The NFL is known exclusively as a quarterback’s league. From the days of Bart Starr to Terry Bradshaw to Troy Aikman to Tom Brady today, every quarterback that is still remembered as a legend has made their mark on the game in one way or another.
1. Tom Brady
Career Stats: 66,159 Yards/ 63.9 Comp %/ 488 TD’s/ 160 INT
GOAT. That’s the proper way to address New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Despite losing Super Bowl 52 this year, Brady is 5-3 all-time in the Super Bowl. He holds the records for most division titles by a quarterback, most Super Bowls played by a QB as well as most Super Bowl wins by a QB in addition to playing in 12 AFC championship games since 2001. Brady has asserted himself as the best quarterback over the past decade as he’s played in the last eight AFC championship games while racking up a pair of MVP’s in such years. In two of his last three Super Bowl games Brady defeated the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons in improbable wins that only a player like Brady could be apart of. With Brady set to play to play at age 41 (He won league MVP at age 40) there is no reason to believe that he’s slowed down even a tad bit as he just took the Patriots to the Super Bowl while leading the league in passing yards just a season ago. Does Brady have flaws? Maybe none, if any.
2. Joe Montana
Career Stats: 40,551 Yards/ 63.2 Comp %/ 273 TD’s/ 139 INT
Joe Montana was easily the beat quarterback of the 1980s. With a perfect 4-0 record in the Super Bowl throughout the decade, it’s no surprise he earned the nickname “Joe Cool.” Throughout the 80s he led the league in passer rating on five occasions while leading the San Francisco 49ers to 24 fourth quarter comeback wins. Not too shabby when you hold the title of “Comeback Kid.” In Montana’s four Super Bowl wins he threw for 11 touchdowns versus 0 interceptions, typical Joe Cool. Personally, Montana was the GOAT until Tom Brady’s comeback victory against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 but another downfall of his was inability to stay on the field for the Niners at times. He only played in one game in his final two seasons in San Fran.
3. Peyton Manning
Career Stats:71,940 Yards/ 65.3 Comp %/ 539 TD’s/ 251 Int
Former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is arguably the most polished regular season QB of all-time. Manning holds numerous passing records in the regular season and playoffs along with winning two Lombardi trophies over the course of his career. His 2013 season at age 37 is still the most impressive season of any quarterback to date where Manning threw for 5,477 yards while adding 55 touchdowns in the mix. His only flaw? He could only get to the big game three times while his foe Tom Brady has reached it eight times including three of the last four.
4. Drew Brees
Career Stats: 70,445 Yards/ 66.9 Comp %/ 488 TD’s/ 228 Int
Drew Brees has developed into one of the best quarterbacks ever under Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints after spending the first five years as an under appreciated piece of the San Diego Chargers. In the past decade, he’s topped the 5,000 yard mark following five different seasons while completing at least 70% of his passes following four seasons during the same span. At age 38 last season Brees set the NFL record for completion percentage in a season at 72% one season after he set the record for completions in a season with 471. There’s no doubt after next season Brees will be the NFL record holder for career passing yards as he’s only about 1,500 yards behind Manning. The only thing holding Brees back from potentially being the greatest QB ever is his lack of Super Bowl appearances, as he only has one.
5. Aaron Rodgers
Career Stats: 38,502 Yards/ 65.1 Comp %/ 313 TD’s/ 78 Int
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will go down as a quarterback with a large number of passing touchdowns and maybe less than 100 interceptions. He currently holds the NFL record for career passer rating at 103.8 while his 4:1 TD/INT ratio is an NFL career best by far and he’s still going.. and he’s still not throwing picks. The last time Rodgers threw double digit interceptions in a season was 2010 when the Packers won the Super Bowl. As great of a stat as that is, Rodgers hasn’t been able to take the Pack back to the big game since and that’s the one problem that he has in his career.
6. Brett Favre
Career Stats: 71,838 Yards/ 62.0 Comp %/ 508 TD’s/ 336 Int
Former Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre was a gunslinger that no one else had ever seen before him and that few have seen after him. He earned that moniker largely due to the number of interceptions he threw (He ranks number one in NFL history) but he also earned his gunslinger title because of his innate ability to put his wide receivers in the best position to make plays down the field. Remember the Antonio Freeman Catch? Or his first season with the Minnesota Vikings when he made Sidney Rice look like Randy Moss incarnated? However, who also remembers when he threw interceptions to end the 2007 and 2009 NFC championship games? For all of the ups and down he had, Favre was still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for a while dating back to the mid 90s when he won three consecutive NFL MVPs to go along with two Super Bowl appearances (One win). Favre’s downfall? Interceptions plus a lack of Super Bowl wins following the one he won in early 1997.
7. John Elway
Career Stats: 51,475 Yards/ 56.9 Comp %/ 300 TD’s/ 226 Int
After being the number one overall pick of the 1983 draft, John Elways refused to play for the Baltimore Colts and considered giving up football for baseball. He eventually wound up on the Denver Broncos where he led them to five Super Bowl appearances in 16 total seasons. While he only topped 4,000 passings yards in a season once and never reached 30 passing touchdowns, Elway was known to always put his team in the best position to win. His memorable drive against the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship game as well as his “helicopter” flip during Super Bowl 32 are just a couple of the moments that made Elway the legend he is today. The knock on Elway? Although he made it to five Super Bowls, he only won two and they were in the latter two years of his career by that time when he had an excellent running game and defense to lean on.
8. Dan Marino
Career Stats: 61,361 Yards/ 59.4 Comp %/ 420 TD’s/ 252 Int
The last quarterback taken in the first round of one of the best QB draft classes (Same class as John Elway) finished his career as one of the best to ever play the game. Former Miami Dolphins qb Dan Marino is easily remembered for his ability to throw the football with great precision however he’ll also be known as the best qb to never win the big one. Marino became the first QB in history to throw for over 5,000 and set the then NFL record for passing touchdowns in a season after throwing 48 in his second NFL season while leading the Dolphins to the Super Bowl. What’s crazy is Marino only threw for 40+ touchdowns only once more in the 15 years that followed his lone SB loss. Despite this he still ranks in the top five in wins which is why he lands on this list.
9. Jim Kelly
Career Stats: 35,467 Yards/ 60.1 Comp %/ 237 TD’s/ 175 Int
Jim Kelly was another quarterback drafted in the aforementioned 1983 draft which featured John Elway and Dan Marino however when Kelly was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, he refused to sign with them and instead bolted for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL. His two best professional seasons actually came as a member of the Gamblers (He won league MVP in his rookie season) but after the USFL folded after 1985 Kelly jumped back to the NFL and played the rest of his career in Buffalo where he’d go on to be the centerpiece of a ferocious no-huddle attack that the NFL hadn’t seen to date. While teaming up with Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and James Lofton amongst others on defense including Bruce Smith, Buffalo went on to play in four consecutive Super Bowls beginning in 1990. However they lost all four, hence why Kelly doesn’t get raised into the GOAT conversation.
10. Ben Roethlisberger
Career Stats: 51,065 Yards/ 64.1 Comp %/ 329 TD’s/ 174 Int
Ever since Ben Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004 he has been a forced to be reckoned with. He went 13-0 as the starter in the regular season as a rookie with the high point being a win over the New England Patriots who had been on a 21 game winning streak before Big Ben defeated them in week 8. They would go on to lose the AFC championship game to the Patriots but Steeler nation knew they had a star in their young QB and he’s only proved them correct. The following season ended with Roethlisberger hoisting the Lombardi trophy for the first time which he was able to do again three seasons later following the 2008 NFL season. He made another appearance to the Super Bowl after the 2010 season however the Steelers fell to the Packers in that game which leads to Roethlisberger’s downfall: He hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since 2010 after reaching the big game three times in his first seven seasons.