Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ranking the Best QBs of All-Time

Wednesday has turned into an unofficial day to rank things on this site. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Just seems like a nice way to spend the middle of the week. Kind of like why we decided in college that Wednesday was the best day of the week to go out. It was less crowded than the Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, the drink specials were better and the people that were out were more dedicated to being out. Oh, and the coeds that were out felt like they were being bad by being out on a Wednesday, so they were a little more frisky. Well, like college girls need a reason to be friskier. Did we really need a reason to go out on Wednesdays and make that 8:50 Accounting class almost impossible to attend on Thursday? No, but we did it because we wanted to. In any event, today’s rankings? Given the performance that Manning just put on during Sunday’s dismantling of the Jets, let’s rank the quarterbacks of all-time. And for fun, take this quiz on the quarterbacks with the most wins all-time. I got 34 of the 41, including the top 23. There’s your gauntlet.

There are a couple of things we have to take into account before getting to the rankings. Yes, guys played in different eras and that does have an effect on guy’s rankings. The rules are easier for quarterbacks now, with less contact on receivers and more protection of the quarterbacks than ever before. Then again, defenders are bigger, faster and meaner (Ray Lewis?) than they’ve ever been in the past. So that’s kind of a wash. Rings are crucial, but are not the only thing that determines how great a quarterback is. Dan Marino has no rings, and Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and Mark Rypien each have one. No one would ever take one of those guys over Marino. It's also important how clutch the guy is. If you have the ball, down by 5 with 2 minutes left, who do you want under center? If you're starting a franchise and have any of these guys at the beginning of their career, who do you want? Here is one man’s rankings.

One final note – I believe these rankings could change dramatically based on the results of this year’s Super Bowl and the next few years. If Manning gets a second ring, it will jump him up higher. If Brees wins, and puts together another couple of seasons with stats like he has the past three seasons, and he might make the list. The guy will have the same number of wins as Favre and have some prolific seasons. Anyway, on to the rankings.

1. Joe Montana
49ers & Chiefs – 1979-1994

Montana has to be at the top of the list of all-time quarterbacks. In addition to his 4 Super Bowl titles, he has the stats to stack up next to anyone, playing in a less passer-friendly NFL than the current super stars. His ability to remain calm in the clutch and lead his team on late game-winning drives was unmatched. He had the advantage of having the best WR of all in Jerry Rice and great running backs in Roger Craig and Ricky Watters. Yet you can’t argue with 2 leaugue MVPs, one Offensive Player of the Year award, and 3 Super Bowl MVPs. A 16-7 playoff record and top ten in yards, touchdowns and passer rating (as flawed as it is).

2. Terry Bradshaw
Pittsburgh Steelers – 1970-1983

Bradshaw played before my time, so I have to go back to some film, stats and articles to judge him more than what I see from him on the FOX NFL Pregame show. Then again, from the pregame show I learned that he dated Jillian Barberie for a while, so that’s worthy of a high ranking all by itself. The big Louisiana native was 4-0 in the Super Bowl with 9 TDs and 4 interceptions in the big game. He wasn’t a huge stats guy, only ranking 44th in passing yards and 24th in TDs (though he led the league twice in TDs). His leadership, and ability in big games more than makes up for his lack of sexy stats and puts him ahead of guys like Brady, Favre and Elway who have lost Super Bowls.

3. Tom Brady
New England Patriots – 2000-Present

Brady’s hold above Manning is extremely tenuous right now. If Manning wins in Miami in a few weeks, I will flip these two in my rankings. Brady is 3-1 in the Super Bowl, with 2 Super Bowl MVPs, has a league MVP award and is married to a Victoria’s Secret super model. Unfortunately, he lost his last appearance in the big game, blew out his knee and also knocked up his former girlfriend, Bridget Moynahan. He has the single season record for TDs from 2007, and also took home the league MVP award that season. His calm under pressure in winning his titles early in his career gave him a strong ranking despite his recent “struggles” – if you can call them that. He is only 32 years old, so there is a strong possibility that he may add another title, MVP and more yards to his already impressive total.

4. Peyton Manning
Indianapolis Colts – 1998-Present

Manning is neck and neck with Brady with the only real difference being the multiple Super Bowls that Brady has won. Manning has a chance to add another next week, which will push him to the #3 spot. He is also the only 4-time league MVP after his win this season. And being 33 years old with a Colts team reloaded with young receivers in Garcon and Collie, he has the potential to get all the way to the second spot before he hangs up the spikes permanently. He will likely hold every passing record before he retires, as he is already 4th in passing yards, and 3rd in passing touchdowns. Early in his career there was concern that he couldn’t win the big game, but after his two wins this year, he is now 9-8 in the playoffs. He is the most cerebral quarterback to ever play the position, and his dedication to film study allows his to utilize his height, accuracy and strong arm to adjust to any defense thrown at him.

5. Brett Favre
Falcons, Packers, Jets & Vikings – 1991-Present

He is the toughest guy to ever play the position and has always played like a kid on the playground as the ultimate gunslinger. He never played with wide receivers anywhere near the caliber of Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Lynn Swann, or Marvin Harrison. His 3 league MVP awards and one Super Bowl title (where he deserved the MVP award) and another Super Bowl loss pair with his record consecutive games streak, all-time records for attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions. While the overall media continues to slurp on him, he has some obvious faults, most notably his penchant for turning the ball over, particularly in big games at big moments. His interceptions cost the Packers in the 2007 NFC Championship and the Vikings on Sunday. And I’m going to keep the off-the-field douche baggery out of the discussion, because the way he has flip flopped about retirement, was a vindictive a-hole to the team that stuck by him threw all of his personal troubles, abandoned his best friend Mark Chmura, abused drugs and alcohol and womanized like Wilt Chamberlain didn’t affect his ability on the field. Heck, he actually may have been better when he was drinking, partying and relying on pain killers.

6. Johnny Unitas
Baltimore Colts & San Diego Chargers – 1956-1973

Unitas was recently passed by Manning for wins as a Colts quarterback, and Manning has said Unitas was one of his heroes. He was 6-2 in the playoffs, including 1-1 in the Super Bowl, losing the infamous game to Namath and the Jets and beating the Cowboys two years later. He also won 2 NFL crowns prior to the Super Bowl, and has 3 MVPs to his credit. He had 26 games with over 300 yards passing, despite playing in a very run-heavy era for the league.

7. John Elway
Broncos – 1983-1998

While resembling Mr. Ed, Elway won 2 Super Bowls, went 14-6 in the playoffs and was famous for his game-winning drives. Ask a Cleveland Browns fan or a Packers fan from the 1998 Super Bowl, they’re well aware of the devastation Elway can bring. He has an MVP award, and is 3rd all-time in passing yards, 5th in passing touchdowns and added 33 TDs on the ground. I originally had Elway ranked higher before looking through the stats and seeing how poorly he played in his 5 Super Bowl appearances, going 2-3 in the big game. Only once did he have a passer rating over 85 in the Super Bowl (1999), and he had 3 TDs and 8 interceptions in the big game (though he did have 4 rushing TDs). He wasn’t able to break through to the championship level until he had one of the game’s best running backs in Terrell Davis.

8. Dan Marino
Miami Dolphins – 1983-1999

Marino is the first quarterback on the list without a Super Bowl title and will always be known as the best quarterback never to have won a title. He made it to the Super Bowl in his second season before losing to Montana’s 49ers. He is the Charles Barkley of the NFL. He held the records for attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns before Favre and is now second in all of the categories. He had cannon for an arm, with an ultra quick release, which allowed him to continue playing long after his legs could buy him time by getting out of the pocket.

9. Steve Young
Buccaneers & 49ers – 1985-1998

After being rescued from Tampa Bay purgatory, Young had to escape the enormous shadow of Joe Montana. And he did exactly that, by finishing in the top 3 in completion percentage 8 straight seasons (leading the league 5 times). He was the Super Bowl MVP when he lit up the Chargers for 6 TDs in 1994, and who can forget him asking his teammates to remove the imaginary monkey from his back? He is a two-time league MVP with an 8-6 playoff record. He evolved from a very mobile quarterback into a true drop back passer as his career went along. He is basically the Katie Cassidy to Joe Montana’s Heather Locklear. Who is Katie Cassidy? Besides being the daughter of David Cassidy of the Partridge Family, she is the vixen of the pathetic remake of Melrose Place.

10. Roger Staubach
Dallas Cowboys – 1969-1979

This was a tough spot to fill because after the first nine guys, there is a large group of guys that are tough to separate. Guys that won multiple Super Bowls, but didn’t really do much in those games (Bob Griese), guys with big stats but played poorly in their Super Bowl appearances (Fran Tarkenton & Jim Kelly), or guys with big stats that didn’t make the Super Bowl (Dan Fouts). At the end of the day, Staubach gets the nod because in addition to his 2-2 record in Super Bowls, he led the league in passing 4 times, and was clutch in all of his Super Bowl appearances. He was a winner, with an 85-29 record as a starting quarterback, and when he retired, his passer rating of nearly 84 was the highest of all-time.
Did I miss anyone? Any big arguments for or against someone being higher or lower? Let me know with a comment below or email me.

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