As is their want ESPN, the same network that has fueled our sports passion while at the same time foisting upon us the moronic Who’s Now promotion, has compiled their list of the top ten National Football League quarterbacks of all time.


  1. Johnny Unitas
  2. Joe Montana
  3. Tom Brady
  4. Dan Marino
  5. Peyton Manning
  6. John Elway
  7. Terry Bradshaw
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Otto Graham
  10. Dan Fouts

Now there is little argument with the top three, Unitas, Montana, and Brady all have flawless resumes.  But the omission of John Elway and Brett Favre from the top five is borderline insane, excluding Steve Young from the top ten is just dumb, and putting Dan Fouts on this list ahead of Troy Aikman, Fran Tarkenton, or Roger Staubach is willful blindness.

I concede Marino put up staggering numbers as has Manning but the two have combined for two Super Bowl starts and only one championship.  Elway doubled up both of them in both categories, oh ye of the five Super Bowl starts, two titles, and one Super Bowl MVP.  Favre started two SB’s and won in 1997.  Favre and Elway sit at #1 and #2 respectively in career wins, #1 and #3 in passing yards and touchdowns, and both were amazingly durable. Yet there sit Marino & Manning ahead of the two winningest quarterbacks in NFL history.

The ESPN list doesn’t value games won highly enough.

As egregious as the Elway and Favre slights were even more glaring was the snub of Steve Young.  The guy only won three Super Bowl rings, one as a starter, amassed 32,000 yards passing in a fairly brief starting career, was a two-time NFL MVP, and has the highest career passer rating in NFL history.

Yet Dan Fouts makes the list despite never playing in a Super Bowl, compiling a fairly meager total of three playoff wins, and a nearly perfect 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio.  Fouts makes the list ahead of not only Young but Aikman, Tarkenton, and Staubach.  Aikman won three championships, Tarkenton played in three SB’s and threw for 47,000 career yards, and Staubach won two championships.  I repeat, Fouts only has three career playoff victories and threw nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.  Even Jim Kelly has a better td-int ration and career playoff winning percentagethan Fouts, all this despite losing four SB’s.

I can’t stress enough how important winning is, especially playoff wins, for evaluating the elite quarterbacks.  That’s reason number one why guys like Warren Moon and  Boomer Esiason, in spite of their lofty career numbers, will never be considered in this debate.  The reason Marino warrants legitimate consideration is his ungodly numbers, the likes of which had never been seen prior to his career.  Though admittedly I’d put Favre and Elway ahead of Marino in this question because of their stats and championship play.  Quarterback is the most influential and important position in team sports. 

Only an NHL goalie or international striker can dramatically affect the outcome of a sport as routinely as a quarterback. 

Taken as whole the quarterback’s career must contain two essentials to be considered for all-time greatness: big statistics and winning.  Absent either of these criteria you’re a blip on the radar screen compared to the meteoric streak blazed by the true immortals.  Fouts was a bleep, albeit a deserved Hall of Fame bleep, Elway, Favre, Tarkenton, Aikman and Young were truly eternal and everlasting in the football universe, and Montana, Unitas, and Brady are Gods, worthy of their own constellations.

Here is one empassioned fan’s list of the all-time greatest QB’s in NFL history…

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Johnny Unitas
  3. Tom Brady
  4. John Elway
  5. Brett Favre
  6. Dan Marino
  7. Steve Young
  8. Terry Bradshaw
  9. Peyton Manning
  10. Troy Aikman

  I had trouble excluding Roger Staubach and Tarkenton, truly, but I couldn’t supplant any of those I already cite.  Fouts should never enter this equation.

The really fascinating aspect of this discussion is what to do with Otto Graham.  The guy won multiple championships, had a 105-17-4 career record, and a career passer rating of 86.6, higher than Elway, Favre, Bradshaw, or Unitas.  But the former Cleveland Brown played in a more run oriented era.  I struggled with Graham more than anything but was he truly the functional equivalent of my top ten.  Maybe.  Any inclusion of Graham in this debate would draw no argument form me.


So who is on your top ten?

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