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25 Greatest Quarterbacks in NFL History

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There is no more revered or analyzed position in the NFL than quarterback. Besides all of the statistics that are associated with signal-callers, especially in today’s pass-happy game, it’s the only position that attributes wins and losses with any regularity.

While the quarterback position has certainly evolved throughout history there have been those field generals who have distinguished themselves from their peers regardless of the era in which they played. Taking statistical success as well as team accomplishments into consideration while acknowledging when they played, here are the 25 best quarterbacks in NFL history.

25. Joe Namath, 1965-77

JoeNamath_slide

Namath is probably best known for his pre-game prediction that his Jets would defeat the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl III. Not only did Namath’s unlikely prediction come to fruition, he earned Super Bowl MVP honors in the process for his outstanding performance. Namath also is well documented for his flamboyant Playboy lifestyle off of the gridiron. Broadway Joe may not have the statistical accomplishments of others on this list, but his legendary status, on and off the field, are more than enough to garner a place on the list. It would be sacrilege to have an NFL’s greatest quarterback list without Joe Willie Namath.

Record

62-63-4

Playoff

2-1

StatTotal

Comp

1,886

Att.

3,762

%

50.1

Yard

27.663

TD

173

INT

220

Rat.

65.5

GWD

16

Rush

140

TD

7

24. Dan Fouts, 1973-87

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Fouts spent his entire 15-year career with the San Diego Chargers. He led the NFL in passing for four consecutive seasons from 1979-82, becoming the first player in history to throw for more than 4,000 yards for three straight years. For his efforts, Fouts was named NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1982. He also was elected to six Pro Bowls during his career and is widely recognized as the most prolific passer of his era. Fouts’ never made it to the Super Bowl, which obviously hurts his overall stock to some degree, but his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 speaks volumes.

Record

86-84-1

Playoff

 3-4

StatTotal

Comp

3,297

Att.

5,604

%

58.8

Yard

43,040

TD

254

INT

242

Rat.

80.2

GWD 

26

Rush

476

TD

13

23. Philip Rivers, 2004-20

PhilipRivers_2013_hotseat_slide

The NC State product was selected fourth overall by the Giants in the famed 2004 QB draft class that also included Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. But in a bizarre turn of events, Rivers was immediately traded to the Chargers for No. 1 overall pick Manning after he refused to sign with the Chargers. Rivers never looked back en route to a stellar 16-year run as a San Diego/Los Angeles Charger, winning more games than any other quarterback in franchise history. He also holds practically every passing record in Chargers' franchise history, including passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, and completion percentage. While he never made an appearance in the Super Bowl, his overall success as one of the most prolific passers of all time is matched and surpassed by only a select few. The eight-time Pro Bowler ranks among the top five quarterbacks in NFL history in passing yards and touchdown passes. Rivers spent the final season of his 17-year NFL career as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, leading them to a wild-card berth.

Record

134-106

Playoff

5-7

StatTotal

Comp

5,277

Att.

8,134

%

64.9

Yard

63,440

TD

421

INT

209

Rat.

95.2

GWD

35

Rush

601

TD

3

22. Jim Kelly, 1986-96

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While Kelly never managed to win the big game, he is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to four consecutive Super Bowls. The Buffalo Bills' all-time passing and wins leader made his way to five Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro in both 1991 and '92. Before joining the Bills, Kelly spent two seasons with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, winning league MVP honors in 1984. His Hall of Fame NFL career spanned 11 seasons, tallying a stellar 101-59 record with a career completion percentage of better than 60 percent.

Record

 101-59

Playoff

9-8

StatTotal

Comp

2,874

Att.

4,779

%

60.1

Yard

35,467

TD

237

INT

175

Rat.

84.4

GWD

29

Rush

1,049

TD

7

21. Eli Manning, 2004-19

EliManning_slide

The former No. 1 overall draft pick out of Ole Miss entered the NFL in the shadow of older brother Peyton Manning, but it wasn’t long before Eli began paving his own way into the annals of greatness among NFL quarterbacks. The younger Manning is the New York Giants' all-time passing leader and the winningest quarterback in franchise history. He was a perfect 2-0 in Super Bowl appearances, winning MVP honors in both games. He ranks in the top 10 in career passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts and completions, as well as total offense. He also holds several postseason records and is tied for the longest touchdown pass in NFL history (99 yards). Following a stellar 16-season career, all with the New York Giants, Manning officially announced his retirement from football after the 2019 season. He appears to be a fairly safe bet for eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Record

117-117

Playoff

 8-4

StatTotal

Comp

4,895

Att.

8,119

%

60.3

Yard

57,023

TD

366

INT

244

Rat.

84.1

GWD 

37

Rush

567

TD

7

20. Kurt Warner, 1998-2009

KurtWarner_slide

Warner is quite possibly the greatest success story in NFL history. From undrafted prospect out of college to grocery store clerk earning $5.50 an hour to Arena League star to Super Bowl champion and MVP. He would ultimately go on to a storybook career with the Rams, Giants and Cardinals that spanned 12 years. Warner took home NFL MVP honors in 1999, 2001 and '08. He also was named to four Pro Bowls. He eventually made his way back to the Super Bowl after a successful 2008 campaign with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, he was unable to take home a second Lombardi Trophy. Warner is widely considered one of the most accurate and efficient passers in NFL history. He was part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017.

Record

 67-49

Playoff

 9-4

StatTotal

Comp

2,666

Att.

4,070

%

65.5

Yard

32,344

TD

208

INT

128

Rat.

93.7

GWD

14

Rush

286

TD

3

19. Sammy Baugh, 1937-52

SammyBaugh_slide

Slingin’ Sammy Baugh played in the NFL for 16 seasons, all with the Washington Redskins. In a time when the forward pass was still an afterthought for most NFL quarterbacks, Baugh was more than happy to go to the air, leading the NFL in passing six times. A record that still stands today. Baugh also won two NFL championships, in addition to being twice named NFL Player of the Year. He was ahead of his time and is often credited with revolutionizing the quarterback position. Baugh also ranks as a top-20 punter in NFL history with a career average of 45.1 yards per punt. He was among the first players ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1963.

Record

N/A

Playoff

N/A

StatTotal

Comp

1,693

Att.

2,995

%

56.5

Yard

21,886

TD

187

INT

203

Rat.

72.2

GWD

N/A

Rush

325

TD

9

18. Terry Bradshaw, 1970-83

TerryBradshaw_slide

Bradshaw rarely put up phenomenal numbers during his 14 NFL regular seasons as quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he did manage to take home NFL MVP honors in 1978, along with three Pro Bowl selections over the years. He is best known for his stellar play in the postseason. Only Joe Montana can rival Bradshaw’s perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowl starts. He also was twice named the MVP of the Super Bowl (XII, XIV), while boasting an outstanding QB rating of 112.8 in those four Super Sunday victories. Bradshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. He has stayed in the limelight over the years with various television and movie appearances. He currently serves as a co-host and analyst for FOX's "NFL Sunday."

Record

107-51

Playoff

14-5

StatTotal

Comp

2,025

Att.

3,901

%

51.9

Yard

27,989

TD

212

INT

210

Rat.

70.9

GWD

27

Rush

2,257

TD

32

17. Warren Moon, 1984-2000

WarrenMoon_slide

Despite playing the first six seasons of his professional career with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, Moon would go on to post mind-boggling numbers in an NFL career that spanned 17 years with four teams. Moon would spend the majority of his NFL career in Houston running the Oilers' famed “run-and-shoot” offense. Thanks in large part to this pass-happy offense, he would twice lead the NFL in passing yards. It also helped him earn NFL MVP honors in 1990. In total, Moon would receive nine invitations to the Pro Bowl. While he never made it the Super Bowl, he did win five Grey Cups (CFL championships) in his six seasons in the CFL. Moon is often credited with throwing the most perfect spiral in NFL history. He now rightfully resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Record

 102-101

Playoff

3-7

StatTotal

Comp

3,988

Att.

6,823

%

58.4

Yard

49,325

TD

291

INT

233

Rat.

80.9

GWD

37

Rush

1,736

TD

22

16. Otto Graham, 1946-55

OttoGraham_slide

He is widely considered the best quarterback of his era, winning four AAFC championships and three NFL championships, all with the Cleveland Browns. He was a three-time NFL MVP, and he won two MVP awards as a member of the AAFC. Graham was a seven-time All-Pro selection and a five-time Pro Bowler. He was the most prolific passer of his era, which is all the more impressive when you consider that he played in an option-based offense and never played the quarterback position until he reached the professional level. Graham held the highest career QB passer rating (86.6) until Joe Montana retired in 1994. He still holds the NFL record for passing yards per attempt (9.0). Thanks to his background as a collegiate running back, Graham rushed for 44 touchdowns during his 10-year professional career. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

Record

114-20-4*

Playoff

9-3*

StatTotal

Comp

1,464

Att.

2,626

%

55.8

Yard

23,584

TD

174

INT 

135

Rat.

86.6

GWD

N/A

Rush

882

TD

44

15. Troy Aikman, 1989-2000

TroyAikman_slide

Troy Aikman was the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 1989 NFL Draft following an outstanding collegiate career that began at Oklahoma and concluded at UCLA. He spent all 12 of his professional seasons in Dallas, where he would become the Cowboys' all-time career leader in wins, pass attempts and completions. He also played a significant role in leading “America’s Team” to three Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVIII and XXX), winning all three. His four-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXVII earned him MVP honors. Aikman was named to six Pro Bowls and received the distinguished Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1996. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Record

94-71

Playoff

11-4

StatTotal

Comp 

2,989

Att.

4,715

%

61.5

Yard

32,942

TD

165

INT

141

Rat.

81.6

GWD

21

Rush

1,016

TD

9

14. Bart Starr, 1956-71

BartStarr_slide

Starr lost just one playoff game in his storied 16-year career, placing him amongst the greatest postseason quarterbacks in NFL history. He would ultimately win five NFL titles in total, two via Super Bowls I and II. Starr would earn Super Bowl MVP honors in both of those wins. He was named NFL MVP in 1966 and named to the Pro Bowl four times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Record

94-57-6

Playoff

9-1

StatTotal

Comp

1,808

Att.

3,149

%

57.4

Yard

24,718

TD

152

INT

138

Rat.

80.5

GWD 

18

Rush

1,308

TD 

15

13. Ben Roethlisberger, 2004-Present

BenRoethlisberger_slide_bad

Big Ben, as he is affectionately known, has already staked a claim as one of the top signal-callers in NFL history. Roethlisberger has spent all 17 of his NFL seasons as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has more wins than any other quarterback in franchise history, owning virtually every Steeler passing record imaginable. He's also led the Steelers to two Super Bowl Championships (XL, XLIII), becoming the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl (age 23). Roethlisberger holds several distinguished NFL records, and he has been named to the Pro Bowl six times. And the tough-as-nails, 39-year-old field general could have a couple more chapters to write in an already storied career.

Record

156-74-1

Playoff

 13-9

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StatTotal

Comp

5,050

Att.

7,838

%

64.4

Yard

60,348

TD

396

INT

201

Rat.

94.0

GWD 

46

Rush

1,368

TD

19

12. Roger Staubach, 1969-79

RogerStaubach_slide

The former Heisman Trophy winner joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969 at the age of 27, following a four-year tour of duty in Vietnam as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He would go on to spend the entirety of his 11-year Hall of Fame career with the Cowboys, becoming one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history. He would win two Super Bowls (VI and XII), earning MVP honors in Super Bowl VI. Staubach was named the NFL MVP in 1971, in addition to being named to the Pro Bowl on six separate occasions. He has served as a hero and role model for millions, both on and off the field.

Record

 85-29

Playoff

11-6

StatTotal

Comp 

1,685

Att.

2,958

%

57.0

Yard

22,700

TD

153

INT

109

Rat.

83.4

GWD

23

Rush

2,264

TD

20

11. Fran Tarkenton, 1961-78

FranTarkenton_slide_spokeo

Tarkenton revolutionized the quarterback position, playing a brand of football that was unlike any other of his era. Widely considered the NFL’s first true dual-threat quarterback, he would go on to rush for 3,674 yards and 32 touchdowns during his career. He was the 1975 NFL MVP, a two-time All-Pro selection and a nine-time Pro Bowler. Tarkenton would never win an NFL championship during his 18-year career spent with the Vikings and Giants, but he did lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl on three separate occasions. He retired in 1978 holding career passing records for completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. All of those records have since fallen, but the Hall of Fame field general will forever be remembered as one of the all-time legends of the game.

Record

124-109-6

Playoff

6-5

StatTotal

Comp

3,686

Att.

6,467

%

57.0

Yard

47,003

TD

342

INT

266

Rat.

80.4

GWD

34

Rush

3,674

TD

32

10. Dan Marino, 1983-99

DanMarino_slide

Marino spent his entire 17-year career with the Miami Dolphins following a successful college career at Pitt. While he never won a Super Bowl, which hurts his status on this list to some degree, Marino did play in the big game (XIX) in just his second season as an NFL quarterback. He would go on to break countless passing records during his storied career. Many of his biggest records have since been surpassed, but he still holds several NFL passing records and literally every Dolphins passing record. Marino was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1983 and NFL MVP in '84. He also is a six-time All-Pro selection and was invited to nine Pro Bowls. Marino is best known for his cannon arm and lightning-fast release. He will go down as one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Record

 147-93

Playoff

 8-10

StatTotal

Comp

4,967

Att.

8,358

%

59.4

Yard

61,361

TD

420

INT

252

Rat.

86.4

GWD

51

Rush

87

TD 

9

9. Steve Young, 1985-99

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Steve Young’s legacy might be even greater if he didn’t have to spend three years backing up Joe Montana in San Francisco. That, in addition to spending his first two seasons in the USFL (1984-85), and two more quarterbacking an abysmal Buccaneers team in 1985-86. Regardless, Young will still go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. While he has three Super Bowl rings (XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) to his credit, only one of those came as a starting quarterback in Super Bowl XXIX. He was named MVP of that game, the capper to arguably the greatest season by a QB in NFL history. His resume also includes two NFL MVP Awards (1992 and '94), seven Pro Bowl selections and six All-Pro selections. His 96.8 passer rating ranks among the best all-time, and Young’s 4,239 rushing yards ranks fifth all-time among QBs. The former 49er great is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Record

94-49

Playoff

8-6

StatTotal

Comp

2,667

Att.

4,149

%

64.3

Yard

33,124

TD

232

INT

107

Rat.

96.8

GWD 

17

Rush

4,239

TD 

43

8. Aaron Rodgers, 2005-Present

AaronRodgers_slide

Rodgers' NFL career got off to a late start after playing a backup role to Brett Favre in his first three seasons in Green Bay. Regardless, he has achieved legendary status in 13 seasons as a starting NFL quarterback. Rodgers' list of accomplishments include Super Bowl champion (XLV), Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL MVP (2011, '14, '20), nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro. He currently has the highest career QB rating in NFL history (103.9) and ranks top-10 all-time among quarterbacks in rushing yards. At age 37, Rodgers still has time to further an already impressive list of accomplishments and continue to move up this list.

Record

126-63-1

Playoff

11-9

StatTotal

Comp

4,285

Att.

6,587

%

65.1

Yard

51,245

TD

412

INT 

89

Rat.

103.9

GWD

25

Rush

3,271

TD

31

7. Johnny Unitas, 1956-73

JohnnyUnitas_slide

Johnny U was the quintessential quarterback of his era, leading as a shining example for every signal-caller that tried to follow in his footsteps. A Hall of Fame career, spent primarily with the Baltimore Colts, would include a victory in Super Bowl V to go along with three NFL championships. Unitas was a four-time NFL MVP and named to 10 Pro Bowls during a legendary career that spanned 18 seasons.

Record

 118-64-4

Playoff

 6-2

StatTotal

Comp

2,830

Att.

5,186

%

54.6

Yard

40,239

TD

290

INT

253

Rat.

78.2

GWD

29

Rush 

1,777

TD

13

6. Brett Favre, 1991-2010

BrettFavre_slide

Favre was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 33rd overall pick out of Southern Miss in the 1991 NFL Draft. He would soon make his way to Green Bay in 1992 where he would flourish for the next 16 seasons. Favre built a legacy in Green Bay, leading the Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls (XXXI and XXXII) and a world championship in 1996 (XXXI). The three-time NFL MVP (1995, ’96, ’97) still holds several NFL passing records and ranks in the top five in practically every statistical passing category. He is tied with Peyton Manning for second with 186 career regular-season wins. He was a six time All-Pro selection and was invited to 11 Pro Bowls. Favre also built a tough-as-nails reputation on his way to becoming the NFL’s “Iron Man,” starting in 297 consecutive regular-season games. It is the longest streak of its kind by any player, at any position, in NFL history. A record that will likely never be broken. He would bounce in and out of retirement over the final three seasons of his 20-year career, ending it with short stints with the Jets and Vikings. Favre headlined the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2016.

Record

186-112

Playoff

13-11

StatTotal

Comp

6,300

Att.

10,169

%

62.0

Yard

71,838

TD

508

INT

336

Rat.

86.0

GWD

45

Rush

1,844

TD

14

5. John Elway, 1983-98

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A two-sport standout at Stanford, Elway spent a season in the New York Yankees' farm system before ultimately deciding to take his chances in the NFL. He was selected No. 1 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. Elway was quickly traded to the Broncos, having never played a single down for the Colts. He would spend all 16 seasons of his Hall of Fame career in Denver, where he would go on to play in five Super Bowls. He won two (XXXII, XXXIII), including being named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII, the final game of his playing career. Elway was selected for nine Pro Bowls, was a three-time All-Pro honoree, and took home NFL MVP honors in 1987. The 2004 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee excelled as both a passer and a runner. His 3,407 rushing yards rank ninth among quarterbacks. The athletic signal-caller, renowned for his legendary rocket arm, ranks among the top passers in NFL history in several categories as well. He currently serves as the President of Football Operations for the Broncos.

Record

 148-82-1

Playoff

14-7

StatTotal

Comp

4,123

Att.

7,250

%

56.9

Yard

51,475

TD

300

INT

226

Rat. 

79.9

GWD

46

Rush

3,407

TD

33

4. Drew Brees, 2001-20

DrewBrees_slide

Following a successful five-year stint with the San Diego Chargers to begin his career, the former second-round pick out of Purdue wound up with the New Orleans Saints where his career really began to take off. Brees would lead the Saints to their one and only Super Bowl (XLIV) victory in franchise history in 2009, earning game MVP honors in the process. The 13-time Pro Bowl signal-caller is the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards (80,358) and completions (7,142) and ranks second all-time in touchdown passes (571). He also holds records for all-time completion percentage (67.7), passing yards per game (280), and most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (54). Additionally, Brees is the fastest quarterback to reach the 60,000 and 70,000 passing yard marks and ranks fourth in career regular-season wins (172). He called it a career after the 2020 season and will likely go into the Hall of Fame as soon as he's eligible.

Record

172-114

Playoff

9-9

StatTotal

Comp

7,142

Att.

10,551

%

67.7

Yard

80,358

TD

 571

INT

243

Rat.

98.7

GWD 

53

Rush

752

TD 

25

3. Joe Montana, 1979-94

JoeMontana_slide

After winning a national championship at Notre Dame, Joe Cool or The Comeback Kid as he is often referred, would go on to a legendary career with the 49ers. He would ultimately become known as the greatest quarterback in Super Bowl history. A title that has since been passed on to Tom Brady. He owns several Super Bowl records including a perfect 4-0 record (shared with Terry Bradshaw), the highest collective all-time QB rating in the Super Bowl (127.8), and the most passes thrown without an interception (122 in four games). His three Super Bowl MVP selections are surpassed only by Tom Brady. Montana was no slouch during the regular season either, earning NFL MVP honors in both 1989 and '90. He also garnered eight Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro selections. Best known for his calm demeanor and ability to overcome even the most adverse situations, Montana's legacy as one of the greatest to ever play the game is secure. He retired in 1994 after spending his final two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

Record

 117-47

Playoff

 16-7

StatTotal

Comp

3,409

Att.

5,391

%

63.2

Yard

40,551

TD

273

INT

139

Rat. 

92.3

GWD

33

Rush

1,676

TD

20

2. Peyton Manning, 1998-2015

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The first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee, Peyton Manning has garnered more accomplishments than any other quarterback in NFL history. In a storybook career that spanned 17 seasons between the Colts and Broncos, the future Hall of Famer won five NFL MVP trophies, the most of any player. He was named an All-Pro an impressive 10 times and was invited to the Pro Bowl in all but three of his seasons (14). Manning holds multiple NFL records, both single-season and career. He is second all time in career wins (regular season and postseason) with 200. He played in four Super Bowls, winning twice (XLI and 50), and was named MVP in leading the Colts to victory over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Manning is the epitome of elite in every sense of the word. He will forever be acknowledged for his high football IQ, relentless preparation, and immense character, both on and off the field. He is slated to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021.

Record

 186-79

Playoff

14-13

StatTotal

Comp

6,125

Att.

9,380

%

65.3

Yard

71,940

TD

539

251

INT

96.5

GWD

56

Rush

667

TD

18

1. Tom Brady, 2000-Present

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After being selected 199th overall (sixth round) by the Patriots in the 2000 NFL Draft, no one could have ever imagined that Brady would go on to have one of the most decorated careers in NFL history. During Brady’s 18 seasons as the starting quarterback for New England, he led the Patriots to an unprecedented 17 division titles, nine Super Bowls, and six world championships. In just his first season as the starting quarterback for Tampa Bay, Brady led the Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl LV, earning Super Bowl MVP honors for a record fifth time. He has made more Super Bowl starts (10) and has more Super Bowl wins (7) than any player (or franchise for that matter) in NFL history. Brady’s extensive resume also includes three NFL MVP Awards (2007, '10, '17), five All-Pro selections, and 14 Pro Bowl invitations. He is the winningest quarterback in NFL history (264, regular season and postseason), he ranks second all-time in career passing yards (79,204) and no one in the history of the league has thrown more touchdown passes (581). While Tom Terrific has already cemented his place in Canton as the greatest quarterback of all time, he isn't done just yet.

Record

230-69

Playoff

 34-11

StatTotal

Comp

6,778

Att.

10,598

%

64.0

Yard

79,204

TD

581

INT

191

Rat.

97.3

GWD

48

Rush

1,043

TD

25

Note: Statistics in tables are for regular-season games.

— Rankings by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.