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Top 10 quarterbacks of all time? You be the judgePosted Monday, February 8, 2010, at 10:19 AM
Now that Super Bowl XLIV is over, the talk of legacy will surely begin.
Sunday evening, the New Orleans Saints knocked off the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17. By doing so, the Saints won their first Super Bowl title and defeated "prodigal son" Peyton Manning in the process.
I'm quite certain the next few days will bring discussions from sports pundits like this, "Should Peyton Manning be considered one of the best quarterbacks ever?" Or perhaps, "Is Manning a choke artist?"
The answers to these questions are very simple: Yes and no.
For years, talk around the water cooler has kept people interested regarding who the greatest quarterback to ever play the game is or was.
I would argue that as fans of the National Football League, people are watching the greatest to ever play right now.
These names typically come up when talking about the greatest ever: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Fran Tarkenton, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, John Elway, etc., etc., etc.
One statistic that I hear people throw out all the time is the amount of Super Bowl victories a quarterback has won.
For example, Montana won four Super Bowl titles while playing with the San Francisco 49ers.
But I never hear Terry Bradshaw's name mentioned when this argument comes up. After all, Bradshaw won four titles also.
If the amount of Super Bowl titles is all the counts when discussing the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, that means Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer must be considered some of the greatest to ever play the position.
I would argue Super Bowl titles alone do not make a quarterback great.
Monday morning, when I got to the office, I thought I'd look up some statistics.
Here's one example: The all-time leaders in NFL passing yards include Favre, Marino, Elway, Manning, Warren Moon, Tarkenton, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Fouts and Montana.
Among these in the top 10? Several Super Bowl appearances, but only a total of eight Super Bowl titles, four coming from Montana.
What about passing touchdowns? Here's the all-time top 10: Favre, Marino, Manning, Tarkenton, Elway, Moon, Unitas, Testaverde, Montana and Dave Krieg.
Among these in the top 10? Again, lots of appearances in the Super Bowl, but a total of nine Super Bowl titles, four again coming from Montana.
I decided I would look up career statistics among some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play and offer my two cents in who is (arguably, of course) the greatest quarterback of all time.
These are some of the numbers:
* Unitas (1956-73) -- 40,239 passing yards, 290 touchdowns, 78.2 passer rating,
* Favre (1991-2009) -- 69,329 passing yards, 497 touchdowns, 86.6 passer rating,
* Brady (2000-09) -- 30,844 passing yards, 225 touchdowns, 93.3 passer rating,
* Tarkenton (1961-1978) -- 47,003 passing yards, 342 touchdowns, 80.4 passer rating,
* Montana (1979-94) -- 40,551 passing yards, 273 touchdowns, 92.3 passer rating,
* Bradshaw (1970-83) -- 27,989 passing yards, 212 touchdowns, 70.9 passer rating,
* Elway (1983-98) -- 51,475 passing yards, 300 touchdowns, 79.9 passer rating, and
* Marino (1983-99) -- 61,361 passing yards, 420 touchdowns, 86.4 passer rating.
Just for good measure, I thought I'd look up a few more. Here they are:
* Warren Moon (1984-2000) -- 49,325 passing yards, 291 touchdowns, 80.9 passer rating,
* Drew Bledsoe (1993-2006) -- 44,611 passing yards, 251 touchdowns, 77.1 passer rating,
* Vinny Testaverde (1987-2007) -- 46,233 passing yards, 275 touchdowns, 75.0 passer rating,
* Jim Kelly (1986-96) -- 35,467 passing yards, 237 touchdowns, 84.4 passer rating,
* Kurt Warner (1998-2009) -- 32,344 passing yards, 208 touchdowns, 93.7 passer rating, and
* Drew Brees (2001-09) -- 30,646 passing yards, 202 touchdowns, 91.9 passer rating.
What about Manning?
Since he was the overall top pick of the 1998 draft, Manning has amassed 50,128 passing yards, 366 touchdowns and a 95.2 passer rating.
Statistically speaking, Manning, Favre and Marino are among the top five quarterbacks in nearly every career category.
Manning has only played 12 seasons. So I compared the career stats of his to Favre and Marino through their first 12 seasons.
Here are the results:
* Manning -- 50,128 passing yards, 366 touchdowns,
* Favre -- 42,285 passing yards, 314 touchdowns, and
* Marino -- 45,173 passing yards, 308 touchdowns.
Seems pretty cut and dry to me.
Many will point that Manning has a career record of 9-9 in the playoffs and again, has only won one Super Bowl while only reaching two.
Here's where I believe that argument ends. Marino never won a Super Bowl title and only made one trip. Does this mean he is not one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time?
A lot of people forget that there are 11 players on the field at all times. The quarterback alone is not the only player on the field.
These quarterbacks either had to have weapons surrounding them or had to make the players around them valued weapons.
Here's where this argument gets interesting, at least to me.
In his heyday, Marino had two unbelievable receivers, but also created weapons as he got older.
Favre? Same thing. He always had weapons, but as he got older, he created them.
Manning is in the same boat. He's had weapons, but this year, created new ones. Pierre Garcon? Austin Collie?
Montana had Jerry Rice, who was just elected to the NFL Hall of Fame and is the game's best wide receiver. But he had other weapons too and the 49ers had a vicious defense.
Bradshaw had Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Franco Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers also had the "Iron Curtain" defense.
Brady? I would argue that people have forgotten just how good the Patriots' defense was during the Super Bowl winning years. And, at least to me, he seems to be a product of a system. Not to take anything away from him, but two years ago when he lost a season to a knee injury, his backup Matt Cassel played lights out. Cassel left for Kansas City and wasn't the same this past season.
In contrast, if you take Manning out of the Colts' equation, they are not 14-2. They are not 10-6. They probably don't have a winning record.
Elway made his receivers better. He was that good and -- at least to me -- that seems hard to argue.
Ditto Unitas. He made his receivers better. He transcended the game. Before Unitas, football was more of a ground game.
Manning, like Unitas, has also transcended the game.
Manning is the play-caller. He is the Offensive Coordinator when he's on the field.
After looking at all these statistics, I went on a limb and decided to put together another list: My top 10 NFL quarterbacks.
By the way, if you don't agree, please feel free to say so. I'd love to hear more opinion. That's what makes this type of water cooler discussion so fun.
Is there a right answer? Probably not.
Here's my list:
* Peyton Manning,
* Brett Favre,
* John Elway,
* Dan Marino,
* Joe Montana,
* Johnny Unitas,
* Fran Tarkenton,
* Tom Brady,
* Kurt Warner, and
* Warren Moon.
Many of you may wonder, what about Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Sid Luckman and others who played early in professional football?
Quite simply, the stats don't add up. Baugh, arguably one of the greatest football players ever, didn't throw as much as quarterbacks do now.
The game has changed. It's hard to compare some of these statistics with statistics of yesteryear.
But again, that's what makes water cooler discussions like this one so interesting.
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