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## Checkdowns: Judging QBs By Their Top 5 Seasons

No, Peyton, you are #1.

While working on a different post, I needed to derive a quick-and-dirty formula to identify the top 100 or so quarterbacks in NFL history. Here is how I went about doing that:

1) Calculate the Relative ANY/A of each quarterback in every season since 1950. ANY/A, of course, is Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, defined as (Gross Pass Yards + 20*Pass_TDs – 45*INTs – Sack Yards Lost) divided by (Pass Attempts + Sacks). For quarterback seasons before 1969, we do not have sack data, so that part of the analysis is ignored (I could have used estimated sack data, but I being lazy).

2) For each quarterback season, multiply each quarterback’s number of dropbacks by his Relative ANY/A to derive a Passing Value over Average metric.

3) Pro-rate non-16 game seasons to 16 games.

4) Calculate a career grade for each quarterback based on the sum of his best five seasons.

Then I realized that this data, while background material for a separate post, was probably interesting to folks in its own right.  Hence today’s post. You should not be surprised to see that Peyton Manning is number one on this list. Here’s how to read his line. His best year came in 2004, when he produced 2113 Adjusted Net Yards over Average. Last year was his second best season — his gross numbers were more impressive, of course, but he produced “only” 2,031 ANY over average. Manning’s other three best years came in ’06, ’05, and ’03. Overall, he produced 8,115 Adjusted Net Yards over Average over his five best seasons, the best of any quarterback in this study (by a large margin). The table below shows the top 100 passers since 1950 (you can change the number of quarterbacks displayed in the dropdown box).

RkNameBest Yr2nd Best3rd Best4th Best5th BestTotal
1Peyton Manning2113 (2004)2031 (2013)1454 (2006)1265 (2005)1251 (2003)8115
2Tom Brady2014 (2007)1508 (2011)1301 (2010)1025 (2012)1005 (2009)6853
3Drew Brees1590 (2011)1422 (2009)1261 (2006)1196 (2008)1123 (2013)6592
4Dan Marino2271 (1984)1300 (1986)875 (1987)861 (1992)856 (1988)6163
5Steve Young1410 (1994)1394 (1992)1202 (1993)1116 (1998)904 (1991)6026
6Dan Fouts1790 (1982)1425 (1981)1004 (1980)964 (1985)826 (1978)6008
7Norm Van Brocklin1440 (1953)1237 (1950)1096 (1960)1013 (1951)979 (1954)5764
8Johnny Unitas1291 (1964)1255 (1959)1067 (1967)975 (1958)968 (1963)5555
9Philip Rivers1356 (2009)1179 (2010)1174 (2008)1102 (2013)659 (2006)5470
10Ken Anderson1366 (1975)1225 (1981)1035 (1982)984 (1974)815 (1973)5425
11Joe Montana1330 (1984)1286 (1989)979 (1982)927 (1983)869 (1987)5391
12Aaron Rodgers1880 (2011)1075 (2009)893 (2010)844 (2012)663 (2013)5354
13Kurt Warner1652 (1999)1294 (2001)1013 (2000)812 (2008)454 (2007)5225
14Brett Favre1109 (2009)1108 (1995)972 (2001)913 (2007)894 (1997)4995
15Roger Staubach1108 (1977)1100 (1979)1038 (1971)958 (1978)762 (1976)4966
16Sonny Jurgensen1397 (1967)1240 (1961)820 (1966)738 (1970)621 (1964)4817
17Len Dawson1146 (1966)1035 (1962)954 (1968)754 (1964)704 (1971)4593
18Otto Graham1870 (1953)893 (1955)840 (1952)546 (1951)397 (1954)4545
19Fran Tarkenton1078 (1976)959 (1975)933 (1974)822 (1967)746 (1969)4538
20Boomer Esiason1159 (1988)1026 (1986)902 (1985)728 (1989)609 (1997)4424
21Y.A. Tittle1179 (1963)1031 (1962)916 (1953)629 (1954)544 (1961)4299
22Daryle Lamonica1130 (1968)1036 (1969)886 (1967)700 (1970)479 (1972)4230
23Trent Green1024 (2003)831 (2002)827 (2004)820 (2005)639 (2000)4140
24Joe Namath1080 (1967)1021 (1968)818 (1972)741 (1969)460 (1965)4120
25John Brodie1486 (1970)943 (1965)838 (1961)480 (1968)283 (1971)4030
26Tony Romo1103 (2009)900 (2007)835 (2011)648 (2006)534 (2008)4020
27John Hadl1170 (1967)867 (1973)659 (1966)637 (1965)586 (1964)3918
28Roman Gabriel1157 (1973)899 (1967)772 (1969)511 (1971)484 (1970)3823
29Jim Hart1077 (1976)841 (1974)658 (1973)653 (1975)581 (1977)3811
30Ken Stabler1199 (1976)1171 (1974)498 (1977)484 (1973)409 (1979)3760
31John Elway782 (1987)770 (1993)710 (1997)675 (1998)628 (1995)3565
32Warren Moon1232 (1990)651 (1988)578 (1989)516 (1991)496 (1995)3473
33Bert Jones1580 (1976)942 (1977)704 (1975)150 (1978)67 (1981)3442
34Bart Starr1189 (1966)589 (1964)564 (1968)556 (1961)475 (1962)3373
35Milt Plum1367 (1960)830 (1961)584 (1959)309 (1958)264 (1964)3354
36Bobby Layne1004 (1958)740 (1951)564 (1954)503 (1953)464 (1950)3274
37Troy Aikman839 (1993)806 (1995)741 (1992)567 (1998)320 (1994)3274
38Rich Gannon1047 (2002)816 (2001)763 (2000)527 (1999)111 (1991)3264
39Daunte Culpepper1418 (2004)1051 (2000)733 (2003)49 (2001)-66 (2007)3185
40Terry Bradshaw786 (1978)648 (1977)637 (1979)608 (1981)503 (1975)3182
41Jeff Garcia1247 (2000)771 (2001)508 (2007)335 (2006)306 (2008)3168
42Donovan McNabb1121 (2004)784 (2006)579 (2009)344 (2008)310 (2007)3139
43Matt Schaub1092 (2009)610 (2010)594 (2011)445 (2008)303 (2012)3044
44Ben Roethlisberger820 (2009)682 (2010)636 (2005)464 (2007)422 (2004)3024
45Jim Everett1043 (1989)841 (1988)435 (1995)397 (1990)303 (1994)3020
46Jim Kelly894 (1991)810 (1990)564 (1992)397 (1989)346 (1986)3010
47Earl Morrall1074 (1968)595 (1963)538 (1965)513 (1972)247 (1970)2968
48Mark Rypien1351 (1991)936 (1989)276 (1988)222 (1990)150 (1992)2935
49Billy Kilmer631 (1975)596 (1971)575 (1973)571 (1974)531 (1972)2903
50Vinny Testaverde1045 (1998)717 (1996)473 (1995)326 (2003)308 (1993)2868
51Bob Griese792 (1971)672 (1977)500 (1973)481 (1975)361 (1974)2805
52George Blanda1713 (1961)351 (1968)258 (1960)231 (1963)177 (1954)2731
53Craig Morton794 (1970)650 (1969)523 (1977)442 (1981)272 (1971)2681
54Charlie Conerly1080 (1959)544 (1957)430 (1956)397 (1954)224 (1950)2674
55Brian Sipe1078 (1980)698 (1978)397 (1976)204 (1983)172 (1979)2549
56Joe Theismann1093 (1983)574 (1982)371 (1979)318 (1984)170 (1981)2527
57Steve McNair1092 (2003)548 (2001)311 (1996)287 (2002)234 (2000)2473
58Matt Hasselbeck853 (2005)552 (2003)500 (2007)402 (2002)153 (2004)2460
59Bill Nelsen877 (1968)585 (1966)528 (1969)392 (1970)67 (1967)2449
60Joe Ferguson721 (1975)551 (1976)531 (1981)480 (1979)139 (1988)2423
61Carson Palmer1010 (2005)786 (2006)367 (2007)138 (2011)122 (2012)2423
62Don Meredith987 (1966)773 (1968)387 (1962)227 (1965)48 (1967)2421
63Bernie Kosar925 (1987)645 (1986)436 (1991)203 (1989)177 (1988)2387
64Eli Manning954 (2011)671 (2009)363 (2012)198 (2010)167 (2005)2353
65Neil Lomax1029 (1984)530 (1988)428 (1987)322 (1983)5 (1985)2315
66Brad Johnson884 (1999)573 (2002)354 (1996)264 (1997)205 (2003)2281
67Frank Ryan1077 (1966)471 (1963)311 (1962)198 (1964)188 (1968)2245
68Ed Brown761 (1956)396 (1963)395 (1955)393 (1959)290 (1954)2236
69Jeff George673 (1997)658 (1999)611 (1995)187 (1994)93 (2000)2222
70Babe Parilli996 (1962)558 (1964)259 (1961)212 (1966)174 (1968)2199
71Mark Brunell721 (1997)472 (1996)396 (1998)326 (1999)277 (2005)2192
72Chris Chandler856 (1998)549 (1997)372 (1994)178 (1999)167 (2001)2122
73Matt Ryan703 (2012)589 (2008)551 (2011)297 (2010)-21 (2009)2119
74Dave Krieg533 (1986)458 (1994)444 (1988)321 (1983)315 (1984)2071
75Steve Grogan510 (1986)448 (1979)397 (1982)362 (1978)328 (1985)2044
76Chad Pennington903 (2002)745 (2008)299 (2004)52 (2000)30 (2006)2029
77Phil Simms549 (1990)481 (1993)365 (1987)313 (1985)297 (1984)2006
78Norm Snead703 (1972)524 (1967)388 (1965)213 (1962)174 (1974)2003
79Marc Bulger628 (2006)525 (2002)489 (2004)312 (2005)46 (2003)2001
80Danny White615 (1981)535 (1982)362 (1983)266 (1986)221 (1985)1999
81Randall Cunningham1439 (1998)331 (1990)94 (1993)55 (1992)52 (2000)1971
82Bobby Thomason973 (1953)610 (1955)240 (1951)236 (1952)-96 (1954)1963
83Charley Johnson546 (1973)524 (1974)326 (1963)321 (1972)231 (1965)1948
84Tobin Rote779 (1963)633 (1952)593 (1956)-16 (1958)-58 (1957)1931
85Billy Wade700 (1961)455 (1958)319 (1956)303 (1954)96 (1963)1873
86Doug Williams734 (1981)365 (1987)323 (1988)235 (1980)204 (1982)1862
87Jake Plummer722 (2005)620 (2004)450 (2003)302 (2001)-259 (1997)1834
88Tom Flores931 (1966)499 (1963)228 (1960)97 (1965)56 (1969)1811
89Bill Kenney516 (1983)468 (1985)378 (1987)284 (1984)149 (1980)1794
90Steve DeBerg1068 (1990)197 (1987)185 (1979)172 (1993)166 (1991)1787
91Steve Bartkowski697 (1980)620 (1983)258 (1981)91 (1982)82 (1984)1748
92Jake Delhomme493 (2005)443 (2008)357 (2004)255 (2003)191 (2007)1739
93Jacky Lee717 (1961)361 (1960)335 (1965)177 (1968)98 (1962)1689
94Greg Landry687 (1971)420 (1976)294 (1972)178 (1970)57 (1974)1637
95James Harris653 (1974)571 (1976)386 (1975)29 (1973)-18 (1969)1621
96Drew Bledsoe483 (1997)407 (1996)363 (1998)243 (2002)111 (2005)1608
97Steve Beuerlein984 (1999)267 (1993)129 (1991)107 (1998)104 (1989)1591
98Elvis Grbac887 (2000)345 (1995)264 (1999)62 (1994)24 (1997)1582
99Bobby Hebert694 (1992)333 (1987)190 (1988)174 (1989)156 (1993)1548
100Wade Wilson582 (1988)553 (1992)213 (1986)155 (1987)33 (1990)1536

It’s worth remembering that even after adjusting for era, this list is still arguably biased in favor of players like Manning, Brady, and Brees. That’s because today’s quarterbacks pass more often, and passing more often enables a quarterback to amass more above-average value. We can adjust for that by looking at a quarterback’s RANY/A (and not his value over average) in his best five seasons (but only consider seasons where the quarterback had at least 14 pass attempts per team game). If you average each quarterback’s RANY/A in his five best seasons, Manning drops down to number two:

RkNameBest Yr2nd Best3rd Best4th Best5th BestTotal
1Norm Van Brocklin3.79 (1951)3.79 (1950)3.63 (1953)2.74 (1960)2.68 (1954)3.33
2Peyton Manning4.14 (2004)3 (2013)2.69 (2005)2.55 (2006)2.14 (2003)2.9
3Steve Young3.23 (1992)3.1 (1991)2.87 (1994)2.44 (1993)2.3 (1997)2.79
4Len Dawson3.42 (1968)3.27 (1966)2.59 (1962)1.86 (1971)1.68 (1964)2.57
5Roger Staubach3.88 (1971)2.48 (1977)2.21 (1979)2.15 (1978)2.02 (1973)2.55
6Johnny Unitas3.33 (1964)2.66 (1958)2.42 (1959)2.15 (1957)2.1 (1965)2.53
7Otto Graham4.93 (1953)3.16 (1955)1.59 (1952)1.32 (1951)1.13 (1954)2.43
8Dan Fouts2.94 (1982)2.33 (1983)2.27 (1981)2.15 (1985)2.05 (1978)2.35
9Dan Marino3.94 (1984)2.39 (1983)2.03 (1986)1.81 (1987)1.51 (1996)2.34
10Tom Brady3.36 (2007)2.52 (2010)2.35 (2011)1.73 (2009)1.54 (2012)2.3
11Ken Anderson2.92 (1975)2.43 (1981)2.36 (1974)2.02 (1973)1.74 (1982)2.3
12Drew Brees2.66 (2009)2.33 (2011)2.2 (2006)2.15 (2004)1.85 (2008)2.24
13Joe Montana3.07 (1989)2.93 (1984)1.94 (1987)1.69 (1983)1.5 (1982)2.23
14Aaron Rodgers3.49 (2011)2.13 (2013)1.82 (2009)1.77 (2010)1.4 (2012)2.12
15Kurt Warner3.13 (1999)2.76 (2000)2.22 (2001)1.3 (2008)0.96 (2007)2.07
16Y.A. Tittle2.6 (1963)2.43 (1953)2.31 (1962)1.53 (1961)1.47 (1954)2.07
17Philip Rivers2.65 (2009)2.33 (2008)2.04 (2010)1.92 (2013)1.35 (2006)2.06
18Ken Stabler3.38 (1976)3.12 (1974)1.44 (1973)1.41 (1977)0.77 (1979)2.02
19Fran Tarkenton2.22 (1974)2.16 (1976)2.11 (1973)1.86 (1975)1.75 (1967)2.02
20John Hadl2.76 (1973)2.34 (1967)1.78 (1964)1.5 (1965)1.43 (1966)1.96
21Bart Starr3.78 (1966)1.65 (1964)1.56 (1961)1.39 (1960)1.31 (1962)1.94
22Charlie Conerly4 (1959)1.83 (1956)1.71 (1957)1.35 (1954)0.67 (1955)1.91
23Boomer Esiason2.77 (1988)2.07 (1986)1.95 (1985)1.48 (1989)1.21 (1993)1.9
24Sonny Jurgensen2.45 (1961)2.32 (1967)1.78 (1970)1.55 (1966)1.28 (1964)1.88
25John Brodie3.37 (1970)2.37 (1961)2.03 (1965)0.98 (1968)0.62 (1971)1.87
26Milt Plum3.6 (1960)2.26 (1961)1.53 (1959)1.11 (1958)0.73 (1964)1.85
27Billy Kilmer2.08 (1973)2.02 (1974)1.98 (1972)1.62 (1971)1.5 (1975)1.84
28Joe Namath2.26 (1968)2.14 (1972)1.83 (1967)1.73 (1969)1.14 (1965)1.82
29Daryle Lamonica2.24 (1968)2.07 (1969)1.68 (1967)1.65 (1970)1.42 (1972)1.81
30Brett Favre1.96 (2009)1.84 (1995)1.83 (2001)1.66 (1997)1.66 (2007)1.79
31Trent Green2.42 (2000)1.89 (2003)1.68 (2002)1.52 (2005)1.41 (2004)1.78
32Jim Hart2.33 (1976)1.82 (1974)1.68 (1973)1.63 (1975)1.38 (1977)1.77
33Bobby Layne2.67 (1958)1.65 (1954)1.58 (1951)1.58 (1960)1.3 (1953)1.75
34Bob Griese2.42 (1971)1.91 (1973)1.71 (1977)1.31 (1978)1.13 (1974)1.7
35Craig Morton3.06 (1970)1.71 (1969)1.54 (1977)1.03 (1981)0.67 (1978)1.6
36Tony Romo1.89 (2009)1.81 (2006)1.65 (2007)1.5 (2011)1.14 (2008)1.6
37Terry Bradshaw2.02 (1978)1.67 (1977)1.57 (1981)1.39 (1975)1.28 (1979)1.59
38Troy Aikman2.01 (1993)1.81 (1995)1.75 (1998)1.49 (1992)0.85 (1994)1.58
39Roman Gabriel2.06 (1973)1.99 (1967)1.63 (1969)1.19 (1971)0.99 (1970)1.57
40Ben Roethlisberger2.19 (2005)1.62 (2010)1.47 (2009)1.3 (2004)1.03 (2007)1.52
41Bert Jones3.72 (1976)1.97 (1977)1.61 (1975)0.15 (1981)0.11 (1980)1.51
42Warren Moon2.13 (1988)1.99 (1990)1.29 (1992)1.16 (1989)0.77 (1995)1.47
43John Elway1.81 (1998)1.7 (1987)1.32 (1997)1.3 (1993)1.11 (1995)1.45
44Donovan McNabb2.33 (2006)2.24 (2004)1.21 (2009)0.8 (2005)0.6 (2007)1.44
45Jim Kelly2.21 (1990)1.77 (1991)1.17 (1992)0.94 (1989)0.66 (1986)1.35
46Matt Schaub1.93 (2011)1.8 (2009)1.11 (2008)1.01 (2010)0.68 (2007)1.3
47Don Meredith2.28 (1966)2.02 (1968)1.48 (1962)0.57 (1965)0.15 (1967)1.3
48Babe Parilli3.25 (1962)1.06 (1961)0.97 (1964)0.66 (1952)0.46 (1966)1.28
49Jeff Garcia2.13 (2000)1.47 (2007)1.46 (2001)0.77 (2008)0.56 (2002)1.28
50Vinny Testaverde2.38 (1998)1.25 (1993)1.23 (1996)1.16 (1995)-0.01 (1997)1.2
51Bobby Thomason2.5 (1955)2.23 (1953)0.76 (1951)0.76 (1952)-0.38 (1954)1.17
52Rich Gannon1.6 (2002)1.52 (2000)1.42 (2001)0.93 (1999)0.3 (1991)1.15
53George Blanda4.03 (1961)0.59 (1960)0.45 (1963)0.45 (1954)0.2 (1953)1.14
54Daunte Culpepper2.39 (2004)2.07 (2000)1.49 (2003)0.12 (2001)-0.43 (2002)1.13
55Dave Krieg1.85 (1988)1.3 (1986)1.14 (1983)0.65 (1992)0.61 (1984)1.11
56Jim Everett1.91 (1989)1.54 (1988)0.73 (1995)0.68 (1990)0.6 (1992)1.09
57Steve McNair2.61 (2003)1.17 (2001)0.56 (2002)0.56 (2000)0.54 (1999)1.09
58Charley Johnson1.64 (1974)1.28 (1973)1.12 (1972)0.62 (1963)0.59 (1965)1.05
59Brian Sipe1.87 (1980)1.63 (1978)1.06 (1976)0.39 (1983)0.3 (1979)1.05
60Joe Theismann2.22 (1983)1.15 (1982)0.87 (1979)0.61 (1984)0.32 (1981)1.03
61Bernie Kosar2.11 (1987)1.13 (1986)0.82 (1991)0.62 (1988)0.37 (1989)1.01
62Chris Chandler2.3 (1998)1.44 (1997)0.52 (1999)0.41 (2001)0.36 (1995)1.01
63Phil Simms1.66 (1990)1.1 (1993)1.08 (1987)0.57 (1985)0.51 (1984)0.98
64Matt Hasselbeck1.8 (2005)1 (2003)0.9 (2002)0.84 (2007)0.3 (2004)0.97
65Brad Johnson1.61 (1999)1.21 (2002)1.09 (1996)0.55 (1997)0.37 (2005)0.97
66Mark Brunell1.54 (1997)1.04 (1998)0.79 (2006)0.78 (1996)0.69 (1999)0.97
67Billy Wade2.19 (1961)1.26 (1956)0.92 (1958)0.22 (1963)0.09 (1962)0.94
68Norm Snead1.85 (1972)1.1 (1965)0.95 (1967)0.48 (1962)0.19 (1969)0.91
69Carson Palmer1.91 (2005)1.41 (2006)0.62 (2007)0.4 (2011)0.21 (2012)0.91
70Chad Pennington2.15 (2002)1.49 (2008)0.77 (2004)0.07 (2003)0.06 (2006)0.91
71Jeff George1.84 (1999)1.16 (1997)1.02 (1995)0.34 (1994)0.03 (1993)0.88
72Neil Lomax1.69 (1984)1.08 (1988)0.81 (1983)0.79 (1987)0.01 (1985)0.88
73Frank Ryan2.3 (1966)1.49 (1963)0.48 (1964)0.08 (1967)-0.03 (1965)0.86
74Joe Ferguson1.85 (1975)1.04 (1981)0.96 (1979)0.26 (1978)0.15 (1980)0.85
75Tom Flores2.47 (1966)1.56 (1963)0.74 (1960)0.29 (1965)-0.84 (1961)0.85
76Jake Plummer1.51 (2005)1.42 (2003)1.16 (2004)0.54 (2001)-0.45 (1998)0.84
77Bill Kenney1.28 (1985)1.2 (1987)0.95 (1984)0.8 (1983)-0.09 (1982)0.83
78Steve Grogan0.96 (1979)0.95 (1983)0.95 (1978)0.85 (1977)0.42 (1980)0.82
79Mark Rypien3.16 (1991)1.9 (1989)0.72 (1990)0.3 (1992)-1.96 (1993)0.82
80Danny White1.46 (1981)1.11 (1982)0.64 (1983)0.46 (1985)0.44 (1980)0.82
81Eli Manning1.55 (2011)1.24 (2009)0.65 (2012)0.36 (2010)0.29 (2008)0.82
82Randall Cunningham3.23 (1998)0.64 (1990)0.12 (1992)0.05 (1988)0.02 (1987)0.81
83Steve DeBerg2.29 (1990)0.62 (1987)0.43 (1989)0.37 (1991)0.31 (1979)0.8
84Matt Ryan1.3 (2008)1.09 (2012)0.93 (2011)0.5 (2010)-0.04 (2009)0.76
85Bobby Hebert1.59 (1992)1 (1987)0.46 (1989)0.38 (1988)0.34 (1993)0.75
86Steve Bartkowski1.4 (1980)1.28 (1983)0.45 (1981)0.26 (1984)0.18 (1982)0.72
87Greg Landry2.07 (1971)1.06 (1976)0.88 (1972)-0.14 (1979)-0.4 (1977)0.69
88Jake Delhomme1.07 (2005)1.02 (2008)0.63 (2004)0.54 (2003)0.1 (2006)0.67
89Jim Zorn1.17 (1979)0.9 (1978)0.8 (1981)0.69 (1977)-0.27 (1980)0.66
90Ron Jaworski2.07 (1980)0.82 (1979)0.16 (1985)0.1 (1981)0.07 (1982)0.65
91Tobin Rote2.25 (1963)1.35 (1956)-0.04 (1958)-0.23 (1957)-0.3 (1955)0.61
92Brian Griese2.58 (2000)0.78 (2004)0.19 (2002)0.05 (1999)-0.65 (2007)0.59
93Kerry Collins1.1 (2002)0.66 (1996)0.58 (2000)0.3 (2008)0.22 (2005)0.57
94Gus Frerotte1.09 (1996)1.02 (2000)0.45 (1999)0.33 (1997)-0.08 (1995)0.56
95Drew Bledsoe0.88 (1997)0.7 (1998)0.62 (1996)0.37 (2002)0.2 (2005)0.55
96Neil O'Donnell1.24 (1995)0.79 (1992)0.37 (1998)0.28 (1993)0.05 (1991)0.55
97Jay Schroeder1.95 (1990)0.88 (1986)0.31 (1987)-0.16 (1988)-0.28 (1991)0.54
98Doug Williams1.5 (1981)0.83 (1988)0.43 (1980)0.36 (1982)-0.47 (1979)0.53
99Lynn Dickey1.66 (1983)0.99 (1984)0.2 (1982)-0.02 (1981)-0.22 (1980)0.52
100Ken O'Brien1.74 (1985)0.67 (1986)0.11 (1990)0.05 (1991)0 (1987)0.51

I doubt many would have predicted that Norm Van Brocklin would end up on top of this list! Van Brocklin is no slouch, of course, but he does benefit by focusing just on rate stats. In 1950, Van Brocklin led the league in AY/A while throwing passes to Tom Fears, Elroy Hirsch and Glenn Davis. That year the Rams set the record for points scored in a season, although Van Brocklin shared quarterback duties with fellow HOF-in-waiting Bob Waterfield. In 1951, Van Brocklin matched his incredible AY/A efficiency, but finished second in the league to… Waterfield.  Van Brocklin had excellent seasons in ’53 and ’54, too, and then had a dominant season with the Eagles in 1960. That year, Van Brocklin became the first — and remains the only — quarterback to win NFL championships with two different teams.

Finally, I thought it might be interesting to look at the worst 100 quarterbacks using the same Value over Average statistic from the first table.

RkNameBest Yr2nd Best3rd Best4th Best5th BestTotal
1Mark Sanchez-186 (2010)-493 (2011)-614 (2009)-766 (2012)0 ()-2059
2Gary Huff-165 (1978)-368 (1975)-376 (1977)-506 (1974)-606 (1973)-2021
3Joey Harrington-266 (2004)-293 (2007)-306 (2005)-483 (2006)-599 (2002)-1947
4Kim McQuilken48 (1977)-51 (1979)-507 (1975)-559 (1974)-783 (1976)-1852
5Blaine Gabbert-366 (2012)-457 (2013)-1007 (2011)0 ()0 ()-1830
6Ryan Leaf-222 (2001)-700 (2000)-904 (1998)0 ()0 ()-1826
7Joe Kapp99 (1969)-441 (1968)-480 (1967)-976 (1970)0 ()-1799
8Rick Norton44 (1970)-186 (1968)-371 (1966)-541 (1967)-713 (1969)-1767
9John McCormick-76 (1968)-97 (1963)-288 (1962)-398 (1965)-780 (1966)-1639
10Dennis Shaw-39 (1975)-96 (1970)-202 (1973)-464 (1972)-783 (1971)-1585
11Tim Couch-31 (2000)-82 (2003)-351 (2002)-541 (2001)-554 (1999)-1560
12Dan Darragh-224 (1970)-291 (1969)-966 (1968)0 ()0 ()-1481
13Randy Wright-54 (1985)-267 (1984)-293 (1986)-364 (1987)-488 (1988)-1467
14Charlie Frye-125 (2007)-134 (2008)-139 (2009)-272 (2005)-718 (2006)-1388
15Rick Mirer31 (2000)-284 (1994)-284 (2003)-371 (1999)-452 (1996)-1360
16Jack Thompson-144 (1981)-212 (1984)-277 (1983)-311 (1980)-377 (1979)-1321
17Christian Ponder-298 (2013)-485 (2012)-530 (2011)0 ()0 ()-1313
18Dick Wood158 (1965)-32 (1962)-168 (1963)-308 (1964)-960 (1966)-1311
19Akili Smith-13 (2001)-144 (2002)-426 (1999)-726 (2000)0 ()-1308
20JaMarcus Russell-163 (2008)-204 (2007)-931 (2009)0 ()0 ()-1298
21Sam Bradford63 (2013)-174 (2012)-553 (2011)-624 (2010)0 ()-1287
22Karl Sweetan59 (1969)27 (1970)-353 (1967)-446 (1966)-547 (1968)-1260
23John Skelton-227 (2010)-417 (2011)-613 (2012)0 ()0 ()-1257
24Craig Whelihan-473 (1997)-782 (1998)0 ()0 ()0 ()-1254
25Scott Brunner326 (1982)-250 (1980)-252 (1985)-479 (1981)-596 (1983)-1251
26Stan Gelbaugh41 (1994)-26 (1996)-44 (1993)-474 (1991)-744 (1992)-1247
27Kelly Stouffer-85 (1991)-128 (1988)-311 (1989)-722 (1992)0 ()-1246
28Chris Weinke15 (2005)-56 (2007)-140 (2006)-225 (2002)-821 (2001)-1228
29Kent Nix-12 (1970)-272 (1971)-296 (1969)-301 (1972)-314 (1968)-1195
30Heath Shuler-255 (1994)-333 (1995)-590 (1997)0 ()0 ()-1178
31Chad Henne-1 (2008)-25 (2011)-354 (2012)-382 (2009)-413 (2010)-1175
32Ken Dorsey-18 (2006)-110 (2005)-494 (2004)-536 (2008)0 ()-1157
33Mike McMahon-70 (2004)-142 (2001)-184 (2003)-340 (2002)-405 (2005)-1142
34Danny Wuerffel-125 (2002)-251 (1999)-315 (1998)-441 (1997)0 ()-1131
35Brady Quinn1 (2007)-54 (2008)-473 (2009)-596 (2012)0 ()-1122
36Andrew Walter-6 (2007)-278 (2008)-836 (2006)0 ()0 ()-1120
37Jeff Komlo-38 (1980)-76 (1983)-180 (1981)-819 (1979)0 ()-1113
38Danny Kanell-5 (1999)-190 (1996)-232 (1997)-313 (2003)-367 (2000)-1107
39Mickey Slaughter-1 (1966)-150 (1963)-257 (1965)-697 (1964)0 ()-1105
40Rusty Hilger16 (1986)-5 (1991)-36 (1985)-212 (1987)-785 (1988)-1022
41Bobby Hoying34 (1997)-10 (2000)-15 (1996)-16 (1999)-1004 (1998)-1012
42Ryan Fitzpatrick-26 (2010)-94 (2013)-176 (2012)-321 (2005)-358 (2011)-975
43Ryan Tannehill-365 (2012)-565 (2013)0 ()0 ()0 ()-930
44Brandon Weeden-401 (2013)-520 (2012)0 ()0 ()0 ()-921
45Jimmy Clausen-913 (2010)0 ()0 ()0 ()0 ()-913
46Scott Bull-169 (1976)-176 (1977)-560 (1978)0 ()0 ()-905
47Stoney Case-37 (1995)-199 (1997)-268 (2000)-397 (1999)0 ()-900
48Charlie Trippi54 (1953)7 (1950)-155 (1954)-235 (1951)-564 (1952)-892
49Gary Marangi56 (1975)-35 (1974)-892 (1976)0 ()0 ()-871
50Art Schlichter-120 (1985)-210 (1982)-539 (1984)0 ()0 ()-869
51David Klingler-34 (1995)-54 (1997)-73 (1996)-212 (1992)-495 (1994)-868
52Colt McCoy7 (2013)-51 (2012)-245 (2010)-576 (2011)0 ()-865
53Browning Nagle0 (1991)-37 (1993)-118 (1994)-118 (1996)-581 (1992)-855
54Mike Boryla104 (1974)-78 (1978)-242 (1975)-635 (1976)0 ()-851
55Donald Hollas8 (1992)-81 (1994)-228 (1991)-544 (1998)0 ()-846
56Chris Simms-20 (2008)-112 (2005)-185 (2009)-191 (2004)-334 (2006)-842
57Geno Smith-828 (2013)0 ()0 ()0 ()0 ()-828
58Jerry Golsteyn-8 (1982)-127 (1983)-143 (1979)-190 (1978)-360 (1977)-828
59Fred Enke-34 (1950)-79 (1951)-155 (1952)-164 (1954)-381 (1953)-812
60George Herring-17 (1960)-794 (1961)0 ()0 ()0 ()-811
61Randy Hedberg-811 (1977)0 ()0 ()0 ()0 ()-811
62Josh Freeman608 (2010)213 (2012)-350 (2013)-608 (2009)-664 (2011)-801
63Chad Hutchinson-2 (2003)-348 (2004)-449 (2002)0 ()0 ()-800
64Spergon Wynn-316 (2000)-458 (2001)0 ()0 ()0 ()-774
65Bill Troup-11 (1976)-60 (1977)-175 (1980)-524 (1978)0 ()-769
66Chuck Long16 (1989)-22 (1990)-110 (1986)-226 (1988)-417 (1987)-760
67Kyle Boller167 (2006)-55 (2010)-176 (2011)-335 (2007)-351 (2003)-750
68Rusty Lisch-111 (1983)-200 (1980)-438 (1984)0 ()0 ()-750
69Chuck Ortmann-59 (1952)-690 (1951)0 ()0 ()0 ()-748
70Ryan Lindley-740 (2012)0 ()0 ()0 ()0 ()-740
71Ted Marchibroda2 (1955)-117 (1953)-268 (1957)-346 (1956)0 ()-728
72Paul McDonald95 (1981)-227 (1983)-236 (1982)-360 (1984)0 ()-728
73Curtis Painter-139 (2013)-198 (2009)-376 (2011)0 ()0 ()-713
74Babe Laufenberg-335 (1988)-376 (1990)0 ()0 ()0 ()-711
75Pat Sullivan77 (1973)-174 (1975)-239 (1972)-373 (1974)0 ()-708
76Tony Adams58 (1976)-37 (1978)-155 (1975)-232 (1987)-332 (1977)-697
77Jack Scarbath-90 (1953)-214 (1956)-391 (1954)0 ()0 ()-695
78Tom Hodson-13 (1995)-153 (1992)-255 (1990)-271 (1991)0 ()-692
79Steve Romanik-10 (1950)-35 (1951)-147 (1953)-237 (1952)-263 (1953)-692
80George Izo-10 (1960)-74 (1962)-107 (1964)-224 (1963)-261 (1965)-676
81Tommy Wade-15 (1964)-650 (1965)0 ()0 ()0 ()-665
82Caleb Hanie-12 (2010)-74 (2009)-579 (2011)0 ()0 ()-664
83Brodie Croyle9 (2009)-30 (2008)-120 (2006)-168 (2010)-353 (2007)-662
84Joe Reed-39 (1979)-41 (1975)-50 (1976)-204 (1973)-327 (1977)-661
85Sam Etcheverry-255 (1961)-398 (1962)0 ()0 ()0 ()-653
86David Whitehurst-61 (1981)-97 (1980)-142 (1983)-156 (1977)-192 (1978)-648
87Jonathan Quinn-55 (2001)-145 (1998)-448 (2004)0 ()0 ()-647
88Anthony Wright15 (2006)-27 (2007)-131 (2003)-161 (2001)-328 (2000)-632
89Ron Vander Kelen44 (1965)-13 (1966)-110 (1964)-117 (1963)-433 (1967)-627
90George Taliaferro99 (1950)-11 (1951)-75 (1954)-312 (1952)-323 (1953)-623
91Matt Kofler-55 (1983)-161 (1985)-404 (1984)0 ()0 ()-621
92Will Furrer-227 (1992)-390 (1995)0 ()0 ()0 ()-616
93Oliver Luck50 (1984)-53 (1985)-258 (1986)-352 (1983)0 ()-614
94Steve Stenstrom6 (1996)-122 (1997)-216 (1998)-280 (1999)0 ()-612
95Mike Taliaferro-27 (1967)-39 (1969)-78 (1966)-227 (1972)-237 (1964)-609
96Keith Null-607 (2009)0 ()0 ()0 ()0 ()-607
97Bill Mackrides-101 (1951)-147 (1953)-170 (1953)-188 (1950)0 ()-606
98Quincy Carter49 (2004)-169 (2002)-175 (2001)-308 (2003)0 ()-604
99Cade McNown-230 (1999)-366 (2000)0 ()0 ()0 ()-596
100Mike Rae142 (1976)-38 (1979)-256 (1977)-442 (1978)0 ()-595

Mark Sanchez comes in as the… well, let’s be careful about what we’re saying. We’re not saying he’s the worst quarterback ever, just that he makes me feel like this. The technical explanation of his place on the list: the five (which were really just four) “best” seasons of his career produced more below-average value than any other quarterback in their five “best” seasons. In other words, he should have been benched a lot earlier.

• dlev

The “Best Yr” columns appear to sort lexicographically rather than numerically (I guess due to the parenthetical year?) Any way we can get tables that sort by magnitude? Do you have such power? 🙂

• Chase Stuart

Unfortunately, I do not. I thought it was a worthy trade-off to include the years.

• dlev

I grudgingly agree with your choice. Oh well.

• Red

The similarity between Rivers and Anderson is striking. Not only do their numbers mirror each other, but each will likely go down as the most underrated QB of their generation, and yet there’s a good chance neither will make the HoF.

Elway and Bradshaw stick out for the relative weakness of their best seasons. Not that I’m surprised.

Trent Green continues to be criminally underrated. Those KC offenses were lethal, but horrible defenses prevented them from having playoff success, which hurts Green’s legacy way more than it should.

Funny that Daunte Culpepper ranks 39th even with a negative season on the board. You could call it the Randy Moss Effect.

Oh, and Peyton is the GOAT by a mile. How many seasons of 1000+ value has he had so far?

• Kibbles

Agreed on Trent Green. I always say that the early ’00s Chiefs were arguably the best sustained offense in NFL history (I’d put the Green/Gonzo/Holmes Chiefs in the conversation with the GSoT Rams, late ’60s Cowboys, and the Hirsch/Fears/NVB Rams). Green doesn’t get nearly enough credit as the triggerman of that offense, partly because Holmes vultured so many TDs. Green was basically a more productive, more efficient Troy Aikman with absolutely no defensive support (amazing line, one weapon in the passing game, TD-vulturing RB). Troy Aikman is in the Hall of Fame because he had great defensive teammates, and Green is completely forgotten because his teams featured some of the most wretched defenses the league has ever seen.

Disagreed on Daunte Culpepper. It’s important to remember that his record-setting 2004 season (his best campaign) came with Randy Moss injured and basically serving as a glorified decoy (less than 800 receiving yards in a year where Culpepper threw for 4700, although he did still get 13 TDs). I think he’s an underrated QB whose success will always be attributed to Moss because he shredded his knee before he had a chance to demonstrate otherwise. I mean, Culpepper ranked 39th despite only playing three full seasons in his entire career, plus another 14-game season and an 11-game season. Peyton Manning has 15 years from which to pick his 5 best. Daunte Culpepper had 4.5 years from which to pick his 5 best. And Culpepper still made the top 40. He was more than just some guy throwing to Randy Moss.

• Red

That’s a great analogy with Aikman; I never thought to compare him and Green. I feel confident in saying that no QB in history has been screwed by his defenses more than Trent Green:

2000 – 28 PPG in Green’s starts, team goes 2-3
2002 – 1st in scoring offense, MISSES PLAYOFFS
2003 – 1st in scoring offense, scores 31 in playoff game and loses
2004 – 2nd in scoring offense, MISSES PLAYOFFS
2005 – 6th in scoring offense, MISSES PLAYOFFS

That’s just horrendously bad luck for a QB. If Trent even had average defenses playing behind him, he would have a legitimate chance at the HoF.

I understand your points about Culpepper, but I still think he was more a product of his teammates/system than the other way around. IMO his 2004 season is pretty overrated, and here’s why:

In 2004, league passing yards consisted of 59% air yards and 41% YAC yards. Culpepper? Only 49.6% of his passing yards came through the air, with over half coming from YAC. He was Captain Checkdown, and his receivers (even with a gimpy Moss) picked up the slack.

• Chase Stuart

I believe Peyton Manning had about 47% of his yards in 2013 come via YAC in 2013.

• Red

Actually, Peyton had 49% of his yards come from YAC in 2013, so I understand your point. In my Culpepper comment, I was incorporating an era adjustment, because today’s passing game looks much different than it did ten years ago. In 2013, the league as a whole had 48.1% of pass yards come via YAC, while in 2004 it was only 41.0% YAC. After adjusting for era, Peyton was only slightly more YAC-reliant than the average QB, while in 2004 Culpepper was FAR more dependent on YAC than most QB’s. Just for comparison, Peyton’s historic 2004 season only had 37.9% YAC.

• Chase Stuart

I agree with the sympathetic views of Green and Culpepper. A look at the best sustained offenses in NFL history sounds like fodder for a good post.

• Richie

Red Says:
Oh, and Peyton is the GOAT by a mile.

In the regular season. Remember, he chokes in big games.

• Red

Good point. He has lost 12 playoff games all by himself, which should probably knock him out of the top 10.

• Jarvis

Ah yes, all loses were entirely his fault as well as wins. Many games he lost by not getting his ass out there on defense and special teams and preventing the other team from scoring. The same logic can be applied to the pity party other folks are throwing for Trent Greene. Hypothetically, had Manning played for Belichick there would be no arguments. Manning stats would be substantially more ludicrous, since Belichik would not have sat him in his hottest seasons. Manning would have had the defense to hold teams in check while being forced to take the field in garbage time to run up the score and his stats in tow. This would be akin to Luke having actually joined the darkside.

• Doc Neaves

Now that I’ve seen some of these comments of yours, I don’t care for your rankings even one little bit. Extremely subjective, and, if you really don’t want to give credit to quarterbacks who “play not to lose”, then what the hell is your opinion worth to begin with? Pfffffffffffffft.

• Chase Stuart

Good comment. I’ve looked at both Elway and Bradshaw on this blog, so regular readers know my thoughts on them. Rivers’ career really is HOF-worthy, but I agree he will need to do more to actually make the Hall.

• Kibbles

Good to see NVB getting some love. Whenever people bring up Otto Graham in the “best QBs ever” discussion, I like to point out that if you (rightly) ignore his AAFC stats as having come against dramatically inferior competition, it’s debateable whether Graham was even the best QB of his generation, let alone all time.

Obviously Hirsch/Fears is a ridiculous boost for Van Brocklin (PFR seems to have removed all pre-1960 AV data, but at one time Hirsch’s 1951 season produced a formula-breaking 34 points of AV), but it’s not like Graham was alone in Cleveland. He had Groza, Gatski, Speedie, and of course, Paul Brown (arguably the best coach of all time and inarguably a guy who was years ahead of his time).

• Chase Stuart

Yeah, I never quite know what to do with AAFC stats. I have RANY/A in a file of only 1950+ seasons, so that makes the decision easy when doing posts like this (not that calculating RANY/A is difficult for pre-1950, but I haven’t done it yet).

Van Brocklin’s work in Philadelphia certainly boosts his resume.

• The Mark Sanchez thing is kind of amazing. How hard it is to be that bad on a successful team. Like those great Vikings teams that had to overcome Joe Kapp.

Wonder if we have some way to correct for the success of the QB who comes immediately after. In other words, penalty to Joe Montana for Steve Young being as good or better, and penalty to Joe K. for being so bad when Tarkenton was so good. No good way to do that, probably, but there is some information in the following QB’s performance.

• And to clarify, yes it was Cuozzo/Lee immediately after Kapp. So maybe their poor play should actually bump Kapp up. But we have info on Young’s performance pre-SF and Tarkenton’s pre-MIN, so their performances say something about the offense’s quality even if it’s hard to quantify.

• David

1. Is Philip Rivers the best QB playing right now who hasn’t won a SB? Why not this year?

2. Sam Bradford; not too surprised to see him on the the “stink list”, but it seems like the Rams are going to give him one last shot this year. I know he was doing okay until he got hurt last year, but if the Rams can’t make the playoffs this year then they should cut Bradford loose. I mean, look at the group of talent he’s in with. There’s A LOT of nobody’s and he’s near the bottom.

• Chase Stuart

1. Almost certainly, leaving aside the younger QBs.

2. The one thing going for Bradford is he has made strides in each of the last two years. His first two seasons, he had a 5.1 NY/A and 4.64 ANY/A average; in 2012, he was at 5.92 and 5.64; last year he was at 5.74 and 6.10. Combined with the weapons issue from my RPO 2013 post on the Rams, and it’s easy to see why St. Louis can’t quite cut the cord.*

*Statement made solely as a descriptive narrative, not as a judgment in favor or against the decision.

• Jarvis

I used to hate Rivers, mostly due to his temper, but stats don’t lie, he’s got game. Was it last season that statistically the Chargers had the best rated defense and offense for a time, but were still losing games? I’d have to look but was Special Teams to blame? This page should show people that stats and wins are not married and a win or lose hinges on more that who’s playing QB.

I think the longer Bradford plays the more he’ll turn into a Flacco or Dilfer, (aka game manager) meaning he can keep you from losing but will get streaky as far as stats go. He needs a monster Defense backing him up and a top tier running game. Its s a shame Steven Jackson wasted so much time with the Rams, only to be exactly what they need now.

• FireC

A little surprising/weird to see Aaron Rodgers outside the top 10. Probably has something to do with higher sack numbers, do you think he’d rank a lot higher if we were strictly going by passer rating?

• David

Rodgers “only” 12th, very close to 10th. I think he falls to 12th because of the collar bone injury this year. If he only duplicated his 4th best season last year, he’d be 9th on this list.

AND, if you take out his 5th best season and replace it with the average of his top 4, he ends up 7th on the list.

AND, he’s only had 6 seasons as the starting QB. Give him a few more years and he could be in the top 5.

• Chase Stuart

Sacks certainly hurt Rodgers, as they should. If we used passer rating, he probably would be top 5, maybe top 3. But I agree with David that in a few years, Rodgers will probably be near or in the top 5.

• Tim Truemper

That last table sure has some interesting (dare I say, infamous?) names. Amazing that Joe Kapp was able to pump up one average year (1969) and get the Vikings to the SB. One QB I thought might appear on the “worst” list was George Mira, a SF 49’er from the 60’s who played some as a substitute and possible replacement for John Brodie. John Unitas used to comment on how “great” Mira was while deriding Tarkenton (because of his scrambling tendencies).

• Bryce

It’s too bad you can’t remove “yards after catch” from the passing yards. That would really rate the QB’s ability a little better. Manning benefitted the most by YAC this year….50% of his yards, #1 in the league.

• Mike

I’m not suprised to see the top 5 com from the “modern” era. How many of these could have called their own game without someone telling them what to do in their earpiece? People like Unitas called their own plays and played in an era that didn’t have the QB’s wear skirts so they won’t be hit. NONE of the top 5 would have been able to survive the punishment allowed in the 50’s and 60’s and had the career Unitas had. Today’s QB’s are soft and puppets of their coordinators. More weight needs to be put on the intellegance of the QB and not just executing the play called from the sideline when making a “Best of” list. Johnny U was the best overall QB. Manning is close but I believe he worshoped and credited Unitas for his success and mentor…

• Chase Stuart

A lot of good points, Mike. I will see if I can add an intellegance variable in the next iteration of this series.

• fred michaels

No Elway – anywhere?

• Bryce

31

• David

Where the heck is Sammy Baugh? Tied Steve Young for most seasons leading the league in passing. Lowest percentage of interceptions and 4th highest percentage completion rate. He also is the second highest rated punter and ONLY player to lead the league in passing, punting and interceptions in a single year… DUDE! He is not even in the top 100!

• Chase Stuart

Frankly, I agree with you, David. Sammy Baugh always seems to be underrated when it comes to lists of the best quarterbacks since 1950.

• ron ray

The problem with this list is that it should be call the best passer, not best QB. If I was going into a big game, I’d take Montana, Bradshaw and Elway (in his final years, anyway) over any of these guys.

• Chase Stuart

Sorry for the confusion, ron ray. The list was designed for passers going into little games, if that makes it more clear.

• gary nick

how about come from behind or saving a difficult situation?

• Chase Stuart

I didn’t want to put saving a difficult situation into the formula because I don’t want to give credit to quarterbacks who play not to lose.

• Pingback: The Top 5 Quarterbacks in NFL History()

• Lou Romer

Peyton Manning is at best a below average QB.
1 REGULAR SEASON 100 PERCENT.
2Post season 11 wins 13 losses about 46 percent.
3 Super Bowls 1win 2 losses 33.33 Percent
59.8 percent and he is the best are kidding.
IN AMERICA WE GO BY RINGS Manning 1
Joe Montana 4 Rings
Terry Bradshaw 4 Rings
Tom Brady 3 Rings

• Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco 1 Ring…and also elite

• Chase Stuart

I hadn’t realized that Manning’s postseason rings were less than Montana’s or Bradshaw’s or Brady’s. That’s really interesting, thanks Lou.

• Brad

Lou either dropped out of school after 1st grade or he skipped the days when they taught what “average” means.

• Lou Romer

I know more about football in my little finger than Brad will know in a life time.
70 to 75 percent Brad is average 59.8 percent in school is a F.

• Ajit

Um no you don’t. I’ll be polite and actually address your comment.

I suppose if you’re just a casual fan, you’re kind of thinking could be expected. But then you came to this page, a site that tries to cut away from the easy narratives. In life, like football, there are no easy narratives no matter how you tidy the mass media makes them.

Peyton Manning has a lot of playoff losses, but also many playoff wins. Some of his losses were him playing poorly, some were losses he took because of other mistakes(see Jim Caldwell time out or darren sproles 200 yard rushing in OT). But really, the best evidence for why post season records are meaningless is ironically with Tom Brady. Brady has three rings but he won each of them on highly defensive oriented teams where he was either (average) or slightly above. He has since become one of the all time great qbs and has played much worse in the postseason(including several horrific performances that the team won anyways). Again, how does someone reconcile this? If I am to go by your logic, Brady had clutch then lost it.

• Jarvis

Thank you Ajit, you took the text right off my keyboard.

• Herb

Going way back, what about the QB’s who played both offense and defense and sparkled in their performances ! I refer to Sid Luckman.
He led the Bears to great championships in his era running the T-formation.

• Chase Stuart

I’m a huge Luckman fan. It annoys me that he’s always underrated in lists of the top passers since 1950.

• Joe Bosco

All I can say is that if you formulated a ratings system that puts John Elway behind guys like Dante Culpepper and Matt Shaub, then the ratings system you devised is kinda pointless. You ask most football players who they’d rather have running a team they were playing on out of anyone, past and present, and 90% will put Elway in the top 10 without a doubt. Just goes to prove that statistics have a place, but never dictate the real value of a player’s contribution to his team and the game. Peyton broke records all over the place last year and a fat lot of good that did Denver in the Super Bowl.

• Steve

And you are telling me that John Elway isn’t among the top 25 QBs? Uh, better work on the system a little. Elway is far and away #1.

• Chase Stuart

Elway is so far and away #1 I assumed it wasn’t necessary to explain that. I figured everyone knew that it was implied that when I put Manning #1, it means #1 among non-Elway quarterbacks.

• Jarvis

I am reading on just for your replies at this point.

• eag97a

I think people are waiting for your latest GQBOAT episode. This serves as a wonderful preview.Good work Chase!

• Chase Stuart

Thanks, eag97a.

• jeff s

Pass offense era: QBX has ANY/A of 10 and league average is 8, so Relative score is 2. Pass defense era: QBX has ANY/A of 8 and league average is 6.4, so Relative score is 1.6. Maybe a ratio would be more fair for the Relative score, being 1.25 in both cases.

• Ajit

Nice work Chase. It’s amazing how many people complain and how much nostalgia and bias plays into everything. The reason stats are great is not because they always tell the truth, but they help inform, buttress, our revise our narratives. I didn’t personally see Elway play, but I was always curious about how his stats seemed ordinary relative to even his own era. I do know that football is complicated and maybe scheme/ alternative factors played into it.

But honestly, most of the rancor in the comments comes down to Peyton Manning. I just don’t see why people go up in arms when they see him atop any list. I hope in time people actually appreciate his uniqueness, rather than enjoying the silly narrative that follows.

• Red

Amen, brother. There isn’t a single debate in sports that generates more idiocy than all-time QB rankings. It seems most casual fans have already made up their minds, and no amount of objective evidence is going to open their eyes. Not sure why those people come to a site like this in the first place, when the level of analysis is clearly over their heads and deeper than what they’re willing to accept.

• When Manning had his day he had great recievers, probowl recievers, Monrtana and Young has Jerry Rice, the one year that Brady broke a record he had Moss, has he had any other great recievers play on his teams. You guys just look at the totals but don’t look at who they were throwing to/. Brady never had a probowl receiver like Manning has.

• Red

If you ignore Wes Welker, who only had the most receptions in history over a five year span, or if you ignore Rob Gronkowski, who only set the TD record for tight ends in 2011, then yes, Brady never had a probowl receiver.

• Ryan

I’m not a big fan of judging QB’s from different era’s based on their statistics because so much of the game has changed. If you notice the top three QB’s on this list, play in the modern NFL were the game has been tailored for high scoring offense. If Elway, Marino, Montana, and Bradshaw etc… played in the style of offense that is being played today the top three would still be chasing their records. To judge the best of all time I think it takes a lot more than stats to judge them. There are certain intangibles that I look for in great QB’s. Like, how did they react in pressure games when everything was on the line? How consistent were they even without a supporting cast around them? How accurate were they when they had lineman crawling all over them? Or how rattled did they become from hard hit’s etc… And of course how did they do in the big games on the big stage? If you ask me Montana and Brady are number one and two and you can argue who is number one. Statistics can be skewed.

• Red

In other words, RIIIIINGZ!!

• Vict0ar

This play is what separates Montana from that loser Manning. He simply would not let his team down; would not let the opponent get the better of him; just does what it takes; just makes it happen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJFOBI1cZaM

• Oba

Joe Montana not in top 10? That in itself tells me the system used to figure this isn’t worth a damn.

• Chase Stuart

Well that makes me sad.

• James

Maybe it should make you consider why Montana isn’t in the top 10, and what that means about Montana and the metric.

It can’t be era, because Fouts and Marino are in the top 10. It could be pass attempts – Marino had 34% more pass attempts in his top 5 seasons, and Fouts 12% more. Then again, there isn’t a 1:1 correlation between pass attempts and passing value, as Fouts and Montana both had season with many more attempts that didn’t make the list. It’s also worth noting that it’s difficult to perform at an elite level over so many extra attempts.

The metric also isn’t trying to decide who the best QBs were, only which QBs provided the most value via passing yards in select seasons. That’s not the same thing. You could easily argue that Montana should be in the top 10, and the only reason he isn’t is because he wasn’t asked to do as much, and he could have provided that extra passing value if it was necessary.

• Ryan

This article is great for it’s purpose. To judge who has the best Qb’s stats. But this article is not meant to determine the best of all time. Great job putting the article together, it’s really good information. So I don’t get upset when Montana is not in the top two.

• KB

What if Steve Young/Joe Montana hadn’t been playing in the easiest division for their entire careers?

• john swingle

top qbacks should be rated by how many times they got their teams at least to the championship game. If you check your records Otto Graham of the Cleveland Browns made the championship game every year he played.Can any other qback either before or since make that claim?

• Doc Neaves

Please tell me how Tony Romo doesn’t even make this list.

• Chase Stuart

He’s on there.

• Andy Trimble

No he’s not

• gratines234

Im sorry but are you srsly confused, It was explained clearly. Adding up his best 5 years he didnt get a top 25 high score using his stats and plugging them into the equation —-.(Gross Pass Yards + 20*Pass_TDs – 45*INTs – Sack Yards Lost) divided by (Pass Attempts + Sacks). I hope you understand equations and math. You have doc in you name for god sake lol!!!

• Andy Trimble

The 2nd list was pretty good. No one will ever be happy with these lists because there favorite is left off.

Having Staubach, Unitas and Montana represented well among these newer QBs and their high-falootin’ stats gives it some validity in my mind.

Not perfect, but another good measure of the greatness of the all-time greats.

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