10 Greatest Quarterback Seasons in NFL History

Lamar Jackson was the greatest run/pass threat ever in 2019

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had an amazing season that was capped with being the unanimous pick for NFL MVP. In fact, it is one of the 10 best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

 

Before we delve into this list, we give a proper goodbye to Cam Newton's 2015 performance. Newton accounted for 45 of the Panthers' 54 regular-season touchdowns as the team went 15-1 and cruised through the playoffs to the Super Bowl.

 

Now without further ado, here are the 10 best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

 

10. Kurt Warner, 1999 St. Louis Rams

(16 games – 4,353 yards, 41 TDs, 13 INTs, 65.1 completion rate, 109.2 passer rating; 92 rushing yards, TD)

13-3, NFC West champs, beat Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV

MVP, Super Bowl XXXIV MVP

Rams’ head coach Dick Vermeil famously said at the start of the 1999 season, “We will rally around Kurt Warner and will play good football.” The Rams did just that and Warner responded with a season for the ages, throwing for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns as “The Greatest Show on Turf” overwhelmed opponents. In the playoffs, Warner averaged more than 350 yards a game and threw for a record 414 yards in the Super Bowl XXXIV win over the Tennessee Titans.

 

9. Y.A. Tittle, 1963 New York Giants

(13 games – 3,145 yards, 36 TDs, 14 INTs; 104.8 passer rating; 99 rushing yards, 2 TDs)

11-3, East champs, lost to Chicago in NFL Championship Game

MVP (AP)

The 37-year-old Tittle completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw for 3,145 and a record 36 touchdown passes... in 1963. His touchdown pass record stood until Dan Marino broke it in 1984. Tittle’s amazing season propelled the Giants into the NFL Championship Game, where they lost to the Chicago Bears. It would be the last postseason appearance for the Giants until 1984.

 

8. Lamar Jackson, 2019 Baltimore Ravens

(15 games – 3,127 yards, 36 TDs, 6 INTs, 66.1 completion rate, 113.3 passer rating; 1,206 rushing yards, 7 TDs)

14-2, AFC North Champs, lost to Tennessee Titans in Divisional Playoff

MVP

Jackson truly fulfilled the visions of the run and pass threat. His passer rating was the 11th best in NFL history and his 1,206 rushing yards are the most ever by a quarterback. Jackson also did this in 15 games, as Ravens coach John Harbaugh sat him for the last game of the regular season. At 23, he is the second-youngest player ever to be named MVP and also the second to receive every vote for the award (Tom Brady, 2010).

 

7. Matt Ryan, 2016 Atlanta Falcons

(16 Games – 4,944 yards, 38 TDs, 7 INTs, 69.9 completion rate, 117.1 passer rating; 117 rushing yards)

11-5, NFC South champions, lost to New England in overtime in Super Bowl LI

MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year
The Falcons had the 27th-ranked scoring defense in the NFL in 2016, but Ryan and the offense picked up the slack. Matty Ice threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He was equally brilliant in the playoffs, completing 71.4 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns, no picks (he did have a costly fumble in the Super Bowl LI loss in overtime to New England) and posting a 135.3 passer rating.

 

6. Patrick Mahomes, 2018 Kansas City Chiefs

(16 games – 5,097 yards, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, 66.0 completion rate, 113.8 passer rating; 272 rushing yards, 2 TDs)

13-3, AFC West champs, lost to New England 37-31 in AFC Championship Game
MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year

The Chiefs traded away Alex Smith in the offseason, making Mahomes the starter for 2018 even though he had just one career start under his belt. The second-year quarterback appeared to be a natural from Week 1, throwing 50 touchdowns and becoming only one of one seven players in NFL history with more than 5,000 passing yards in a season as he wound up being named league MVP. And all he did as an encore this past season was return from a dislocated kneecap suffered in mid-October to lead Kansas City to a come-from-behind win over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV, the Chiefs' first appearance in 50 years. In his first two seasons as a starter, Mahomes has been named league, Pro Bowl (last year), and now Super Bowl MVP. Quite the beginning to a career, no?

 

5. Dan Marino, 1984 Miami Dolphins

(16 games – 5,084 yards, 48 TDs, 17 INTs, 64.2 completion rate, 108.9 passer rating)

14-2, AFC East champs, lost to San Francisco in Super Bowl XIX

MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year

Although his stats have since been surpassed, Marino’s 1984 season remains legendary. He shattered the single-season record for touchdown passes with 48 – including 16 in the final four games — in only his second year in pro football. Marino also became the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. His 17 interceptions and Super Bowl loss to the 49ers prevent him from being higher on the list, but man, what a year.

 

4. Tom Brady, 2007 New England Patriots

(16 games – 4,806 yards, 50 TDs, 8 INTs, 68.9 completion rate, 117.2 passer rating; 98 rushing yards, 2 TDs)

16-0, AFC East champs, lost to New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII

MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year

Take one of the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, give him the best receiver corps and sit back and watch the sparks fly. Brady threw for a then-record 50 touchdowns and 4,806 yards, earning a passer rating of 117.2. He also was the field general for the Patriots’ undefeated regular season.

 

3. Peyton Manning, 2013 Denver Broncos

(16 games – 5,477 yards, 55 TDs, 10 INTs, 68.3 completion rate, 115.1 passer rating; rushing TD)

13-3, AFC West champs, lost to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII

MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year

Manning came back from a debilitating neck injury to put together an NFL season reserved for a Madden gamer constantly running the two-minute drill. He set the single-season records for both touchdown passes (55) and passing yardage (5,477) en route to a Super Bowl berth. If the Seahawks did not blow out the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, this season would be higher on the list.

 

2. Joe Montana, 1989 San Francisco 49ers

(13 games – 3,521 yards, 26 TDs, 8 INTs, 70.2 completion rate, 112.4 passer rating; 227 rushing yards, 3 TDs)

14-2, NFC West champs, beat Denver in Super Bowl XXIV

MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl XXIV MVP

Many areas of greatness stood out in this season, but the main one was Montana’s 112.4 quarterback rating. It was the first time in the modern passing era that a quarterback had cracked the 110 threshold. Along the way, he threw for 3,521 yards and completed 70.2 percent of his passes. Often forgotten is Montana’s running ability and in 1989, he tucked the ball and ran 49 times for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He also had arguably gutsiest performance of his career, shaking off eight sacks by the Philadelphia Eagles, to lead the 49ers to victory. In the playoffs, Montana’s passer rating was 146.4 and he threw five touchdown passes against the Denver Broncos in the largest blowout in Super Bowl history.

 

1. Steve Young, 1994 San Francisco 49ers

(16 games – 3,969 yards, 35 TDs, 10 INTs, 70.3 completion rate, 112.8 passer rating; 293 rushing yards, 7 TDs)

13-3, NFC West champs, beat San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX

MVP, Super Bowl XXIX MVP

After two straight losses to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, Young responded with the best season of his career, starting all 16 regular-season games and winning 13 of them. He also threw for 3,969 yards and 35 touchdowns and his 70.3 percent completion rate is tied for fourth best of all time. His 112.8 passer rating was a record that stood for 10 years until Peyton Manning broke it in 2004. Young, of course, was also a threat on the ground, rushing 58 times for 293 yards and seven touchdowns. In the playoffs, he was brilliant, throwing for nine touchdowns — including a record six in Super Bowl XXIX — and running for two as he won his only championship as a starter. This would be the peak for Young and the last time he would start a full season, as injuries would plague him for the remainder of his career.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

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