Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. There are few who have given as much thought to the history of quarterbacks and quarterback ranking systems as Brad has over the years. What follows is Brad’s latest work on the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
This week, I’m profiling the players who rank 11-20 on my list, counting down toward number one. Please note: at this point, we’re talking about the best of the best QBs. When I mention a player’s weaknesses, I’m not trying to insult him, just explaining why he doesn’t rate even higher.
20. Y.A. Tittle
Baltimore Colts, 1948-50; San Francisco 49ers, 1951-60; New York Giants, 1961-64
33,070 yards, 242 TD, 248 INT, 74.3 rating
Y.A. Tittle retired as the all-time leader in passing yards and passing TDs. Those are holy marks, passed from Tittle to Johnny Unitas, then to Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino, on to Brett Favre and now on their way to Peyton Manning. Tittle led the NFL in passing touchdowns three times — including 36 in 1963, a record that lasted more than 20 years.
Tittle made four Pro Bowls with the 49ers, but his Hall of Fame legacy was cemented in New York, where Tittle led the Giants to three straight NFL Championship Games from 1961-63. The most important all-pro teams in the early ’60s were the United Press and Associated Press. UP named Tittle NFL MVP in ’62, and AP named him NFL MVP in ’63. He was a consensus all-pro both years.
There’s a comparison to be drawn between Tittle, whose Giants lost three straight NFL Championship Games, and Jim Kelly, whose Buffalo Bills lost four straight title games in the early ’90s.1 I prefer Tittle because he played longer and had more outstanding seasons. And Tittle, although he wasn’t particularly mobile, was an excellent goal-line runner, who scored 39 rushing TDs — third-most of any QB in history.
I’ve ranked Tittle higher than this in the past. He was a good player for the Colts in the ’40s, he was good for the Niners in the ’50s, and he was sensational with the Giants in the ’60s. He was a top-10 QB for most of his 17-season career. But being a top-10 quarterback in the 1950s wasn’t really anything special. That was a 12-team league, so the sixth-best QB was just average. A closer look reveals that Tittle only had about seven really good seasons. That’s why Tittle doesn’t rank higher — but he played forever, made six Pro Bowls and three all-pro teams, and set important single-season and career records.
19. Terry Bradshaw
Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970-83
27,989 yards, 212 TD, 210 INT, 70.9 rating
In his first five seasons in the NFL, Terry Bradshaw never had a passer rating above 65. In the remaining nine, he was never below 65. Bradshaw is in the Hall of Fame because of what he did at his best, and if you get too caught up in his poor rookie season (6 TD, 24 INT, 30.4 rating), you’ll never understand why Bradshaw was so celebrated.2
Bradshaw led the NFL in yards per attempt and touchdowns twice each, and he was NFL MVP in 1978. He was a big-play quarterback, the greatest downfield passer of his generation. He was also an active and effective runner. Bradshaw rushed more often (as a percentage of his plays) than Fran Tarkenton, retiring with 2,257 yards and 32 TDs. In NFL history, only John Elway and Steve Young have more passing TDs and more rushing TDs than Bradshaw.
Bradshaw also has one of the most impressive big-game résumés in history. In his years as starter, the Steelers won four Super Bowls, with Bradshaw collecting two Super Bowl MVP awards. Bradshaw’s passer rating was above 100 in each of his four Super Bowls, with a collective rating of 112.8. He also had a statistical perfect game in a 1976 playoff win over the Colts: 14-of-18 for 264 yards and 3 TDs, earning the maximum 158.3 passer rating.3
This ranking is limited by Bradshaw’s relatively low number of productive seasons. He only made three Pro Bowls — the fewest for any modern Hall of Fame quarterback — and his career passing totals, while good, don’t really stand out. He also played with a Hall of Fame center, HOF running back, two HOF receivers, a Hall of Fame coach, and the best defense of all time. Bradshaw was a key player on Pittsburgh’s championship teams, but he wouldn’t have won those Super Bowls playing for the Patriots or Falcons.
18. Bart Starr
Green Bay Packers, 1956-71
24,718 yards, 152 TD, 138 INT, 80.5 rating
Bart Starr was a good regular season quarterback. In the playoffs, he was out of this world: five championships, including the first two Super Bowls, and a 9-1 record in playoff and championship games. His 104.8 postseason passer rating is the highest of all time (min. 125 attempts).
In the regular season, Starr was efficient. His interception percentage was particularly outstanding, and he had the highest passer rating of the 1960s, in either league. He made four Pro Bowls, he was second-team all-pro in 1962, and NFL MVP in 1966.4 He was praised for his decision-making, using audibles at the line of scrimmage and reading defenses.
What Starr does not have are impressive gross numbers. He never led the NFL in yards or TDs. Actually, his career touchdown total is the lowest of any QB who made my top 40, as is his single-season high of 16 — everyone else had at least 20. To some extent that’s just the shape of the offense: the Packers had two Hall of Fame running backs. But Starr’s passing was not the engine that drove the offense. Starr was 12th in pass attempts in the 1960s: he just didn’t throw very often.
He did, however, get sacked a lot. Starr lost the most sack yardage of any player in the ’60s. Sack data is incomplete before 1963, but it appears that Starr got sacked on 10% of his pass attempts, one of the highest rates in history. This certainly can’t be blamed on an offensive line featuring Jim Ringo, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, Bob Skoronski, and Forrest Gregg. Rather, Starr was reluctant to throw the ball away. That’s likely part of why his completion percentage was so high and his INT% so low: Starr took sacks when he was under pressure. That’s not always a bad strategy, but his passer rating is misleading: there are a lot of negative plays not accounted for.
Vince Lombardi called Forrest Gregg the greatest player he ever coached, and Sonny Jurgensen the best quarterback he ever saw. Bart Starr was a great player, and he rose to the occasion in big games, like no other QB in history. But he was an excellent game manager more than an outstanding playmaker.
17. Bobby Layne
Chicago Bears, 1948; New York Bulldogs, 1949; Detroit Lions, 1950-58; Pittsburgh Steelers, 1958-62
26,768 yards, 196 TD, 243 INT, 63.4 rating
Bobby Layne had no respect for curfew, but he always had the respect of his teammates. Hall of Famer Yale Lary described Layne’s leadership, “When Bobby said block, you blocked. When Bobby said drink, you drank.” But Layne’s partying never interfered with his on-field performance, and he was respected throughout the league. Rival coach Paul Brown called Layne “the best third-down quarterback in the game.”
A colorful off-field persona can be a blessing or a curse. When young fans begin to explore NFL history, their picture of Joe Namath is often as the flamboyant Broadway Joe, whose stats (173 TD, 220 INT, 65.5 rating) don’t back up his Hall of Fame reputation. Namath’s larger-than-life personality has come to define our memories of him, more so than his legendary quick release and the best deep ball of his generation. It’s easy to make the same mistake with Layne, to focus on his drinking and his wobbly passes, ignoring his arm strength, athleticism, and leadership. It’s hard to overstate Layne’s reputation as a winner. Another Hall of Fame teammate, Doak Walker, gave the most famous quote on Layne: “Bobby Layne never lost a game in his life. Time just ran out on him.”
On-field results support the idea of Layne as a guy who helped his teams win. The Lions won back-to-back NFL championships in 1952-53, and when Layne was traded to Pittsburgh, the Steelers recorded back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Layne was an exceptional athlete. He was a brilliant pitcher in college, kicked field goals in the NFL — he led the league in scoring in 1956 — and was a highly successful runner, probably the greatest all-around, dual-threat QB of the 1950s. In the ’52 and ’53 championship seasons, he averaged 31.4 rush yards per game — on pace for over 500 yards in a 16-game season.
Ultimately, Layne rates here because of his reputation. He was all-pro four times, including first-team in 1956, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1967, going in ahead of contemporaries like Norm Van Brocklin and Y.A. Tittle (both 1971, and neither first-ballot). Layne was the hardest thrower of his generation, and the best runner who could also throw. He was the offensive standout on a defensive dynasty, the lone weapon on a team that seldom featured standout receivers. And most of all, Layne was admired for his guts, determination, and leadership. I’ve only seen clips of Bobby Layne; he’s before my time. But no quarterback of his era was more celebrated and respected.
16. Dan Fouts
San Diego Chargers, 1973-87
43,040 yards, 254 TD, 242 INT, 80.2 rating
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the San Diego Chargers re-wrote the record books. They called it Air Coryell, after legendary offensive coach Don Coryell, but the man who made it happen on the field was Dan Fouts. He led the NFL in passing yards four times in a row and he was voted to six Pro Bowls. He made four Associated Press all-pro teams (twice first-team), and he was Offensive Player of the Year in 1982.
Fouts was excellent at generating yardage. His 6.88 NY/A is the best between Norm Van Brocklin and Dan Marino, a gap of more than 30 years. But there are two major arguments made against Fouts; I’m on board for one of them. The criticism I don’t support is based on his lack of postseason success. If you’re going to blame Fouts, keep in mind that San Diego made the playoffs only four times in Fouts’ career: 1979-82, the four years Fouts led the NFL in passing. He played badly in the first and last playoff games of his career, but in between, he averaged 320 yards a game, with an 88.7 rating and almost twice as many TDs as INTs. In 1980, the Chargers lost the AFC Championship Game, 34-27. You’re not going to win many games when you give up 34 points.5
The next season, Fouts threw three TDs in an epic overtime win against Miami, after which the Chargers lost to Cincinnati in the Freezer Bowl, the coldest game in NFL history, with a reported wind chill of -59°. I just don’t see how you blame those losses on the quarterback. Fouts’ prime was also San Diego’s. His best years were the team’s best years.
The argument that does have some merit concerns Fouts’ team. He played for a brilliant offensive coach, with a phenomenally talented receiving corps. I don’t believe that Fouts was simply a product of the system, but neither do I believe that he would have been equally successful passing to Reggie Rucker or Isaac Curtis. Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf worked for the division rival Raiders during Fouts’ prime years. In 2008, examining a group of Hall of Fame nominees, Wolf told Paul Zimmerman, “Hall of Famers? I don’t think so. You could add Dan Fouts to that list. I know he’s in already, but [when we played the Chargers] I never had the feeling that … the one guy we have to worry about is the one throwing the ball.”
While Fouts certainly benefitted from the talent around him, he did a lot of things well, things that other QBs couldn’t have done. Comparing Fouts to Joe Montana and Ken Anderson in 1982, Bill Walsh said, “Fouts is the most perceptive of the three, the most resourceful, the most dynamic and he had the most leadership.” Fouts had a quick drop and a strong arm, he was the first player with back-to-back 4,000-yard passing seasons, and he broke the single-season passing record more than once. He had about eight very good years, which is a lot, and he was truly exceptional from 1979-82.
15. Drew Brees
San Diego Chargers, 2001-05; New Orleans Saints, 2006-14
56,033 yards, 396 TD, 194 INT, 95.4 rating
Drew Brees ranks fourth all-time in passing yards and touchdowns. Brees and Peyton Manning are the only players among the all-time top 10 in both passer rating and sack percentage.
Brees has nine 4,000-yard passing seasons, seven 30-TD seasons, and nine full seasons with a passer rating over 90, four of them over 100. He’s made nine Pro Bowls and four all-pro teams, including first-team all-pro in 2006. He was Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2011, and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV. Brees has led the NFL in passing yards five times, in TDs four times, and in passer rating once. On paper, he is one of the 10 best quarterbacks in history.
It is Brees’ misfortune to play in an era of exceptional quarterbacks. Playing at the same time as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers, he has never been considered the best player in football. Brees is one of only three players who have thrown 200 more touchdowns than interceptions. But the other two are Manning and Brady, and it’s hard to see the third- or fourth-best quarterback of his own generation among the top 10 of all time.
As a football-viewing society, we’ve never considered Brees quite as good as his numbers. He’s smart and accurate, and moves well in the pocket. But Brees doesn’t command the line of scrimmage like Manning, doesn’t share Brady’s palpable intensity. Brees doesn’t have Manning’s two-minute drills, or Brady’s Super Bowls, or Rodgers’ seemingly effortless touchdowns. When Manning and Brady and Rodgers are on, there’s a magic about watching them, like they could do whatever they want. I don’t think we get that sense from Brees. He’s visibly a great player, but he doesn’t make those jaw-dropping plays. Everyone recognizes Brees as one of the greatest QBs in this era — but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who considers him the very best.
14. Warren Moon
Houston Oilers, 1984-93; Minnesota Vikings, 1994-96; Seattle Seahawks, 1997-98; Kansas City Chiefs, 1999-2000
49,325 yards, 291 TD, 233 INT, 80.9 rating
Most fans would consider this an excessively generous ranking for Moon. I believe it is conservative. Warren Moon’s statistics are excellent. He retired as the third-leading passer in NFL history, 4th in touchdowns. He led the NFL in passing yards twice, and he had back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons twice, for two different teams — the first player to do so. Moon made nine Pro Bowls, and probably would have been first-team all-pro in 1990, except that he and Randall Cunningham split the black vote. Compared to Joe Montana (who got the first-team nod), Moon was ahead in completions, completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, yards per completion, touchdowns, TD percentage, fewer interceptions, INT percentage, passer rating, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total yards, and total touchdowns. And Moon wasn’t throwing to Jerry Rice.
Warren Moon was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2006, the first undrafted quarterback elected to Canton. He was a successful college player, the MVP of the 1978 Rose Bowl. But Moon was initially prevented from playing in the NFL. He spent six years in the Canadian Football League, winning five straight championships with the Edmonton Eskimos, before joining the Oilers in 1984.
Throughout this series, I have attempted to give quarterbacks credit for their accomplishments in professional leagues other than the NFL. That includes the AAFC, AFL, WFL, USFL, and CFL. I do not view accomplishments in those leagues as equal to the NFL, but I believe any fair assessment — any accurate assessment — must consider them.
Bill James wrote about baseball’s Negro Leagues, in his New Historical Abstract, “Is it silly to say that Satchel Paige was a great pitcher in 1933? Hell, it’s silly to suggest that he wasn’t. Does he have any statistics to prove this? Not really. But in rating players, why is it silly to give Satchel Paige credit for being what he was?” That’s how I feel about Jim Kelly in the USFL, it’s how I feel about Doug Flutie in the CFL, it’s the AAFC guys, and it’s six years of Warren Moon’s athletic prime. We know that Moon was a good quarterback in the early ’80s. He succeeded at every level of football, and he was the most dominant QB in the CFL. He has no NFL stats during that time, but why is it wrong to give Moon credit for what he was?
I know there are some people, including some knowledgeable football people, who refuse to consider accomplishments in any leagues but the NFL and AFL. If you can’t compare the stats — and you really can’t compare CFL stats to NFL stats — then throw it out the window. But that’s wrong. It’s factually wrong, first of all: it’s invariably an incomplete assessment of the player. How do you pretend Warren Moon didn’t play football until he was 28? That simply is not true.
It’s morally wrong, too. If you agree to simply discount six years of Moon’s athletic prime, you let the racists win. We know that Warren Moon was a good quarterback in the early 1980s, and we know that he was prevented from playing quarterback in the NFL during that time. Maybe you evaluate Moon’s CFL production differently than I do, but if you simply ignore those six years, your evaluation is flawed.
Moon’s NFL stats are comparable to John Elway’s (see table below), but his combined CFL/NFL stats show 70,553 yards, 435 TD, 310 INT, and an 84.2 passer rating, plus 3,436 rushing yards and 38 TDs. Here are the NFL numbers:
Yards TD INT +/- Rating NY/A J.Elway 51,475 300 226 +74 79.9 6.1 W.Moon 49,325 291 233 +58 80.9 6.3
In 1984, Moon joined a team that had gone a combined 3-22 the previous two seasons. It took a few years to complete the turnaround — this was before modern free agency — but the Oilers made seven straight playoff appearances from 1987-93. Then Moon went to Minnesota, and the Oilers missed the playoffs for the next five years.
The Vikings were glad to have him. Moon made the next two Pro Bowls, passed for back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons — at the time, only Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, and Moon himself had ever done so — and facilitated Cris Carter’s single-season receptions record. Moon got hurt in ’96, then went to Seattle and made the Pro Bowl there, too. In February 1998, at age 41, Moon was named Pro Bowl MVP.
Here you’ve got a guy with a 23-year professional career, who could still play at a high level in his 40s. He made nine Pro Bowls, and his stats are excellent. He was Rose Bowl MVP and he won five Grey Cups, so you certainly can’t accuse him of lacking clutch performances. He passed the eye test, ran well and threw maybe the most perfect spiral in history. I don’t understand how you would rate him substantially lower than this.
13. Norm Van Brocklin
Los Angeles Rams, 1949-57; Philadelphia Eagles, 1958-60
23,611 yards, 173 TD, 178 INT, 75.1 rating
Norm Van Brocklin was one of the great deep passers of all time. He led the NFL in yards per attempt four times, and his net yards per attempt (7.5 or 7.6) is the best figure in history. That is a hugely important stat, and Van Brocklin’s is the highest ever.6 He passed for the most yardage of the 1950s, and he was also masterful at avoiding sacks. Although precise sack data for those years does not exist, sack yardage does, and it appears that Van Brocklin took sacks at less than half the rate of his contemporaries, by far the best of his era. Van Brocklin wasn’t a scrambler, but like Dan Marino or Peyton Manning, he was exceptional at getting rid of the ball before pressure arrived.
Van Brocklin’s greatness is further validated by his success with two teams. The Rams of the early ’50s were an offensive powerhouse, featuring two Hall of Fame receivers and the greatest run game of that era. But the Eagles were not good in the mid-50s, and Van Brocklin turned them into a winner, earning a league championship in 1960 and then retiring on top.7 He was the first QB to make nine Pro Bowls, and he still holds — 63 years later — the single-game record for passing yards (554).
Van Brocklin always played with excellent receivers. He had Tom Fears and Crazy Legs Hirsch in Los Angeles, then Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff in Philadelphia. But success didn’t come to Van Brocklin; he worked hard to ensure success. Legendary coach Sid Gillman credited Van Brocklin with “contribut[ing] enormously to the development of the passing game.” Said Gillman, “Just watching what Van Brocklin did in practice was a learning experience.”
In his 1996 book All Madden, John Madden explains that Van Brocklin taught him how to watch film. “He taught me how to recognize what the defensive backs and linebackers were doing. I learned zone and man-to-man, and combination coverages. To attack those defenses, I learned how to use different pass patterns: ins, outs, comebacks, hooks, posts, ups. Sitting there watching the film, he would read the coverage and tell me what he could do against it.” Van Brocklin saw everything, and he always put his teammates in position to succeed.
We’ve sort of forgotten Dutch Van Brocklin. He played football when baseball got more attention, and he played on the West Coast before games were widely televised. He played at the same time as Otto Graham and John Unitas, and sportscasters today aren’t too interested in the third-best quarterback of the pre-Super Bowl era. But no knowledgeable analyst would rank Van Brocklin outside the top 20 or so QBs of all time. He was an every-year Pro Bowler, and two-time NFL champion, who still holds notable passing records.
12. John Elway
Denver Broncos, 1983-98
51,475 yards, 300 TD, 226 INT, 79.9 rating
John Elway had the strongest arm of his generation. He could throw the ball a mile, and his receivers would talk about the Elway cross, a mark from the end of the ball if you let one of his passes hit you in the chest.
But just as notable as Elway’s arm was his spirit. I don’t know if he was the most intense competitor I’ve ever seen at quarterback — I suppose that might be Tom Brady — but Elway had incredible will to win. Everyone wants to win, of course, but Elway needed to win. I don’t think he was a necessarily a better clutch player than anyone else, I just think no one cared about winning more than Elway did. A few years ago, I listed Elway among the greatest postseason quarterbacks of all time, despite three one-sided Super Bowl defeats:
Why did Elway, whose early postseason career was full of brutal humiliations, edge ahead on my list? Because we focus more on having great moments than avoiding bad ones. Because he finally did win two championships. Because only Montana won more playoff games as a starting QB. Because he is the only quarterback to lead his team to five Super Bowl appearances. Because of The Drive, The Fumble, The Helicopter, and Super Bowl XXXIII, a legitimate MVP performance. Because that was Elway’s final game, and he and Otto Graham went out on top like no one else in history.
Some of that’s outdated now (because of Brady), but Elway’s career was full of memorable moments. Over and over, he seemed to do the impossible. Statistically, Elway had some of his best seasons at the end of his career. Working with Mike Shanahan, Terrell Davis, Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, and a top-notch offensive line, Elway finally posted the great stats that often eluded him in his athletic prime, when he was the only weapon on a punchless offense. As a young player, Elway found himself needing to pull off miracles, since if he didn’t create plays, the Broncos simply wouldn’t make any.8
Elway’s 79.9 career passer rating is the lowest of any Hall of Fame quarterback to debut after the 16-game schedule, but it’s not reflective of his talent. It also bears mention that Elway was a prolific runner. He ranked among the top 10 QBs in rushing yards a record 14 times. Elway rushed for over 200 yards in a season 11 times — the most of any QB in history — and he was among the top three running QBs in 1984, ’85, ’87, and ’94. Perhaps the most memorable single play of his career was a run, The Helicopter in Super Bowl XXXII. It’s also a perfect example of what drew so many fans to Elway: his visible passion for football.
Upon his retirement, Elway ranked third all-time in touchdown passes, second in yards, and first in wins as a starting quarterback. Elway made nine Pro Bowls, and he was second-team all-pro three times. The Associated Press award voting in 1987 is hard to figure. They voted Elway the league MVP, when every other organization gave it to Jerry Rice. Yet, AP named Joe Montana the first-team all-pro QB, and Elway second-team.9 Elway is one of four HOF quarterbacks never to be named first-team all-pro by the Associated Press; the others were Roger Staubach, Warren Moon, and Troy Aikman.
11. Sonny Jurgensen
Philadelphia Eagles, 1957-63, Washington, 1964-74
32,224 yards, 255 TD, 189 INT, 82.6 rating
Vince Lombardi coached Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, and together they won five NFL Championships. Lombardi coached against Johnny Unitas every year. Yet it was of Sonny Jurgensen that Lombardi said, “He may be the best the league has ever seen. He is the best I have seen.”
People were in awe of Sonny Jurgensen. Jurgensen was universally hailed as the best pure passer of his generation. In the literature of the sport, that is the phrase you find, over and over again: “best pure passer.” No one really talks about “greatest pure passer” any more, and if they did, I suppose most people would look for someone more recent, maybe Peyton Manning or Dan Marino. But the brilliance of Jurgensen’s arm is cited everywhere.
Jurgensen led the NFL in passing yards five times, twice setting the single-season record. He led in touchdowns twice, and his career passer rating (82.62) is the highest of his generation, fractions ahead of the AFL’s Len Dawson (82.58), but comfortably in front of Starr (80.5), Fran Tarkenton (80.4), Unitas (78.2), Bob Griese (77.1), Joe Namath (65.5), and George Blanda (60.6). Jurgensen (1957-74) and Unitas (1956-73) were contemporaries, but Jurgensen’s TD/INT differential (+66) is substantially better than Johnny U’s (+37). Unitas himself said, “If I threw as much as Jurgensen, my arm would fall off. And if I could throw as well, my head would swell up too big to get into a helmet.”
Although he’s largely forgotten today, Jurgensen was highly admired during his career. He was all-NFL three times, including first-team in 1961. Sonny was renowned for his calm poise in the face of a pass rush, his quick release, and his touch on the ball. His reaction to defensive pressure was particularly remarkable. Jurgensen threw well off either foot, and if necessary, with either hand — he was 2-for-3 left-handed — when a defender tied up his right arm, Jurgensen grabbed the ball with his left hand and threw it anyway. He seldom played with an adequate line, and there are almost as many stories about his cool under pressure as there are about his golden arm.
Jurgensen’s playing style was comparable to Dan Marino’s: the greatest passers of their generations, both with lightning-quick releases and uncanny touch on both short- and long-range passes. They also shared a propensity for touchdowns. Jurgensen’s 6.0% touchdown percentage is among the highest in history, and he threw the most touchdown passes (207) of the 1960s. Sonny ranked third in career TD passes until nearly 20 years after his retirement — when Marino surpassed him.
Jurgensen’s stats are exceptional for his era, and his arm inspired outright awe. The only mark against Jurgensen, and the reason he’s seldom remembered among the greatest quarterbacks of all time, is that his teams never won a championship.
* * *
We began this series by examining the best pre-Modern Era quarterbacks: Sammy Baugh, Dutch Clark, Ed Danowski, Paddy Driscoll, Benny Friedman, Arnie Herber, Cecil Isbell, Sid Luckman, Bernie Masterson, Ace Parker, and Bob Waterfield.
Next week we’ll begin the top 10 quarterbacks of all time, starting with 6-10.
- Chase note: Tittle never won a playoff game in his career. [↩]
- Chase note: You can see a visual representation of Bradshaw’s passing numbers relative to league average here. [↩]
- Chase note: Bradshaw ranked as the 2nd most impressive quarterback — statistically — in playoff history based on this formula. His performance against Baltimore ranked 21st on this list, largely ranking so “low” because of the low number of attempts. [↩]
- Chase note: I put Starr’s ’66 season as the 5th best ever among quarterbacks who won a Super Bowl. [↩]
- Chase note: In fact, through 1980, teams were 0-32 in the playoffs when giving up 34+ points. Through 2014, teams are now 11-140 when giving up 34+ points in the playoffs, with the first win coming by… the Fouts-led Chargers. [↩]
- Chase note: In related news, Van Brocklin was #1 in this metric (second table), further supporting Brad’s argument. [↩]
- Van Brocklin remains the only quarterback to win NFL titles with two different teams. [↩]
- Chase note: Obligatory link. [↩]
- Chase note: As Brad noted, just about everyone selected Rice as MVP. The AP voting was 36 for Elway, 30 for Rice, and 18 for Montana. It’s safe to assume that the 49ers duo split the MVP vote, which explains why Montana was the AP’s first-team choice at quarterback. [↩]