Top Five NFL Quarterbacks of All-Time

Who Are the Five Greatest Quarterbacks in NFL History?

Other suggested readings: "Top Five NFL Quarterbacks," by Eric Williams and "Top Five NFL Safeties of All - time".

A couple of weeks ago, I amassed a list of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL as of today, based on results and potential.

I have gathered up stats and facts about several of the NFL's elite quarterbacks throughout football history. Basically, the quarterbacks were ranked by stats and efficiency. Other accomplishments such as Super Bowl wins, Pro Bowl appearances, and MVP awards were taken into consideration, but they do not eclipse actual stats.

1. Dan Marino: Dan Marino was a first-round draft pick for the Miami Dolphins in 1983. He went to college at Pittsburgh. He spent seventeen seasons as quarterback of the Miami Dolphins and broke almost every passing record possible. His arm strength and accuracy was consistently among the elite throughout his illustrious career. Despite breaking records and producing phenomenal stats, Dan Marino has had to carry around the encumbrance of being known as the best quarterback not to win the Super Bowl. His legacy and place among past quarterbacks will be in question because of his lack of post-season success. Arguably, if Marino had won just a single Super Bowl, then he would be documented as the greatest quarterback ever to play football, similar to how Michael Jordan has been hailed as the greatest basketball player of all-time. But his stats alone state that not only is he the best quarterback not to win the Super Bowl, but the best quarterback ever to grace the gridiron.

Marino played in 242 NFL regular season games, completed 4,967 out of 8,358 pass attempts, and threw for 61,361 yards, threw 420 touchdown passes and 252 interceptions. Marino made nine appearances in the Pro Bowl, and won the MVP award in 1984.

2. Joe Montana: Joe Montana was drafted in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers in 1979. Montana went to college at Notre Dame. He spent thirteen seasons with the 49ers before ending his career after a two-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs. Joe Montana became a household name in the 1980s as he led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles. His post-season performances became legendary, as he was known as one of the best NFL clutch quarterbacks. He led his teams to sixteen wins in twenty-three playoff appearances.

Joe Montana played in 192 NFL regular season games, completed 3,409 out of 5,391 pass attempts, threw for 40,551 yards, threw 273 touchdown passes and 139 interceptions. Montana has made eight appearances in the Pro Bowl, and won the MVP award in 1989 and 1990.

3. John Elway: This isn't a cliché. The three best NFL quarterbacks were all products of the 1980s. The Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft originally drafted John Elway out of Stanford. He was traded to the Denver Broncos that same season. He would spend all sixteen of his NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos. One of Elway's most primitive unforgettable moments came in the 1987 AFC championship game against the Cleveland Browns when he executed 'the drive'. Elway led the Broncos in a five-minute game-winning drive, which consisted of 98 yards in 15 plays. He led the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances, and won two of them.

John Elway played in 234 NFL regular season games, completed 4,123 out of 7,250 pass attempts, threw for 51,475 yards, threw 300 touchdown passes and 226 interceptions. Elway has appeared in the Pro Bowl nine times, and won the MVP award in 1987.

4. Johnny Unitas: Johnny Unitas was waived by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1956 and signed by the Baltimore Colts. Unitas spent seventeen of his eighteen NFL seasons with the Baltimore Colts, before ending his career with the San Diego Chargers. Unitas went to college at Louisville after Notre Dame spurned him. Unitas led the Baltimore Colts to three NFL championships and one Super Bowl. When he retired in 1973, he owned the record for most pass completions, total yards, and most touchdown passes.

Johnny Unitas played in 211 NFL regular season games, completed 2,830 out of 5,186 pass attempts, threw for 40,239 yards, threw 290 touchdown passes and 253 interceptions. Unitas appeared in the Pro Bowl ten times, and won the MVP award in 1957, 1959, 1964, and 1967.

5. Fran Tarkenton: Fran Tarkenton was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round of the 1961 NFL draft. Tarkenton went to college at the University of Georgia. Tarkenton played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1961 to 1966. He played for the New York Giants from 1967 to 1971, but returned to the Vikings in 1972 where he spent the remainder of his career until he retired in 1978. Like Dan Marino, the Super Bowl eluded Fran Tarkenton, which raises the question as to his place in NFL history compared to championship quarterbacks such as Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Tarkenton did lead the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl in 1976, but the Oakland Raiders defeated them.

Fran Tarkenton played in 246 NFL regular season games, completed 3,686 out of 6,467 pass attempts, threw for 47,003 yards, threw 342 touchdown passes and 266 interceptions. Tarkenton appeared in nine Pro Bowl games, and won the MVP award in 1975.

Honorable Mentions include:

Steve Young
Brett Favre
Joe Namath
Bart Starr
Dan Fouts
Joe Theisman
Len Dawson
Bob Griese
Roger Staubach
Troy Aikman
Terry Bradshaw
Phil Simms
Jim Kelly
Warren Moon

Published by Jeremy Dunn

Jeremy is a freelance writer. He is currently writing for the Atlanta Examiner, and also runs his own blog, NASCAR Racing Scene. He is the author of the book entitled Superstars of Pro Football- Ray Lewis .  View profile

3 Comments

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  • Susan 12/6/2012

    And where is Tom Brady on these lists.....he' not even on the honorable mention list. Even the sports websites, rarely do Patriots players get mentioned.....it's not fair and not mentioning them does not make them go away!

  • saraguy2 11/25/2012

    Everyone except Jeremy Dunn knows that Joe Montana was better than Dan Marino ! It's not even close !

  • Jake Letofsky 8/5/2012

    Great list, couldn't agree more, and for those guys posting about how Vick should be on the list.....really? A couple decent seasons with no postseason success. Nope.

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