I based this list on several factors all on an equal level. Winning, performance in the clutch, skill, talent, stats, impact on the game, championships, star power, and legacy.
10. Steve Young (Tampa Bay Buccaneers/ San Francisco 49ers)
Young is one of the most influential QBs in the game. Until his time there weren’t many left-handed passers (there still aren’t), and there weren’t many quarterbacks who scrambled as much as he did. He is the all-time leader in rushing TDs by a QB, but he was also a fantastic passer, averaging about 30 total TDs a season from 1992 to 1998 and had a career 96.8 passer rating. And of course, he set a Super Bowl record six touchdowns in 1995. Just imagine if he wasn’t stuck in Montana’s shadow for so long.
9. Otto Graham (Cleveland Browns)
Before football was America’s number one pastime, Otto Graham was one of the most game’s most dominant players and as much of a winner as anyone who ever played the game. In his 10 years in the AAFC and the NFL, he won seven championships. His career 9.0 yards per attempt rate still is an NFL record, even in today’s era of high octane offense.
8. Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys)
Roger the Dodger was one of the greatest leaders the game has ever seen. He spent five years in the Navy after being drafted before finally joining America’s Team in 1969 at 27 years old. He is one of just two players to win the Heisman, NFL MVP, and Super Bowl MVP. His .750 winning percentage as starting QB is second all-time, as he led the Cowboys to so many impossible comeback victories and to two Super Bowl championships. His 83.4 passer rating was second all-time when he retired.
7. Brett Favre (Atlanta Falcons/ Green Bay Packers/ New York Jets/ Minnesota Vikings)
Favre was the ultimate gunslinger and the Iron Man of football. He holds countless records, including wins, touchdowns, yards, and completions. He played in every single game for over 18 years, a time spanning 297 straight starts, 321 including the postseason. The thing holding Favre back were his untimely turnovers, including in both the 2007 and 2009 NFC championship games. After leading the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI, he never won another championship. Still, he was one of the game’s greatest stars.
6. John Elway (Denver Broncos)
Elway gets a bad rep for losing three Super Bowls in the 1980s by lopsided scores (39-20 to the Giants, 42-10 to the Redskins, and 55-10 to the 49ers). But, he had zero help during those years, and carried the Broncos to victory for years practically by himself. Elway was one of the most complete quarterbacks the game ever saw. He was extremely accurate, powerful, athletic, and he was often unstoppable with the game on the line. At the end of his career, he finally got the help he needed in the form of Terrell Davis and finally became a champion. He won got his Super Bowl and won another in his last season, retiring as the winningest QB in NFL history.
5. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Brady is Montana reincarnated. Simply put, he is a winner and one of the most clutch quarterbacks in history. He has won games at a higher rate than any QB in history with a .775 winning percentage. Who would you rather give the ball to with the game on the line than him? Tied with John Elway for most Super Bowl starts and the all-time leader in postseason victories, he is a ring shy of possibly becoming the all-time greatest. What holds him back is the fact that the Patriots have not won the Super Bowl in the last 10 years, despite two further appearances and five AFC championship games. Still, he is place in the top five is well deserved.
4. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts / Denver Broncos)
The fallout from his recent devastating loss in Super Bowl XLVIII may not be truly measured for a while, but Peyton deserves his place in the top five. Yes, he may underwhelm a bit in the postseason, but the numbers he has put up in his entire career would have been unheard of 20 years ago. He’s very close to becoming only the second QB with 500 TD passes as well as surpassing Marino and Favre in several passing categories. Had he won few weeks ago, he could have been very close to #1. Let’s not forget to mention that HE, not Montana, not Marino, not Favre, not Brady, is the all-time leader in 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
3. Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins)
He may have never won a Super Bowl, but Marino revolutionized the game more than any player since Unitas. Because of him, the NFL changed into the pass heavy league it is today, as he put up numbers that were considered astronomical at the time. His 1984 season is still one of the greatest seasons by a QB, as no one threw for as many yards and touchdowns before, and none for another two and a half decades would break those numbers.
2. Johnny Unitas (Baltimore Colts / San Diego Chargers)
Johnny U was one of the most important figures in the history of the game. The most prolific passer of his time, he helped football surpass baseball as America’s new past-time. It all started in 1958, as he led Baltimore to the NFL Championship over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium. He was the first quarterback to win 100 games in his career, a testament to his longevity in a brutal game. The first true dominant quarterback in an era dominated by defenses and rushing attacks, Unitas set several NFL records that stood for decades.
1. Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers / Kansas City Chiefs)
Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback of all-time because he was everything you expect from the position. He had the arm, he was accurate, he had the intangibles, he was a great leader, and he never made mistakes (zero interceptions in the Super Bowl), But most of all, he was arguably the most clutch athlete who ever lived, putting up so many highlight comebacks like “The Catch” in the 1982 NFC Championship and the 92-yard drive in Super And can you really argue against 4-0 in the Super Bowl? How about three Super Bowl MVPs? Montana stands as the greatest.