, 1994)
1-time AFC Champ
1-time passing champ
5-time passing yards champ
Black ink—15
CAP = 3
1AP = 3
2AP = 5
PB = 9
W-L% =. 613
HOF

Another gunslinger, sometimes a bit too much. Never had a lot of help but we still have him 13th all-time.

19. Fran Tarkenton
7.55
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1975*)
3-time NFC Champ
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—7
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 1
PB = 9
W-L% = .531
HOF

THE scrambler. Racked up incredible stats for his era. In New York when speedster Homer Jones was a teammate Tarkenton had to adjust for not having a strong arm by getting the ball out sooner and it worked well as Jones was kind of a poor man's Bob Hayes for the Giants during Tark's time there.

20. Sonny Jurgensen
7.54
2-time NFL POY (1966, 1969)
1-time NFL Champ (backup)
1-time passing champ
5-time NFL passing yards champ
Black ink—14
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 3
PB = 5
W-L% =. 493
HOF

When we first got into this business my first break came from Frank "Skylab" Ross of College & Pro Football Newsweekly. He once said, "Never let anyone tell you there was a better quarterback that Sonny Jurgenson".  Sonny was the Marino/Brees of his day—Just a picture perfect passer who racked up the stats. Not mobile and not always concerned with reading the defense.

21. Y.A. Tittle
7.53
4-time NFL MVP/POY (1957, 1961, 1962*, 1963*)
1-time passing champ
Black ink—10
CAP = 3
1AP = 3
2AP = 1
PB = 7
W-L% = .550
HOF

Held many career marks when he retired. Too many times he ran into a buzzsaw in the NFL championship games he played in.

22. Dan Fouts
7.50
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1979, 1982*)
2-time AFC POY (1982, 1982)
4-time passing yards champ
Black ink—9
CAP = 2
1AP = 3
2AP = 2
PB = 6
W-L% = .506
HOF

Was coached in 1976 by Bill Walsh and that seemed to turn his career around. Then, in 1978, Don Coryell came to town and he was the new QB who could throw it all around the park. Tough player, smart, too.

23. Warren Moon
7.45
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1990)
1-time AFL POY (1990)
2-time passing yards champ
Black ink—6
CAP = 0
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 9
W-L% = .502
HOF

Racked up the stats, and did that in the CFL, too. Getting into the Hall of Fame leaped him into his ranking. In many ways, he belongs with the "Near Greats" on our list.


More Winners (24-35, 44)
25. Sid Luckman
7.42
1-time NFL MVP (1943)
4-time NFL Champ
3-time passing champ
3-time passing yards champ
Black ink—11
CAP = 5
1AP = 6
2AP = 3
PB = 3 (Pro Bowls in only part of his career)
W-L% = .740
HOF

He was one of the pioneers of the T-Formation and to this day is the best Bears quarterback ever.

26. Bob Waterfield
7.37
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1945*, 1950)
2-time NFL Champ
Black ink—6
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 2
PB = 2 (Pro Bowl not around for all of Waterfield's career)
W-L% = .645
HOF

Buckets could do it all—pass, run, call his own plays, kick, punt, play defense. Otto Graham said he was the best quarterback ever.

27. Norm Van Brocklin
7.33
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1954, 1960*)
2-time NFL Champ
1-time passing champ
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—4
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 1
PB = 9
W-L% = .630
HOF

Won a title in his final year and was a picture-perfect passer. A leader, mean as a snake, critical of teammates to almost a cruel degree.

28. Russell Wilson
7.25
1-time NFL Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 5
W-L% = .674

Efficient, good deep thrower, works off of play action as much or more than anyone. Step-by-step is building a Hall of Fame resume. He's not there yet, but if he keeps his pace up, he will get there.

29. Kurt Warner
7.21
3-time NFL MVP/POY (1999*, 2001*, 2008)
2-time NFC POY (1999, 2001)
1-time NFL Champ
2-time passing champ
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—10
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .578
HOF

The leader of the Greatest Show on Turf. Injuries caused a "donut hole" in the middle of his career. He came back with the Cardinals and did well there, taking them to a Super Bowl. Didn't have a big arm but had superb timing and accuracy on his spot throws.

30. Joe Namath
7.03
2-time AFL MVP (1968, 1969)
1-time NFL Champ
3-time AFL/NFL passing yards champ
Black ink—6
CAP = 2
1AP = 4
2AP = 1
PB = 5
W-L% = .496
HOF

Often criticized by modern statniks because his stats don't look great. We've seen lots of film on him and the more you see the more you realize if he came out today, he'd be a top pick and a top player. Such a smooth and fast dropback, lighting quick release and laser arm.

TJ Troup will always say this, "Prior to 1972, the NFL hashes were much wider. And if a team was on the right hash and wanted to throw an 'out' to the left sideline only Namath and Gabriel could make the throw". The same is true for the left hash and a right sideline 'out'.

31. Ken Stabler
6.98
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1974*, 1976)
1-time NFL Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—5
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .661
HOF

It took a while for Stabler to become the Raiders starter. He was the NFL's best QB from 1973-77 but then tailed off. Al LoCasale once said the reason Snake wasn't in the Hall of Fame was because, "He had some great years, but had too many bad years". That sentiment was overcome a few years back when he was voted to the Hall of Fame.

32. Jim Kelly
6.95
4-time AFC Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 2
PB = 5
W-L% = .631
HOF

Yes, we know we have Kelly in the 'winners' group and haters will bring up that he lost four Super Bowls, but we view him the same as Stabler or Kemp or Warner. Yes, he fell short, but he played great teams in the Super Bowl three times and against one great defensive coordinator once and had a 'wide right' as well.

33. Jack Kemp
6.70
1-time AFL MVP (1965)
2-time AFL Champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 3
PB = 7
W-L% = .633

The ultimate winner-type. Super strong arm, could throw the 'out' from far hash but the question is whether it would end up in Niagra Falls. In the history of the AFL, only Abner Haynes had more rushing touchdowns than Kemp, not Cookie Gilchrist, not Jim Nance, not Paul Lowe.

34. Ben Roethlisberger
6.65
2-time NFL Champ
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 6
W-L% = .675

Stands tall in the pocket. Can deliver the ball after extending a play.


35. Joe Theismann
6.61
2-time NFL MVP/POY (1982, 1983*)
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 1
PB = 2 (plus one Second-team All-NFC)
W-L% = .621

In 1979 Jimmy the Greek said to Brent Musburger on the NFL Today, "Joe Theismann is not a good quarterback". And there was a pause, "He's not?" asked Musburger. "No", the Greek continued, "He's a great quarterback".

Theismann won the ring in 1982 and the MVP in 1983 but we supposed getting crushed by the Raiders in the Super Bowl has cost him the Hall of Fame.

36. Phil Simms
6.55
1-time MVP (1986)
2-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .597


44. Eli Manning
6.41
2-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .504

When the name of the game is winning Eli has to be mentioned. We rank him 44th (maybe generous) but when you knock of the G.O.A.T. twice in the big game, you get credit for it in our book.

The Near Great (37-44)
37. Bert Jones
6.69
1-time NFL MVP (1976*)
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 1
PB = 1
W-L% = .490

The most talented quarterbacks we've seen are Bert Jones, John Elway, and Aaron Rodgers. Some would add Greg Cook to that list.  Elway and Rodgers have fulfilled their potential. Jones didn't because he had shoulder injuries and finally, a neck injury.

These four quarterbacks had the best arms, had great legs, great competitiveness, smarts, the entire package. What could have been for Jones under the Ted Marchibroda scheme and good health?



38. Matt Ryan
6.65
1-time NFL MVP (2016*)
1-time NFC Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L%=.586

In the ultimate passing era, Ryan is putting up great numbers that could get him to Hall of Fame. Seems like lots of recent fans and 'experts' are in love with him. And he can be great at times, but in contexts, he's had one great year, several very good ones, but still, he's yet to reach .600 winning percentage and hasn't led the NFL in many passing stats, so let's pump the breaks on the "HOF lock" talk.


39. Ken Anderson
6.60
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1981*)
1-time AFC Champ
4-time passing champ
2-time passing yards champ
Black ink—14
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 2
PB = 4
W-L% = .529

Anderson had a very good arm, great running ability. He had a good run from1974-76 then a few years in what Dr. Z called "the doldrums" then great 1981-82 seasons. Those that want him in the Hall of Fame will pick the achievements of the lower-level Hall of Fame quarterbacks and compare there. And we get it. But they seem to ignore the 'doldrums'. And rather than taking the view there may be a handful of quarterbacks in the Hall that may be a bit dubious, they want the slippery slope to continue.

40. Roman Gabriel
6.58
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1969*)
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—7
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 1
PB = 4
W-L% = .570

Gabriel is interested in that before he was a starter (1962-65) his record as a starter was 11-11-1 which is exactly average. But what makes it notable is that all the other Rams QBs in that same time frame combined for a 4-27-2 record.

He was the MVP in 1969, and you can make a case that he should have been the MVP in 1967, as well. Additionally, one could argue he should have been the NFC Player of the Year in 1973 over John Hadl who slumped at the end of the year.

Gabriel avoided interceptions but his willingness to stand tall in pocket and fight defenders caused him to fumble a lot. He was the Rams best short-yardage runner in the late-1960s. He had arm troubles but had a nice comeback season in 1973 with the Eagles.

41. John Brodie
6.50
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1970)
1-time passing champ
3-time passing yards champ
Black ink—11
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .494

Like Jurgenson, a picture-pefect passer, and sometimes not all that concerned with reading the defense.

42. Boomer Esiason
6.44
1-time NFL MVP/POY (1988*)
1-time AFC Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% =. 462

Well-taught by Sam Wyche and effective for a long time, known for his play-action passing and the skill in which he hid the ball.


43. Steve McNair
6.42
1-time NFL MVP (2003)
1-time AFC Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 3
W-L% = .595

Power player. Tough, tough runner and strong-willed layer. Worked himself into an MVP.

The Really Good (45-70)
45. Philip Rivers
6.40
1-time passing champ
Black ink—5
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 8
W-L% = .567

Ultra competitive, odd throwing motion, racks up the numbers.

46. John Hadl
6.22
1-time NFC POY (1973)
1-time AFL Champ
2-time AFL passing yard champ
Black ink—8
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 3
PB = 6
W-L% = .521

Kind of a poor man's Jurgensen. Had great deep targets in San Diego and then got traded to the Rams in 1973 where he tore up the NFL the first half of the season. Then he hurt his back and it affected his throwing and he tailed off. The Rams GM Don Klosterman knew there was something wrong and when James Harris showed he could play, Klosterman unloaded him to Green Bay for a pile of picks.

47. Donovan McNabb
5.98
1-time NFC POY (2004)
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 6
W-L% = .612

Led Eagles to the big game, but came up short. Early in career could run. Likely aided by WCO and Andy Reid's tutoring.

48. Daryle Lamonica
5.93
3-time AFL MVP/POY (1967*, 1968, 1969*)
1-time AFC Champ
1-time AFL passing yards champ
Black ink—5
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 2
PB = 5
W-L% = .784

The Mad Bomber was a good 'closer' for the Bills (coming in games and often winning them) before being traded to the Raiders. Made a living really, actually perfecting the vaunted Raiders "Vertical Passing Game".

49. Randall Cunningham
5.84
3-time NFL MVP/POY (1988, 1990*, 1998)
1-time passing champion
Black ink—1
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 2
PB = 4
W-L% = .611

The amazing talent. Great arm, as good a runner at the quarterback position as you could find. Often did the superhuman.

50. Cam Newton
6.20
1-time NFL MVP (2015*)
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L% = .561

Strong player, can throw laser strikes when he wants to. Can run, is a leader. Kind of at a crossroads of his career. The next act will be interesting.

51. Carson Palmer
6.02
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 3
W-L% = .511

Had as good a technique as you can find. Did everything in a textbook way.

52. Brian Sipe
5.73
1-time NFL MVP (1980)
1-time passing champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 1
PB = 1
W-L% = .509

Solid corner, worked his way into being an MVP. Not someone with size or amazing arm.

53. George Blanda
6.28
2-time AFL/AFC MVP/POY (1961, 1970)
3-time AFL Champ
1-time AFL passing champ
2-time AFL passing yards champ
Black ink—8
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 2
PB = 4
W-L%=.514

Was the AFL's top quarterback in that leagues first few seasons. He's a dual position Hall of Famer, like Lou Groza, known more for the kicking than his primary position.

54. Jim Hart
5.71
1-time NFC POY (1974)
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 4
W-L% = .497

Career was kind of floundering until Don Coryell showed up and he was in a way a 'poor man's Dan Fouts" for the Cardinals. Quick release, could go deep, but made good use of backs in the 3-digit offense.

55. Tony Romo
5.61
1-time passing champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 4
W-L% = .614

The maker of many amazing plays, he had good legs, was smart and was as good an athlete as you could ever hope to have at quarterback.

56. Andrew Luck
5.60
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L%=.616

If he can stay healthy he can vault up the list. He needs some All-Pros, MVPs, some passing titles and some "wins" to do it, but he's capable.

57. Don Meredith
5.44
1-time NFL POY (1966)
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 2
PB = 3
W-L% = .590

Super tough. Could get ball deep to Bob Hayes.


58. Rich Gannon
5.31
2-time NFL MVP/POY (2000, 2002*)
2-time AFC POY (2000, 2002)
1-time AFC Champ
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 2
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .576

Master of the WCO, in some ways a Jon Gruden creation but responded well.


59. Charlie Conerly
5.28
1-time NFL MVP (1959)
1-time NFL Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—4
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 2 (also All-Conference in 2 other seasons)
W-L%=.600

Was a very good quarterback from 1950-59. TJ Troup thinks he's Hall of Fame-worthy.

60. Joe Ferguson
5.11
Black ink—3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .462

Solid, blue collar type. Perfect for Buffalo.

61. Archie Manning
5.02
1-time NFC POY (1978)
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .263

Stuck in a bad situation for many years. Had great skills, similar to Roger Staubach without the amazing team around him.


62. Ron Jaworski
4.98
1-time NFL/NFC POY (1980)
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L%=.514

Great arm, many speculate what could have happened if Rams had kept him, rather than going with Haden. Jaworski was just coming into his own and the Rams defense was still good. Instead, the Polish Rifle took the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

63. Jim Zorn
4.97
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .415

Better than most people remember. Was a "high blue" (All-Pro level) a few years according to Proscout, Inc.

4.91
1-time NFL MVP (1968*)
1-time NFL Champ
1-time passing champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 1
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .632

Super backup. He played for six teams in 21 years. Yes, you read that right. Twenty-one years. However. he started the majority of his teams' games six times and in five of those, he was either a Pro Bowler or had Pro Bowl-type stats (1957, 1963, 1965, 1968, and 1972).

4.88
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .475

Earned a spot by ending the ridiculous bigoted belief held by many that an African-American quarterback couldn't win a Super Bowl. 

66. Craig Morton
4.75
1-time AFC POY (1977)
1-time AFC Champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0 (All-AFC once)
W-L% = .566

Strong arm, could get ball deep to Bob Hayes. Kept arm until the end of his career, lost his mobility in the middle of it.

67. Drew Bledsoe
4.74
1-time passing yards champ
1-time AFC champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .508

Big-time arm who too often held the ball too long but did get the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

68. Michael Vick
4.66
1-time NFC POY (2010)
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .544

Along with Randall Cunningham the best running quarterbacks ever. Vick had a nice 2010 where he was accurate, got the ball out on time as was a very good pocket passer and only ran when necessary.


4.51
1-time NFC POY (1980)
1-time passing champ
Black ink—4
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 2
W-L% = .465

Excellent arm, not much mobility, even early, but threw deep, was accurate and tough.

70. Mark Brunell
4.49
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L% = .517

A poor man's Steve Young.


The Best of the Rest 
These players are not ranked in any real order. some are mentioned for a specific reason (won a ring, had some good passing stats and so on. It's not 100% comprehensive but we tried to mention as many as we thought appropriate.

Danny White
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 1 (plus two other Second-team All-NFC)
W-L% = .674

Very good athlete, White was an understudy to Roger Staubach for years, but when eh got his chance he got Cowboys close to the Super Bowl, but could never get there.

Joe Flacco
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .589

Jim Everett
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 1
W-L% = .418

From 1988-90 no one, not Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham, Marino, Moon, no one threw more touchdown passes than "Blade" Everett.


Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L%=.468

Stafford was the NFL ALumni NFL QB of the Year in 2011 and a Pro Bowler in 2014. In our view displayed a lot of guys by playing and running on a bad shoulder.

Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .610

The first African-American quarterback to be a regular quarterback for an extended time. 

Joe Kapp
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .531

A winner. We are throwing in his CFL seasons as we did with Warren Moon as part of our evaluation.

1-time NFC POY (1971)
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1 (plus one more Second-team All-NFC)
W-L% =. 539
Neil Lomax
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .475

Trent Green
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .496

Dave Krieg
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L% = .560

Chris Chandler
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .441

Vinny Testaverde
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .423

Jim McMahon
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .691

Frankie Albert
Black ink—4
CAP = 0
1AP = 3
2AP = 1
PB = 1 (AAFC didn't have All-Star game)
W-L% = .620

Frank Ryan
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L% = .672

From 1963-67 who threw the most touchdown passes in the NFL? Yes, you are correct. Frank Ryan with 117.

Jim Plunkett
2-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .500

To be a Hall of Famer we think a quarterback has to be great in all or most phases—Rings, stats, honors, intangibles, etc. Some push for Plunkett for the Hall. We ask, where is the rest? he has the rings, but what about the consistently good performances, the Pro Bowls, the wins? His Hall of Fame IS the two Super Bowl rings.

Matt Hasselbeck
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L% = .531

1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 2
W-L%=.603

Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .449

Played at a Pro Bowl level in 1981.


Lynn Dickey
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0 (one Second-team All-NFC team)
W-L% = .419


1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .513

1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L%=.576

Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L%=.500
Daunte Culpepper
Black ink —3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L%=.410

Tobin Rote
1-time AFL MVP (1963)
2-time Champ (1 NFL, 1 AFL)
Black ink = 8
CAP = 0
1AP = 2
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L%=.431


Billy Wade
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink = 4
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2 (plus one more All-Conference selection)
W-L%=.482

Steve Beuerlein
Black ink = 3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L%=.461

1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L%=.371

Big-time arm. Not a big-time brain.

Tommy Kramer
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 1
W-L% = .491

Jake Plummer
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .507

The second "Snake" to play quarterback in the NFL.

Norm Snead
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 4
W-L% = .349

Led NFC in passing in 1972 thanks to Paul Zimmerman. In one late-season game, the Colts pressbox staff failed to record his passing stats. Zimerman noticed and contacted the league offices who contacted Elias Sports Bureau. When added in, his rankings (it was a year prior to the passer rating being introduced) moved to tops in the NFL.

And it's all for naught. When the passer rating did become the standard the books were changed and Billy Kilmer is the NFC passing champion for that year.

Babe Parilli
Black ink—3
CAP = 1
1AP = 1
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L%=.520

1-time AFC POY (1995)
Black ink—3
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .471

Andy Dalton
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 3
W-L% = .575

Eddie LeBaron
Black ink—1
CAP =0
1AP =0
2AP =0
PB =4
W-L%=.347

Gary Danielson
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .475


Steve DeBerg
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .382

Not a good arm, but could run a West Coast Offense.

Ken O'Brien
Black ink—4
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 2
W-L% = .459

Jay Cutler
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .484

Big-time arm, but a lot like Jeff George in our view.


Greg Landry
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .464

Pat Haden
1-time NFC POY (1978)
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .645

Charley Johnson
1-time NFL passing yards champ
Black ink—2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1 (plus one All-AFC selection)
W-L% = .508


Steve Grogan
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .556

Was a great runner until his knees gave out. Could get ball deep to Stanley Morgan and Harold Jackson pretty well.

Tony Eason
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP= 0
2AP =0
PB =0
W-L%=.556

Don Majkowski
1-time passing yards champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 1
W-L% = .465

Led NFL in passing yards in 1989, was second-team All-Pro and had 7 game-winning drives that year.

Jeff Hostetler
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .614

A heady player and a career 55-33 win-loss record.


Black ink = 1
CAP =0
1AP = 0
2AP =0
PB = 1
W-L%=.513

Colin Kaepernick
1-time NFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L%=.483

In 2012-13 had a 21-8 record (including playoffs) and came very close to winning it all in 2012. A rifle arm, has made throws going to his left that left us in shock.

Milt Plum
1 passing title
Black ink—6
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 2
W-L% = .573

Was efficient, kept ball moving but called a "dink and dunker" by Paul Zimmerman.


Bill Munson
Black ink = 1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L%=.447


Jay Schroeder
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .616

A deep thrower, he was coveted enough by Al Davis to trade an All-Pro left tackle for him. Howie Long was not impressed, "I wasted five years of my career with that guy".


Greg Cook
1 AFL passing title
Black ink—1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1

As mentioned one of the top talented quarterbacks ever, but was felled my shoulder injuries.



Vince Ferragamo
1-time AFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .509

Got Rams to Super Bowl, had them in the game until the end. Threw 30 touchdowns in 1980 then elft for Canada where he stunk it up. Came back was a decent, but Rams grew weary of him and traded him to Buffalo.

David Woodley
1-time AFC Champ
Black ink—0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .651


Bobby Douglass
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .311

Incredible runner, strong. Accounted for 17 touchdowns in 1972. Before Cunningham and Vick Douglass was perhaps the best-ever running QB.


Steve Fuller
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L% = .452

Only listed because we found some decent art featuring him. A fair backup, a 6-5 record filling hin for Jim McMahon.


CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L%=.576

Aaron Brooks
W-L%=.422

Dan Pastorini
W-L%=.479

Bernie Kosar
W-L%=.495
Black ink = 1
CAP = 0
Pro Bowl = 1


Bill Nelsen
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 1
PB = 1
W-L%=.561

Nick Foles
1-time NFL Champ
Black ink = 2
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L%=.591

Jon Kitna
Black ink = 1
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L%=.403

Kerry Collins
Black ink = 0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 0
W-L%=.450

Black ink = 0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L%=.390

Kordell Stewart
Black ink = 0
CAP = 0
1AP = 0
2AP = 0
PB = 1
W-L% = .585


Sam Bradford
W-L%=.416
Black ink = 1

Accurate, great arm, was mobile when you. But pocket presence left a lot to be desired and was seeming made of glass.  Surrounding cast in St. Louis was awful in terms of linemen and receivers. Not a 'bust' but a big, big disappointment.

Shaun King
W-L% = .583

Charlie Batch
W-L% = .455


Jay Fiedler
W-L% = .617


Was the Broncos starting quarterback in 1968 as a rookie, went to Buffalo and he became a Pro Bowl wide receiver.


Pictured because of the cool art.

There could be more, so if there is someone missing we understand, we can add. But Really this is a celebration of quarterbacks and our take on the top 50 or so QBs of all time. And yes, there are some good ones in the 1950s we could add when we catch our breath, but they won't break the top half of this list. 

Thanks for reading. Art is from Pinterest and artists are Bruce Tatman, Dan Tearle, Chuck Ren, Cliff Spohn, Merv Corning, George Bartell and many others. We thank them.

13 comments:

  1. Excellent work, John T. I emphatically agree with your choices for Mount Rushmore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. as you know it's not easy to balance stats over eras and to assess historical impact and also to include skill sets and all the others things. But to me, the top 4 represent those who rose above the others more than anyone in their era.

      All I tried to do is include all the things I could find, put them into a blender and see what rose to the top.

      Others will disagree, but just tried to give it an honest shot,

      Delete
  2. john would you be able to rate Brady, Montana, and Peyton in categories like accuracy, two minute drill, pocket presense?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, not really, I mean there were all great...maybe someone else with more knowledge could...but not me.

      Delete
  3. as we've come to expect, comprehensive and well-reasoned....two observations...there was an anecdote back in the late 60s....I can't recall which player told the story, but at a pro bowl, one of the coaches for the west team asked the starters to like up, and 11 guys stepped forward....the general point was that the players knew who the best guys were....now as Dr. Z has pointed out, there's a big difference between the guys pre-"protect the qb" rules and now, but...when the all-timers line up, can anyone really see (no disrespect, he's on Mt. Rushmore) Tom Brady trying to push John Unitas aside? second, our QB Rushmore should total 5....Sammy Baugh belongs....my $.02 and thank you for your writing

    ReplyDelete
  4. Did I miss Bernie Kosar somewhere in there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kosar should be in here...He was alot better than the stiffs playing nowadays and led the Browns to three AFC championship games, which Mayfield will never do...

      Delete
  5. good pickup jrod. I dont see him either.

    On Warren Moon, did scouts, personell guys think he underachieved? He had a lot of talent on those oilers teams and didn't score much in the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good list. I'm a diehard 49er/Montana fan but I can live with Brady and Unitas ahead of him who had longer careers. Montana played much of his career hurt not unlike my other favorite pro athlete Mickey Mantle. If I'm going to quibble about anything I'd like to see Starr ranked higher at least near Aikman. I think Aikman is fairly ranked but while he may have had a better arm I feel Starr meant more to his team and like Brady was an on-field expression of a great coach.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Charlie Conerly at 59 ? C'mon guys, he was a winner, a tough QB and unselfish, allowing his backup to start games, before he came in and won them.
    When Vince Lombardi came to the Packers, he wanted his starter to be tough like Conerly and didn't think Bart Starr had it in him, so Starr suddenly studied Conerly and the rest is history.

    Sid Luckman deserves to be in the Top 10. He was the first great T Formation QB and everyone emulated him. The first to win four championships, and had more trust from Papa Bear George Halas than any of his other QBs, including Bobby Layne, George Blanda,Ed Brown and Billy Wade.
    Norm Van Brocklin deserves to be higher too. He was a great pocket passer who was the first to win championships with two different teams. He helped both Sid Gillman and John Madden to become successful coaches and his comeback win as QB of the Eagles vs the Steelers in 1959 caused then, NFL Commissioner, Bert Bell a fatal heart attack, while watching the game, (RIP Bert)...Which changed the course of NFL History...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Favre may have been the toughest QB ever other than Bobby Layne (who NEVER wore a face mask) an Rodgers plays in an era that allows QBs to wear dresses but Staubach was better than both of them. If it hadn't been for the Steelers LC Greenwood, he would have four championships. Tommy Thompson of the Eagles was underrated as well. He has two championships but like Simms and Plunkett, is not in the HOF...He was so tough, he played with only one eye !

    ReplyDelete
  9. John,

    Where would your cutoff point be here for 'HoF level'?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am agnostic, too many people write about QBs. Not my "thing". But if Stabler is in then there are 5-7 more than are equal to him IMO...but I think Stabler is a bit dubious and so are 2-3 other QBs...

      Delete