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[Update: You can view the results from our 80 ballots here.]

Regular guest contributor Adam Steele has offered to administer a Wisdom of Crowds edition of the GQBOAT debate. And we thank him for that.


Who is the Greatest Quarterback of All Time? This is a fun question to debate because there is no absolute right answer. In recent years, the practice of crowdsourcing has gained momentum in the analytics community, in some cases yielding more accurate results than mathematical models or expert opinions. For the uninitiated, here’s the gist: Every human being represents a data point of unique information, as all of us have a different array of knowledge and perspective about the world. Therefore, when you aggregate the observations of a group of people, they will collectively possess a greater and more diverse reservoir of knowledge than any single member of the group.

The readers of Football Perspective are an insightful bunch with areas of expertise spanning the entire football spectrum; we are the perfect group for crowdsourcing an age old football question. If you’d like to participate in this experiment, there are just a few guidelines to follow:

1. Create a list of the top 25 quarterbacks of all time, in order, using any criteria you believe to be important. I encourage readers to be bold in your selections – don’t worry about what others may think.

2. Commentary is not necessary, but most definitely welcome. In particular, I’d enjoy seeing a short blurb explaining the criteria you based your selections on.

3. Please compile your rankings BEFORE reading anyone else’s. Crowdsourcing works best when each source is as independent as possible.

4. Please DO NOT use multiple screen names to vote more than once.

I’ll give readers a week or so to cast their ballots, then analyze the results in a follow-up article. A first place vote is worth 25 points, second place 24 points, and so on. Let the process begin!

  • Alejandro

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Peyton Manning
    4. Steve Young
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Johnny Unit as
    7. Dan Fouts
    8. Fran Tarkenton
    9. Otto Graham
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Drew Brees
    12. Sammy Baugh
    13. Roger Staubach
    14. John Elway
    15. Norm Van Brocklin
    16. Terry Bradshaw
    17. Aaron Rodgers
    18. Y.A. Tittle
    19. Sid Luck man
    20. Ken Anderson
    21. Joe Namath
    22. Warren Moon
    23. Bobby Layne
    24. Troy Aikman
    25. Bart Starr

    Totally subjective, but it looks like that’s the type of data you’re looking for. Eager to see the results of this experiment!

  • Scottie Rock

    1 Peyton Manning
    2 Tom Brady
    3 Joe Montana
    4 Johnny Unitas
    5 John Elway
    6 Dan Marino
    7 Steve Young
    8 Troy Aikman
    9 Brett Favre
    10 Aaron Rodgers
    11 Drew Brees
    12 Jim Kelly
    13 Bart Starr
    14 Warren Moon
    15 Ben Roethlisberger
    16 Fran Tarkenton
    17 Steve McNair
    18 Eli Manning
    19 Roger Staubach
    20 Terry Bradshaw
    21 Otto Graham
    22 Kurt Warner
    23 Philip Rivers
    24 Randall Cumningham
    25 Andrew Luck

  • Martin

    I don’t really have specific criteria for this list. Essentially I sorted it by what QB I feel like had the biggest impact.

    1. Johnny Unitas
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Bart Starr
    4. Bret Favre
    5. Joe Montana
    6. Peyton Manning
    7. Fran Tarkenton
    8. Dan Marino
    9. John Elway
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. Steve Young
    12. Otto Graham
    13. Jim Kelly
    14. Y.A. Tittle
    15. Dan Fouts
    16. Aaron Rodgers
    17. Norm van Brocklin
    18. Sid Luckman
    19. Sammy Baugh
    20. Troy Aikman
    21. Warren Moon
    22. Ken Stabler
    23. Terry Bradshaw
    24. Drew Brees
    25. Bobby Lane

  • Malene, CPH

    Not really including anyone before Graham. I am sure Baugh was a beast, just feels like a very different game.

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Otto Graham
    6. Dan Marino
    7. Fran Tarkenton
    8. John Elway
    9. Steve Young
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. Bart Starr
    12. Warren Moon
    13. Ken Anderson
    14. Brett Favre
    15. Dan Fouts
    16. Aaron Rodgers
    17. Drew Brees
    18. Sonny Jurgensen
    19. Len Dawson
    20. Jim Kelly
    21. YA Tittle
    22. Joe Namath
    23. Ken Stabler
    24. Bobby Layne
    25. Bernie Kosar

  • R.J.

    I didnt use any specific criteria but used lists of career passing yards and career playoff passing yards for reference.
    1. Tom Brady
    2.Joe Montana
    3. John Elway
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Brett Favre
    7. Johnny Unitas
    8.Rodger Staubach
    9. Jim Kelly
    10. Steve Young
    11. Aaron Rodgers
    12. Warren Moon
    13. Kurt Warner
    14. Troy Aikman
    15. Drew Brees
    16. Terry Bradshaw
    17. Ben Roethlisberger
    18. Joe Namath
    19. Fran Tarkenton
    20. Drew Bledsoe
    21. Eli Manning
    22. Steve Mcnair
    23. Donovan McNabb
    24. Dan Fouts
    25. Phillip Rivers

  • Testing new comment system.

  • Jeff

    My list is based on a combination of the following:
    a) 30 years of watching football
    b) the stats
    c) reading a ton of football history
    d) irrational subjectivity

    My only hard and fast rule here was to ensure I judged players vs the era they played in (otherwise all 25 of the list may have been players from the past decade…)

    Anyway, here goes:

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Sammy Baugh
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Sid Luckman
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Roger Staubach
    7. Jim Kelly
    8. Tom Brady
    9. Steve Young
    10. Joe Montana
    11. Warren Moon
    12. Bobby Layne
    13. Brett Favre
    14. Aaron Rodgers
    15. Benny Friedman
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Drew Brees
    18. Sonny Jurgensen
    19. John Elway
    20. Fran Tarkenton
    21. Ken Anderson
    22. Kurt Warner
    23. Len Dawson
    24.Otto Graham
    25. Tony Romo

    • Dave

      You have Jim Kelly above Brady and Montana. That doesn’t make sense.

      • Jeff

        There’s two possible reasons for that:

        1. I believe that the success that Montana and Brady have achieved are more down to their head coaches and the systems that they played in, and had Jim Kelly played for Bill Walsh or Bill Belichick he would also have won at least 4 titles because he was a better QB than either Montana or Brady.

        2. See point d) above in my intro

        I’ll let you take your pick

        • Brandon Magner

          C’mon. Jim Kelly owes a lot more of his success to his “system” and offensive support than Montana or Brady do.

          • Jeff

            Because Marv Levy developed all those other great QBs in his coaching career? I really don’t think you can compare the influence Walsh and his offense had on Montana with Levy and Kelly.

            I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be having this conversation if the Bills had won a couple of those Superbowls and the Niners had lost one…

            And it should obviously be pointed out that Kelly didn’t play an NFL game until he was 26 – I’m factoring in his USFL seasons into my assessment too.

            But as I said to the other poster, if you don’t like my assessment, then put it down to my irrational subjectivity.

            • Brandon Magner

              Well, I’m obviously referring to the K-Gun offense and the swathe of Hall-of-Famers that Kelly played alongside. And Marv Levy’s head coaching career was almost exclusively spent with Kelly as his quarterback, so I don’t think it’s fair to criticize him for not developing Steve Fuller or Bill Kenney in Kansas City.

              Kelly’s numbers aren’t that impressive, especially considering the fact that he spent his developmental years in a different league. His stats certainly pale in comparison to Brady and Montana’s. A few Super Bowl wins wouldn’t have changed that.

            • Zach

              I actually completely agree with you in regards to Montana, I think any number of quarterbacks would’ve been excellent in that system, people forgot how innovative the west coast offense was for it’s time. In regards to Brady I have to disagree, Belichick definitely provided Brady with some brilliant defenses but there’s no reason to think that another QB could be plugged in and done what Brady has done: Belichick failed in Cleveland and the two years in New England without Brady his failed to make the playoffs (’00 and ’08).

              • Brandon Magner

                Yet you ranked Joe Montana as the third-greatest quarterback ever in your list?

                • Zach

                  I said any number of quarterbacks would’ve been excellent, I don’t think anyone would’ve won 4 super bowls and posted a stat line of11-0 td:int ratio with a 127 rating in super bowls. Even in his two years in Kansas City at the tail end of his career with far weaker support he brought them to the championship game one year and the divisional round the other.

              • Jeff

                Yes, it’s really tough to separate Brady from Belichick. I guess I’m slightly down on Brady (compared to most on here) at least partly because I’m so high on Belichick. It’s entirely possible that I’m under-estimating Brady.

                • gailwarning

                  I’d make the case that the Offensive Coordinator has more to do with a quarterback’s success than the Head Coach. Charlie Weiss was the Coordinator for the Pats first three Super Bowl wins. While a decent offensive coach, he’s hardly HOF material. He’s recently been fired from his second college head coach position.

        • Dave

          You say that Brady and Montana’s success is due to their head coach. But Marv Levy is in the Hall of Fame and Marv Levy coached Jim Kelly. There goes your whole argument down the drain.

          • Jeff

            I’m saying that all 3 were great QBs who played under great head coaches. It’s really difficult to separate out these things. I have Kelly, Brady and Montana ranked very closely. There really isn’t much between them. I happen to think Jim Kelly is slightly better. While I’m sure that I’m in a minority, I don’t think it’s completely ridiculous, is it?

            • Dave

              Jeff, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be a jerk. But Jim Kelly didn’t even win one Super Bowl. He had four cracks at it! Brady and Montana won four. They both won three Super Bowl MVP’s and they both won two league MVP’s. Jim Kelly never won a league MVP. Both are in the top 15 of TD’s and yards. Jim Kelly isn’t in the top 20 for either.

              One more stat: ANY/A. Brady, 4th; Montana, 9th; Kelly, 27th.

              Whether is Super Bowls or stats, I think it is ridiculous to rank Jim Kelly ahead of Tom Brady and Joe Montana.

  • Bryan Frye

    I am interpreting “greatest” not as “who was the best quarterback?” but as “who had the best mix of individual and team accomplishments?” The weight I apply to individual versus team accomplishments is likely unique to me. I considered career regular season and playoff stats relative to replacement (an arbitrary 80% of league average), all rushing and fumble data, postseason awards, and RINGZ. I took into account the relative strength of the teams on which they played. I also accounted for the lack of racial integration in the NFL prior to 1952, as well as the talent-bereft WW2 era. I also discounted significantly from AAFC and early AFL players. For players I had the privilege of watching on TV, I applied the eye test; and for players I did not, I took the word of respected writers like Dr. Z. If two players were close, I went with the more recent player (under the possibly misguided notion that players on the whole continue to get better over time, so a player 20% better than average today is superior to a player 20% better than average in 1977). When in doubt, I just made stuff up.

    My tentative list, which is subject to change at my wont:
    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Tom Brady
    4. Johnny Unitas
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Steve Young
    7. Roger Staubach
    8. Fran Tarkenton
    9. Sid Luckman
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Sammy Baugh
    12. Aaron Rodgers
    13. Drew Brees
    14. John Elway
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Otto Graham
    18. Norm Van Brocklin
    19. Sonny Jurgensen
    20. Len Dawson
    21. Ken Anderson
    22. Kurt Warner
    23. Ben Roethlisberger
    24. Philip Rivers
    25. Tony Romo

    • The new comment system working for you? Does this generate an email for you?

    • Steve

      No list that has Rivers and Romo but not Bradshaw, Tittle and Griese should be taken seriously

      • Bryan Frye

        Thank you for your unsolicited opinion, Steve. I really appreciate it.

  • Dave

    I think we all know what the tiers are, and that stats are different for eras. I used number of championship wins, super bowl starts, super bowl mvp’s, season mvp’s, Walter Payton Man of the Year awards, and Comeback POY.

    It’s all about Brady and Montana. They’ve both won 4 SB’s with 3 Sb mvp’s, both won the season mvp twice, and they’ve both won comeback poy. But it’s Brady who has put up the larger career numbers. And Brady’s been to six Super Bowls. After winning four, I don’t see two close losses as a negative.

    And I know Manning is a great QB, but he’s only won one Super Bowl.

    1.
    Brady

    2.
    Montana

    3.
    Unitas

    4.
    Manning

    5.
    Young

    6.
    Rodgers

    7.
    Brees

    8.
    Bradshaw

    9.
    Elway

    10.
    Warner

    11.
    Marino

    12.
    Favre

    13.
    Roethlisberger

    14.
    Staubach

    15.
    Aikman

    16.
    Simms

    17.
    Kelly

    18.
    Esiason

    19.
    Moon

    20.
    Anderson

    21.
    Fouts

    22.
    Tarkenton

    23.
    Rivers

    24.
    Romo

    25.
    Trent Green

    • Alejandro

      While I don’t believe he’s a Top 25 all-time QB, I do feel Trent Green is usually underappreciated and love that he managed to sneak into this discussion. Certainly an underrated stint of production that he had.

      • James

        I agree – I wanted to rank Green but I couldn’t justify him as a top 25 QB.

  • BGA

    For me the criteria were regular season dominance (with an eye to black ink), playoff performance and championships, awards and honors, and career length, while trying to account on the fly for league environment and misleading stats.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Sammy Baugh
    5. Joe Montana
    6. Otto Graham
    7. Dan Marino
    8. Fran Tarkenton
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Steve Young
    11. Drew Brees
    12. John Elway
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Warren Moon
    15. Ken Anderson
    16. Len Dawson
    17. Roger Staubach
    18. Norm Van Brocklin
    19. Sid Luckman
    20. Joe Namath
    21. Bobby Layne
    22. Kurt Warner
    23. Bart Starr
    23. Terry Bradshaw
    24. Jim Kelly

    25. Sonny Jurgenson

    Unranked: Aaron Rogers, Philip Rivers.

    • Steve

      Tarkenton had “terrible” teammates? That’s a big-time stretch.

      • Maybe for his second Vikings stint, but before then it’s not a *huge* stretch.

    • David Condon

      Aikman’s left off and Staubach is all the way down at 18, but you still found room for Bradshaw!? You really don’t like Dallas.

  • Matt

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Joe Montana
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Steve Young
    7. John Elway
    8. Fran Tarkenton
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Warren Moon
    11. YA Tittle
    12. Bart Starr
    13. Sammy Baugh
    14. Otto Graham
    15. Rodger Staubach
    16. Jim Kelly
    17. Dan Fouts
    18. Drew Brees
    19. Sonny Jergensen
    20. Aaron Rodgers
    21. Norm Van Brocklin
    22. Terry Bradshaw
    23. Bobby Layne
    24. Sid Luckman
    25. Len Dawson

  • I put more emphasis who stood out most during his era. Winning was a very big factor as well. Multidimensional QBs and those known for strong leadership and high character were worth more to me than longevity, gross passing statistics, or the recency effect.

    1 Johnny Unitas
    2 Tom Brady
    3 Peyton Manning
    4 Otto Graham
    5 John Elway
    6 Dan Marino
    7 Joe Montana
    8 Sammy Baugh
    9 Brett Favre
    10 Fran Tarkenton
    11 Aaron Rodgers
    12 Roger Staubach
    13 Steve Young
    14 Drew Brees
    15 Jim Kelly
    16 Len Dawson
    17 Bart Starr
    18 Sid Luckman
    19 Norm Van Brocklin
    20 Ben Roethlisberger
    21 Terry Bradshaw
    22 Dan Fouts
    23 Troy Aikman
    24 Ken Anderson
    25 Warren Moon

    • Zach

      I like this list, I feel like your criteria is similar to mine and I agree with your rankings more so than any other of these lists.

    • Steve

      Winning was a “very big factor” but you’ve got Unitas 16 spots ahead of Starr and Bradshaw at #21?

      • Fair point, but Unitas was also a championship-level QB whose winning percentage is right up there with those two. He was much more outstanding at his position in his era than Starr and Bradshaw (e.g. 5-time first-team All Pro vs one each). And while all three were great all-around teams, I think Unitas’ role in the Colts’ passing game was more instrumental to their success than Starr’s was in Green Bay or Bradshaw’s was in Pittsburgh.

        • Chase Stuart

          Always glad to see long-time readers here, Ace!

        • Scott Crowder

          Stats don’t back up the claim that Unitas was more instrumental than Starr. Come playoff time, Starr showed the greatest improvement in his passing stats than any QB in history. I was frankly surprised to see how Unitas compared. All stats are listed Regular season/playoffs and gathered from pro-football-reference.com

          Completion %
          Starr: 57.4/61.0
          Unitas: 54.6/53.1

          TD%
          Starr: 4.8/7.0
          Unitas: 5.6/3.1

          INT%
          Starr: 4.4/1.4
          Unitas: 4.9/4.4

          AYA:
          Starr: 6.8/9.0
          Unitas: 6.7/6.0

          ANYA:
          Starr: 6.55/9.0
          Unitas: 6.48/5.99

          So Starr was slightly better than Unitas during the regular season, but exceptionally better during the playoffs and actually excelled while Unitas got somewhat worse.

          • Richie

            Wow, the year he won a Super Bowl, Unitas completed 36% of his passes in the playoffs! Granted, he was injured during that run. But still..

          • That’s good stuff, but it’s somewhat beside the point as to being instrumental to their teams’ success. Unitas and Starr basically played in the same era. Unitas averaged 191 passing yards and 1.4 TDs per game (regular season). Starr: 126 yards, 0.78 TDs. Granted those are gross measures, but it’s clear the Colts relied much more on Unitas’ passing to get things done than the Packers did on Starr’s.

            • Scott Crowder

              Starr threw with more accuracy, threw further and made less mistakes than Unitas. That’s why %’s are more informative than raw numbers. It isn’t a measure of how much was required of him. The Colts may have relied more upon Unitas, but he didn’t come through near as well as Starr did when the Packers relied upon him.

  • Ross

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. John Elway
    4. Aaron Rodgers
    5. Steve Young
    6. Brett Favre
    7. Dan Marino
    8. Troy Aikman
    9. Kurt Warner
    10. Peyton Manning
    11. Jim Kelly
    12. Drew Brees
    13. Ben Roethlisberger
    14. Joe Namath
    15. Terry Bradshaw
    16. Roger Staubach
    17. Johnny Unitas
    18. Fran Tarkenton
    19. Bart Starr
    20. Len Dawson
    21. Warren Moon
    22. Joe Theismann
    23. Eli Manning
    24. Joe Flacco
    25. Earl Morall

  • Kevin

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Johnny Unitas
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Joe Montana
    5. Steve Young
    6. Brett Favre
    7. Aaron Rodgers
    8. Tom Brady
    9. John Elway
    10. Fran Tarkenton
    11. Otto Graham
    12. Drew Brees
    13. Roger Staubach
    14. Sammy Baugh
    15. Warren Moon
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Jim Kelly
    18. Terry Bradshaw
    19. Sid Luckman
    20. Kurt Warner
    21. Bart Starr
    22. Y.A Tittle
    23. Norm Van Brocklin
    24. Joe Namath
    25. Ben Roethlisberger

    Very hard to compare eras, I put more emphasis on dominance

  • Red

    I don’t measure QB’s by rings or stats…I measure them by IMPACT. How much did he elevate the team(s) he played for? Was he an innovator? How much did his system / teammates help him?
    1) Peyton Manning
    2) Johnny Unitas
    3) Dan Marino
    4) Otto Graham
    5) John Elway
    6) Fran Tarkenton
    7) Joe Montana
    8) Aaron Rodgers
    9) Roger Staubach
    10) Steve Young
    11) Brett Favre
    12) Dan Fouts
    13) Tom Brady
    14) Ken Anderson
    15) Sammy Baugh
    16) Drew Brees
    17) Joe Namath
    18) John Brodie
    19) Bart Starr
    20) Sid Luckman
    21) Jim Kelly
    22) Tony Romo
    23) Ken Stabler
    24) Philip Rivers
    25) Len Dawson

    • Bryan Frye

      Showing some love for Romo – I like it! I really thought I was going to be alone in having him on my list.

      • Adam Steele

        Yeah, I think Romo is better than Aikman. The difference in supporting cast is night and day.

        • James

          Aikman agrees with you that Romo is better.

      • Jeff

        I had Romo at 25 on my list too. He is such a good QB

  • Jamie

    01. Peyton Manning
    02. Joe Montana
    03. Tom Brady
    04. Johnny Unitas
    05. Otto Graham
    06. Steve Young
    07. Dan Marino
    08. Roger Staubach
    09. Bart Starr
    10. Fran Tarkenton
    11. Norm Van Brocklin
    12. Brett Favre
    13. Sid Luckman
    14. Sammy Baugh
    15. Drew Brees
    16. Sonny Jurgensen
    17. John Elway
    18. Dan Fouts
    19. Ken Anderson
    20. Aaron Rodgers
    21. Troy Aikman
    22. Joe Namath
    23. Terry Bradshaw
    24. Kurt Warner
    25. Ben Roethlisberger

    On the bubble for me: Rivers, Romo, Kelly, Moon, Lamonica, Dawson

    For me, the most important thing is how good they were at their best (i.e. peak and prime). Which is why you’ll see a guy like Steve Young above a guy like Elway. Longevity is important, but not enough to me to favor someone over a player who was superior at their respective bests. Then there’s all the other factors like teammates and era etc. Playoff results are only a big deal to me if you’re consistenly really really good (Montana, Starr etc.) or consistently bad (Fouts, Tarkenton etc.). Everyone else is just a mish-mash of similar play but dissimilar circumstances, leading to a wide range of results.

    Overall, not super comfortable with this list, it’s just off the top of my head. The top 5 could be in any order to me, and after those 5 guys it gets super hard, especially with the pre-merger guys where we have minimal tape and advanced statistics.

  • Shattenjager

    I started with Chase’s Greatest QB of All-Time career rankings, because I agree with that methodology. Then, I adjusted based on situation (teammates, coaching, etc.) that may have skewed statistics one way or another. And I will never admit to these rankings being mine in the future because John Elway is too low. 😉

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Dan Marino
    3. Drew Brees
    4. Tom Brady
    5. John Elway
    6. Fran Tarkenton
    7. Roger Staubach
    8. Steve Young
    9. Joe Montana
    10. Johnny Unitas
    11. Ken Anderson
    12. Otto Graham
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Norm Van Brocklin
    15. Sammy Baugh
    16. Brett Favre
    17. Sonny Jurgenson
    18. Y.A. Tittle
    19. Joe Namath
    20. John Brodie
    21. Warren Moon
    22. Philip Rivers
    23. Terry Bradshaw
    24. John Hadl
    25. Tony Romo

    • Hey Shattenjager — can you let me know if you get an email notifying you that I have replied to this comment?

      • I did get such an e-mail.

        • Awesome, thank you. Success!

        • I am now going to delete these comments.

  • Glanced at ANY/A and AV career lists, then subjectively moved around based on gut/”who would I rather have?” Could probably tinker for hours, but settled on this:

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Peyton Manning
    4. Johnny Unitas
    5. Aaron Rodgers
    6. Steve Young
    7. Otto Graham
    8. Drew Brees
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Dan Marino
    11. John Elway
    12. Kurt Warner
    13. Ben Roethlisberger
    14. Fran Tarkenton
    15. Sammy Baugh
    16. Philip Rivers
    17. Dan Fouts
    18. Bart Starr
    19. Terry Bradshaw
    20. Roger Staubach
    21. Warren Moon
    22. Jim Kelly
    23. Joe Namath
    24. Ken Stabler
    25. Tony Romo

    • Brad O.

      Wow, you REALLY like guys who are still playing. You really believe 3 of the top 5 QBs of all time were active in 2014? Your list has nine players active in the 2010s, and only six who played before 1969. I thought this was an all-time list.

  • Patrick Gordon

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Otto Graham
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Peyton Manning
    7. Steve Young
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. Fran Tarkenton
    10. Brett Favre
    11. John Elway
    12. Warren Moon
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Roger Staubach
    15. Kurt Warner
    16. Drew Brees
    17. Jim Kelly
    18. Troy Aikman
    19. Sammy Baugh
    20. YA Tittle
    21. Sid Luckman
    22. Len Dawson
    23. Daryle Lamonica
    24. Drew Bledsoe
    25. Terry Bradshaw

    • Steve

      Drew Bledsoe ahead of Bradshaw, Griese and Layne? Are you high?

  • Lell87

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Steve Young
    6. Fran Tarkenton
    7. Tom Brady
    8. Otto Graham
    9. Len Dawson
    10. Brett Favre
    11. John Elway
    12. Drew Brees
    13. Aaron Rodgers
    14. Jim Kelly
    15. Dan Fouts
    16. Ken Anderson
    17. Sammy Baugh
    18. Norm Van Brocklin
    19. Roger Staubach
    20. Kurt Warner
    21. Tony Romo
    22. Sid Luckman
    23. Troy Aikman
    24. Warren Moon
    25. Joe Namath

  • Ryan

    Rankings based upon statistical studies by Chase, Brian, etc…tweaked for war service, CFL time, etc…best football site on the net!

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Tom Brady
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Steve Young
    6. Fran Tarkenton
    7. Johnny Unitas
    8. Otto Graham
    9. Drew Brees
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. Norm Van Brocklin
    12. Sammy Baugh
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Sid Luckman
    15. Brett Favre
    16. John Elway
    17. Ken Anderson
    18. Aaron Rodgers
    19. Sonny Jurgensen
    20. Warren Moon
    21. John Brodie
    22. Bart Starr
    23. Len Dawson
    24. Philip Rivers
    25. Y.A. Tittle

    Thanks for the discussion and number crunching, in the small fraction of items that make me smile 🙂

  • Dave B

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Dan Marino
    3. Steve Young
    4. Fran Tarkenton
    5. Ken Anderson
    6. Sonny Jurgenson
    7. Roger Staubauch
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. Tony Romo
    10. Brew Brees
    11. Bart Starr
    12. Philip Rivers
    13 Brett Favre
    14. Joe Montana
    15. Kurt Warner
    16 Tom Brady
    17. Ben Roethlisberger
    18. Dan Fouts
    19 John Elway
    20 John Brodie
    21 Warren Moon
    22. Jim Kelly
    23 Joe Namath
    24 Steve McNair
    25. Randall Cunningham

    • Dave

      You’ve got Philip Rivers and Tony Romo ahead of Montana and Brady.

    • Zach

      I see what you’re going for with this list, pretty just going on pure stats rather than winning. Even so there’s no way Steve Young should be ahead of Montana. And, coming from a die hard Cowboys fan and huge Romo fan, there is no way Tony Romo should be ranked above Tom Brady or Joe Montana.

    • Adam Steele

      You left Unitas off your list… If that’s by accident I’d appreciate an edit. Thanks.

    • Big time trolling

  • Disclaimer: I am quite comfortable with my ranking of quarterbacks who played most of their careers with a 16-game schedule, but then I work the others in by trying to place them in the context of that sub-ranking (especially at the top of the list), and have given them slightly less thought than the more recent QB’s, so I’m not sure I can be trusted. And I actually have the hardest time with a certain Packers quarterback (hint: the usual thought is “Wait, he can’t already be better than [insert QB here], can he?”)

    All that said, regarding actual criteria, I do adjust for era and find the PFR “Advanced Passing” stats to be quite useful for that purpose. I judge postseasons on the QB’s stats and circumstances more so than whether their team won individual games. I consider a mishmash of factors but have no magic bullet or formula.

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Johnny Unitas
    3. Peyton Manning
    4. Tom Brady
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Sammy Baugh
    7. Brett Favre
    8. Steve Young
    9. Otto Graham
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. John Elway
    12. Bart Starr
    13. Fran Tarkenton
    14. Sid Luckman
    15. Len Dawson
    16. Drew Brees
    17. Aaron Rodgers
    18. Terry Bradshaw
    19. Troy Aikman
    20. Sonny Jurgensen
    21. Dan Fouts
    22. Y.A. Tittle
    23. Kurt Warner
    24. Warren Moon
    25. Norm Van Brocklin

    Honorable Mentions: Ken Anderson, Jim Kelly, any obvious names I missed by off chance

    • and I wanna add an honorable mention for John Brodie. His 1970 season is an all time great (including his performance in the playoff game vs. the Vikings…16-32-201-1-0 vs. a defense that allowed 195-367-1798-6-28 in the regular season)

  • Brandon Magner

    Well, this was tough. I’m more interested in determining the “best” quarterback ever instead of the “greatest”, so I weighed individual awards and regular-season numbers a lot more than RINGZ and playoff performance just due to sample size. It’s going to be really, really hard for Aaron Rodgers to ever surpass Tom Brady in media-driven “greatness”, for example, but I think he’s already a better quarterback so I slotted him higher. But durability and consistency have to be big factors, too.

    1. Peyton Manning (can’t stress enough how easy this placement was)
    2. Dan Marino
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Steve Young
    5. Aaron Rodgers
    6. Tom Brady
    7. Joe Montana
    8. Roger Staubach
    9. Drew Brees
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Dan Fouts
    12. Fran Tarkenton
    13. Len Dawson
    14. John Elway
    15. Sonny Jurgensen
    16. Ken Anderson
    17. Joe Namath
    18. Kurt Warner
    19. Bob Griese
    20. Bart Starr
    21. Warren Moon
    22. Philip Rivers
    23. Troy Aikman
    24. Bert Jones
    25. Terry Bradshaw

    Apologies to Otto Graham and anyone who entered the league during his career, but that was my cut-off line. Don’t know how to weigh the AAFL stats/hardware. I feel pretty weird about leaving off Roethlisberger, Romo, and former MVP Boomer Esiason, too. Gannon was too mediocre for too long, and I struggled finding a spot for Lamonica and Stabler given the loaded offenses they played with and their relatively brief spans of dominance.

    • Clemente Velasco

      I understand Peyton’s had a great career, but I’m still surprised by how many people have him at #1. I feel like consistently poor performances against good teams in high-pressure situations has to factor into any sort of qualitative judgement. If the question was, “Who is the greatest quarterback statistically?”, I would be much more open to PM at #1. If you were building a team from scratch, would you take Manning as your QB easy?

      Wish I could make my own list, but my historical knowledge is sorely lacking. Also, sorry for singling you out, but it seemed like there’s a chance you would reply.

      • Brandon Magner

        I think Peyton Manning’s playoff struggles get overstated relative to his team’s. His postseason statistics are very similar to Brady and his brother’s. That’s not to say he’s performed identically or even comparably, of course, but I think there’s a great deal of hyperbole expended just to fit a narrative.

        I would easily take Peyton first overall in this hypothetical fantasy draft. That doesn’t mean he’s “easily” better than any other quarterback in history, but I wouldn’t think twice about it. No other player inspires as much confidence in me that he would start and dominate for at least a decade-and-a-half, regardless of team composition and philosophy.

        • James

          I also wonder how much of Peyton’s lack of postseason stats are due to Marvin Harrison. I looked at about 10 of contemporary, excellent WRs (from Bruce to Fitzgerald to Welker) and he was the only one whose playoff stats were significantly worse than their regular season stats. Collectively, the others all did slightly better in the playoffs, including Harrison’s teammates like Wayne and Clark.

          Prime Harrison (1999-2006) reg season: 10.2 targets, 6.6 receptions, 89.0 yards, 0.8 TDs per game
          Prime Harrison (1999-2006) playoffs: 7.7 targets, 3.8 receptions, 51.0 yards, 0.1 TDs per game

          How does that happen? Why DID that happen? He’s missing 2.5 targets per game, 1 reception per game even considering the reduced targets, and only scored 2 TDs his entire postseason career! And even then one TD was that fluke where he went down but no one touched him, so he got up and kept on running.

  • Brandon Magner

    Pretty disappointed to see three votes for Eli Manning already in the pool.

  • Miles

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Johnny Unitas
    3. Joe Montana
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Tom Brady
    6. Steve Young
    7. Brett Favre
    8. John Elway
    9. Fran Tarkenton
    10. Drew Brees
    11. Roger Staubach
    12. Sammy Baugh
    13. Bart Starr
    14. Dan Fouts
    15. Jim Kelly
    16. Kurt Warner
    17. Ken Anderson
    18. Aaron Rodgers
    19. Otto Graham
    20. Norm Van Brocklin
    21. Ben Roethlisberger
    22. Warren Moon
    23. Sid Luckman
    24. Tony Romo
    25. Philip Rivers

  • Duff Soviet Union

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Sammy Baugh
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Fran Tarkenton
    6. Joe Montana
    7. Tom Brady
    8. Sid Luckman
    9. Otto Graham
    10. Aaron Rodgers
    11. Brett Favre
    12. Steve Young
    13. Bart Starr
    14. Drew Brees
    15. Ken Anderson
    16. Len Dawson
    17. Dan Fouts
    18. John Brodie
    19. Tony Romo
    20. Bobby Layne
    21. Roger Staubach
    22. John Elway
    23. Joe Namath
    24. Phillip Rivers
    25. Kurt Warner

  • Just wondering, is this link being posted on any other sites?

  • Ty

    Didn’t include QBs that played before the 1950s. Used a combo of Chase Stuart’s Greatest QB articles, as well as some intuition (weather/dome, era, etc). I’m open minded as far as changing the list (This list is not set in stone).

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Joe Montana
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Steve Young
    6. Johnny Unitas
    7. Drew Brees
    8. Fran Tarkenton
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. Dan Fouts
    12. Aaron Rodgers
    13. Ken Anderson
    14. John Brodie
    15. Sonny Jurgensen
    16. Philip Rivers
    17. John Elway
    18. Terry Bradshaw
    19. Troy Aikman
    20. Kurt Warner
    21. Len Dawson
    22. Joe Namath
    23. Daryle Lamonica
    24. Bart Starr
    25. Warren Moon

    • Steve

      Philip Rivers eight spots ahead of Bart Starr?!

  • Roger Kirk

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Peyton Manning
    4. Brett Favre
    5. Steve Young
    6. Otto Graham
    7. John Elway
    8. Dan Marino
    9. Johnny Unitas
    10. Kurt Warner
    11. Aaron Rodgers
    12. Drew Brees
    13. Terry Bradshaw
    14. Roger Staubach
    15. Troy Aikman
    16. Fran Tarkenton
    17. Jim Kelly
    18. Warren Moon
    19. Dan Fouts
    20. Bart Starr
    21. Ken Anderson
    22. Sid Luckman
    23. Sammy Baugh
    23. Norm Van Brocklin
    24. Ben Roethlisberger
    25. Philip Rivers

    I’m one of the few here who remember the 50s (and some of the 40s), or maybe the only one. Even allowing for inflated stats due to rule changes, today’s players are so much more physically endowed, for whatever reasons, that comparisons are meaningless. You can judge NFL players from the 30s against their peers, but comparing them to today’s players is like comparing John Montgomery Ward and Hoss Radbourn to Derek Jeter and Madison Bumgarner. It’s just too different, but I included Luckman and Baugh out of a sense of duty. Besides, my mother went to high school with Luckman, and Baugh suffered through two years of coaching for Harry Wismer’s New York Titans. My recollection of the 50s is that at the time there was no question that Otto Graham was the league’s best quarterback. Perhaps this is because I was a Giants fan and our feelings facing him were like what Jets fans feel facing Tom Brady. I could have put in a few more from the 50s but again I just feel today’s players are better.

    • Adam Steele

      You have 26 guys listed, so I’m just not going to count Rivers. Cool?

  • Zach

    I don’t look at ‘greatest’ as necessarily the ‘best’ qb of all time, but to me it’s the one who stands out from the pack the most from his era. Now just based on that the truth is that Benny Friedman is the greatest because he was so much better than the rest in the 20s, but I don’t count him because he played in an era where no one else really even tried to throw. I start judging QB’s around Sammy Baugh’s era. The two things I take into account are the quarterback’s ability to win and win big (Bradshaw, Montana), but also a quarterback’s ability to elevate mediocre teams to winners (Elway, Marino). Until this year I wouldn’t have ranked Brady #1, because you could argue Manning was better, but I think after this year there is no debate Brady is better.

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Johnny Unitas
    3. Joe Montana
    4. John Elway
    5. Sammy Baugh
    6. Otto Graham
    7. Roger Staubach
    8. Peyton Manning
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Terry Bradshaw
    11. Dan Marino
    12. Drew Brees
    12. Steve Young
    13. Sid Luckman
    14. Troy Aikman
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Bobby Layne
    17. Fran Tarkenton
    18. Aaron Rodgers
    19. Dan Fouts
    20. Jim Kelly
    21. Len Dawson
    22. Sonny Jurgensen
    23. Warren Moon
    24. Ken Stabler
    25. YA Tittle

    • Brandon Magner

      I’m not deliberately trying to be a jerk, but seeing Elway ranked over Peyton and Bradshaw above Marino is just painful to even glance at.

      • Zach

        As a regular season QB Manning is probably #1 and Elway’s regular season numbers are average, but the difference is Elway elevated some very mediocre teams of the 80s to the super bowl and when he finally had a very talented (’96-’98) he won it all 2 of those 3 years, whereas there were several instances where, in my opinion, Peyton had a sufficiently talented team but just couldn’t win the big game, either in the playoffs or the super bowl. Really the only knock on Marino is that I just think there were a number of quarterbacks of his era who were better than him, whereas the only guy I’d put ahead of Bradshaw is Staubach, and only by a little bit.

        • Brandon Magner

          I disagree with the logic behind pretty much all of that, but it doesn’t make sense to knock Marino down another peg when the three players ostensibly better than him from the same era (Montana, Elway, and Favre) all rank higher than Bradshaw on your list, too.

          • Zach

            I wouldn’t put Favre in Montana’s era, they only had 2 overlapping years. Regardless, as a decade I think the 70s was relatively weak for quarterbacks, which is why I put Staubach (who I believe to be the best of that era) the lowest among players I view as #1 of their era. And yes I put Elway ahead of him, Graham, and Baugh despite that he was second best of his era to Montana. Simply because that era (the 80s/90s) had more great quartbacks.

      • On the plus side, if a list is going to have Brady at #1, or at least ahead of Montana, it’s always nice for its credibility to have Bradshaw in the top 10.

        Random fun fact: Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw have the same number of regular season MVP awards (1).

    • This list has two #12’s…same order and drop Tittle I guess?

  • mmcorvi

    1. Johnny Unitas
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Kurt Warner
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Bart Starr
    6. Steve Young
    7. Roger Staubach
    8. Terry Bradshaw
    9. John Elway
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Dan Fouts
    12. Otto Graham
    13. Drew Brees
    14. Tom Brady
    15. Aaron Rodgers
    16. Dan Marino
    17. Warren Moon
    18. Troy Aikman
    19. Fran Tarkenton
    20. Y.A. Tittle
    21. Sammy Baugh
    22. Joe Flacco
    23. Jim Kelly
    24. Philip Rivers
    25. Andrew Luck

  • snoth cambin

    1.Brady(you could make a case that brady having belichick underestimates him on most peoples list, but you have put into emphasis that before brady became a statistical juggernaut in 07 he was a top ten QB with or without the rings his first 6 seasons. Brady is one of the most overlooked when it comes to stats, even if he goes 0-6 in SBs he’s still a top ten QB.)
    2.Montana
    3.Peyton
    4.Unitas
    5.Marino
    6.graham
    7.staubach
    8.Starr
    9.Luckman
    10.young
    11.Starr
    12.Favre
    13.Rodgers
    14.elway
    15.Brees
    16.Warner
    17.Anderson
    18.Fouts
    19.moon
    20.Tarkenton
    21.Kelly
    22.Aikman
    23.Bradshaw
    24.Rivers
    25.Stabler

    • Adam Steele

      You have Starr listed twice, please fix.

  • hawk

    1) Montana
    2) Brady
    3) Aikman
    4) Bradshaw
    5) Staubach
    6) Roethlisberger
    7) Elway
    8) Starr
    9) Plunkett
    10) Eli Manning
    11) Griese
    12) Warner
    13) Favre
    14) Rodgers
    15) Brees
    16) Young
    17) Marino
    18) Fouts
    19) Unitas
    20) Tarkenton
    22) Rivers
    23) Morrall
    24) Peyton Manning
    25) Namath

    • Brandon Magner

      I was hoping this would remain a troll-free exercise.

      • hawk

        This coming from the guy that put Montana #7 and Brady #6? With 2 of the greatest underachievers, chokers, and deer in headlights players in NFL history at #1 and #2?

        • Brandon Magner

          Yes. Yes it is. You’re trolling.

          Didn’t know Marino had the reputation of a “choker”, though; that’s a new one. I thought it was universally accepted that his teams just weren’t that good from age 25 and on.

          • Alternatively, he just has wildly different value set than the rest of FP’s readership…I’m sure we could go on certain sites and get lots of samples with Brady at 1 or at worst 2 and Manning outside the top 10 (on average, with some in top 5 and some barely in top 25 like here), but if you imported those here it would become “trolling.” Also Marino’s choker rep isn’t new at all…

            • Brandon Magner

              What value set places Peyton Manning as the 24th-ranked quarterback in history (at ANYTHING) and his brother 10th? Do tell.

              It’s just trolling, man. Occam’s Razor!

              • Well obviously part of it would be QB’s making up, I dunno, 90% of their team’s ability to win in the postseason? Which is clearly wrong, of course. But even if it’s so wrong as to be disingenuous (e.g. Tarkenton over Manning by that logic?), picking on individual submissions is kind of besides the point of the exercise anyway. And I’m seeing hawk’s ripostes now but wherever the rest of your conversation with him goes from here, you are both going to view the other as the aggressor. I figured we’d wait until the final product before making judgments about lists/the list.

                • Brandon Magner

                  Fair. I just view this site’s readership as one of the best around and am interested in the results of this poll; including a ballot that has Peyton Manning 24th when he’s leading the whole thing in No. 1 votes (or very close to it) just seems fruitless.

                  • Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. (And hawk’s posts are getting increasingly troll-y…)

                • hawk

                  I didn’t post anything about anyone’s list until I got labeled a troll. I am all ears as to how anyone can put Marino and Manning above Brady and Montana though.

                  • “I didn’t post anything about anyone’s list until I got labeled a troll.” — that’s what I was getting at with “you are both going to view the other as the aggressor” ; as for “increasingly troll-y” below, that was mostly a response to your shot at Steve Young…whatever for?! ;p

                    • hawk

                      He has Young above Montana and Brady as well. I mean, anyone who was watching football then knew that Charger team was a joke. That was the dig on Young.

                    • Brandon Magner

                      I don’t boil down Steve Young’s entire career to who he happened to play in the Super Bowl. He has the second-best era-adjusted efficiency (by ANY/A+) in the history of football, higher than both Brady and Montana and retired as the one of the leading rushers among quarterbacks; he’s an amazing player and easily one of my five-“best” QBs ever.

                    • hawk

                      Young’s ANY+ is 123 vs. Montana’s 121. Young also got to play with Rice for pretty much the entirety of his starting career and Terrell Owens for a good 3-4 years. Young also got to play with a borderline HOFer in Watters. Then, when you get to the playoffs – Young falls off the map compared to his regular season numbers while Montana gets better.

                    • Brandon Magner

                      Young’s ANY/A+ becomes 129 when you take out the two seasons on those disastrous Tampa teams, which don’t factor at all into my valuation of his career, and Owens wasn’t regarded as a star player until Young’s last season. Ricky Watters … really? Who do you think helped the other’s presence on the field more in their three seasons together?

                    • And his ANY/A+ was 128 in 1997, the year Rice played less than a game’s worth.

                    • hawk

                      He happened to have another HOF WR on the roster that year that led the team in rec/yards/TDs

                    • With 60-936-8. Good, but like Brandon said, Owens wasn’t a star until later. And that team’s #2 receiver was JJ Stokes; was he even better than David Patten?

                      Every time–every time!–I argue about Young, people start with Rice, and when you point out his season without Rice, people act like TO had been in the league five years by then.

                    • hawk

                      I don’t care if you argue about Young but he wasn’t better than Montana. Montana only had like what half his career on the 49ers without a single HOFer on offense and he still won 2 rings.

                    • Well that’s different. I have Montana at #1 and Young at #8.

                      As a side note, I’ve seen Brady supporters use Rice to bludgeon Montana, so I am glad whenever it’s acknowledged that Montana was quite successful before Rice came on board. (Fun fact: Montana’s worst Rate+ through 1984 was higher than Brady’s best Rate+ through 2006. The difference is not quite as drastic with ANY/A+ instead, but it’s close.)

                    • Brandon Magner

                      I think it’s far more plausible to say that Owens benefitted from running routes for and catching passes from a quarterback that had the led the league three times in ANY/A while Owens was still in college than it is to say Young benefitted from throwing passes to a player that had only accounted for 520 yards as a rookie.

                    • hawk

                      How did Young play without HOF WRs? Oh… right… you completely ignore that part of his career.

                    • Brandon Magner

                      You’re really going to hold Young’s brief Tampa tenure against him?

                      I don’t know how you read this site given the beliefs you’ve espoused. Chase’s pro-Peyton stance must particularly infuriate you.

                    • hawk

                      Chase can use whatever faulty justification needed to rank a QB with a losing postseason record and 9 one and dones as the GOAT. I’ll take guys that perform in the postseason and don’t need domes to gain their ANY+ edge.

                    • Isaac Zhou

                      for montana i understand but Brady doesn’t really outperform manning in the playoffs significantly at all. You may not care about regular season statistics but a qb playing well in the regular season is part of the reason the team even makes the playoffs.

                    • hawk

                      I think he does considering the weather he often plays in. I think Vegas doesn’t consider wind a factor until it is over 15mph. So let’s consider how many times Manning has played in poor weather (15+ mph or wind chill below freezing) a grand total of 4 times (losing 3). Compared to 15 times for Brady (some of these with negative wind chill temps). Over half of Brady’s playoff games are played in poor weather conditions.

                    • hawk

                      My post got lost. IIRC, Vegas doesn’t consider wind a factor until it is 15mph or more. So, let’s consider poor weather conditions as 15+ mph winds or below freezing wind chill. Manning played a whole 4 games under those conditions (losing 3). Brady played 15 (over half his games). I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that any study Chase or Burke or any of the other sites do would lead you to believe that Manning’s and Brady’s #’s in the playoffs aren’t really that equal when one is playing in a dome and the other is playing in the great outdoors.

                    • hawk

                      My post got lost. IIRC, Vegas doesn’t consider wind a factor until it is 15mph or more. So, let’s consider poor weather conditions as 15+ mph winds or below freezing wind chill. Manning played a whole 4 games under those conditions (losing 3). Brady played 15 (over half his games). I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that any study Chase or Burke or any of the other sites do would lead you to believe that Manning’s and Brady’s #’s in the playoffs aren’t really that equal when one is playing in a dome and the other is playing in the great outdoors.

                    • Isaac Zhou

                      there has already been some studies. It’s decently significant but not nearly enough to elevate to Brady to Montana level or anything like that. Also, home field is an overlooked advantage which Brady has in the playoffs. Aaron Rodger’s road and home splits this year is a good example, he plays in one of the colder places in the NFL yet he’s still much better at home. Anyway your list is troll even if you’re looking at only rings, manning under guys like warner favre and brees(saints fan btw). If rings matter that much to you, shouldn’t manning be ahead of marino and fouts then since neither one has any rings.

                    • hawk

                      It is more than decently significant. IIRC, a dome adds something like 6-7 points of QB rating. Also, I am not only looking at rings – I am looking at how they won those rings and the fact that many guys can do something once – not many can do a thing twice.

                    • hawk

                      Funny – I feel the same way with any list that doesn’t have Montana in the top 2.

                    • Steve

                      Watters didn’t exactly fall off after he left the 49ers. Seemed like Young missed him quite a bit in 1995.

                  • Not everyone’s rankings are created through the same lens. While the team success enjoyed by Brady and Montana will vault them up most rankings, other may wonder how much of the success of Brady and Montana were truly about Brady and Montana.

                    There was no dropoff in play from Montana to his successor, Steve Young. And before Montana, Ken Anderson had extraordinary success in the same system. While Anderson ran into the ’70s Steelers and Young the ’90s Cowboys, both players had outstanding individual performances that could cause someone to question how much of Montana’s greatness was due to Bill Walsh. The 49ers also had an outstanding defense, which contributed significantly to Montana’s four championships.

                    Tom Brady’s been the beneficiary of not an advanced offensive system, but a top organization. New England has managed to exploit inefficiencies in the way the NFL accumulates talent for 15 years, and that has helped Brady’s career to a degree that is not necessarily measurable. We do not know how Brady would fare outside of New England, nor do we know how another quarterback would fare with the Patriots.

                    Peyton Manning went to the playoffs with four different coaches. He’s had success with two different teams. He’s turned countless receivers into stars in a way that will impress some rankers. Favre, Manning, and Marino produced the most peak years for their receivers: http://www.footballperspective.com/which-quarterbacks-produced-peak-years-for-their-receivers/

                    For Manning, the argument can also be summarized simply and without reference to passing statistics. There were seven seasons where the AP thought he was the best quarterback in football. There were just three for Montana and two for Brady. There were 4.5 seasons where the AP thought Manning was the best player in football (Adrian Peterson and Shaun Alexander won the MVP the two years Manning was a first-team All-Pro but not the MVP; Manning also split the award with Steve McNair in ’03, another 1AP year for Manning). I am not one to put a ton of weight into the eyes of the voters, but others might consider it overwhelming evidence that Manning viewed as the best more than Brady and Montana combined.

                    For Marino, his career was about 50% longer than Montana’s; for some, that might be a pretty relevant fact. Vis-a-vis Brady (and Montana, too), I think the argument would be one part individual statistics, and one part weaker teammates. For what it’s worth, the Dolphins went from ’79 to ’95 without a 1,000-yard rusher, the longest streak in NFL history: http://www.footballperspective.com/longest-streaks-without-a-1000-yard-rusher/

                    Brady won four Super Bowls when his defense ranked in the top eight of the league in points allowed. Montana won four Super Bowls when his defense ranked in the top of in points allowed (including three in the top 3). Miami’s defense almost never did that under Marino. And while Brady’s numbers are great, Marino has him beat, at least in ANY/A, once you adjust for era and you ignore (for now) the 16th/17th years of his career (the decline years, which Brady has not yet entered): http://pfref.com/tiny/9Okrh

                    • hawk

                      1) Considering Brady and Montana are the only true constants of note on those teams I would say their “team” success was quite a bit about them.

                      2) It isn’t like Manning and Young had a dearth of top 10 scoring Ds. I am curious, this article has the Pats expected to “only” win 2.6 SBs http://www.footballperspective.com/how-many-super-bowls-should-the-patriots-have-won/ using the same methodology how rings should Young, Manning, and Marino have won.

                      3) Manning has had Harrison, Wayne, Welker, and DT. All but DT have looked pretty good without Manning.

                      4) If readers think the AP MVP has nothing to do with team success and popularity then they are fooling themselves. What is the argument for Manning’s MVP/APs in 2008 or 2009 if we aren’t talking about winning?

                      5) Montana’s 1st SB was won with the leading rusher barely breaking 500 yards. The team was dead last in YPC. The lack of a running game is just an excuse for QBs that never got it done. It isn’t like Brady has had rushing juggernauts either. Without looking I would be willing to bet that Manning has played with more 1K rushers than Montana and Brady combined.

                      6) While I do sympathize with Marino for not having a lot of great Ds while he played, using ANY/A (which doesn’t account for weather) when compared to Brady isn’t that convincing.

                    • hawk

                      Why are my posts being classified as spam?

                    • hawk

                      1) Considering Brady and Montana are the only true constants of note on those teams I would say their “team” success was quite a bit about them.
                      2) It isn’t like Manning and Young had a dearth of top 10 scoring Ds. I am curious, this article has the Pats expected to “only” win 2.6 SBs http://www.footballperspective… using the same methodology how rings should Young, Manning, and Marino have won.
                      3) Manning has had Harrison, Wayne, Welker, and DT. All but DT have looked pretty good without Manning.
                      4) If readers think the AP MVP has nothing to do with team success and popularity then they are fooling themselves. What is the argument for Manning’s MVP/APs in 2008 or 2009 if we aren’t talking about winning?
                      5) Montana’s 1st SB was won with the leading rusher barely breaking 500 yards. The team was dead last in YPC. The lack of a running game is just an excuse for QBs that never got it done. It isn’t like Brady has had rushing juggernauts either. Without looking I would be willing to bet that Manning has played with more 1K rushers than Montana and Brady combined.
                      6) While I do sympathize with Marino for not having a lot of great Ds while he played, using ANY/A (which doesn’t account for weather) when compared to Brady isn’t that convincing.

                    • James

                      “Considering Brady and Montana are the only true constants of note on those teams”

                      I guess you’ve never heard of Bill Walsh or Bill Belichick?

              • hawk

                Eli won two rings with last minute drives against teams he was considered an underdog to. One a double digit underdog. Peyton was a favorite in every SB he has played in. He completely disappeared against Seahawks and threw as many TDs to the Saints as he did his own team in his other loss. He beat the Bears which is about as impressive as Steve Young beating the 1994 Chargers.

          • hawk

            Your top 2 guys both have losing records in the playoffs. They are the epitome of bait and switch QBs. They are awesome when the outcome of the game really doesn’t matter but when the game does matter they fold like cheap suits. Give me guys that actually can lead a team and bounce back from adversity.

            • Brandon Magner

              … so why is Johnny Unitas so low on your list?

              • hawk

                He didn’t really play in the SB era. I left guys like Graham, Baugh, and others completely off. The one SB he “won” was really won by Morrall.

    • Adam Steele

      Sorry, we don’t accept ballots from Skip Bayless.

      • hawk

        I see… so you only take ballots that conform to your preconceived notions of what a ballot should look like?

      • It’s not my project, but I’d accept every submission.

        • Adam Steele

          For crowd sourcing to work effectively, its particpants must possess at least a modicum of credibility. Given his list and subsequent myopic responses, it’s my opinion that “hawk” lacks sufficient football credibility to make a worthwhile contribution to this project.
          In every presidental election, there are thousands of Americans who write in ridiculous votes such as Mickey Mouse or Luke Skywalker. Should we take their opinions seriously, when it’s obvious they aren’t making a legitimate contribution to the election process?

          • First, again, this is obviously your call. That really goes without saying but I only say it so as not to be misunderstood as trying to tell you what to do. I’m just offering my perspective.

            Those votes for Mickey Mouse count as much as any write-in vote, even though the person isn’t taking the process seriously and–if it weren’t for the secret ballot–we wouldn’t have to take them seriously either. The respondents for this kind of project are already self-selected and if it were my survey, I wouldn’t want to get into un-selecting submissions I didn’t approve of, for whatever reason.

            As a rather poor example since it’s nothing public, I’ve conducted a few historical ranking polls of (coincidentally) presidents online for my own entertainment over the years. One I did it with letter grades. Abraham Lincoln and FDR both got some F’s; Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan got some A+ marks. Lincoln still ended up 2nd, FDR 3rd, Fillmore bottom 10, and Buchanan dead last–all about where they are when you count only the people “who know what they’re talking about.” I wrote something up with the intent of posting it, but I barely had a blog and this was 2008 or so.

            But I honestly actually wrote this paragraph (I didn’t remember these words until consulting the file while writing this reply to you):

            “It would have been nearly impossible to carry out this survey in a perfectly scientific manner, as Internet surveys are inherently unscientific. A participant can misrepresent their ideology, or give thoughtless responses, or wish to disrupt the study with outlandish responses (I suspect the individual who gave Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan all A+ grades of this latter crime). However, the intentions of participants may not be doubted for risk of deleting an honest reply, among other things: as is said above, the participant in this survey is the ‘typical Internet user.’ As such there is of course a risk of the occasional hooligan.”

            So anyway, I might be wrong–for one thing, you aren’t trying to poll the “typical Internet user,” and now that I think about it, who would want to? But I’m also not just saying for the hell of it that I’d count hawk’s answer.

            Anyway, that’s just, like, my opinion, man. I look forward to the results and analysis either way.

            • Adam Steele

              I appreciate your thoughtful feedback, and I completely understand your point of view. Honestly, when I first saw Hawk’s ballot, I was planning on counting it. But then his comments revealed massive ignorance, and frankly made me question why someone of that mindset would even visit this site. Exactly as you said, I am NOT trying to poll the typical internet user, because in that case the results would be a mirror image of the drivel we hear from the media every day. The FBP audience is sophisticated enough to look beyond the narratives and really dig at the truth – those are the kind of sources whom I want represented in this project.

              • Yeah, when someone starts spouting off every cliche in the book like that (I mean, a cheap suit analogy right off the bat!), having Jim Plunkett at #9 becomes an even more glaring issue…

                This is actually something I was trying to address with Brandon as well; rather than get bogged down into whether a certain ranking is objectively good or not (whatever “objectively” and “good” mean), just count the results. In a way, “all” we’ve done here is rip out a data point by provoking someone into opening his mouth and removing all doubt as to whether he is a fool. I suppose that’s fine, but I’d have preferred leaving things fall where they may. For however many or few cents that’s worth.

                • Anyway, I’ve said enough. This conversation is still a lot more refreshing than my statistical arguments that Montana was better than Brady getting met with substance-free garbage from Pats fans on ESPN.

                  • Adam Steele

                    Ultimately, the purpose of this experiment was to spark debate, which it has certainly done, and most of it has even been reasonable! But thanks for providing some perspective – we all have blind spots and biases, and dealing with stubborn Patriots fans is something I clearly need help with 🙂

                    • No problem…I actually need help with NE fans too lol…their herd/pack of wolves mentality, which is burnished by their local media, can be nerve-wracking…after a single tweet the other day which basically just pointed out that Manning’s team beat Brady’s team in the 2006 playoffs, I got shellacked for hours with Reche Caldwell this and Rex Grossman that and CHFF once said and so on…my consistent responding did not help it subside of course ;p

                      but with Montana at 1, I’m not even sure hawk is a Pats fan lol. maybe a fan of some SEC team Peyton always beat on.

                      Anyway with the lol’s, sentence fragments, and rambling starting to permeate my posts, it’s clearly getting late for me 😛

              • Christopher F Clark

                This reply to you comment may be too late and/or get lost in the noise. However, the purpose of this survey was to get divergent expertise. You may think Hawk’s comments are ignorant, but they still represent some “form” of expertise. If you discount his, you might as well discount mine, because I did not use any metrics in forming my opinion, at least not any beyond which QBs whose names I could recall and desired to watch play. If you wanted only numerically supported arguments, you needed to qualify that in your criteria. Without such a qualification, discounting some opinions post factum seems particularly un-scientific–not that we expect this poll to be scientific, but we could hope that you wouldn’t render it even more biased than it inherently is. Finally, I think the views which aren’t based upon looking up stats on this site and using them as a foundation will probably tend to cancel themselves out. Subjective opinions not supported by numeric justifications would seem to be more likely random and thus part of the “noise” than opinions which have some objective basis and thus would be reproduced by others having the same basis–and in this case should easily get out-voted by people who have the same objective basis, i.e. the stats on this site.

                • Steve

                  Well said. Perhaps when Chase encouraged people to be bold in their selections he should’ve added “as long as it goes along with the “Peyton is the best (or close to it)” agenda we’re pushing.

                  • Steve

                    I should add, for the record, that earlier I took shots at a couple people’s lists and I apologize for that. Have to remember that you can disagree with someone without coming across as insulting (easier said than done sometimes).

                    • I appreciate you taking the high road, Steve. The community here is much better when we all treat each other respectfully.

                • Christopher,

                  I agree with your general point. The goal here was not numerically supported arguments, and this isn’t going to be anywhere near perfect. I expect the results will differ quite a bit from my own personal ratings, which will probably give more credit to older quarterbacks.

                  Please take a look at my comment above (http://www.footballperspective.com/greatest-qb-of-all-time-wisdom-of-crowds-edition/#comment-1853261620) as to what happened in this particular case.

                  By the way, I was a bit confused by your comment about “might as well exclude mine.” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you post on this site before, including in this post. Am I mistaken?

                  • You probably just haven’t seen my list yet. It was just added today. I’m not a regular on this site, yet. I came over because this survey was mentioned on Football Outsiders.

            • Thanks, hscer.

              I agree with a lot of your points. I should have interjected earlier, and I’m sorry for that.

              I also agree that we should be counting each valid ballot. That said, with respect to this particular ballot, it came to my attention that “hawk” was an alias for a commenter who frequently posts here. I have since deleted that account, which is why it now appears as a guest post. Hawk, by his common name, is one of our better posters, and I don’t quite follow why he created the alias, but so be it. In any event, he even told me that he intentionally left off a #21 so that we would not count the ballot. This is now the saddest version of “yep, these are my readers” ever typed.

              So Adam is correct to dismiss the ballot, although that’s only because it both didn’t comply with the rules and it was a fake ballot.

              • Thank you, Chase.

                I am glad we got some hard evidence to throw out that bad a ballot for reasons besides its surface badness. I am tempted to try and defend my stance but that’s probably not necessary.

                What was he trying to accomplish, though? Make “winz” people look bad?

                • I think he was trying to make a point with respect to the running of the contest, not necessarily about winz.

          • hawk

            All my posts are getting flagged as spam

            • Adam Steele

              I think you have to register with Disqus before your comments will go through. But that’s something Chase would know better than I.

          • hawk

            Whatever. You talk about IMPACT. Exactly what impact does Manning have over Montana or Brady?

            • Adam Steele

              Manning has carried mediocre teams on his back for over a decade, singlehandedly elevating the Colts to greatness and making the Broncos a SB contender immediately upon his arrival. The Colts had Harrison, Wayne, Freeney, and that’s about it. He was saddled with mostly poor defenses, consistently awful special teams, shaky offensive lines, ultra conservative coaches, and STILL won 12+ games every single year. Look at what happened the year he was injured – the Colts went from 10-6 to 2-14 with basically the same roster. Manning is the reason Lucas Oil Stadium was built. Manning is the reason people think Bill Polian is a genius. I firmly believe he did more with those Colts teams than any other QB could have.

              Montana and Brady are both understudies of all-time great coaches. They played in an environment which would make anyone look better than they really are. Ken Anderson and Steve Young were also fantastic in Walsh’s system, hell even Elvis Grbac looked great in SF. Montana was backed by great defenses pretty much his whole career. This is even more true with Brady, as Belichick’s system hides all his flaws. He can’t throw deep, can’t throw intermediate sideline routes. All he throws are short crossing routes and seam routes to the biggest TE mismatch in history, relying on YAC for much of his yardage. Look at how well Matt Cassel played in Brady’s absense: 11-5 record, top 3 QB the second half of the season. Plus, Brady has always enjoyed superb offensive lines, great field position, special teams who make plays, and defenses who create turnovers. He’s had horrible losses in the playoffs (2009, 2010, 2012) but nobody remembers because the popular narrative says he’s “clutch”. Without Belichick, I am confident that Brady has ZERO rings. He may be the most overrated QB in NFL history.

              • Just be aware that for many reasonable observers, a survey having 5 or so responses that have Peyton Manning #1 and Tom Brady outside the top 10 might, taken as a whole, be a bigger issue than 1 response that has Manning at #24.

                I admit to never having impressed watching Brady–he would never make Eli’s throw to Manningham, or Peyton’s to Clark against Baltimore, or Steve Young’s to T.O., or, or, or–but there’s obviously something there. Perhaps decision making, finding the most open receiver more often than anyone? His low INT rate would also attest to a similar conclusion. But I don’t care to watch the hours and hours of All-22 tape it would take to confirm this.

                I mean, the guy is top 5 all time in both volume and efficiency. He certainly didn’t get there because of Belichick’s genius on the offensive side of the ball.

                — guy who really really REALLY does not like the Patriots or Tom Brady

                • Adam Steele

                  That’s fair. I don’t watch all 22 tape either, so I don’t know the QB’s responsibilities on each play. But from my perspective watching the TV broadcast, Brady has consistently attempted the easiest passes of any of the great QB’s, and his receivers seem to be open more often than they are on other teams. Perhaps that’s in part because Brady is manipulating defenses with his audibles, in which case he deserves much credit. Again, there no way for us laymen to know for sure.
                  However, I am also troubled by Brady’s massive spilts between his games with Moss or Gronkowksi vs games without either one. Between 2006 and 2007, he went from merely good to Best QB in Football; that jump coincides perfectly with the arrival of Moss and Welker. In recent years, the Pats offense has looked unstoppable with a healthy Gronk and basically average without him. If Brady really elevates his teammates as much as everyone claims, why does his performance drop so sharply without a HOF caliber target? There is a legitimate argument that Gronk is the MVP of the current Pats, not Brady. The same could be said of Moss in 2007.
                  Just to be clear, I’m not trying to say Brady isn’t great. He is. But in my mind, there are too many questions surrounding him to put him in the pantheon of GOAT candidates.

                  • They really do seem to be wide open all the time. It can get infuriating as someone who is always rooting against New England.

                    I put Peyton’s 49 and 55 TD seasons above Brady’s 50 TD season precisely because Moss basically made that year happen–he had what, 4 or 5 touchdowns where Brady just chucked it into double coverage (at least) and hoped for the best? I contrast it with Manning’s 2004 record breaker to Stokley…Manning has been tops at getting guys before their break, like he also did on that Clark pass I mentioned above…then again, that also perhaps makes him too reliant on those nincompoop teammates 😉 of his come playoff time…but I digress.

                    And then, yeah, last year plus this year’s Chiefs game had everyone going WTF on Brady when the answer was basically the same as the answer to the question “How is Gronk doing?” (I’m getting into hate mode lol.)

                    I think I posted this stat elsewhere but Brady has now had Moss and/or Gronk for longer than Montana had Rice, and Montana’s worst rating vs. league average in his pre-Rice time frame was higher than Brady’s best pre-Moss. (One of my new operating principles is that Montana is the *only* QB you can *conceivably* get a handful of NE fans to admit was better than Brady.)

                    PS Elvis Grbac was always shit 🙂
                    e.g., 86 rating on 430 attempts in SF when Young was basically always hitting 100

                  • eag97a

                    The reason his performance drops when he doesn’t have HOF caliber targets is because he doesn’t have HOF targets and so their game plans alter to a probably more run-heavy / short passing ball control offense to maxiize their strengths and win probability. I think this part of QB responsibilities (minimizing TO’s, executing run-heavy / short pass game plans) is severely underrated and imperfectly captured by present day stats. Obviously Brady is behind Manning / Marino when it comes to passing stats but we have to bear in mind that being the best QB means being an elite passer and an elite signal caller which is why I’m having a hard time coming up with my top 25 since I want to capture that element of QB’ing in my rankings and I think only complete drive stats and play by play stats will provide that info.

              • hawk

                Manning, didn’t have mediocre teams. He has got to play with Edge, Harrison, Wayne, Welker, DT, and Faulk. He also wasn’t saddled with mostly poor defenses. Did he have stellar defenses year in and year out? No. However, he did have his share of top 10 scoring Ds. What impact does Manning have? If you are talking about team success (which that seems to be the case) then Montana and Brady crush him. If you are talking about the way the QB position is played – there is nothing revolutionary there. It isn’t like he is a running QB, it isn’t like he is running some new offense, you could make better cases for Montana and Brady as well there with the West Coast offense and the hurry up offense/dual TE offense that the Pats run.

                Manning isn’t the reason people think Polian is a genius. Polian was the GM for Bills, Panthers, and Colts – that is a lot of SB appearances. Polian is a genius because he realized you build a team around offense.

                I find it laughable that you think anyone would look good in Walsh’s system. Anyone who even talks about a “system” in regards to QBs knows little about football. Grbac didn’t look great, neither did Drunkenmiller, neither have a dozens of other QBs playing in a West Coast system. I don’t even know what to say about your critique of Brady – other than it is completely wrong. Brady has played in more “systems” than almost any QB. Also, the dropoff from Brady to Cassel (who made a pro bowl on another team) in points scored is nearly identical from Manning to Painter (who is a horrid QB). Cassel took over a 16-0 team and missed the playoffs with one of the easiest passing schedule in years. BB and Walsh weren’t doing that great until their QBs came on the scene.

                It isn’t like the readership on this site is any different than most of the other football sites. On those sites, lists that put Montana and Brady outside of the top 5 are laughed at because they are ridiculous. That is probably about 1/2 of the lists posted on here. You don’t like my list but most of these other lists can be summed up as this:
                “I like Manning, how low can I put Montana and Brady without seeming completely unreasonable?”

      • hawk

        I see… so you only take ballots that conform to your preconceived notions of what a ballot should look like?

        • Adam Steele

          Upon further reflection, I have decided to count your ballot. It would be intellectually arrogant on my part to declare that my subjective opinion is more important than your subjective opinion.

    • Jamie

      You might as well have just left Peyton off the list entirely. Your agenda is painfully obvious as it is.

    • Adam Steele

      Not only am I counting your ballot, I need one more QB on it. #21 is missing.

  • David

    1.
    Peyton Manning

    2.
    Steve Young

    3.
    Tom Brady

    4.
    Brett Favre

    5.
    John Elway

    6.
    Joe Montana

    7.
    Dan Marino

    8.
    Aaron Rodgers

    9.
    Fran Tarkenton

    10.
    Johnny Unitas

    11.
    Sammy Baugh

    12.
    Roger Staubach

    13.
    Bart Starr

    14.
    Otto Graham

    15.
    Warren Moon

    16.
    Archie Manning

    17.
    Jim Kelly

    18.
    Ken Stabler

    19.
    Troy Aikman

    20.
    Kurt Warner

    21.
    Terry Bradshaw

    22.
    Joe Namath

    23.
    Ken Anderson

    24.
    Y A Tittle

    25.
    Ben Roethlisberger

  • 1. Dan Marino
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Brett Favre
    4. Fran Tarkenton
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Steve Young
    7. Joe Montana
    8. Tom Brady
    9. Dan Fouts
    10. Ken Anderson
    11. Roger Staubach
    12. Sid Luckman
    13. Sammy Baugh
    14. Len Dawson
    15. Aaron Rodgers
    16. Sonny Jurgensen
    17. Norm Van Brocklin
    18. Otto Graham
    19. YA Tittle
    20. John Elway
    21. Drew Brees
    22. Joe Namath
    23. Boomer Esiason
    24. Kurt Warner
    25. Terry Bradshaw

    My baseline was Chase’s posts ranking QBs. Quantifiable production is very important (though not something like wins or rings, obviously). And since I’m not terribly old I have to trust era adjustments for the QBs I never got to see. From there I moved guys up and down based on my knowledge of who they played with and what system they played in. For instance, I dock Montana and Young a bit for getting to play in an innovative offense and a lot of talent around them. In relation to that, as kind of a way to split hairs, I like to do a thought experiment where I take X QB and place him on an average or even a bad offense (system and talent). How would X QB play? Marino is #1 because along with his production, I think you could put him in any offense and he’d produce. He’s just slightly above Manning because I think he’s physically more able to produce in any offense, and he played with what I think is less talent than Manning. My big outlier is Aaron Rodgers. He doesn’t have the overall production yet. But with his overall skill set I think he could play anywhere at anytime.

  • Andrew Healy

    1a) Peyton Manning: Always thought he’d be clear #1, and he would be if regular season only

    1b) Tom Brady: When he briefly had great surrounding talent on offense, was as good as Manning; and playoffs matter, SB XLIX pulls him even

    1c) Dan Marino: If only he had a defense; and imagine if he had Manning’s receivers

    4) Johnny Unitas

    5) Joe Montana

    6) Steve Young

    7) A.A. Ron Rodgers: Never know what to do with mid-career players; Thought about putting him higher, because it’s hard to see him ending his career lower than #5 on this list and could even see #1

    8) Otto Graham

    9) Roger Staubach

    10) Dan Fouts

    11) Norm Van Brocklin

    12) Drew Brees

    13) Ken Anderson: Thought experiment: if you switch him with Montana, do the 49ers win any less?

    14) John Elway: Very tough guy to rank; gets credit for playoffs and elevating poor surrounding talent for much of his career

    15) Sonny Jurgensen

    16) Sammy Baugh

    17) Sid Luckman

    18) Kurt Warner: Love his peak

    19) Brett Favre: Nobody threw more insanely dumb interceptions to lose playoff games than Favre. 2003 vs. PHI, 2007 vs. NYG, and 2009 vs. NO. The one against the Eagles is maybe forgotten, but also maybe the worst of the bunch. And all of those throws are on him, not his teammates.

    20) Y.A. Tittle

    21) Len Dawson

    22) Philip Rivers

    23) Joe Namath: Chase has had some great stuff on Namath avoiding sacks

    24) Troy Aikman

    25) Bart Starr: Deserves more credit than he gets

    Honorable mention: Bert Jones, Tony Romo

    • I thought editing my post to make the A. A. Ron reference; glad someone did it anyway 😉

    • Ryan

      Good list, but where is Fran Tarkenton?

      • Andrew Healy

        Oh, wow, that was an accident. Would have had him somewhere around #10.

  • hawk

    So, why are my posts being flagged as spam?

  • Giffy

    My list is based on what I perceive to be overall talent, apart from team success. I tried to separate quarterbacks from their teammates.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Dan Marino
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Steve Young
    5. Fran Tarkenton
    6. Joe Montana
    7. Aaron Rodgers
    8. Sonny Jurgensen
    9. Sammy Baugh
    10. Brett Favre
    11. John Elway
    12. Drew Brees
    13. Sid Luckman
    14. Roger Staubach
    15. Tom Brady
    16. Len Dawson
    17. Norm Van Brocklin
    18. Bobby Layne
    19. Otto Graham
    20. Ken Anderson
    21. Tony Romo
    22. Warren Moon
    23. Philip Rivers
    24. Arnie Herber
    25. Dan Fouts

    I’ll address the missing names on my list briefly.
    Starr – efficient, but he was on a super team
    Warner – weapons for days, Bulger took over just fine, too much missed time
    Bradshaw – inefficient passer, carried by a super team
    Griese – see Starr
    Aikman – see Starr
    Namath – too much value from AFL

  • Andreas Shepard

    My criterion is “if I had this QB for his whole career, how many championships would I expect to win with an average team?”. A QB who has an all-time great season gives his team a better shot at a championship, all else equal, than a QB who has an all-pro caliber season, who gives his team a better shot than a QB with an average season, etc.

    However, because there are still lots of factors beyond a QB’s control as to whether his team makes the playoffs or wins a championship, actual team success is a pretty noisy proxy for QB quality. Therefore, I tried to place almost all my weight on the QB’s own performance in a given season (in both the regular season and the playoffs) relying fairly heavily on relatively objective criteria (DYAR, ANY/A), while downplaying his team’s actual success. Put another way, I give Tom Brady more credit for his 2007-2012 seasons than for 2001-2004. That’s because, in my estimation, Brady would have given an average team a better shot at a championship with the way he played in 2007 or 2010 than he did in 2001 or 2004.

    I evaluated each season individually and then added them up, which means I place a lot of weight on sustained excellence over time. If I want to win as many championships as possible, I’d rather have a guy who gives me a 10% chance to win in 10 different seasons than a guy who gives me a 20% chance in 3 seasons and a 5% chance in 4. 10 x 0.1 = 1.0 expected championships, while 3 x 0.2 + 4 x 0.05 = 0.8 expected championships.

    1. Peyton Manning (by a pretty substantial margin)
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Johnny Unitas
    5. Joe Montana
    6. Aaron Rodgers (assuming his career continues on its current trajectory. Based purely on his accomplishments so far, he’d slot in at #16)
    7. Brett Favre
    8. Otto Graham
    9. Fran Tarkenton
    10. John Elway
    11. Drew Brees
    12. Dan Fouts
    13. Y.A. Tittle
    14. Steve Young
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Sammy Baugh
    17. Norm Van Brocklin
    18. Ken Anderson
    19. Roger Staubach
    20. Warren Moon
    21. Sonny Jurgenson
    22. Ben Roethlisberger
    23. Terry Bradshaw
    24. Len Dawson
    25. Troy Aikman

    • snoth cambin

      I dont think you’re giving brady enough credit for his 01-04 seasons i dont think many people do. Brady pretty much was that offense 3 out of those 4 years. They were a top ten offense 3 out of his first 4 seasons and they had a horrible rushing offense his first 3 years. If brady was on lets say the broncos in 01 i think he makes them a playoff team. A perfect example of a season that gets overlooked for brady is 2005 that team was horrible bad defense, bad running game and would’ve won 11 games if brady played the last game of the season, that should be proof enough that early in his career brady couldve made an average team a playoff contender.

      • Andreas Shepard

        I don’t disagree with you that Brady was very good from 01-06. When I say “I give Tom Brady more credit for 07-11 than 01-04”, that doesn’t mean I don’t give him credit for 01-04. Brady was very good from 01-04, I just think he was even better after 2007. My only point was that I believe that to be the case, despite the fact that the Pats won 3 superbowls from 01-04 and none from 07-11.

        • snoth cambin

          Yea but they got to 2 counting SB losses as a negative really dont make sense to me. If Brady wouldve lost his first SB with a missed vinateri FG and won the 07 one with a gostowski FG at the end of regulation what would be the difference between Brady? He still played the same in both games he just won the game where he was a stat baby and lost the other one when he was a game manager.

          • Andreas Shepard

            I think you are conflating my arguments with someone else’s, because I don’t think we actually disagree.
            In your scenario (where the pats lose in 01 but win in 07 because the field goals turn out differently) I would give Brady exactly as much credit as I do now.

            Likewise, I don’t view Brady’s early career as a negative towards his legacy. In my mind the bulk of his value comes after 2007, but 01-06 were still quite valuable and help bump him up the list. By reckoning, if 01-06 never happened and Brady just sprang into existence with his 2007 season, he would fall to 7th or 8th.

            Maybe other people believe that Brady’s SB losses are a negative or that his play from 01-04 hurts his legacy, but not me. I do have Brady as #2 of all time, after all, in a very crowded field. Perhaps my biggest conclusion from this exercise is that I have 15 or 20 QBs who I have mentally categorized as “top 10 all time”. Figuring out which 10 of those are actually in my top 10 is a painful process.

            • snoth cambin

              I see your point, i pretty much just misunderstood what you said thanks for clearing it up.

      • Brady was good those years, but I think Andreas’ point was more in relation to Brady’s whole career and other SB-winning QBs. For example, up until 2013, Brady’s worst three seasons in ANY/A were ’01, ’02, and ’03. He didn’t even make the Pro Bowl in ’02 or ’03. People viewed the ’01/’03 championships as real team wins, with Brady playing a part, but Vinatieri and the defense also playing key roles. I think the ’04 team was a bit different.

        Also, making an average team a playoff contender is a far cry from what Brady could do at his peak.

        • snoth cambin

          I still dont understand how people view his early career as a negative towards his legacy. Lets say he plays for another 3 or 4 years and he goes to another SB in that span. How much are his early career achievements going to count seeing how he got better every year after 03 and went to 4 superbowls when he became a statistical monster.

          • I don’t think people view his early career as a negative towards his legacy. I think people think he just got better.

            • snoth cambin

              You dont and i truly dont think this guy is but a lot of people use his early career against him, but im not saying you;re one of those people.

    • Interesting idea, Andreas. I’m curious what made you put Tittle so high, and above even someone like Baugh. I guess Young and Staubach are harmed by their shorter careers, which makes some sense, and is consistent with Favre being so high.

      • Andreas Shepard

        Yeah, Tittle came out better than I expected as well. It’s a combination of career length (he started for 17 seasons) and a couple of really good seasons at the end of his career. Without 62-63, he would probably fall out of my top 25.

        To compare to Steve Young, who I have right below him, here’s how I have the seasons graded out for each

        Tittle:
        All-time great (1): 63
        Best in the league (1): 62
        Roughly Top 5 / All-pro (4): 48, 53, 54, 57
        Roughly Top 10 / Pro bowl (3): 49, 56, 61
        Average (6): 50, 51, 52, 55, 58, 60
        Below average (1): 64

        Young:
        Best in the league (3): 92, 93, 94
        Roughly Top 5 / All-pro (3): 96, 97, 98
        Roughly Top 10 / Pro bowl (2): 89, 95
        Below average / didn’t play (5): 85, 86, 87, 88, 90

        The way I see it, Tittle and Young had similar quality peak performances (although Tittle’s were spread out over 15 seasons and Young’s were grouped together in 7), but Tittle also adds a bunch of decent seasons on top of that. I don’t give Tittle a ton of credit for each decent season, but collectively they are enough to push him over the top. Each of those is a year that he gave his team a decent shot at a championship.

        Staubach is even more extreme – he only really played 8 full seasons. I have him as all pro caliber or better in 5 of those seasons, which is why he makes the list at all despite so little playing time, but it’s hard to rank him much higher.

        In terms of Tittle vs. Baugh, I’m not going to pretend I have any confidence in where I have Baugh ranked. He was basically playing a different game – PFR has him listed as a “Tailback” for the first half of his career! I wanted to include him though, and 16 is roughly the line where I thought I could make a decently strong case that all the guys above him were better. But anywhere between 5 and 25 would be plausible to me.

        • Personally, I don’t put much weight on Tittle’s ’48/’49 because it was in the AAFC. And how does Young’s ’94 not make the all-time great discussion?

          I also think of Young’s peak as higher because it was really a consecutive peak, but you make some good Tittle points. Appreciate the insight.

          As for Baugh, I’d have him higher — the tailback designation doesn’t bother me. But enjoy discussing this stuff with you as always.

          • Andreas Shepard

            Fair point on the AAFC, although the fact that the Browns moved into the NFL and were pretty much exactly as successful as they had been in the AAFC makes me think the leagues were a little closer in quality than many think.

            I went back and forth on whether to put Young’s 94 in the “all-time great” tier instead of the regular “best in the league” tier. I tried to keep the top tier pretty small (Manning 13, Rodgers 11, Brady 07, Manning 04, Montana 89, Marino 84, Fouts 81, Bert Jones 76, and Tittle 63 is the full list). If I had to add one season, Young 94 would be it.

            For Baugh I didn’t ding him for the tailback designation per se. It’s more just an indicator of how different the game was back then that he didn’t even have the modern name for position for half of his career (without even mentioning that he played defense and punted as well). Maybe a better example is that in his rookie year he had 8 TDs and 14 INTs, and he was still the best in the league in both TD% and INT%. That’s just so different from how the game is played today that I have trouble saying with any confidence exactly how much better he was than everyone else. He was certainly one of the all time greats, but exactly how great is hard to judge. Hell of a football player in any case.

            Interesting point on Young’s peak being consecutive. I go back and forth as to whether a group of great seasons are better because they came back-to-back. On the one hand, what happened in the season happened, regardless of how good or bad the season before and after were. Tittle’s season in 63 isn’t somehow worse because he finally got old and fell apart in 64, any more than it is somehow better because he was also great in 62.

            On the other hand, maybe a string of consecutive great seasons is a better indicator of underlying ability. A great season preceded and followed by duds could have been a 16 game fluke. But a great season preceded and followed by great seasons is less likely to have been a fluke. So maybe we should give the latter season more credit than the former. Or put another way, if we want to answer the question “how good was this quarterback’s underlying quality of play in year N”, we should consider not only evidence from year N, but also from N+1, N-1, etc.

            I think it’s an interesting idea, although I’d need to think more about how to actually test whether it’s the case. For now, I have leaned towards not caring about whether peaks are consecutive or not. But like I said I’m not 100% committed to the idea.

  • JP

    1. Steve Young
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Tom Brady
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Dan Marino
    7. Roger Staubach
    8. John Elway
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Fran Tarkenton
    11. Kurt Warner
    12. Aaron Rodgers
    13. Drew Brees
    14. Otto Graham
    15. Ben Roethlisberger
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Ken Anderson
    18. Troy Aikman
    19. Terry Bradshaw
    20. Jim Kelly
    21. Bart Starr
    22. Sonny Jurgensen
    23. Warren Moon
    24. Sid Luckman
    25. Tony Romo

  • James

    1. Peyton
    2. Unitas
    3. Montana
    4. Marino
    5. Young
    6. Rodgers (partially projected)
    7. Fouts
    8. Brady
    9. Graham
    10. Van Brocklin
    11. Staubach
    12. Tarkenton
    13. Warner
    14. Brees
    15. Favre
    16. Anderson
    17. Baugh
    18. Lamonica
    19. Tittle
    20. Elway
    21. Romo
    22. Rivers
    23. Namath
    24. Starr
    25. Aikman

    This should be a fun exercise, although I don’t know how independent Football Perspective readers are.

  • Richie

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Roger Staubach
    7. Aaron Rodgers
    8. Kurt Warner
    9. Steve Young
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Terry Bradshaw
    12. Otto Graham
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Bart Starr
    15. Drew Brees
    16. Ken Anderson
    17. Fran Tarkenton
    18. Warren Moon
    19. Joe Namath
    20. YA Tittle
    21. Bobby Layne
    22. Sammy Baugh
    23. John Elway
    24. Fran Tarkenton
    25. Ben Roethlisberger

  • Aaron McCurrie

    Here’s what I’ve got:

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Dan Marino
    3. Tom Brady
    4. Joe Montana
    5. Fran Tarkenton
    6. Johnny Unitas
    7. Brett Favre
    8. Otto Graham
    9. Aaron Rodgers
    10. Steve Young

    11. Drew Brees
    12. Roger Staubach
    13. Warren Moon
    14. Sid Luckman
    15. John Elway
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Norm van Brocklin
    18. Len Dawson
    19. Philip Rivers
    20. Darryl Lamonica
    21. Tony Romo
    22. Bart Starr
    23. Terry Bradshaw
    24. Ben Roethlisberger
    25. Kurt Warner

  • Brad O.

    I consider a number of factors, but statistical production and efficiency relative to contemporaries is my starting point.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Otto Graham
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Sammy Baugh
    5. Joe Montana
    6. Dan Marino
    7. Fran Tarkenton
    8. Tom Brady
    9. Roger Staubach
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Sid Luckman
    12. Steve Young
    13. Drew Brees
    14. Sonny Jurgensen
    15. Bart Starr
    16. John Elway
    17. Terry Bradshaw
    18. Warren Moon
    19. Norm Van Brocklin
    20. Dan Fouts
    21. Bobby Layne
    22. Y.A. Tittle
    23. Len Dawson
    24. Benny Friedman
    25. Joe Namath

    I don’t feel strongly about Friedman and Namath, and I’m willing to fiddle with the order above them, but the top 23 are the top 23.

  • Ash

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Peyton Manning
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Otto Graham
    7. Steve Young
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. Fran Tarkenton
    10. Brett Favre
    11. John Elway
    12. Warren Moon
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Roger Staubach
    15. Kurt Warner
    16. Drew Brees
    17. Jim Kelly
    18. Troy Aikman
    19. Sammy Baugh
    20. YA Tittle
    21. Terry Bradshaw
    22. Sid Luckman
    23. Len Dawson
    24. Daryle Lamonica
    25. Tony Romo

    I’m a military history geek, and when I think of the greatest generals in the world (napoleon, hannibal, genghis, alexander, etc.) I think of people who won when it counted, and excelled at doing what it took to win. A lot of people might see the 11-5 record under not-Brady as a sign that Brady’s not important. I saw a team that regressed by 7 wins and a playoff spot with one of the easiest SOS in the league (coincidentally, the colts were a team that regressed under not-Peyton by 8 wins). I’m also a fan of legacy and narrative. The fetishization of statistics bore me to tears at times (especially when it seems like often, they’re just using the stats that support the opinion you’ve already decided is fact). All that being said, it’s a tough call, and I wouldn’t fault anybody for mixing up those first five in whatever order you want. Marino and Manning are two of the best ever, regardless of their post-season success.

  • Prickle

    This is an odd list I suppose, but it seemed important to give some props to some players who ha incredible careers outside of the NFL. Just shake your head and move on to the next commenter:

    Otto Graham
    Joe Montana
    John Elway
    Johnny Unitas
    Roger Staubach
    Tom Brady
    Peyton Manning
    Bart Starr
    Sid Luckman
    Sammy Baugh
    Dan Marino
    Steve Young (all-leagues)
    Jim Kelly (all-leagues)
    Drew Brees
    Warren Moon (all-leagues)
    Brett Farve
    Bobby Layne
    Troy Aikman
    Fran Tarkenton
    Dan Fouts
    Sonny Jurgensen
    YA Tittle
    Norm Van Brocklen
    Anthony Cavillo (CFL)
    Doug Flutie (all-leagues)

    • Adam Steele

      GREY CUPZ!!!

  • Steve

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Johnny Unitas
    3. Sammy Baugh
    4. Otto Graham
    5. Peyton Manning
    6. Bart Starr
    7. Sid Luckman
    8. John Elway
    9. Tom Brady
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. Brett Favre
    12. Dan Marino
    13. Steve Young
    14. Fran Tarkenton
    15. Terry Bradshaw
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Sonny Jurgensen
    18. Len Dawson
    19. Ken Anderson
    20. Norm Van Brocklin
    21. Y.A. Tittle
    22. Bob Griese
    23.Troy Aikman
    24. Kurt Warner
    25. Jim Kelly

    Honorable mentions – Drew Brees, Bobby Layne, Warren Moon, Namath and Roman Gabriel.

    For me, still a bit too soon to include at least Rodgers and Roethlisberger from the group of them + Rivers, Romo and E. Manning, but I imagine that I’ll be making alterations to my list in the near future.

    • Richie

      “For me, still a bit too soon to include at least Rodgers and Roethlisberger”

      Roethlisberger has already played more games than Staubach, and won as many Super Bowls.

      Rodgers has more pass attempts than Staubach, and should pass him in games started during 2015.

  • Chris Morgan

    Beyond looking at the numbers, advanced and otherwise, the only really protocol I gave myself was to try and compare quarterbacks to their counterparts in their era. Because if I just went on talent and output, they’d all be from the last 10 years or something. In the end, based on physical skill and football talent, even a guy like Joe Flacco is better than Johnny Unitas.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Steve Young
    5. Tom Brady
    6. John Elway
    7. Johnny Unitas
    8. Brett Favre
    9. Fran Tarkenton
    10. Drew Brees
    11. Aaron Rodgers
    12. Fran Tarkenton
    13. Bart Starr
    14. Kurt Warner
    15. Ben Roethlisberger
    16. Dan Fouts
    17. Roger Staubach
    18. Terry Bradshaw
    19. Ken Anderson
    20. Len Dawson
    21. Tony Romo
    22. Ken Stabler
    23. Troy Aikman
    24. Philip Rivers
    25. Boomer Esiason

    • Adam Steele

      You have Tarkenton listed twice. Please fix this so I can count your ballot.

  • Michael Elseroad

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Otto Graham
    4. Joe Montana
    5. Steve Young
    6. Dan Marino
    7. Brett Favre
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. John Elway
    10. Drew Brees
    11. Johnny Unitas
    12. Fran Tarkenton
    13. Dan Fouts
    14. Roger Staubach
    15. Ken Anderson
    16. Kurt Warner
    17. Ben Roethlisberger
    18. Jim Kelly
    19. Troy Aikman
    20. Warren Moon
    21. Sonny Jurgensen
    22. Norm Van Brocklin
    23. Bart Starr
    24. YA Tittle
    25. Len Dawson

  • Ricky Cobb

    1. Brady
    2. Montana
    3. Rodgers
    4. Elway
    5. Unitas
    6. P. Manning
    7. Favre
    8. Marino
    9. Young
    10. Brees
    11. Bradshaw
    12. Staubach
    13. Roethlisberger
    14. Starr
    15. Tarkenton
    16. Kelly
    17. Fouts
    18. Aikman
    19. Warner
    20. Graham
    21. K. Anderson
    22. Namath
    23. Dawson
    24. Tittle
    25. Layne

  • Ajit

    1. Peyton
    2. Fran Tarkenton
    3. Joe Montana
    4. Steve Young
    5. Tom Brady
    6. Dan Marino
    7. Unitas
    8. Graham
    9. Baugh
    10. Elway
    11. Foust
    12. Starr
    13. Staubach
    14. Rodgers
    15. Favre
    16. Aikman
    17. Luckman
    18. Kelly
    19. Warner
    20. Rivers
    21. Big Ben
    22. Moon
    23. Dawson
    24. Anderson
    25. Jurgenson

    • Tarkenton at #2, I like it.

  • Ajit

    THe issue of Tom brady comes down to this. As the sb showed, Brady’s average distance per throw over his entire sb’s is about 5.3 yards – the lowest of any qb since they charted the stat(which I think goes back to 1992). In other words, Brady’s damage is coming entirely from YAC. Now – you could make the argument Brady excels at this and should be given credit. You could also make the argument that Brady is living of a diet of YAC and relatively easy throws. Indeed, if one looks purely at Brady’s medium throws in his last sb, he was dreadful. So it comes down to…do we credit Brady for making a living throwing short or discount it? Trying as best to be unbiased as I can, the evidence from brian burke suggests that its less a qb thing and more a receiver/scheme thing. Therefore, I think it hurts Brady that all he excels at is throwing short.

    • hawk

      Who has won the most SB’s since 1999? Who has made the most appearances? Sometimes these stats can’t see the forest through the trees. Here is the thing – Brady makes a living getting rid of the ball quickly. It keeps the defense on its heels and prevents pressure from getting to Brady. I would also argue that Brady – other than 2 years with Moss – has never had the players to stretch the field or get down the field quickly enough to develop deeper routes. If what Brady does is so easy every QB should be doing it. You can come to two conclusions from that since no QBs seems to do what Brady does.

      1) It is actually much more difficult than it appears.
      2) The rest of the NFL is incredibly stubborn.

      Since the league has earned the moniker of the copycat league I think we can safely rule out #2. Brady’s top target for years is a 3rd string player on the Broncos. His receivers haven’t had success anywhere after they leave NE. None of this evidence points to a player making a living off of easy throws.

      • Richie

        “Who has won the most SB’s since 1999?”

        If you asked that question in 2003, the answer would include Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson.

        • hawk

          Good thing I took in over a decade and a half of games then. I mean, imagine if we only had 4 years of QB rating between 2000 and 2003 we’d be debating if the GOAT was Warner, Pennington, McNair, or Brian Griese.

      • James

        The NFL is incredibly stubborn! Look at all of the strategic advances in college that have taken years and years to make it to the NFL.

    • InfiniteLiberalThoughts

      Just a rejoinder – Peyton Manning couldn’t get even the short passing game working in SB48 … Brady has been EXCELLENT on short passing and medium passing situations throughout his career and average on long throws. That’s also a function of never having a good deep threat (except Randy Moss and Brady was good on long throws in the Randy Moss Pats era!)

      I consider Brady to be above Peyton in the QB ranking for the reason that Brady didn’t need a world-class RB and 2 perennial HBs for winning Super Bowls. He got done with a below-average cast in WR/HB roles …

      • Ajit

        Edge was a terrific rusher but wasn’t with Manning long enough to make the argument.

        If you want to argue Brady is better than Manning, I can see the argument. No really, I can. I had this discussion with a friend who is a Pats fan and we watched many games together closely to see what impressions we came with. Remarkably, they were fairly similar. Actually, his words were brilliant and I will copy them. “Manning’s receivers are better in the objective sense of being taller and faster. Brady’s receivers are smarter and more versatile, able to lineup across formations and execute a variety of different plays rather than standard outside routes.)

        I think Brady’s scheme is well designed. Of course it runs well because he’s the qb, but its also more than that. Take the sb that Manning lost. He tried to throw short, but the receivers were gang tackled. The routes were isolation routes trying to break free through picks. Contrast when Ne threw short. The routes were more creative. Lots of motions and differing formations. Swings and chips and delayed staggers. The other issue was Gronk was drawing defenders from the interior down the seam – leaving the receivers with lots of cushion. The end result – receivers catching the ball with one tackler usually in space and often missing. It was a brilliantly designed scheme. Is that a credit to Brady? Somewhat, yes. But I think the contrast in the two games really demonstrates two things to my mind. One – that to a fault, Manning doesn’t alter his style. Nor do any other qbs. They all believe they can kill a defense their way. Brady is more willing to limit himself to the scheme. On the other hand, the scheme itself is brilliant and that’s a testament to the coach in BB. Advanced stats have shown that Brady’s down the field accuracy is the worst of the elite qbs. Good, but not spectacular.

        Put it all together – both my friend and I agreed – if we had BB as a coach – we’d both take Brady. If we had an Oakland raider’s like roster with a run of the mill coach – we’d prefer Manning.

  • Scott Kacsmar

    I wasn’t going to update this until the summer, but I made a quick adjustment on where I had Roethlisberger and Rodgers before 2014, and here it goes. This might change in the coming months.

    I don’t have any specific system. Try to take in everything I’ve learned (playing styles, quality of teams, peaks, era dominance, awards, playoffs, etc.) into consideration.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Tom Brady
    6. Brett Favre
    7. Steve Young
    8. John Elway
    9. Roger Staubach
    10. Sammy Baugh
    11. Otto Graham
    12. Fran Tarkenton
    13. Drew Brees
    14. Aaron Rodgers
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Terry Bradshaw
    17. Troy Aikman
    18. Dan Fouts
    19. Kurt Warner
    20. Ben Roethlisberger
    21. Jim Kelly
    22. Y.A. Tittle
    23. Norm Van Brocklin
    24. Len Dawson
    25. Sid Luckman

  • Alastair Reid

    It’s tough to rate players you’ve only seen briefly from previous eras and i think it explains my modern era bias. I think i can confidently rank any player from the late 70s onwards and those are the ones i’d be happy to defend their placement in my top 25. My criteria was a mixture of “winning”, eye test and a little bit of wow….as in did they ever make me! Having pasted this i’ve also noted how many names i’ve missed….Oh and I’m a Jet to ensure full disclosure.

    1
    Montana

    2
    Unitas

    3
    Brady

    4
    Manning

    5
    Marino

    6
    Favre

    7
    Elway

    8
    Bradshaw

    9
    Graham

    10
    Namath

    11
    Starr

    12
    Staubach

    13
    Aikman

    14
    Rodgers

    15
    Brees

    16
    Dawson

    17
    Tarkenton

    18
    Young

    19
    Luckman

    20
    Jurgensen

    21
    Fouts

    22
    Kelly

    23
    Anderson

    24
    Moon

    25
    Cunningham

  • Guest

    Peyton Manning

  • Deebosgonnaeaturkids

    1. Unitas

    2. Montana

    3. Brady

    4. Graham

    5. Elway

    6. Starr

    7. Staubach

    8. Bradshaw

    9. Aikman

    10. Luckman

    11. Warner

    12. Manning

    13. Young

    14. Marino

    15. Baugh

    16. Tarkenton

    17. Favre

    18. Rodgers

    19. Brees

    20. Jurgenson

    21. Roethlisberger

    22. Kelly

    23. Von Brocklin

    24. Griese

    25. Tittle

  • Guest

    When is the deadline for submissions (and/or adjustments of currently ineligible ballots)?

    • Probably Friday or Saturday. I haven’t discussed it with Adam, but given how things have gone so far, I think a Monday recap would be a good idea if he’s up for it.

      • Raiderjoe

        1. Joe Montana
        2. Sammy Baugh
        3. John Elway
        4. Roger Staubach
        5. Tom Brady
        6. Peyton Manning
        7. Johnny Unitas
        8. Steve Young
        9. Fran Tarkenton
        10. Dan Marino
        11. Brett Favre
        12. Otto Graham
        13. Aaron Rodgers
        14. Bart Starr
        15. Bobby Layne
        16. Len Dawson
        17. Sid Luckman
        18. Norm Van Brocklin
        19. Y.A. Tittle
        20. Troy Aikman
        21. Ben Roethlisberger
        22. Bob Waterfield
        23. Jim Kelly
        24. Drew Brees
        25. Ken Anderson

        • Thanks, Joe. Was wondering if you were going to stop by. An interesting list, as always. What makes you so much higher on Baugh than Luckman?

  • RockyMtnThunder

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Tom Brady
    4. John Elway
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Steve Young
    7. Johnny Unitas
    8. Brett Favre
    9. Dan Fouts
    10. Jim Kelly
    11. Warren Moon
    12. Joe Namath
    13. Roger Staubach
    14. Drew Brees
    15. Kurt Warner
    16. Terry Bradshaw
    17. Otto Graham
    18. Sammy Baugh
    19. Bart Starr
    20. Len Dawson
    21. Aaron Rodgers
    22. Troy Aikman
    23. Phil Simms
    24. Fran Tarkenton
    25. Tim Tebow…I mean Ken Stabler

  • Ben E

    I am going on a combination of regular season statistical profile ~50% post season statistical profile ~20% sustained success (wins and rings) ~20% and a little but of my gut because I’m 27 and can’t possibly properly evaluate Unitas and Staubach.

    1) Brady
    2) Manning
    3) Montana
    4) Favre
    5) Unitas
    6) Brees
    7) Rodgers
    8) Marino
    9) Young
    10)Tarkenton
    11) Elway
    12) Staubach
    13) Warner
    14) Starr
    15) Moon
    16) Anderson
    17) Namath
    18) Fouts
    19) Dawson
    20) Aikman
    21) Baugh
    22) Graham
    23) Kelly
    24) Dawson
    25) Simms

  • Dana Stewart

    Criteria: If I’m starting a team, who do I want as a quarterback assuming he is in his prime? It’s hard to reconcile different eras this way, but it’s hard to do that anyway.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Joe Montana
    5. Steve Young
    6. John Elway
    7. Johnny Unitas
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. Drew Brees
    10. Roger Staubach
    11. Fran Tarkenton
    12. Brett Favre
    13. Ben Roethlisberger
    14. Terry Bradshaw
    15. Kurt Warner
    16. Otto Graham
    17. Joe Namath
    18. Dan Fouts
    19. Jim Kelly
    20. Sammy Baugh
    21. Sonny Jurgenson
    22. Troy Aikman
    23. Otto Graham
    24. Randall Cunningham
    25. Warren Moon

    • Adam Steele

      You listed Otto Graham twice. Please correct this and let me know.

  • Justin Scaife

    My approach was very statistic heavy. I grouped quarterbacks by era and ordered them based on statistical success, looking primarily at rate stats like Completion%, TD%, INT%, Y/A, QB Rating, and ANY/A. I also looked at Pro Bowl appearances and All Pro Selections to give me some idea of how they were perceived during their career. Championships mattered, but they were used mostly as a tiebreaker.

    1) Peyton Manning
    2) Tom Brady
    3) Joe Montana
    4) Dan Marino
    5) Fran Tarkenton
    6) Otto Graham
    7) Brett Favre
    8) Johnny Unitas
    9) Steve Young
    10) Drew Brees
    11) Aaron Rodgers
    12) Len Dawson
    13) Sonny Jurgensen
    14) Dan Fouts
    15) Ken Anderson
    16) Ben Roethlisberger
    17) Tony Romo
    18) Philip Rivers
    19) YA Tittle
    20) Jim Kelly
    21) Terry Bradshaw
    22) Roger Staubach
    23) Joe Namath
    24) John Elway
    25) Norm van Brocklin

    • David Condon

      How the hell does Staubach end up below Bradshaw and Anderson using your metrics? They played at pretty much the exact same time, and Staubach is ahead of both of them in just about every category you named.

      • Justin Scaife

        Staubach’s edges are minor enough that I broke the tie using the fact that he never finished first team All Pro, had poorer cumulative stats than the other two, never won MVP, and lost twice to Bradshaw in the Super Bowl. I should have also mentioned that I looked at career Approximate Value, in which Staubach trails both Bradshaw and Anderson.

  • Richard Hendricks

    I looked at each decade and then ranked. I also took the NFL Network’s All-Time Top 100 into consideration.
    1. Joe Montana – Best of the 80s and All-Time
    2. Johnny Unitas – Best of the 60s
    3. Otto Graham – Best of the 50s, led his team to 10 straight championship games
    4. Sammy Baugh – Best of the Pre-50s, the first modern passer
    5. Roger Staubach – Best of the 70s
    6. Steve Young – Best of the 90s
    7. Peyton Manning – Best of the 2000s
    8. Tom Brady
    9. Dan Marino – best QB in SB era to never win the Super Bowl
    10. Bart Starr
    11. Brett Favre
    12. John Elway
    13. Sid Luckman
    14. Terry Bradshaw
    15. Norm Van Brocklin
    16. Troy Aikman
    17. Kurt Warner – took two different teams to the Super Bowl
    18. Fran Tarkenton
    19. Joe Namath
    The following were not ranked in the NFL network’s all-time top 100
    20. Y. A. Tittle
    21. Bob Griese
    22. Bobby Lane
    23. Len Dawson
    24. Dan Fouts
    25. George Blanda (Was leading teams to victory in his 40s!)

  • Jake Bryant

    1. Tom Brady

    2. Joe Montana

    3. Otto Graham

    4. Johnny Unitas

    5. Dan Marino

    6. Peyton Manning

    7. John Elway

    8. Steve Young

    9. Aaron Rodgers

    10. Roger Staubach

    11. Troy Aikman

    12. Brett Favre

    13. Kurt Warner

    14. Sammy Baugh

    15 Jim Kelly

    16. Fran Tarkenton

    17. Drew Brees

    18. Ken Anderson

    19. Ben Roethlisberger

    20. Kenny Stabler

    21. Warren Moon

    22. Dan Fouts

    23. Phillip Rivers

    24. Terry Bradshaw

    25. Bart Starr

  • scrapple000

    1.Montana
    2.Unitas
    3.Brady
    4.P Manning
    5. Favre
    6. Starr
    7. Young
    8. Rodgers
    9. Elway
    10. Marino
    11. Aikman
    12. Brees
    13. Staubach
    14. Warner
    15. Kelly
    16. Tarkenton
    17. Fouts
    18. Moon
    19. Graham
    20. Bradshaw
    21. Cunningham
    22. Stabler
    23. Tittle
    24. Luckman
    25. McNabb

  • InfiniteLiberalThoughts

    1. Bart Starr
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Joe Montana
    4. Sammy Baugh
    5. Otto Graham
    6. Steve Young
    7. Johnny Unitas
    8.Peyton Manning
    9. Roger Staubach
    10. Steve Young
    11. Dan Marino
    12. Aaron Rodgers
    13. John Elway
    14. Terry Bradshaw
    15. Eli Manning
    16. Brett Favre
    17. Bob Griese
    18. Kurt Warner
    19. Troy Aikman
    20. Ben Roethlisberger
    21. Fran Tarkenton
    22. Len Dawson
    23. Sonny Jurgensen
    24. Ken Anderson
    25. Dan Fouts

    • Kibbles

      I just noticed you have Young listed twice, (at 6 and 10).

      • InfiniteLiberalThoughts

        Thanks – Everyone moves up 1 number and Jim Kelly at #25 …

        • Bryan Frye

          So does that mean Young should be number 6 or number 9?

          • InfiniteLiberalThoughts

            Young at 6 …

  • tomdrees

    Selections based on memory/intuition of “who was great” with no real research of any kind, as true crowd sourcing can and should incorporate nutbag outliers, and also this is for fun.

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Tom Brady
    4. Brett Favre
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Fran Tarkenton
    7. Steve Young
    8. Dan Marino
    9. John Elway
    10. Drew Brees
    11. Otto Graham
    12. Aaron Rodgers
    13. Warren Moon
    14. Dan Fouts
    15. Jim Kelly
    16. Kurt Warner
    17. Ben Roethlisberger
    18. Bart Starr
    19. Terry Bradshaw
    20. Randall Cunningham
    21. Steve McNair
    22. Troy Aikman
    23. Tony Romo
    24. Phillip Rivers
    25. Matt Ryan

  • Kibbles

    The sole criteria for my list is I was looking for the guys who I subjectively felt could best “take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n”.

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Steve Young
    3. John Elway
    4. Dan Marino
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Fran Tarkenton
    7. Joe Montana
    8. Tom Brady
    9. Aaron Rodgers
    10. Sammy Baugh
    11. Roger Staubach
    12. Dan Fouts
    13. Norm Van Brocklin
    14. Drew Brees
    15. Otto Graham
    16. Sid Luckman
    17. Brett Favre
    18. Randall Cunningham
    19. Ben Roethlisberger
    20. Warren Moon
    21. Tony Romo
    22. Terry Bradshaw
    23. Philip Rivers
    24. Joe Namath
    25. Len Dawson

  • GMC

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Tom Brady
    4. Johnny Unitas
    5. Sammy Baugh (Could go as high as #2, but hard to compare)
    6. Fran Tarkenton
    7. Dan Marino
    8. Steve Young
    9. Warren Moon

    10. John Elway

    11. Len Dawson

    12. Otto Graham

    13. Brett Favre

    14. Dan Fouts

    15.Y.A. Tittle

    • Adam Steele

      You need to list 25 guys to have a legitimate ballot.

  • David Condon

    I started with roughly the greatest quarterbacks from each era, so Baugh->Unitas->Staubach->Montana->Young->Favre->Manning, then added in the second greatest quarterbacks from those eras, so Graham->Starr->Tarkenton->Marino->Brady and mixed things around based on my personal perception. I realize there is some overlap for some of these guys. Also, people who are putting Terry Bradshaw on your lists: what the hell is wrong with you? He’s the Eli Manning of the 1970s.

    1) Peyton Manning
    2) Steve Young
    3) Johnny Unitas
    4) Joe Montana
    5) Brett Favre
    6) Tom Brady
    7) Sammy Baugh
    8) Roger Staubach
    9) Bart Starr
    10) Dan Marino
    11) Fran Tarkenton
    12) Aaron Rodgers
    13) Otto Graham
    14) Jim Kelly
    15) Drew Brees
    16) Ken Anderson
    17) Dan Fouts
    18) Len Dawson
    19) Sonny Jurgensen
    20) John Elway
    21) Joe Namath
    22) Troy Aikman
    23) Sid Luckman
    24) Ben Roethlisberger
    25) Warren Moon

    • “He’s the Eli Manning of the 1970s.”

      With an MVP. And who actually started to gain some consistency after 8 years in the league. And with a better career ANY/A+ and Rate+. And who (yes, with better support) made the playoffs more than every other year.

      There’s nothing really wrong with us…I’d have let you be if you didn’t suggest there was!

      • Steve

        5 years, not 8

      • David Condon

        And those career ANY/A+ and Rate+ numbers were better than just about any quarterback of the 70’s… well…. except for Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, Ken Anderson, Sonny Jurgensen, John Brodie, Bert Jones, Dan Fouts, Bob Griese, and Billy Kilmer…. so just a couple of guys

        • Not quite the point; it’s still higher than Eli’s. Aikman is a much better comp for Bradshaw than Eli.

  • 1. Daniel Constantine Marino
    2. Kurt Warner
    3. Aaron Rogers
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Drew Brees
    6. Dan Fouts
    7. Jim Kelly
    8. Steve Young
    9. Joe MontanaBen
    10. Ben Roethlisberger
    11. Tom Brady
    12. John Elway
    13. Ken Anderson
    14. Johnny Unaitas
    15. Fran Tarkenton
    16. Brett Favre
    17. Bart Starr
    18. Slingin’ Baugh
    19. Norm Van Brocklin
    20. Len Dawson
    21. Warren Moon
    22. Len Dawson
    23. YA Tittle
    24. Otto Graham
    25. Terry Bradshaw

    • Adam Steele

      Dawson is listed twice. Please fix and let me know.

  • Steve Kluth

    First made a list of every damn good QB I could think of. Then I broke it into tiers. Once I got beyond the top 7, this was really tough. I then added the next tier, which goes down to 20. I then added three guys I didn’t know how to rank but deserved mention. The last two are unique QBs who I think often get overlooked as great QBs. It’s as good a system as any.
    1. Joe Montana
    2. Tom Brady
    3. Bart Starr
    4. Otto Graham
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Peyton Manning
    7. Roger Staubach
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. Steve Young
    10. Jim Kelly
    11. Dan Marino
    12. Norm Van Brocklin
    13. Brett Favre
    14. Fran Tarkenton
    15. Ken Stabler
    16. Bob Griese
    17. Warren Moon
    18. Troy Aikman
    19. John Elway
    20. Ken Anderson
    21. Terry Bradshaw
    22. Sammy Baugh
    23. Sid Luckman
    24. Randall Cunningham
    25. Ben Roethlisberger

  • Terry H.

    1. Manning
    2. Brady
    3. Favre
    4. Montana
    5. S. Young
    6. Unitas
    7. Marino
    8. Elway
    9. A. Rodgers
    10. Moon
    11. Tarkenton
    12. Starr
    13. Graham
    14. K. Anderson
    15. Brees
    16. Fouts
    17. Dawson
    18. J. Kelly
    19. Staubach
    20. Bradshaw
    21. Aikmen
    22. Tittle
    23. Warner
    24. Blanda
    25. Esiason

  • Topher Doll

    I actually track this for media members, former players and historians so I’m glad this is being done by fans as well and I’ll do my best to give good list. First I will say “greatest” is tricky since it’s not clear whether it’s “best” or “most successful” so I’ll just try and find a balance between team success (Super Bowls, wins, etc) and personal success (records, Pro Bowls, etc). There is no methodology to this madness, that would take more space than a comment haha.

    1. Montana
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Brady
    4. Unitas
    5. Marino
    6. Young
    7. Graham
    8. Staubach
    9. Favre
    10. Baugh
    11. Tarkenton
    12. Fouts
    13. Rodgers
    14. Elway
    15. Luckman
    16. Dawson
    17. Jurgenson
    18. Brees
    20. Bradshaw
    21. Starr
    22. Moon
    23. Rivers

    24. Warner
    25. Aikman

    Ugh I hate it but should serve the purpose of the whole “wisdom of the crowd” mentality. Just missed out were Anderson (some truly great years, not enough), Roethlisberger (rings came during some of his worst games and only one or two great years) and Romo (injuries and shortness of years hold him back from bumping Rivers). Again, no real method but tried to balance team and personal success along with talent around.

    • Adam Steele

      You are missing #19.

  • Adam Steele

    FYI for everyone – the deadline for submissions and corrections is Friday at midnight.

  • Adam Steele

    Ballots needing corrections:

    hawk
    Chris Morgan
    Dana Stewart
    GMC
    Public Professor
    Topher Doll

  • Thanks for all the great discussion guys. Please keep up the great work in the comments! It’s nice having such an active community here, and I think the new comment system will facilitate discussion.

    Two more days to get in your ballots if you haven’t already!

  • Historical equivalence and projected equivalence. Very likely not a scientific measurement but I thought that was the best criteria for a crowd-sourced selection process.

    1.
    Tom Brady

    2.
    Joe Montana

    3.
    Aaron Rodgers

    4.
    Dan Marino

    5.
    Peyton Manning

    6.
    Jim Kelly

    7.
    Kerry Collins

    8.
    Kurt Warner

    9.
    Johnny Unitas

    10.
    Brett Favre

    11.
    John Elway

    12.
    Y.A. Tittle

    13.
    Warren Moon

    14.
    Eli Manning

    15.
    Fran Tarkenton

    16.
    Ben Roethlisberger

    17.
    Drew Brees

    18.
    Steve McNair

    19.
    Randall Cunningham

    20.
    Sammy Baugh

    21.
    Roger Staubach

    22.
    Dan Fouts

    23.
    Terry Bradshaw

    24.
    Vinny Testaverde

    25.
    Bernie Kosar

    • Brandon Magner

      Kerry Collins?

      • In 7th? I could see a random 24th or 25th for him in a large sample, but 7th?

      • 1st draft pick in Panthers’ history, 12th all-time career yards, 11th all-time in completions, played on 6 teams over 16 years, brought the 2000 Giants to a Super Bowl. He’s always left out of these conversations because of the number of teams he played for in his career.

        • Brandon Magner

          I’m aware of who Kerry Collins is and what he’s accomplished. Why is he seventh on your list?

          • Because I made the list and I put him seventh.

            • Brandon Magner

              Thanks for your “contribution”. You get a double dose of snark in return!

              • I made a list. You asked about it. I clarified a position. You asked the same question again except in a weird hostile way. Not sure what else to do. Greatest QB of all time isn’t exactly a question with a definitive answer.

                • Brandon Magner

                  You listed a few facts about Collins’ career; nowhere did you rationalize why he should be considered the seventh-greatest quarterback of all time. Why does him being 11th all-time in completions and 12th in yardage place him above a lot of other quarterbacks who can boast much more than that on their resumes? Why is being the first pick in Carolina’s history relevant at all? Why is playing for six teams in 16 years not a negative?

                  • Hi Brandon, I apologise. Not for my list, but for not being smarter than to enter the comment section on a website (even a well-respected one such as this). Thanks for your feedback. I wish you and your list-moderating skills all the best in future endeavors.

                    • Brandon Magner

                      Good talk, Alex.

                    • Alex. Thanks for stopping by. And I am glad you consider this to be a well-respected site! While I am sensitive to the bullying that goes on in the comments section at other places, that doesn’t really happen here.

                      My $0.02 is that putting Kerry Collins in the top ten of a GQBOAT list is pretty out there. But being out there is okay, and sometimes, the best articles come from what start as “out there” ideas. Jason Lisk had a great article on why Vinny Testaverde was very underrated.

                      With Collins, I don’t see too much there. He had a couple of good years with the Giants, and ’96 and ’08 were years where he played pretty well opposite a strong defense and did very well from a record standpoint. But for most of his career, he was average or worse, at least statistically.

                      Do you think the statistics are missing something with Collins? Or is it that his supporting casts were so bad as to render his stats misleading? From the eye test, Collins never wowed me other than with his arm. I’m not sure what you see to vault him over the rest of the names on your list, and I understand you may not want to keep the conversation going. But we’re usually a pretty good bunch 🙂

        • Adam Steele

          The reason he gets left out of these conversations is because he’s mediocre player. Check out his era adjusted numbers.

  • micarlsn

    1. Otto Graham (10 championship games, 6 wins in 10 years, 50% better than his era passing by Maxymuk’s ratings–only other QBs over 150 rating are Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman, apart from a couple of single-wing tailbacks)
    2. Brady (he adjusted to teams he had, whereas his teams adjusted to PM)
    3. Montana
    4. Baugh
    5. Starr
    6. P Manning
    7. Unitas
    8. Staubach
    9. Dawson
    10. Young
    11. Luckman
    12. Van Brocklin
    13. Marino
    14. Tarkenton
    15. Rodgers
    16. Elway (does he not remind anyone else of Matt Stafford?)
    17. Favre
    18. Griese
    19. Aikman
    20. Tittle
    21. Fouts (compare his stat line to Kurt Warner’s)
    22. Brees
    23 Bradshaw
    24. K Anderson
    25. Herber (a lot due to Don Hutson, but…

  • lawtalkinguy

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. John Elway
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Aaron Rodgers
    7. Otto Graham
    8. Johnny Unitas
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Steve Young
    11. Roger Staubach
    12. Dan Fouts
    13. Troy Aikman
    14. Terry Bradshaw
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Drew Brees
    17. Jim Kelly
    18. Ben Roethlisberger
    19. Fran Tarkenton
    20. Y.A. Tittle
    21. Sammy Baugh
    22. Sid Luckman
    23. Kurt Warner
    24. Bob Griese
    25. Warren Moon

  • Nonya

    Im going to base this off of who I would want leading my team. I dont care about SB wins at all. Also, with one exception I consider pre 80s quarterbacks to be garbage. Ive watched plenty of highlights from the 60s and 70s and guys like starr wouldnt make the first team at a top 25 program. Almost without exception they couldnt play today or in the 90s.
    I guess you could boil it down to who would put up the best numbers and record if they were transplanted to 80s 9ers 90s cowboys or mid-aught patriots.

    1) Young
    2) Marino
    3) P Manning
    4) Montana
    5) Favre
    6) Graham – Managed to put up stupid numbers with 1950s receivers. Ive seen some grainy highlights.
    7) Brady
    8) Rodgers
    9) Kelly
    10) Moon
    11) Warner
    12) Brees
    13) Rothlisberger

    So, I guess you can throw whatever old guys you want at the end of my list. Those are my top 13 QBs. Elway was nothing but an average qb, same with aikman. I cant think of anyone else that Ive seen play that merits being in the best qb conversation.

    • no, put another 12 on there! I want a list w/Young at #1 to count

      • Adam Steele

        There was already a #1 vote for Young, so you’re safe 🙂

        • Ah, so indeed there is…cool.

  • Nuk

    I’ll contribute in the “crowd” sense, but not in the “wisdom” sense. I think athletes have gotten better over time, so my list is loaded with recent guys.
    1. P Manning
    2. J Montana
    3. D Marino
    4. J Elway
    5. B Favre
    6. J Unitas
    7. S Young
    8. D Brees
    9. W Moon
    10. B Roethlisberger
    11. F Tarkenton
    12. A Rodgers
    13. D Fouts
    14. J Kelly
    15. B Esiason
    16. T Brady
    17. P Rivers
    18. V Testaverde
    19. K Warner
    20. P Simms
    21. T Romo
    22. R Cunningham
    23. K Collins
    24. T Aikman
    25. D Bledsoe

    • lawtalkinguy

      So Boomer Esiason was a greater QB than Tom Brady. Let me guess, you also think James Garfield was a better President than Abe Lincoln? Wow, just wow.

      • Some people do, although those people are also still fighting the Civil War and may not know who James Garfield is besides.

      • Nuk

        Yeah, Lincoln just declared slaves free who congress had already freed. Garfield kicked Opie off the table so many times. And yes, I do think that Brady is generally overrated, and Esiason was pretty good.

    • Missed this the first time around, but I have to say, I did not expect to see a ballot with Tom Brady outside the top 15 and Drew Bledsoe on the list!

  • Zachary J. Bellino

    Peyton Manning is a statistical accumulator, and too much of that has to do with the incredible (unprecedented really) number of #1 picks he has played with. Most QBs of his generation would have played nearly as well with Wayne, Harrison, James, Clark, Garcon, Thomas, Thomas, Sanders, etc, etc. Even getting him close to the top 5 slights guys who did it with far less surounding them. To be honest, it’s even a struggle to place him in the top10, considering how terribly he fares when teams can actually cover all of the targets he has to throw at.
    I’ll bring it back to players like Brady, Graham, Montana (early) who proved they could win and beat tough defenses without a serial all-star cast surrounding them.

    1.) Tom Brady
    2.) Joe Montana
    3.) Otto Graham
    4.) Bart Starr
    5.) Johnny Unitas
    6.) John Elway
    7.) Roger Staubach
    8.) Peyton Manning
    9.) Terry Bradshaw
    10.) Sammy Baugh
    11.) Ben Rothlisburger
    12.) Dan Marino
    13.) Fran Tarkenton
    14.) Aaron Rogers
    15.) Brett Favre
    16.) Jim Kelly
    17.) Steve Young
    18.) Troy Aikman
    19.) Drew Brees
    20.) Len Dawson
    21.) Ken Stabler
    22.) Phil Simms
    23.) Dan Fouts
    24.) Ken Anderson
    25.) Boomer Esiason

    • What makes you put Unitas ahead of Manning?

      Unitas won titles in ’58 and ’59 when he played with two Hall of Famers in Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore (not to mention another HOFer in Jim Parker and another star in Alan Ameche).

      Then, Unitas won zero playoff games in the decade of the 1960s.

      In 1970, Unitas won a Super Bowl, but he had Roy Jefferson, John Mackey, and Eddie Hinton. That’s a pretty strong group, considering Jefferson was a first-team All-Pro in ’69, Mackey a HOFer, and Hinton led the team in receptions.

      I’m not suggesting that the standard should be proving capable of beating tough defenses without an all-star supporting cast, but if it is, then Unitas falls short, too.

      Of course, it’s even worse with Graham! Dub Jones? Dante Lavelli? Ray Renfro? Marion Motley? Mac Speedie? Not to mention Groza and Gibron on the left side of the line! Who has ever played with a better supporting cast than Graham?

      • And of course, Graham got to play nearly half his career in a league with precisely one team that wasn’t his that made it in the NFL.

    • Richie

      I’m drawing a blank. Did Bart Starr play with any HOFers?

      • I seem to remember hearing about this Jerry Kramer fellow who was pretty good, but he never made it to the HOF, so I’m gonna guess…no?

    • Jamie

      Listing guys like Garcon, Julius Thomas, Sanders and Clark as elite weapons is reaaaaaaaally a stretch. And your claim that a bunch of other QBs would have done as well is pretty much unprovable. Peyton had elite weapons, and with those elite weapons he put up consistent production that no other QB has matched. Calling him not as good because he had better production with a better supporting cast is silly. And anyone who says he struggles without elite weapons clearly didn’t watch the Colts from 07-10.

      • Apparently it was too much of a stretch to be a real comment 😛

        • This one wasn’t deleted because it wasn’t real, it was deleted because of duplicate entries by the same person (I leave it to you to decide the sanity level of such a person who goes through that effort).

  • Jason Dooley

    Criteria:
    A. Success on an individual and team level is most important. Regular season stats count, but so do playoff appearances and postseason victories.
    B. Era plays a role, but not a huge one. It’s not fair to penalize Brady, Manning, etc., for playing in a more offensive-friendly era. They didn’t choose when they were born.
    C. I tend to favor high peaks over sustained mediocrity. This is why I rank Favre in what I expect is a relatively low position.
    D. Longevity counts.
    E. When all else fails, gut feelings.

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Joe Montana
    5. John Elway
    6. Johnny Unitas
    7. Steve Young
    8. Aaron Rodgers
    9. Kurt Warner
    10. Jim Kelly
    11. Otto Graham
    12. Dan Fouts
    13. Brett Favre
    14. Troy Aikman
    15. Warren Moon
    16. Terry Bradshaw
    17. Fran Tarkenton
    18. Roger Staubach
    19. Bart Starr
    20. Bob Griese
    21. Sam Baugh
    22. Sid Luckman
    23. Norm van Brocklin
    24. Philip Rivers
    25. Joe Theismann

  • Scott Crowder

    Greatest, IMO and I think the opinion of most people, is a great QB during the regular season who stood out during the playoffs. So rating higher during the regular season isn’t as important as rating higher during the playoffs.

    That means Bart Starr, who not only won 5 championships in 8 years and went to 6, but also ranks highest all time in the playoffs amongst HOF QB’s in TD%, INT%, AY/A and ANY/A. He did this at a time when those stats were significantly lower across the board. Higher than Montana, Rodgers, Brady, Manning, you name it.

    His playoff dominance has never been equaled. Not even close.

    • Adam Steele

      If you want Starr to get a #1 vote, you have to list the 24 players behind him.

  • Will no one vote Slingin’ Sammy Baugh #1 in these last 24 hours?

    • Steve

      I have him third. Is that the highest so far?

      • Might be. My Ctrl+F stopped working.

        I’d have him top 2 if I didn’t care about being biased.

      • Adam Steele

        Sammy Baugh has a pair of 2nd place votes.

  • sn0mm1s

    1. Montana – this choice is incredibly easy. He was dominant in both the regular season and post season. He won with loaded teams and teams of relative nobodies.

    2. Brady – also easy, closest thing to Montana. He and Montana are the only QBs where I thought the game wasn’t over until all the time was off the clock.

    3. Unitas – I don’t particularly like players who played the majority of their careers before 1975. I think they played in a far weaker era than players playing in a truly integrated and professional NFL. Unitas is considered something of an innovator and put both passing and the NFL on the map which is why he gets ranked this high.

    4. Young – probably has the single most dominant stretch as far as efficiency is concerned in the Superbowl era and also had wheels. He would be higher if he had had more postseason success or a longer starting career. I always feel that he inherited a ferrari of a team and underachieved.

    5. Manning – I am a stat guy but I am torn putting Manning this high. A QB plays a much greater role in an NFL game than just rating+, ANY/A+, QBR, or whatever hot metric we come up with to try to correlate that single QB stat to winning. At some point you just need to consider winning. I loathe the word “intangibles” but if there is one position in all of sports that it is applicable it is the QB position. No one can argue with Manning’s numbers but it is pretty easy to quibble about the results. Coming up short a handful of times is one thing, having a losing record in the postseason is something else entirely. On the surface, his stats and Brady’s stats look similar, but I think that is misleading. I argued this in another article on this site so I won’t rehash it here but winning has to play a role in the legacy of the QB because the role of the QB is so significant.

    6. Marino – pretty much the same commentary as Manning. I think Marino had more physical talent but Manning is a much better decision maker. The only QB that I rate in the top 15 or so that hasn’t won a ring.

    7. Aikman – Probably the most controversial decision. I think he is the one QB who really had his stats neutered based on coaching/team philosophy for pretty much the entirety of his career (concussions caught up with him as well). He was deadly in his three SB runs though when his team actually needed him to step up.

    8. Favre – Not a fan of some of his decision making but he put up some great numbers, had a dominant peak, played a high level for a long time, and won a ring. He also didn’t have much in the way of HOF help. Once all is said and done I think the only HOFers Favre will have played with on offense were some guys on the Vikings.

    9. Elway – I would like to see what Elway’s numbers would’ve looked like if he had a more modern offense for most of his career. Reeves’ ideals held back Elway from being the statistical monster that I think he could’ve been. As soon as Reeves was gone Elway put up by far his best statistical seasons. He was also one of those guys that seemed to have an uncanny ability to pull out a late win – as long as it wasn’t against the NFC. His later success vaults him into the top 10 but I don’t think you can separate his success entirely from the historical dominance of the Broncos’ running game.

    10. Staubach – I know, I know, he is really the best Cowboy QB of all time. His era adjusted stats are awesome and would likely have more rings if he didn’t play the Steelers – but his career was pretty short compared to most on this list and, well, he did play those Steeler teams.

    11. Warner – great teammates but still brought two of the league’s bottom dwellers to the big game. If not for pick sixes in the biggest games of his career he would be higher. He and Staubach played similar length careers so they are knocked down the list despite their peaks.

    12. Starr – Lots of championships, era adjusted numbers are impressive, and is one of the few QBs who has better stats in the postseason. However, I don’t think there is a guy who played with more HOFers. Also, he wasn’t considered an innovator so he doesn’t get place higher.

    13. Graham – He also played with loaded teams under rather unique circumstances. That said, QBs get a bit of a pass, pun intended, because they don’t really physically match up against opponents and you can’t really argue against the stats and results of Graham.

    14. Dawson – also had a great stretch similar to Young, with a ring.

    15. Rodgers – probably too high for him at the moment, but I don’t think I could put him any lower. I am almost always impressed when I watch him. I think he will suffer a bit like Steve Young and have a shorter career than most of his peers that are considered great.

    16. Bradshaw – He played with loaded teams as well; but he made the most of his chances. He has some great playoff games, 4 rings, and an MVP. His era adjusted stats likely aren’t as good as most on this list so far but at some point you have to respect the rings and give the QB his due.

    17. Brees – has the numbers, both efficiency and bulk. He also has his ring. However, I consider him more of a Manning-lite. I also don’t get the feeling when I watch him that he is one of those guys that can lead his team back from a deficit or win a lot of games he isn’t favored to win.

    18. Roethlisberger – Ben would be higher on this list if he had a track record of winning without the best D in the league.

    19. Namath – this is a good a place as any I suppose. He had some historical seasons but also put the AFL on the map. I also enjoy using him as an example as to why expansion doesn’t really bring down the overall talent of a league. His stats aren’t great and many don’t consider him a HOFer – I don’t really agree with that but I think he gets this place more due to his persona and win over a heavily favored NFL team.

    20. Tarkenton – the best of the non-winners not named Marino. He could scramble, throw, and has incredible bulk and efficiency stats for his era but I don’t think there is another QB that has the postseason dropoff that Tarkenton has.

    21. Kelly – 0-4 but still got there 4 times. In some ways was an innovator with the hurry up offense.

    22. Fouts – has a nice peak and was the first QB to really capitalize on the passing rule changes.

    23. Baugh – I can’t really leave him off but I think the game was way too different to compare to other players.

    24. Luckman – Same as Baugh.

    25. Randall Cunningham – this last spot is more for entertainment value. I always enjoyed watching Cunningham play.

    • Incredibly well-thought out stuff, as always (remember your SN from the old ESPN boards).

      I wanted to talk about that Ferrari comment, although I can’t argue with you too much since you have Young at #4 and Aikman at #7, and I know Aikman grew up with the team while Young came on board in media res, plus I did not see the 1992 and 1993 NFC Championship games live and was too young besides. But those ’92 and ’93 Cowboys teams just were plain better than the respective ‘Niners teams, especially ’93. I guess you can argue about the ’92 teams, and the game was in San Francisco, but they were close. I’ve seen enough of the ’93 NFCCG on YouTube–Ricky Watters did not show up at all (getting pushed backwards without much fight on multiple occasions, including once for minus 7–on a pass!), Young’s INT sailed right through John Taylor’s hands, and the ‘Niners D (which was 16th in points allowed during the season) couldn’t stop Aikman *or* Kosar, let alone puncture that Cowboys offensive line to get to Smith. Young did basically nothing wrong and that game was already 28-7.

      The 1995-97 losses to the Packers are a little harder to swallow, though Young was out most of the ’96 game and that particular Green Bay team was clearly better anyway. Overall, I don’t think one game Young “should” have won over Aikman and another one or maybe two over Favre ought to impact his ranking that much–and, of course, for you they didn’t. But they do for some people. (A San Francisco-Buffalo Super Bowl XXV with Young starting would have been interesting.)

      As for Manning, even with the 4-3-1 breakdown, the QB is still less than half the team since he’s not the *entire* offense. Other factors are going to take precedence in who wins a particular game. And how much of his regular season to postseason drop-off can be directly linked to Marvin Harrison? I seem to recall it was quite a bit. I guess my basic point is, you shouldn’t feel bad having him at #5–and surely you have reasons for putting him that high even though you accentuated the negative.

      • sn0mm1s

        The 1992 loss is the one that sticks out in my mind as the one the 49ers should’ve won vs the Cowboys. They were a veteran team with a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball and were favored to win. 1993 Cowboys were a different beast entirely. They had improved and had the confidence that they didn’t have the year before. The other one that sticks out is the loss to Green Bay at home when they were favored by like 10 pts and coming off their championship season. They had beat the Cowboys in Dallas that year with Grbac at QB and I really expected Young to be “the guy” now that he had won that ring. I still rate Young highly based on his stats – but he could’ve just as easily been #1.

        As far as the QB breakdown goes. I claim the success of a team is at least 1/3 QB on most sites where the argument comes up. When we are talking about the greats (who have the offense more or less flowing through them) that number climbs up to 40-45%. I have posed this question on this site and others before. If you had the chance to trade the top QB in the league (however you want to define that) for the 11 starters of the top D in the league (however you want to define that) if your backup was an average backup (think David Carr or some guy that isn’t great but might have had a starting job at some point on another team) would you do it? The overwhelming response was “No”. I think people claim to believe that QBs shouldn’t be judged by the success of their team or that they are only 1 guy out of 22 and not even on the field for many of the plays. But, when asked to put that ideology to the test their gut tells them that 11 solid starters aren’t worth that 1 QB.

        If Manning had more rings, a winning record in the postseason, or even looked better when he won his ring I would have no problem where he is, or even bumping him up. But Trent Dilfer had better numbers in winning his ring. Big Ben, who was ridiculed for winning while playing poorly in the SB, had a better run than Manning. Brady gets criticized because of his kicker – but Manning’s kicker scored a higher percentage of points during his run than any of Brady’s rings. The only thing that counterbalances this is that Manning played some highly ranked D’s during that run. But still, having probably the worst statistical SB winning run combined with a losing postseason record makes it difficult for me to put him that high no matter what his regular season numbers are. That is why I am torn on where I put him. The guy has an amazing regular season resume. The best resume if you consider the individual awards like AP/PB/MVPs. Unfortunately he has a poor postseason one and if there is one guy in the SB era where you can argue his D and K carried him to a ring it is Manning. Of course, don’t jump to the conclusion that I think Dilfer or Ben are anything close to Manning I am just illustrating why I have issues with him at #5 when we are discussing the best of the best. It also doesn’t help that his career has pretty much overlapped Brady. Maybe one guy is extraordinarily lucky and the other is unlucky. But, like I said in my original post, at some point all the stats that we try to correlate to winning don’t overcome the actual winning/losing since there is so much to being a QB that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet – even if it is just the psychological edge that you have a guy that you trust to put you in a position to win if that position is possible.

        • welshpete

          ” if there is one guy in the SB era where you can argue his D and K carried him to a ring it is Manning”
          Really? REALLY?
          I can accept a lot of anti-Manning arguments (he isn’t my #1 for sure) but carried to his ring? REALLY?

          • sn0mm1s

            This is more in comparison to the others that routinely get brought up as being carried. I think over the past 30 years or so there are 3 guys that routinely get mentioned as being carried. Early Brady, early Ben, and Dilfer. For some reason Brad Johnson and Hostetler don’t get brought up much. My point isn’t that they were carried (I don’t think a QB can really be carried) my point is that IF they were carried (by whatever logic you are using) then so was Manning because whatever argument you make fits Manning as well.

        • Not much worth going back-and-forth all day on, but I do think the entire D is probably at least somewhat more important than the QB. However, I certainly would not make that hypothetical trade if David Carr or, I dunno, Kirk Cousins were my backup. Also the caliber of the defense being replaced is missing from the equation. So right now it basically asks, “Do you want the #40 QB and #1 defense, or the #1 QB and the #?? defense?” I can’t really answer that, but that is a *huge* difference in quarterbacks which probably makes more of a difference in winning unless you are going from a really horrendous defense to a really excellent one.

          • sn0mm1s

            Make a cutoff… would you do it if you had Brady/Brees/Rodgers/Manning if you had the 16th rated D? 24th? 32nd? To me, it doesn’t really matter how bad my D is – even if it is historically bad like the Saints a few years ago. I don’t consider Brees the top QB in the league… but if you were the Saints would you trade Brees (with your replacement being Chase Daniels) for the Seattle or SF D? I would have a hard time making that trade.

            • I dunno, I still think the dropoff from a top 3-5 QB to a typical backup is too big for this thought experiment. Most teams with a top starter don’t have the money for a quality backup and so that’s an even wider chasm these days. I don’t think it tells me whether winning is 40% on the QB and 30% on the defense, or vice versa, or whatever the numbers might be. In any given year the gap between #1 QB and #40-50 QB can be wider than the gap between the #1 D and #32 D without the QB being more important for winning games.

      • sn0mm1s

        Heh – arguments I had on the ESPN boards.

        1. Barry – easily
        2. Payton
        3. Brown
        4. Smith

        I don’t think Bettis, Martin, or Floyd Little are HOF material. I think Dillon and Barber are very underrated.

  • Joe Putnam

    Criteria (among others, and in no particular order):

    – Did he change the game?

    – Did he perform well in big situations?

    – Did he perform well in regular situations?

    – Could he help an offense in more than one way?

    – Did he win championships? (Cliched, but you can’t deny that QB’s with multiple titles have a hand in them)

    1. Joe Montana
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Brett Favre
    5. John Elway
    6. Tom Brady
    7. Dan Fouts
    8. Terry Bradshaw
    9. Steve Young
    10. Dan Marino
    11. Otto Graham
    12. Warren Moon
    13. Drew Brees
    14. Roger Staubach
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Aaron Rodgers
    17. Fran Tarkenton
    18. Len Dawson
    19. Joe Namath
    20. Jim Kelly
    21. Kurt Warner
    22. Bobby Layne
    23. Randall Cunningham
    24. Ken Anderson
    25. John Brodie

  • Gusta Laydner

    Thoughts about Donovan McNabb? Didn’t see his name on the pool. I think he deserves a spot on this top 25 list. He played 11 seasons for the Eagles, help the team to reach 5 NFCCG and 1 Super Bowl and only in 2004, when the Eagles finally went to the SB, he had a really good WR on T.O. Since then, McNabb had in 2009 a promising receivers group with Celek, Maclin and D-Jax, earned a spot in the pro bowl but that eagles defense was really sucks and destroyed by the Cowboys in the playoffs.

    • Richie

      I considered him briefly. But I think there are at least 25 QB’s better than him. He would surely make my 26-50 list.

    • Adam Steele

      McNabb has received two votes so far.

    • Steve

      I’d have him in my top 50 (maybe top 40), but not top 25. I will say that McNabb deserves the “lack of support” violins more than Romo does.

  • Mike

    Overall I’ve gone for higher peaks over longevity (Warner over Elway), dominant Quarterbacking over RINGZ (Marino over Brady), and from that aesthetics/style (slingin it around) over wins/team success (Rivers over Ben, no Aikman, Bradshaw). Also rewarded QBs from pass-happy offenses

    1. Peyton Manning
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Johnny Unitas
    5. Tom Brady
    6. Steve Young
    7. Fran Tarkenton
    8. Roger Staubach
    9. Brett Favre
    10. Drew Brees
    11. Dan Fouts
    12. Otto Graham
    13. Sammy Baugh
    14. Kurt Warner
    15. John Elway
    16. Ken Anderson
    17. Aaron Rodgers
    18. Norm Van Brocklin
    19. Y.A. Tittle
    20. Philip Rivers
    21. Ben Roethlisberger
    22. Boomer Esiason
    23. Steve McNair
    24. Warren Moon
    25. Jim Kelly

    • I have no problem with the list itself, but this might be the first time anyone ever suggested that Terry Bradshaw didn’t sling the football around enough.

  • neinmd

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Roger Staubach
    4. Bart Starr
    5. Peyton Manning
    6. Johnny Unitas
    7. Dan Marino
    8. Drew Brees
    9. Sid Luckman
    10. Otto Graham
    11. John Elway
    12. Dan Fouts
    13. Fran Tarkenton
    14. Steve Young
    15. Aaron Rodgers
    16. Sammy Baugh
    17. Brett Favre
    18. Norm Van Brocklin
    19. Len Dawson
    20. Sonny Jurgenson
    21. Kurt Warner
    22. Ben Roethlisberger
    23. Philip Rivers
    24. Troy Aikman
    25. Jim Kelly

  • Marty

    1. Brady
    2. Unitas
    3. Montana
    4. Rogers
    5. Staubach
    6. Manning
    7. Marino
    8. Bradshaw
    9. Otto Graham
    10. Brees
    11. Sammy Baugh
    12. Tarkenton
    13. Kenny the Snake Stabler
    14. Len Dawson
    15. Elway
    16. Steve Young
    17. Sid Luckman
    18.Norm Van Brocklin
    19. Moon
    20. YA Tittle
    21. Kelly
    22. Rothlesberger
    23. Bart Starr
    24. Warren Moon
    25. Fouts

    • Adam Steele

      You listed Moon twice, please fix.

  • Mike

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. John Unitas
    4. John Elway
    5. Otto Graham
    6. Roger Staubach
    7. Sammy Baugh
    8. Dan Marino
    9. Steve Young
    10. Peyton Manning
    11. Terry Bradshaw
    12. Troy Aikman
    13. Sid Luckman
    14. Aaron Rodgers
    15. Bart Starr
    16. Brett Favre
    17. Frank Tarkenton
    18. Dan Fouts
    19. Len Dawson
    20. Warren Moon
    21. Sonny Jurgenson
    22. Drew Brees
    23. Jim Kelly
    24. Boomer Esiason
    25. YA Tittle

  • redJacobin

    I take special care to separate people who threw a lot (Favre, Marino), and threw to superstar corps (Manning, Young) from people who worked with whatever they had (Brady, Montana) and found ways to win whether it was David Givens and Dwight Clark, or Gronkowski and Jerry Rice. I also do place emphasis on quality of competition, and no standard shows this more than playoff records (albeit incomplete in scope). Who knows what Elway’s numbers would have looked like with Duper, Clayton, Fryar, but we can pretty much guess what Marino’s career might have looked like without them — still good, but not record smashing. The same goes for Manning versus Brady in the 2000’s … pretty sure Brady would have gotten 2-3 rings with the Colts and Broncos (shoot, he’d have gotten a ring last year and this year with that Broncos’ roster).

    1 Tom Brady

    2 Joe Montana

    3 John Elway

    4 Otto Graham

    5 Bart Starr

    6 Roger Staubach

    7 Johnny Unitas

    8 Sammy Baugh

    9 Brett Favre

    10 Peyton Manning

    11 Aaron Rodgers

    12 Fran Tarkenton

    13 Steve Young

    14 Drew Brees

    15 Jim Kelly

    16 Dan Marino

    17 Troy Aikman

    18 Sid Luckman

    19 Norm Van Brocklin

    20 Ben Roethlisberger

    21 Terry Bradshaw

    22 Dan Fouts

    23 Len Dawson

    24 Boomer Esiason

    25 Warren Moon

    • Richie

      According to WOWY, Duper, Clayton and Fryar were just slightly better than average.

      On the other hand, Elway’s legacy was in a bit of limbo before winning Super Bowls those final 2 years. That also coincided with him playing with the 2 best WOWY receivers (Rod Smith, McCaffrey). This, after being unable to win a Super Bowl with one of the worst WOWY receivers, Vance Johnson.

    • And given the gap in their playoff stats, if Montana were on the 2000s Patriots teams instead of Brady, they would have won, like, 7 Super Bowls! I also think Manning would have thrown for 60 touchdowns on the 2007 Patriots, 32 of them to Randy Moss. I also believe if Matt Cassel were as good as Steve Young, the Patriots would have traded Brady like the 49ers did Montana.

      This wild speculation thing is fun.

      By the way you didn’t discern supporting casts well enough if you rank Starr that high.

      ——

      Edit: Another reason why early on I didn’t want to comment on lists…I knew I would turn into this.

      • Ha. This one was a fake too? C’mon people.

        • There is something about GQBOAT debates that brings out the weird in people.

  • welshpete

    Well, I suppose the idea is to post your own list, not just read others….
    I started with a bit of blank paper, wrote down the ones that immediately sprung to mind as true all time greats, then had a look through some stats list, HOF lists and had a swift glance through the comments here to ensure no obvious omissions were made.
    This list was pared down to 25 mainly on gut and an overall feeling – I’ve looked at enough stats in my 30+ years as a fan to know the main of the accomplishments – and just went with it to get down to 25.
    From that list I rated each from 1 – 4, where:
    1 were in the “might well be the GOAT”;
    2 were “very nearly in the GOAT argument”,
    3 were “Easily on this list, but a step or two off being a 2” and
    4 were the guys who nearly didn’t make the cut
    From there rated each group on a pseudo head to head basis on performance both regular season and post season and trying some hypotheticals (Would the 9ers won Superbowl XVI with Brady, does Montana beat Eli – once? twice?)
    I tried to be objective (seeing a Patriot at 2 and the guy who spoiled Marino’s Superbowl at 3 was hard) and considered Ringzzz/Championships, overall stats, impact, leadership and legacy – but also never considered one single stat as the be-all and end-all.
    I’ve tried to be honest in working across eras; great stats in the 40’s are ok-ish in the 70s, and downright average in the 2000’s; certainly in terms of pure numbers, but being streets ahead then is worth far more than being in the discussion now, IMHO.
    I’m happy with my list, I’m sure there are plenty of you who’ll disagree, but that’s the point, isn’t it? I’m aware a lot of the thoughts/stats given are things you all know – they are there as an idea of part of my thinking…some of the notes I scribbled next to names made sense of….
    1. Otto Graham – 10 years, 10 championship games. Do we need any more? Top of his class for the decade he played. I’m aware of the counter arguments (lack of competition, great surrounding players etc) but if Brady/Peyton/Montana had gone to 10 straight conference championships, let alone superbowls, wouldn’t they be miles ahead of the pack?
    2. Tom Brady – last month, he’s 3; now he’s 2. 4 Ringzzz, got there twice more (credit for that rather than minus points for losing) huge bulk stats, superb efficiency. (In that question above, yes he wins SBXVI)
    3. Joe Montana – the fact that I feel bad for putting him as low as 3 says something….who knows what might have been without Jim Burt….
    4. Peyton Manning – if he plays next year, should breeze past the main bulk stats he doesn’t have already; best regular season QB, leader, and has set the benchmark for organising an offence on the field. I’m probably not as down on his playoff record as some, but it’s why he’s 4th rather than even higher.
    5. Jonny Unitas – like Graham, the best of his era – championships (with a few failures too), consummate pro and leader and stats that are great now, other wordly back then. Only one guy who played before him got within 10,000 yards of his total (he’s on the list too…)
    6. Dan Marino – Ok I know. No RINGZZZ, just 15 odd years of carrying a team to relative success on a fast release and dodgy knees….his 5084yard/48 TD season is still the greatest IMHO. Huge numbers overall to boot. Waiting for someone to say he’s “just a complier”. (He was my favourite player when I started watching in 1983, and still is – putting him 6th is being harsh on the little football fan inside!)
    7. Sid Luckman – as with the other “oldies” on the list, leaps ahead of his contemporaries and truly an innovator – the most important QB in football? Agreed, it was a different era, but consistently top or near the top for a decade…his WORST position on TD passes for a season? 8th. (top 3 for 5 years out of 10)
    8. Steve Young – hmmm. One of the most difficult to place for me. At various stages I had him at 4th and 17th. All the tools, all the support for the winning years buuuut….a peak like nobody else. Is there anyone who wouldn’t take early 90’s Young to build a franchise around?
    9. Roger Staubach – Steve Young before there was Steve Young. A leader and a winner (would have been even more of one if not for that pesky Steel Curtain!) and with a few more years would have been higher.
    10. Bart Starr – the finest game manager ever? I know lots of people use that term as an insult to QB’s, but when this guy did it, well it just equals championships/Ringzz. That probably is doing him a disservice though, we all know what he did…
    11. Sammy Baugh – as with Graham, Luckman and the other early guys here, just way ahead of the pack for his time.
    12. Terry Bradshaw – I’m going to steal his line when asked about his career statistics….”4 Super Bowl Rings”
    13. John Elway – time to be controversial. A poor man’s Dan Marino who changed his legacy in his last two years. Sure he won games, he dragged average teams to the Super Bowl, he had all those comebacks (3rd all time….right behind Marino!) there’s a great article on here (sorry no link!) that sums up a lot. But hey, I put him all the way up at 13 EVER, so he’s still pretty damn good.
    14. Troy Aikman – had the tools to get the job done, not just in terms of his teammates, but also his ability. I don’t believe you could plug just any decent QB into that Dallas team and win.
    15. Aaron Rodgers – subject to confirmation, as has been discussed here. If it all ended with a freak injury in week 1 next season, he may still make my top 25. If he fulfils all his potential, he lands somewhere in the top 3.
    16. Len Dawson – of his era and great at it. Give me Dawson over Namath any day…
    17. Bret Favre – Great numbers, but they took a while, and those playoff picks really hurt. That said, if he’d quit three or four years earlier, I’d probably have had him higher….
    18. Kurt Warner – on his day, as good as they come, and a beast in the Super Bowls he played in. The dip was looow though….if he’d beaten the Steelers that day….
    19. Drew Brees – time will tell where he comes on the bulk stats, can see him outlasting Brady to the top (they might both go past Peyton) and a truly inspirational SB title.
    20. Ben Roethlisberger – again, a legacy still being written but it’s hard to argue with the consistent production and the titles. He can still jump a fair way up this list with a few good years.
    21. Y.A. Tittle – they guy within 10K of Unitas. Put up huge numbers in a time where it rarely happened and that 36 TD, 12 game season….insane!
    22. Jim Kelly – god I hated him. But he played for the Bills…and had the gall to make them winners! Once he’d retired, I took off the Aqua-tinted shades and realised he was a hell of a player (but I did laugh every time they lost the big one…)
    23. Fran Tarkenton – the curse of the Super Bowl losers….it just panned out they ended up together. He put up ungodly numbers in a long career. Forget Wilson, Roethlisberger, Young or anyone else…nobody extended plays like Tarkenton.
    24. Dan Fouts – yeah it was Air Coryell, but Fouts was the pilot and with a better cast, has a legacy far greater than he currently does.
    25. Warren Moon – years of production and good to great play with NO end result.
    Well, there we go – really looking forward to the full results!

    • Adam Steele

      Your thorough process is appreciated.

  • ATJ

    1 Tom Brady

    2 Joe Montana

    3 Johnny Unitas

    4 Peyton Manning

    5 John Elway

    6 Dan Marino

    7 Roger Staubach

    8 Terry Bradshaw

    9 Bart Starr

    10 Bret Favre

    Since there’s no set criteria (which makes this entire exercise rather free-wheeling and directionless) I’ve decided purely based on my own observations.
    10Bret Favre

    • Adam Steele

      You need to name 25 players for your ballot to count.

  • Ian

    1. Johnny Unitas
    2. Peyton Manning
    3. Joe Montana
    4. Tom Brady
    5. Dan Marino
    6. Bart Starr
    7. Sammy Baugh
    8. Roger Staubach
    9. Steve Young
    10. Brett Favre
    11. Fran Tarkenton
    12. Drew Brees
    13. Kurt Warner
    14. Norm Van Brocklin
    15. Joe Namath
    16. Otto Graham
    17. Dan Fouts
    18. Len Dawson
    19. Sid Luckman
    20. Sonny Jurgensen
    21. Aaron Rodgers
    22. Jim Kelly
    23. John Elway
    24. Bobby Layne
    25. Warren Moon

  • Steve

    Curious – Is Bob Waterfield the only HoF qb that hasn’t made anybody’s list yet (or even been mentioned at all…until now)?

    • I think I did see Waterfield’s name mentioned once, although it’s obviously hard to keep track at this point.

    • Adam Steele

      Yep, still not a single vote for Waterfield. Although, now that we’ve mentioned it, someone will probably vote for him.

  • Matt

    1
    Unitas

    2
    Graham

    3
    Montana

    4
    Bradshaw

    5
    Brady

    6
    Tarkenton

    7
    P. Manning

    8
    Favre

    9
    Marino

    10
    Fouts

    11
    Elway

    12
    Starr

    13
    Young

    14
    Staubach

    15
    Brees

    16
    Moon

    17
    Baugh

    18
    Tittle

    19
    Namath

    20
    Layne

    21
    Jurgenson

    22
    Kelly

    23
    Dawson

    24
    Blanda

    25
    Luckman

  • John Lazarus

    1. Tom Brady

    2. Johnny Unitas

    3. Joe Montana

    4. Terry Bradshaw

    5. Peyton Manning

    6. Steve Young

    7. Sammy Baugh

    8. Roger Staubach

    9. Bart Starr

    10. Brett Favre

    11.Otto Graham

    12. Aaron Rogers

    13. Drew Brees

    14. Fran Tarkenton

    15. Phil Simms

    16. John Brodie

    17. Dan Fouts

    18. Len Dawson

    19. Sid Luckman

    20. Sonny Jurgensen

    21. Kurt Warner

    22. Jim Kelly

    23. John Elway

    24. Donovan McNabb

    25. Ben Rothlisburger

  • Adam Steele

    Final reminder: Deadline for voting is midnight EST tonight.

  • Ryan

    I would be interested to see where everyone places Aaron Rodgers through this point in this career, I see a number of lists projecting his eventual value…I guess I assumed that we were evaluating only what has already happened..I thought having him at #18 might be a stretch since he’s only played 6.5 seasons…great discussion though guys, keep up the good work.

    • Rodgers is certainly a tough one to rank. On the one hand, 6.5 seasons of very good play is more than a lot of top QBs. On the other, if we look back on this list in 10 years, presumably Rodgers will have to be vaulted quite a bit higher. I mean, if you rank him 10 now, and then he had 5 great seasons, how do you not have him in the top 4 or 5 then?

      Personally, I’d rank him only based on what he’s done to date, with no projection of future value.

  • It came to my attention that several folks were submitting multiple ballots. Some, in an effort to stack the deck in favor of a certain player, others to just troll. Those have been deleted.

  • Adam Steele

    Polls are now closed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate!

    • I now see why Chase hadn’t seen my post. I apparently forgot to click the final button to get it sent. If I missed the cutoff and thus am not counted, that’s fine. It was as much about going through the process to determine who “I” considered great as it was in influencing anyone else’s opinion. Thanks for the stimulating question.

      • Adam Steele

        I’ll count it since you clearly had good intentions 🙂

    • Thank you, Adam, for doing all the dirty work and tabulating all the entries.

  • Hi, I found this from a link from Football Outsiders, who for a long time have suffered under “the irrational Brady/Manning debate”. I’m only going to rate QBs I’ve actually watched in play, so I need to exclude some well-known all-time greats like Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, and Bart Starr

    1 Tom Brady — I don’t like him as a QB, but in the Patriots system, he simply wins on the most important stage (i.e. the SB). You can put an asterisk by his name if you think that involves cheating. I also cannot separate Brady’s success form Belichick. I would not want Brady without Belichik, but with him, he would be my choice.
    2. Peyton Manning — I do like him, even from when he was on a rival team. His regular season stats are simply phenomenal. Given salary caps, you do have to wonder how much it has cost the two teams he has played for in terms of other roster sacrifices–in a non-salary cap game, I think he could have been surrounded by even better players and potentially number 1 across the board. If I had to choose a QB without getting a coach along with him, this would be my QB.
    3. Joe Montana — Another one I don’t like, but again, like Brady, played up where it counted. Again, I think some of Montana’s success was the system he was in. However, that system was completely tailored to Montana’s strengths and vice versa.
    4. John Elway — My personal favorite, but too often was 2nd place.
    5. Steve Young — He carried on the Montana tradition in a unique way. Arguably the best backup QB of all times. (I don’t consider Brady to have ever really been a backup, although technically he started as one.)
    6. Brett Favre — he kept playing, because he kept being successful.
    7. Michael Vick — he almost redefined what a QB should be and do. If it weren’t for his personal problems, he might have been more successful.

    ——————————— Below this line I’m not as certain about the relative rankings

    8. Kurt Warner — almost won the SB with two different teams
    9. Phillip Rivers — perhaps the greatest passer of all times
    10. Dan Marino — another candidate for the greatest passer of all times
    11. Tony Romo
    12. Aaron Rogers — he may move up in the rankings as he plays longer
    13. Terry Bradshaw
    14. Ben Roethlisberger
    15. Troy Aikman
    16. Roger Staubach
    17. Bob Griese
    18. Drew Brees
    19. Warren Moon
    20. Jim Kelly
    21. Daunte Cullpepper
    22. Donovan McNabb
    23. Randal Cunningham
    24. Jake Plummer — another player successful with two teams
    25. Drew Bledsoe — I liked Bledsoe better than Brady and wonder what he could have done if he’d been kept by the Patriots

    • Thanks, Chris. Excluding all-time greats may be fine for a list of “Greatest QBs since 1970”, but doesn’t really work for a list of “Greatest QBs of All Time.” You’ve already submitted your list, so that’s fine, but just wanted to throw in my two cents. I don’t think you’re alone in this regard, which is why I suspect guys like Starr and Unitas and particularly someone like Van Brocklin will be really hurt by this contest. Oh well.

      Also, Vick at #7? What was your thought process behind that one?

      • Yes, I can see I’m pretty alone for respecting Vick. However, I think in an era where passing was key, he changed the game. I think he laid the groundwork for players like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick, RG3, and even Tebow. Sure there were other mobile QBs, but at the NFL level few who were a true threat to run, except for scrambles and sneaks. Even players like Elway, Young, and Roethlisberger who seemed to be excellent at extending plays with their feet, never took off on designed runs, bootlegs, yes, but running only occurred if there wasn’t anyone open and it was better than being sacked. I had never heard of the concept of “spying” on the QB, until I heard that Warren Sapp was sometimes assigned that duty on Vick. I felt that Vick gave a respectability to an ATL offense that otherwise would have been non-descript.

        To the other point, my ratings were pretty subjective anyway, based on players I used to expect to see win. I grew up on AFL football and the NFL players were “boring” to me, relics from a previous game who were being pushed aside as irrelevant. Had I actually seen Tarkenton play, I might have had a different opinion. I was more afraid of Ken Stabler than the entire NFL pantheon combined. In my memory the Raiders/Steelers/Dolphins game was the championship and then the winner would beat the Cowboys (or some other non-descript to me NFL team).

        However, I needed to acknowledge that bias, as I know in retrospective, those NFL players were better than I give them credit for being. I just don’t know how to rate them since I had no experience watching them or cheering for or against them, and being my rating I didn’t want to base the ratings on some other judgement that I couldn’t confirm myself, even if those judgements were objective stats.

        Finally, I think any of the QBs listed, would be fine QBs for a modern team (if they were still of age) and vice versa, most of the modern QBs could have made an impact in the earlier eras I watched. They all played a game, I recognize as football. Not having seen the others, I don’t know whether they could. Probably, at least in some cases, but it wasn’t a judgement I was comfortable making, especially not knowing where to make that cut-off. For me at some point, football as previously played just isn’t the same game that has been played in the SB epoch–and that’s what I call football. For most of my viewing time, I’ve felt the same about college football–it isn’t quite the same game the NFL plays.

        • Gotcha, thanks. I do think there’s an argument to be made that at his peak, Vick was a top QB of all time. It was an incredible short peak, but he had some really dominant stretches of games.

  • michael

    1.Otto Graham+ 9.0 1946-1955 cle2.Sid Luckman+ 8.4 1939-1950 chi3.Aaron Rodgers (31)8.2 2005-2014 gnbNorm Van Brocklin+ 8.2 1949-1960 2TM5.Steve Young+ 8.0 1985-1999 2TM6.Kurt Warner7.9 1998-2009 3TMTony Romo (34)7.9 2004-2014 dalBen Roethlisberger (32)7.9 2004-2014 pitEd Brown7.9 1954-1965 3TM10.Bart Starr+ 7.8 1956-1971 gnbPhilip Rivers (33)7.8 2004-2014 sdgJohnny Unitas+ 7.8 1956-1973 2TM13.Earl Morrall7.7 1956-1976 6TMPeyton Manning (38)7.7 1998-2014 2TMDan Fouts+ 7.7 1973-1987 sdgLen Dawson+ 7.7 1957-1975 3TMRoger Staubach+ 7.7 1969-1979 dal18.Matt Schaub (33)7.6 2004-2014 3TMTrent Green7.6 1997-2008 4TMSonny Jurgensen+ 7.6 1957-1974 2TMDaunte Culpepper7.6 1999-2009 4TM22.Y.A. Tittle+ 7.5 1948-1964 3TMJoe Montana+ 7.5 1979-1994 2TMFrank Ryan7.5 1958-1970 3TM

  • Ryan

    Huge thanks to the poll question and the participation, my ballot was submitted eight days ago, being able to digest everything going on has me reflecting and updating my rankings to the following (with previous ranks):

    1. Peyton Manning (1)
    2. Joe Montana (2)
    3. Tom Brady (3)
    4. Dan Marino (4)
    5. Johnny Unitas (7)
    6. Steve Young (5)
    7. Otto Graham (8)
    8. Fran Tarkenton (6)
    9. Drew Brees (8)
    10. Roger Staubach (10)
    11. Sammy Baugh (12)
    12. Norm Van Brocklin (11)
    13. Brett Favre (15)
    14. Dan Fouts (13)
    15. John Elway (16)
    16. Sid Luckman (14)
    17. Ken Anderson (17)
    18. Aaron Rodgers (18)
    19. Sonny Jurgensen (19)
    20. Bart Starr (22)
    21. Warren Moon (20)
    22. Len Dawson (23)
    23. Philip Rivers (24)
    24. John Brodie (21)
    25. Y.A. Tittle (25)

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  • Christopher Farino

    1. Tom Brady
    2. Joe Montana
    3. Peyton Manning
    4. John Elway
    5. Johnny Unitas
    6. Otto Graham
    7. Brett Favre
    8. Roger Staubach
    9. Dan Marino
    10. Steve Young
    11. Bart Starr
    12. Terry Bradshaw
    13. Sammy Baugh
    14. Sid Luckman
    15. Fran Tarkenton
    16. Norm Van Brocklin
    17. Drew Brees
    18. Len Dawson
    19. Kurt Warner
    20. Warren Moon
    Here is the Criteria: http://bestqballtime.com/criteria-for-rankings-of-the-greatest-quarterbacks-of-all-time/