This weekend features matchups of two up-and-coming quarterbacks and a familiar rivalry between two all-time greats. Who is the all-time greatest? Breitbart Sports examines football history to bring you the ten greatest QBs to ever compete.
10. Drew Brees
Drew Brees didn’t just give hope to short guys everywhere. In his Super Bowl run, he revitalized New Orleans after a hurricane had left it, and the Superdome, for dead. Four other players have passed for 5,000 yards in a single season. The Saints QB has done this as many times as everyone else who has ever lined up under center. His fifty-four straight games with a touchdown pass shattered Johnny Unitas’s record. Only four players have passed for more yards, all of them placing higher on this list.
9. Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach gave four years away to America. Then, starting as a twenty-seven-year-old rookie, he gave eleven years to America’s game. In that truncated career, Staubach won two Super Bowls, five NFC Championship Games, and established the Cowboys as America’s team. The message? It’s unpatriotic to hate on number twelve.
8. Otto Graham
The only player on the list to play on NBA and NFL championship teams, Otto Graham still holds the record for yards per pass attempt. In every year of his ten-season professional football career, he led the Cleveland Browns to league championship games–winning seven of them. His 114-20-4 record as Browns quarterback beats Brady, beats Manning, beats Bradshaw, beats Montana, beats everybody. Though the rules and their interpretation may have been different in the postwar era, the object of football was, like it is now, to win. Who did that better than Otto Graham?
7. John Elway
Unlike almost every other QB on this list, Elway’s legs as well as his arms threatened the opposition. A late bloomer in Super Bowl wins, Elway may have been dismissed as his generation’s Fran Tarkenton had he fallen to Favre’s favored Packers as he had failed against the Redskins, Giants, and 49ers. But beating the Packers and repeating the following year against the Falcons erased the bad history. Instead of a likeable loser, we remember the 98-yard drive against Cleveland and the inspiring, iconic, helicopter acrobatics to give the Broncos a crucial first down against the Packers.
6. Brett Favre
The Cal Ripken of the NFL, Green Bay’s Iron Man started 321 consecutive games during a twenty-season NFL career marked by taking risks rather than playing it safe. The Green Bay gunslinger won a Super Bowl, three MVPs, and boasts the NFL passing record at 71,838 yards. The man passed for 41 miles. If he felt like playing today–and he just might–a harem of general managers would immediately camp outside his door.
5. Dan Marino
Dan Marino rewrote the record book before the NFL rewrote its rule book. The last QB drafted in the first round of the celebrated draft class of ’83 was to throwing motion what Ted Williams was to bat swing. Marino may have had more raw talent as a passer than contemporaries John Elway and Joe Montana, but never winning the big one necessarily drops his stock. His gaudy 5,084 throwing yards and 48 touchdown passes–50 percent more than his nearest competitor– in 1984 foreshadowed the video-game statistics that quarterbacks would enjoy after the turn of the century. When he retired in 1999, his career passing mark eclipsed second place by nearly 10,000 yards.
4. Johnny Unitas
“Playing with Johnny Unitas,” Colts tight end John Mackey observed, “was like being in the huddle with God.” The product of a part of Pennsylvania where they make steel and quarterbacks, Johnny U’s look–black high-top cleats and flat-top haircut–screamed old school. His arm signaled new school. The Colts QB ushered the NFL into the modern era in which the sport’s popularity eclipsed even the pastime normally hosted by the venerable venue that served as the stage for football’s “greatest game ever played.” When Unitas entered the league in 1956, no quarterback had thrown for 30,000 yards. When a broken-down version of him departed San Diego–where the startled veteran wondered why his teammates smoked but one cigarette between them–Unitas had thrown for more than 40,000 yards.
3. Peyton Manning
In an age when quarterbacks win games in the film room, Peyton Manning exemplifies the cerebral signal-caller employing audibles and the hurry-up to his advantage. Archie Manning’s kid has enjoyed thirteen 4,000 yard seasons, five more than his nearest competitor. His record-setting 55 touchdown passes en route to his record-setting fifth MVP award make his 2013 campaign the best old-guy season in league history. What passing record will remain when he decides to retire?
2. Tom Brady
At four, the NFL’s top clutch performer unsurprisingly watched from the stands as Joe Montana lofted the ball to Dwight Clark to launch the ’49ers unparalleled run of success. The architect of three fourth-quarter Super Bowl victories, Brady has won more playoff games than any quarterback in NFL history. The 199th pick of the 2000 draft has won as a conservative game manager and as a let-loose gunslinger. With ten division titles and a 162-49 record, Brady just wins. Should he lead the Patriots past the Broncos this Sunday, he will have surpassed John Elway in starting more Super Bowl games than any quarterback. Fantasy enthusiasts take Manning’s stats; fans prefer Brady’s wins.
1. Joe Montana
Joe Montana didn’t merely win four Super Bowls. He rescued a down-and-out Bay Area from its lost Altamont-to-AIDS decade–encompassing the Zodiac and Zebra Killings, the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, Jonestown, the taking of Patty Hearst, and the leaving of sanity. Cool Joe boasts a 127.8 passer rating in Super Bowls. Montana’s “Isn’t that John Candy?” quip in the huddle on the eve of his Super Bowl XXIII’s game-winning drive exemplifies the laid back confidence that teammates found contagious. And wasn’t he great as Sincere Guy Stu on SNL?
Don’t like our list? Player hate. Got your own list? Player participate. Let’s hear from you in the comments section.