Friday, February 5, 2010

Off the Subject: Top Ten Quarterbacks of All Time

With the Super Bowl coming up, I figured I'd finally post this list of the Top 10 Quarterbacks in NFL History list.

I'm doing this in part because I have rarely seen it done correctly. Most lists only consider great quarterbacks of the last 30 years. I wanted to do a list that covered all of NFL history. I pulled some advanced stats fro If you've seen me use and explain OPS+ in my baseball posts, you'll understand what Rating+ or Comp%+ do...they just help us judge quarterbacks across eras. On with the countdown!

(My cutoff for playing time was 10 full seasons or some equivalent. That's why you don't see a Tom Brady on the list yet (only 8 full seasons) or a guy like Roger Staubach who was great but really only started for a handfull of seasons.)

10. Otto Graham (1946-1955) - I have often thought that Graham was overrated due to the number of championship games that he played in and his numbers from the AAFC (before Cleveland joined the NFL) but his resume is actually quite impressive. He led the league in passer rating 4 times and and in passing yards 5 times during his 10 year career. He has a career 127 Rating+ (higher than Steve Young) and was an NFL MVP 3 times. Still holds the record for Yards per Attempt (9.0). Top passer of the late 40's/early 50's. All this while missing two seasons while he served in the Coast Guard during WWII.

9. Steve Young (1985-1999) - Young just barely qualifies for this list (he only played 9 full seasons but played enough in backup duty that I added him.) Still holds the record for career passer rating (96.8) , passed for more than 30,000 yards and rushed for 4,000 yards. The most exciting running QB until the arrival of Michael Vick. Posted a career Rating+ of 126. Threw 232 touchdowns (still good for top 20 all time) and rushed for a record 43 TDs as a quarterback.

8. John Elway (1983-1998) - Elway was having a very Jake Plummer-like career over the first 10 years of his career. He only had one season with a passer rating over 80 over that span as well as throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in 5 of those seasons. The only thing that redeems his early career is his stellar playoff record, especially 19887-1990 (except for those Super Bowls). He really didn't blossom as a passer until 1993 which hurts him here. His career passer rating is 79.9 even including his playoff record and his Rating+ is only 101. What sets Elway apart from the Dave Kreigs of the world is his career from 1992 forward, his playoff performances and his gaudy numbers (51,000+ passing yards, 300 TDs, 3400+ rushing yards, 33 rushing TDs) that he piled up over his 16 years in the league.

7. Dan Marino (1983-1999) - The best pure passer of his generation. Perhaps the best pure passer ever outside of Peyton Manning. Retired with more passing TDs and more passing yards than any quarterback in history. He led 36 4th quarter comebacks (Elway only had 35...) Led the league in passing 5 times and in passing TDs 3 times. Remarkably quick release, he was rarely sacked even though he was not a mobile QB. The only knock you can make is that he never won a Super Bowl but anyone making that argument doesn't understand that it takes 21 other men to win one.

6. Fran Tarkenton (1961-1978) - Tarkenton tends to get overlooked because he never won a championship but he held the record for career passing touchdowns for over 15 years after his retirement until Dan Marino passed him in the mid-1990's. Tarkenton was one of the great scrambler in NFL history but he scrambled far more behind the line of scrimmage than running for yardage. Still he rushed for 3674 yds and 33 rushing TDs on top of his 47003 passing yards and 342 passing TDs. Tarkenton did all this without any great receivers (ala Montana/Rice or Marino/Clayton) John Gilliam and Homer Jones were probably the best targets he had. Minnesota's Super Bowl futility leads many modern fans to leave Tarkenton off the list of the greats. He was well above average in all facets of the game,he could beat you any way he needed to.

5. Joe Montana (1979-1994) - Montana get the knock of being a "system quarterback" and he was but he ran his system to perfection. No offensive scheme and player have ever been married so well. Montana showed you didn't need the big arm to excel in the NFL and his success spawned imitators around the league as Bill Walsh's disciples earned head coaching jobs throughout the league in the 80's and early 90's. Montana retired with the highest career QB Rating in history, racked up 40,000+ passing yards, 237 TDs and a 63.2 completion percentage (also a record when he retired). He won two NFL MVP's, three Super Bowl MVPs and finished his career with a 95.6 QB rating in the playoffs. The postseason heroics don't hurt the resume either.

4. Sammy Baugh (1937-1952) - Any top quarterback list without Sammy Baugh and Johnny Unitas in the top 5 is instantly null and void. Let me repeat that. If you see a list of top NFL quarterbacks without Baugh and Unitas in the top 5, that's a writer you never have to pay attention to again. Baugh was a revolutionary passer, an innovator and the perfector of the forward pass. Baugh arrived in the league and as a rookie led the league in passing. He led the league in passing 6 times, finished with a 122 Rating+ and completed an unheard of 56.5% of his passes (Comp%+ of 132). He did much of this while running the "single wing" offense, a formation that does not lend itself well to the passing game. The Redskins switched to a more modern "T" formation in 1944...when Baugh was already 30. He retired with all major passing records in his possession. He also played defense (he was a defensive back) and served as the team's punter. He still holds the career record for average punting distance. He is still the greatest quarterback in the history of the Washington Redskins and was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3. Brett Favre (1991-present) - Favre has shattered the career passing yards and passing TD records. If he comes back for 2011, he will become the first QB in NFL history to throw for 500 TDs and 70,000 yards. A classic gunslinger, Favre is almost as well know for his dramatic mistakes as he is his dramatic heroics but, for now, He is the most prolific passer in league history. A three-time NFL MVP.

2. Johnny Unitas (1956-1973) - Unitas was the prototypical quarterback of the modern era. He was the first quarterback to throw for 40,000 yards and finished his career with 290 TDs. He set the record for consecutive games with a TD pass at 47 games. He engineered 36 4ht quarter comebacks in only 211 career games. He was a four-time NFL MVP. Coming off that last MVP season in 1967, he suffered torn muscles in his throwing arm after he was hit in the last preseason game of 1968 and played sparingly during the Colts march to the Super Bowl. He was never quite the same after that and only showed flashes of his former brilliance. Thus, some of his career rate states look a bit more pedestrian than they should (Rating+ of 112, basically an average quarterback after the injury) but he was considered the greatest quarterback of the late 50's/60's.

1. Peyton Manning (1998-present)- Still just 33, Manning is perhaps the best passer to ever ut on cleats. He's closing in on 2nd place in the major passing categories and if Favre ever hangs them up, he may just pass him too. He combines the passing acumen of Marion, the field general qualities of Unitas and the late-game heroics of Elway (35 4th quarter comebacks) in one package. If he could run, the Colts might never lose. A four-time MVP, Manning has led the league in passing twice, TD's and QB rating three times and is a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. This weekend he may add his 2nd Super Bowl title.

No comments: