Get your pitchforks and torches ready. There is no way to breach this subject matter without offending a few people. It’s almost as bad as getting into a religious or political discussion at a formal dinner. And that’s exactly why we’re doing it. Sure, it will lead to debate, probably some name calling and many questions of “How could (insert name) be left off of this list!?” In truth, everyone should know that we have a fail proof algorithm at Goliath, which is so detailed it can’t be shared with the public. Seriously. Trust what you’ll read. It’s objectively subjective.
10. Dan Marino
Dan Marino. Only someone who has played some quarterback can really appreciate how good this guy was. Everyone talks about Marino and his exceptionally quick release, but a release is only as quick as arm speed. Let’s back it up, and talk about Marino’s throwing mechanics. It wasn’t just his release that was quick, but his entire throwing motion. His preparation was also one of the quickest the game has ever seen, and the velocity that followed was trendsetting. Still, it never equated to success on the grandest of American Football stages. Dan never scored that coveted Super Bowl ring. The 1984 season led to his only opportunity, following his regular season record breaking campaign of throwing 48 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl, he met an immovable force in the San Francisco 49ers. And Dan’s biggest shortcoming as a player? On-the-field attitude. Philip Rivers must have been a fan.
9. Jim Kelly
Will anyone ever do what Jim Kelly was able to do with the Buffalo Bills? Please, set your smarmy, “What? Lose four straight Super Bowls?” aside, and consider the fact that a QB led his team to four consecutive Super Bowls. It’ll never happen again. The most impressive aspect of that Super Bowl run was the fact that the league boasted some impressive parity in the 1990s. It wasn’t what it is today with the spread of talent, but winning the AFC four straight seasons was unbelievable. Ultimately, Jim and the Bills fell victim to the rest/media week that preceded their first attempt at winning the Super Bowl. Some might argue that Jim Kelly’s arrogance irritated the football gods, and it cost him at least one, and possibly more Super Bowl rings. If he had sealed the deal, he’d be higher on the list.
8. Troy Aikman
Troy Aikman was an impressive prototype of size and strength at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, the man took too many lethal hits to the head throughout his career, and was forced to retire earlier than he would have liked. That’s the way it goes. The early retirement will never diminish his three Super Bowl titles, nor the fact that he racked up more wins than any other quarterback in the 1990s. Troy did benefit heavily from being surrounded by some of the best play makers the game has ever known: Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, Jay Novacek and some of the league’s most talented team defenses. It increased the odds in his favor. That stated, Troy was mobile at 6’4″ and 220 lbs., and his mechanics were relatively flawless. Aspiring quarterbacks should be watching his 5/7 step drops, and ability to progress through his reads.
7. Brett Favre
Brett Favre. The old gunslinger. He is the guy you want hovering at the top of the record books. Everyone has a story about Brett. People seem to have let go of their hate and distaste for the Mississippi native after his annual “I don’t know if I’m gonna play anymore” off-season soap opera. Still, there’s no denying that first season with the Minnesota Vikings was pretty special, and it came on the heels of the career twilight resurgence in Green Bay. Leaving Minnesota, and seeing him go to the Jets? Brutal. Let’s remember back to Brett in the late 1990s, when he was at his best, breaking the huddle with the single snap chinstrap dangling…? He was the real life Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell) from The Best of Times. And it wasn’t just persona. The arm strength, the toughness, the consecutive games streak? He’s a legend.
6. Johnny Unitas
Is there a football story better than Johnny Unitas? A brief history: Johnny was drafted in the ninth round of the 1955 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but was cut. The team had four quarterbacks to choose from. Johnny worked construction in Pittsburgh to help make ends meet, and played QB, safety, and punter for a club team, making six bucks a game. Eventually, he was picked up by the Baltimore Colts, and fell into the starting lineup following an injury. He had a rough go early on, but only continued to improve, eventually launching a streak of most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (47!) in an era that was predominately ground and pound. That record stood until 2012, when Drew Brees broke it. Johnny went on to become a 10-time Pro Bowl QB, and won three NFL MVP awards.
5. John Elway
Ask any Broncos fan: John Elway is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. How could he not be? In fairness to the Broncos fans and their bias, few have done it like John. And the way he ended his career–winning back to back Super Bowls, and riding off into the sunset–it was storybook. The thing about John? John played the game with reckless abandon at times, and is known for his signature two-minute drills, which had a knack for putting his ability to scramble on display. Where John is often shortchanged: a lot of guys can scramble, but few made plays through the air like Elway after the play broke down. John… also had a pretty poor TD/INT ratio. John rounds out the three 1983 draft class quarterbacks on this list, all of whom have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
4. Tom Brady
Get ready to riot, Patriots fans. Tom comes in at #4. And that’s because he has four Super Bowl titles! Seriously, though… Tom Brady can throw the football. He is remarkably accurate. He has a most impressive career TD/INT ratio, and he has enjoyed playing with Bill Belichick his entire career. Teams are built to his strengths. But let’s make no mistake. If Bill Belichick had any quarterback on this list, is there anyone so brash as to say that QB couldn’t garner comparable, or maybe even better results? Ultimately, Tom’s success is overshadowed by playing for a team that has been caught cheating multiple times–including his 2015 off-season Deflategate scandal. It’s the reason everyone loves to hate the guy. The same people would roll out the red carpet if he was picked up by their squad. Still, if he wins another ring, he’s leap-frogging everyone.
[EDIT: Well, he won another ring and has leap-frogged everyone. Updated rankings coming soon.]
3. Drew Brees
Why doesn’t Drew Brees get more love? Even in college, Heisman voters opted for Chris Weinke!? Drew has worked with some pretty awful defenses in New Orleans, yet he keeps the Saints in games. Somehow, there is rhetoric in New Orleans that Drew isn’t what he used to be. In fact, Drew has been the only consistent variable for the Saints over the last five seasons. His numbers are off the charts, he continues to break records annually, he’s two years younger than Tom Brady, a better athlete, and would be more versatile if inserted into another system. Most impressive was his play in the Super Bowl versus the Indianapolis Colts, when he systematically picked the Colts defense apart in the second half. Tragically for Drew, the Saints missed their best opportunity at another Super Bowl run with the “Bountygate” suspensions in 2012.
2. Peyton Manning
The Sheriff may have a little hitch in his giddy-up, but he has remained effective regardless of his physical shortcomings. NFL fans were privy to the bad Peyton Manning during the 2015 season, as he struggled with injury and the inevitable effects of having no feeling in his throwing hand. Somehow, he continued to win games, and that is a testament to the advancement of his mind at the quarterback position. Peyton has served as the paradigm of quarterback evolution. To be elite in today’s game, you have to pre-snap read and command the line of scrimmage like… well, Peyton Manning. His accomplishments speak for themselves, and he was hardly to blame for the embarrassment Denver offered in Super Bowl XLVIII. The future seems somewhat in the air for the future HOFer. If he can’t get some velocity back on his ball, we may be witnessing The Sherrif’s last stand.
1. Joe Montana
Not enough can be said about the greatness of Joe Montana. Joe led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl championships, delivered some of the most exciting games in NFL history, and politely took one on the chin of his ego when he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, to make room for Steve Young and a new era 49ers squad. Such a move might have crushed a number of elite, aging quarterbacks, but Joe responded by leading the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game in his first season with the team. Joe was king of of the comeback, and he proved it time and time again, throughout his career, including two come from behind wins in the 1993 playoffs. Anyone claiming that Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game must tip their cap to Joe Montana.