On Sunday afternoons, football fans have spent countless hours debating the relative merits of the game’s greatest quarterbacks in sports bars. Although many great quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Drew Bress, are included on everyone’s lists, the debate usually becomes heated over where these players rank.
It’s difficult to compare QBs like Terry Bradshaw or Joe Namath, who won Super Bowls but weren’t all that impressive in their careers, to players like Dan Fouts or Jim Kelly, who have excellent stats but no titles to show for it. Try not to get too upset when you see who has been named the best quarterback in NFL history after looking at these rankings.
#15 Sid Luckman
Given that he played in the 1940s and that most people today haven’t seen him play, Sid Luckman is one of the hardest names to evaluate. But it’s pretty difficult to ignore someone who has won four championships in as many seasons for the Chicago Bears and is one of the position’s most recognizable players.
In addition, Luckman established the modern T-formation quarterback position, making him a game innovator. When he retired in 1950, he was ranked first in passing touchdown percentage (7.9%) and second in yards per completion (16.2).
#14 Otto Graham
Before the AAFC-NFL merger, Otto Graham was another player who frequently gets lost in the mists of time. Consider this, though: While Graham was a Cleveland Brown, he made it to the league championship game each and every year. That translates to winning 7 of the 10 championships after 4 AAFC championship games and 6 NFL championship games.
Graham was also the offensive’s main motivator. One of the best quarterbacks of his era, he twice led the league in passing yards and three times in completion percentage.
#13 Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton was possibly the first quarterback who could both pass and rush. Despite not being able to lead the Vikings to a championship, Tarkenton accomplished almost everything else during his career.
At the time of his retirement in 1978, the nine-time Pro Bowler had the most completions, passing yards, and touchdowns. He also won an MVP award. He continues to rank sixth among quarterbacks all-time in rushing yards, nearly 50 years after his career began.
#12 Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is strikingly similar to the Brett Favre of Green Bay, the legend he replaced. With nine Pro Bowl appearances, three MVP awards, and a Super Bowl victory under his belt, Rodgers is arguably the league’s most talented quarterback at the moment.
He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down at the age of 37. Although there was a lot of speculation before the 2021 season about Rodgers leaving Lambeau Field, Rodgers came back and has since guided the Packers to their greatest dominance.
#11 Bart Starr
Who would have imagined a Green Bay player selected in the 17th round would end up in the Hall of Fame? The first quarterback to win five championships, including the first two Super Bowls and three of them prior to the advent of the Super Bowl, is Bart Starr.
His statistics aren’t particularly impressive, but that was more a function of the times. His five championships, four Pro Bowl appearances, and league MVP award speak volumes about his legacy.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 quarterbacks now that we’ve already discussed 20 outstanding quarterbacks.
#10 Steve Young
Before they became commonplace shortly after his retirement, Steve Young may have been the most notable quarterback with a dual threat. Both Young’s arm and his feet were equally lethal weapons. He had the highest passer rating ever at the time he put his cleats away in 1999, but that record has since been surpassed. His rating was 96.8.
Young won a Super Bowl, two league MVP awards, and seven Pro Bowl appearances before escaping Joe Montana’s shadow in San Francisco. Additionally, he was able to maintain the extraordinary bond that Joe Montana had with the late wide receiver Jerry Rice.
#9 Troy Aikman
Determining which of the Dallas quarterbacks has been the most effective can be difficult while Dak Prescott is currently establishing himself. Although Aikman’s statistics were good enough to get him to six Pro Bowls, it is his winning history that propels him to the top of this list.
As a member of the Dallas dynasty in the early 1990s, Aikman won three Super Bowls in four years. Prior to Peyton Manning’s 115 regular season victories in the 2000s, his 90 victories during the 1990s were the most during a single decade.
#8 Dan Marino
Perhaps the first superstar quarterback was Dan Marino. The biggest knock against him is that throughout his entire 17-year career with the Miami Dolphins, he was never a Super Bowl champion.
His list of achievements is astounding. He held the career record for passing yards, touchdowns, and completions when he left the NFL in 1999. Prior to Drew Brees’ 2008 season, he was the only quarterback with a 5,000-yard season under his belt.
#7 Drew Brees
After retiring after the 2020 season, Drew Brees’ career stats are incredibly underrated. He was the first player to surpass 80,000 yards, but he was always overshadowed by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, two elite quarterbacks.
Brees earned a championship ring while playing for the New Orleans Saints. The San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers must have regretted not keeping Brees while Rivers was chosen to stay and had a commendable career. He is one of the most accurate quarterbacks to have ever played the game thanks to his 67.7% completion percentage, which is the best among inactive players.
#6 Brett Favre
The Packers dominated for the majority of the 1990s thanks in large part to Brett Favre. Prior to Peyton Manning surpassing it, his three MVPs established the standard. Being the first quarterback to throw 500 touchdown passes and complete more than 70,000 yards of passing in a career is also difficult to dispute.
Favre was arguably the most reliable and accurate quarterback of all time because he could always find a window to shoot through. He probably would have ranked in the top three if he had won more than one championship while playing for Green Bay.
#5 Johnny Unitas
Prior to the NFL becoming a scheduled viewing event, Johnny Unitas was a dominant player. When he put his cleats away in 1974, he was regarded as the greatest to have done it. He was another multi-year MVP.
He was the first to throw for more than 40,000 yards, win three MVP awards while playing for the Baltimore Colts, and hold the record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (47) before Drew Brees overtook him.
#4 Peyton Manning
One of the uncommon instances of a first-round pick who ultimately added that value is Peyton Manning. During his time in the league, Manning won the Super Bowl twice, was named the league’s MVP five times, and set a number of records.
It’s even more impressive that Manning’s final few seasons with the Denver Broncos were also incredibly noteworthy given that he spent the majority of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, where he was truly dominant. When he retired, he had the most career passing yards and touchdown passes of all time, though both records have since been surpassed.
#3 John Elway
John Elway started his career with legendarily high expectations and didn’t let them down. He is regarded as one of the greatest come-from-behind players of all time. Elway won an MVP and 9 Pro Bowls despite a longstanding reputation for failing to win championships in the 1980s and the majority of the 1990s.
But the thing that will be most recalled about him is how he passed away. Before riding off into the sunset, the storied quarterback led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in his final two seasons. For someone who is probably relieved he didn’t end up playing baseball for the New York Yankees, it was a real fairytale ending.
Want to read some more fun stuff? Read about The All-Time Top NFL Running Backs, Ranked.
#2 Joe Montana
When it came to competitiveness in the 1980s, Joe Montana was a cut above the rest. Even though he wasn’t the most talented player on the field, he simply prevailed. He was named the MVP in three of the big games and received four Super Bowl rings.
He was the quarterback with the most victories when he retired. Eight Pro Bowl selections during the time when they still meant something, along with two MVP awards, were made during his time with the 49ers. partnered with Bill Walsh to create the West Coast offense. His career passer rating at the time of his retirement was 92.3, second only to his successor Steve Young.
#1 Tom Brady
There isn’t much more that can be said about Tom Brady. His time in New England could be divided into three distinct periods, each of which could produce a Hall of Fame resume. Not to mention his time spent playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In case you weren’t aware, he holds the record for both most Super Bowl appearances (10) and wins (7). He has also won the league MVP award three times. After declaring his “un-retirement” in March 2022 and stating that he had “unfinished business,” the ageless wonder recently passed the 600-touchdown milestone and may aim to reach 700. He is The GOAT, whether you like him or not. Simply put.