The second-round pick from Alabama played 10 years for the Raiders before ending his career with the Saints and Oilers. He led his team to a win in Super Bowl XI over the Vikings and led the NFL in TD passes twice while claiming the 1974 NFL MVP. He was a four-time Pro Bowler. When Stabler retired he was fourth all-time in game-winning drives and is still the Raiders' all-time leading passer.
The younger brother of Peyton Manning was a first-round pick in 2004 of the San Diego Chargers before being traded to the Giants on Draft Day. He has two 4-0 records in the playoffs en route to two Super Bowl championships in 2007 and '11 — claiming both Super Bowl MVP awards. He has been to three Pro Bowls and is less than two seasons from setting franchise records for wins and yards (already owns the TD record).
Anderson is one of the more underrated QBs in NFL history. He led the NFL in QB Rating four times and was the league's leading passer (yards) twice. He is the Bengals' all-time leader in yards and touchdowns and became the first player in history to complete at least 70-percent (70.6) of his passes in a single season — an NFL record that stood until 2009 (Drew Brees).
Broadway Joe doesn't have the best stats or the most wins, but he was one of the game's biggest and most important personalities in history. His MVP performance and pregame prediction in the Jets' win over the Colts in Super Bowl III changed the game forever and introduced the world to a larger-than-life persona. The five-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.
There are some who don't think a player with just nine years under his belt belongs on this type of list. However, Rodgers is the highest-rated passer in the history of the league (104.9). The three-time Pro Bowler owns the single-season efficiency record (122.5, 2011), has led the Packers to a Super Bowl championship and won the 2010 NFL MVP. Top it off with excellent rushing production and one of the league's best win-loss records and Rodgers is almost assured of a bust in Canton should he continue at his current pace. At his current rate, Rodgers needs just five more seasons to reach 350 touchdowns and 40,000 yards — a club that has just three members (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino).
Few players have ever put together a four-year run like Fouts did from 1979-82. He led the NFL passing all four years, including setting and breaking his own NFL single-season yards record (4,715 and 4,802), and took the Chargers to the playoffs all four seasons. Six separate times Fouts led the NFL in yards per game and it earned him six trips to the Pro Bowl. He never played in a Super Bowl and that keeps him from being a top-15 QB of all-time.
Despite never being able to finish with a Super Bowl championship, Kelly is still the only NFL quarterback to lead his team to four straight title games. He has an excellent career win-loss record and threw for less than 3,000 yards just twice in his 11-year career. He also was invited to five Pro Bowls and is a Hall of Famer (2002).
Warner's story alone is one of the 25 best in NFL history. From the Arena League to grocery store clerk to Super Bowl champion, Warner's career has been one of the most spectacular. He led two different teams to three different Super Bowls, winning the Rams' only world championship in 1999. The four-time Pro Bowler won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP that year and is one of the most efficient passers in history, ranking fourth all-time in completion percentage and eighth all-time in QB Rating.
It is impossible to compare the numbers from a guy who made his debut in 1937 with pretty much anyone else. But Baugh is widely regarded as one of the game's greatest of all-time. He won two Player of the Year awards, two NFL Championships and led the league in passing an NFL-record six times (tied with Steve Young). This means, relative to his peers, Baugh was head and shoulders above his competition.
Aikman was tabbed as the savior of the proud Cowboys franchise and he produced more winning than even the most die-hard of fans could have envisioned. Surrounded by elite talent, Aikman led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl championships, including an SB MVP award in 1992. He is top 30 in every major passing category all-time except touchdowns and has a pristine 11-4 postseason record. Aikman was selected to six Pro Bowls.
Brees has quietly placed himself among the NFL's all-time greats from a leadership, statistical and team success level. The eight-time Pro Bowler rebuilt an entire city by leading the traditionally woeful Saints to the 2009 Super Bowl championship. He has led the NFL in passing four times, including breaking Dan Marino's then-single-season record... twice (5,476 yards in 2011, 5,177 yards in '12). He also broke Ken Anderson's single-season efficiency record twice (70.6 in 2009, 71.2 in '11). Brees also broke Johnny Unitas' record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass at 54. He is top 10 in game-winning drives all-time and could finish in the top five in every major passing category.
Bradshaw's resume begins and ends with his postseason success. He is a four-time Super Bowl champion and owns an incredible 14-5 career playoff record. He was clutch in the fourth quarter and was better statistically than given credit for by most experts. He was a two-time Super Bowl MVP and the 1978 NFL MVP. He was surprisingly productive on the ground as well with more than 2,200 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns.
Much like Baugh, Graham is widely considered the greatest of his era. He won three NFL titles and won a reported 83 percent of his games for the Browns. He led the league in passing five times in 10 years and was ahead of his year in efficiency. He set the career passer rating mark (86.6) that stood until Joe Montana retired in 1994. His 44 rushing touchdowns were also astounding, only adding to his legend as one of the greatest athletes in league history.
The numbers are amazing and his place in history is even more impressive. The NFL balked on his services out of Washington, so Moon played six incredible seasons in the CFL with five Grey Cup championships. He paved the way for African-American quarterbacks to succeed in the NFL so his historic statistics mean more than most. He went to nine Pro Bowls, is fifth all-time with 37 game-winning drives and played the game well ahead of his time from a size, speed and arm strength standpoint.
Had their been more playoff games during Starr's 16-year career, he might be the NFL's most successful postseason QB. He won all but one playoff start, two Super Bowls and three other NFL Championships. His quarterback sneak in the Ice Bowl is one of the league's most historic plays. For a power running team, Starr stood above his peers as the league's MVP (1966), two-time Super Bowl MVP and four-time Pro Bowler.
From a team success standpoint, few can match Staubach's win-loss record. He led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships and finished his career with a remarkable 74.6 percent winning percentage. He was a Super Bowl MVP, a six-time Pro Bowler and one of the more dynamic athletes under center during his time. He led the NFL in passer rating four times and never had a losing record as a starter. Staubach is one of six players ever to start in at least four Super Bowls (2-2).
Tarkenton was so far ahead of his time as a passer that he might deserve consideration as the greatest of all-time. Losing three times in the Super Bowl is the only thing that hurts his case as the best at his position. When the whirling dervish retired in 1978, he held the NFL career records for completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns with numbers that dwarfed everyone who had ever played the game. Tarkenton was named to nine Pro Bowls and was the first true dual-threat quarterback with nearly 4,000 yards rushing and 32 TDs on the ground. What might be the most amazing stat to consider, however, was Tarkenton led the NFL in completions, attempts and yards in his 18th season at age 38 for the Vikings.
Armed with one of the quickest releases in history, the big-armed Pitt passer made his mark in NFL history as just a second-year player. He set the NFL single-season passing record and led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl as just a 23-year old. He would go on to lead the NFL in passing five times, got to nine Pro Bowls and was the 1984 MVP. He retired after shattering Fran Tarkenton's career passing records for completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns and still owns the most game-winning drives in NFL history (51).
It took him some time work his way into the starting lineup and his career likely ended a few years too short due to head injuries, but there is little doubt Young isn't one of the game's greatest. He is the No. 2 most efficient passer of all-time behind only Aaron Rodgers and is one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game (4,239 yards rushing, 43 TDs). His 1994 season might be the best ever by an NFL QB as he won his second MVP trophy en route to a Super Bowl championship. He threw for 325 yards and six TDs while claiming the game's MVP award. He led the league in passer rating six times and was a seven-time Pro Bowler.
Brady began his career 9-0 in the postseason with three Super Bowl championships and it placed him into elite territory in just five quick seasons. He led the Patriots to two more Super Bowls and is one of two QBs ever to start five such games. Brady set the single-season TD record with 50 (since broken by Peyton Manning) en route to just the second perfect regular season in history in 2007 (16-0). He has never posted a losing record and has just one full season as a starter — 2002, his first — in which he didn't win at least 10 games.
Unitas followed in Baugh's and Graham's footsteps as a guy who was well ahead of his time and peers. And he took it to another level with three MVPs and 10 Pro Bowls. He set the bar for quarterbacking in the 1950s, leading the league in attempts four times, passing yards four times and touchdowns four times. He owned the NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (47) for more than 50 years. Unitas won Super Bowl V to go with his three NFL Championships.
Few athletes in any sports have ever been as tough as Brett Favre. He owns every major passing record in the history of the game and has won more games than any other starting quarterback in the NFL annals. Favre's 6,300 completed passes alone would place him ninth on the all-time list for pass attempts. In 1996, he led the Packers to their first world championship since Super Bowl II and led them back to play in what many call the greatest Super Bowl ever played against the Broncos. That said, his consecutive games played streak — 297 regular-season games and 321 overall games — is not only the most by any quarterback by a wide margin (Peyton Manning, 208/227) but is the longest such streak by any player at any position (Jim Marshall, 270/289). Favre played 298 career games and missed one start during his 20 years of play. He won three MVPs and went to 11 Pro Bowls.
From the first family of football, Manning is one of the greatest students of the game. Known for his preparation and film study, few have ever played the game with a greater football IQ than Manning. Following a record-breaking 2013 season in which he established new records for yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55), Manning also claimed his record fifth league MVP award. The second-rated passer of all-time and the fourth-most accurate, Manning trails only Brett Favre in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. Barring another injury, Manning will claim all of these before his career is over. A Super Bowl champion with the Colts in 2006, he has played in a total of three including last year with the Broncos. Manning has been invited to 13 Pro Bowls and is still playing at an elite level at age 38, despite suffering a serious neck injury that required multiple surgeries and caused him to miss all of the 2011 season.
There are many stories about Joe Cool and his ability to play his best in critical times in games. His 4-0 mark in Super Bowls is the best in NFL history and his 16 playoff wins trail only Tom Brady's 18. He owns two NFL MVP trophies and three Super Bowl MVP trophies and was sent to eight Pro Bowls. He ranks in the top 13 in all of the major passing categories despite being labeled as a guy who didn't post big numbers. He even added some production on the ground. His play in the Super Bowl alone makes him the greatest quarterback to ever play the game to many.
The greatest combination of raw physical talent, statistical production/records and team success is the Broncos' superstar quarterback and current VP of Operations. He is behind just Marino, Peyton Manning and Favre in most of the major passing categories and is third all-time in game-winning drives. He is one of just two quarterbacks to start in five Super Bowls, he won two Super Bowl championships, was the 1987 MVP, claimed a Super Bowl MVP in '98 and went to nine Pro Bowls. What makes Elway the greatest of all-time, however, might be his pure athletic ability. Few players ever have brought the size, power, speed, arm strength and accuracy to the position like Elway possessed. His 3,407 rushing yards are third to only Steve Young and Johnny Unitas among those who made this list.
Trying to evaluate and compare a player from the 1940s with one from 2013 is like comparing apples with oranges. So when Athlon Sports ranked the greatest 25 NFL quarterbacks of all-time based on championships, statistical production, personal and team records, overall physical talent and longevity, it's hard to know where names like Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin and Y.A. Tittle belong relative to their modern peers. These four and others like Vinny Testaverde, Len Dawson, Randall Cunningham, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms just missed making the cut.
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