Best Quarterback Ever for Every NFL Team
It's no secret that the best teams in NFL history have the best quarterbacks. Franchises rise or fall based on who plays there.
Some teams have done so well at the position that they've had multiple signal-callers become Hall of Famers. Other franchises have had very few great quarterbacks, if any at all. But every team has a No. 1.
These are the best quarterbacks ever for all 32 NFL franchises.
Arizona/Phoenix/Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals: Jim Hart
Born: April 29, 1944 (Evanston, Illinois)
College: Southern Illinois
Drafted: Undrafted (1966)
NFL career: 19 seasons (1966-84)
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1966-83), Washington Football Team (1984)
Stats: 201 games, 34,665 passing yards, 209-247 TD-INT, 51.1 completion percentage
Career highlights: Four-time Pro Bowl (1974, 1975, 1976, 1977), NFL All-Pro (1974), NFC Offensive Player of the Year (1974)
Bottom Line: Jim Hart
Jim Hart went from going undrafted to playing almost two decades in the NFL. That being said, the fact that we had to consider an "eye test" argument for Kyler Murray as the Cardinals' best quarterback of all time after just one season speaks to the franchise's wretched history at the position.
Hart's glory years were three straight division titles in the mid-1970s — an 0-3 playoff run where Hart threw four touchdowns and eight interceptions.
He set the Pro Bowl record with five interceptions in 1977 and threw an unbelievable 247 interceptions in his career.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
Born: May 17, 1985 (Exton, Pennsylvania)
College: Boston College
Drafted: Round 1, No. 3 overall, Atlanta Falcons (2008)
NFL career: 13 seasons (2008-present)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons
Stats: 189 games, 54,186 passing yards, 321-147 TD-INT, 65.4 completion percentage
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (2016), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2016), NFL All-Pro (2016), four-time Pro Bowl (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016)
Bottom Line: Matt Ryan
For all of Matt Ryan's accomplishments, including winning NFL MVP in 2016, his career after 13 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons is defined by one game — blowing a 28-3 second-half lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. And that's despite Ryan throwing for over 1,000 yards just in the postseason that year.
Michael Vick fans will try and make an argument for him as the team's greatest quarterback, but it's not even close. Vick didn't make 100 starts for the Falcons and only played six seasons, one of which he sat out with an injury.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson
Born: Jan. 7, 1997 (Pompano Beach, Florida)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 32 overall, Baltimore Ravens (2018)
Teams: Baltimore Ravens (2018-present)
Stats: 31 games, 4,328 passing yards, 42-9 TD-INT, 63.7 completion percentage, 1,901 rushing yards, 12 rush TD
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (2019), NFL All-Pro (2019), Pro Bowl (2019)
Bottom Line: Lamar Jackson
How can we pick Lamar Jackson over Joe Flacco, who won a Super Bowl for the Ravens? And how can we pick Jackson after only 31 career games? It wasn't that difficult. Just believe what your eyes tell you.
Flacco's best years with the Ravens were with an all-time great defense leading the way. Jackson was named NFL MVP in 2019 in a unanimous vote in his first full season as a starter, and set the NFL record for a quarterback with 1,206 rushing yards.
Not bad for a guy who grew up idolizing Michael Vick.
Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly
Born: Feb. 14, 1960 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 14 overall, Buffalo Bills (1983)
NFL career: 11 seasons (1986-96)
Teams: Buffalo Bills
Stats: 160 games, 35,467 passing yards, 237-175 TD-INT, 60.1 completion percentage
Career highlights: Five-time Pro Bowl (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992), three-time NFL All-Pro (1990, 1991, 1992), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2002)
Bottom Line: Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly really, really did not want to play for the Buffalo Bills when they drafted him out of the University of Miami in 1983.
Kelly jumped at the opportunity to go elsewhere and joined the Houston Gamblers in the fledgling USFL, where he played his first two seasons and was named USFL MVP in 1984 before joining the Bills in 1986.
Kelly's career was defined by stunning success — four consecutive AFC championships — and even more stunning failures as the Bills lost in four consecutive Super Bowls.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton
Born: May 11, 1989 (Atlanta, Georgia)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall, Carolina Panthers (2011)
NFL career: 10 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Carolina Panthers (2011-19), New England Patriots (2020-present)
Stats: 125 games, 29,041 passing yards, 162-108 TD-INT, 59.6 completion percentage, 4,806 rushing yards, 58 TD
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (2015), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2015), NFL All-Pro (2015), three-time Pro Bowl (2011, 2013, 2015), NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (2011)
Bottom Line: Cam Newton
Cam Newton became the first player to win a national championship, Heisman Trophy and be the No. 1 overall pick in a single year when the Carolina Panthers selected him first in the 2011 NFL draft.
Newton paid off in a big way in almost a decade with the Panthers, leading them to an NFC championship and winning NFL MVP after the 2015 season. Newton, who signed a five-year, $103 million contract with the Panthers in 2015, has been battered by injuries.
He should move past Randall Cunningham into No. 2 on the NFL career list for rushing yards by a quarterback in 2020.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ken Anderson
Born: Feb. 15, 1949 (Batavia, Ill.)
Drafted: Round 3, No. 67 overall, Cincinnati Bengals (1971)
NFL career: 16 seasons (1971-86)
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 192 games, 32,838 passing yards, 197-160 TD-INT, 59.3 completion percentage, 2,220 rushing yards, 20 rush TD
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (1981), three-time NFL All-Pro (1974, 1975, 1981), four-time Pro Bowl (1975, 1976, 1981, 1982), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1981)
Bottom Line: Ken Anderson
Ken Anderson is on the short list of best players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was the first quarterback to thrive in a "modern" offense with Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, then the quarterbacks coach for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Anderson led the Bengals to a Super Bowl in 1982 following his best season, when he won NFL MVP in 1981. For some reason, Anderson's career has never garnered the respect it deserves.
The Bengals still haven't officially retired his number, even if they haven't let anyone wear it since he retired. They're not the Bungles for nothing.
Chicago Bears: Sid Luckman
Born: Nov. 21, 1916 (Brooklyn, New York)
Died: July 5, 1998 (Aventura, Florida)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 2 overall, Pittsburgh Pirates (1939)
NFL career: 12 seasons (1939-50)
Teams: Chicago Bears
Stats: 128 G, 14,686 passing yards, 137-132 TD-INT, 51.8 completion percentage
Career highlights: Four-time NFL champion (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946), NFL Most Valuable Player (1943), six-time NFL All-Pro (1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1947), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1965)
Bottom Line: Sid Luckman
Sid Luckman was a winner, something that Bears coach/owner George Halas saw headed into the 1939 NFL draft. Halas convinced the Pittsburgh Pirates (soon-to-be Steelers) to draft Luckman at No. 2 and trade him to the Bears, and the duo went on to win four NFL championships.
Luckman was sensational as a quarterback in his time simply because he threw effectively — or threw at all. Halas' idea to change offenses from having the quarterback serve as primarily a blocking back (the tailback threw the few passes) to the focal point of the offense is the basis for football as we know it today.
Cleveland Browns: Otto Graham
Born: Dec. 6, 1921 (Waukegan, Illinois)
Died: Dec. 17, 2003 (Sarasota, Florida)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 4 overall, Cleveland Browns (1944)
NFL career: 10 seasons (1946-55)
Teams: Cleveland Browns
Stats: 126 G, 23,584 passing yards, 174-135 TD-INT, 55.8 completion percentage, 882 rushing yards, 44 rush TD
Career highlights: Three-time NFL champion (1950, 1954, 1955), three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1951, 1953, 1955), five-time NFL All-Pro (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955), five-time Pro Bowl (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1965)
Bottom Line: Otto Graham
It's a testament to Otto Graham's greatness that almost 70 years have passed since he played his last game, and no one has even come close to knocking him off the throne as the Browns' greatest quarterback. Graham won three NFL titles in Cleveland and was named NFL MVP three times.
One little-known fact about Graham is that he was a first-team All-American basketball player at Northwestern and won a National Basketball League championship with the Rochester Royals, before the NBL became the NBA a few years later.
Dallas Cowboys: Troy Aikman
Born: Nov. 21, 1966 (West Covina, California)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall, Dallas Cowboys (1989)
NFL career: 12 seasons (1989-2000)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 165 games, 32,942 G, 165-141 TD-INT, 61.5 completion percentage, 1,016 rushing yards, 9 rush TD
Career highlights: Three-time Super Bowl champion (1993, 1994, 1996), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1993), six-time Pro Bowl (1991, 1992, 1993,1994, 1995, 1996), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2006)
Bottom Line: Troy Aikman
Troy Aikman is one of the toughest quarterbacks of all time but saw his career cut short because of concussions — his career is a big reason the NFL goes through such pains to protect quarterbacks today.
While there's a case to be made for Roger Staubach as the Cowboys' greatest signal-caller, we give the nod to Aikman because of the sheer amount of audacity it took to be a leader for one of the wildest collections of NFL talent ever assembled.
The fact that Aikman was a first-ballot Hall of Famer speaks to the respect he had within the game.
Denver Broncos: John Elway
Born: June 28, 1960 (Port Angeles, Washington)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall, Baltimore Colts (1983)
NFL Career: 16 seasons (1983-98)
Teams: Denver Broncos
Stats: 234 games, 51,475 passing yards, 300-226 TD-INT, 56.9 completion percentage, 3,407 rushing yards, 33 rush TD
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (1998, 1999), NFL Most Valuable Player (1987), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1999), nine-time Pro Bowl (1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998), NFL All-Pro (1987, 1993, 1996), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2004)
Bottom Line: John Elway
John Elway's career was like watching two different, amazing players. Elway, who muscled the Colts into trading him away after picking him No. 1 in 1983, was a dual-threat quarterback for the first part of his career, when he led the Broncos to three AFC titles (and three Super Bowl losses).
On the back nine of his career, Elways was something else entirely — an elder statesmen and drop-back passer who won the first two Super Bowls in Broncos' history in his final two seasons and had the highlight play of his career in one of those games — his famous "helicopter" run to upset the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.
Detroit Lions: Bobby Layne
Born: Dec. 19, 1926 (Santa Anna, Texas)
Died: Dec. 1, 1986 (Lubbock, Texas)
Drafted: No. 3 overall, Chicago Bears (1948)
NFL career: 15 seasons (1948-1962)
Teams: Chicago Bears (1948), New York Bulldogs (1949), Detroit Lions (1950-58), Pittsburgh Steelers (1958-62)
Stats: 175 games, 26,728 passing yards, 196-243 TD-INT, 49.8 completion percentage, 2,451 rushing yards, 25 rush TD
Career highlights: Three-time NFL champion (1952, 1953, 1957), six-time Pro Bowl (1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1959), seven-time NFL All-Pro (1952, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1959), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1967)
Bottom Line: Bobby Layne
Want to know a weird fact about quarterbacks for the Detroit Lions? They only have two that we considered for this spot — Bobby Layne and Matthew Stafford — and they both went to the same high school, Highland Park, in the suburbs north of Dallas. Not only that, but the two spent their childhoods growing up on the same street.
That's just part of the mythos surrounding Layne, a bigger-than-life Texan who famously cursed the Lions after he led them to three championships and was traded to the Steelers, saying they "wouldn't win for 50 years."
The famous quote attributed to Mickey Mantle — "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I woulda taken better care of myself" — was actually from Layne, who died of a massive heart attack in 1986, at just 59 years old.
Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre
Born: Oct. 10, 1969 (Gulfport, Mississippi)
College: Southern Mississippi
Drafted: Round 2, No. 33 overall, Atlanta Falcons (1991)
NFL career: 20 seasons(1991-2010)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (1992-2007), New York Jets (2008), Minnesota Vikings (2009-10)
Stats: 302 games, 71,838 passing yards, 508-336 TD-INT, 62.0 completion percentage, 1,844 rushing yards, 14 rush TD
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1996), three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1995, 1996, 1997), six-time NFL All-Pro (1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2007), 11-time Pro Bowl (1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2016)
Bottom Line: Brett Favre
Jerry Glanville has had a long and decorated coaching career that stretches back to the late 1960s. For all of that hard work, that career is defined by one move as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons — trading Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers following Favre's rookie season.
Favre, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2016, still holds the NFL records for most career starts and most pass attempts. He's also the only player in NFL history to win three consecutive league MVP awards and led the Packers to a Super Bowl win in 1996.
Mr. Glanville, the good people of Green Bay salute you.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson
Born: Sept. 14, 1995 (Gainesville, Georgia)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 12 overall, Houston Texans (2017)
NFL career: 4 seasons (2017-present)
Teams: Houston Texans
Stats: 38 games, 9,716 passing yards, 71-29 TD-INT, 66.8 completion percentage, 1,233 rushing yards, 14 rush TD
Career highlights: Two-time Pro Bowl (2018, 2019), PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team (2017)
Bottom Line: Deshaun Watson
Naming Deshaun Watson speaks more to how bad the quarterbacks were preceding him on the Houston Texans' roster in the franchise's first 20 years more than what Watson has done as a pro.
That's not throwing shade at Watson, who is already established as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks and made it to the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons.
If he avoids injury and the Texans go against type and actually try and build a good team around him, it's not far-fetched to think Watson can win a Super Bowl before his career is over.
Indianapolis/Balttimore Colts: Peyton Manning
Born: March 24, 1976 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall, Indianapolis Colts (1998)
NFL career: 18 seasons (1998-2015)
Teams: Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011), Denver Broncos (2012-15)
Stats: 266 games, 71,940 passing yards, 539-251 TD-INT, 65.3 completion percentage
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (2007, 2016), five-time NFL Most Valuable Player (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2007), 10-time NFL All-Pro (1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013), 14-time Pro Bowl (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014)
Bottom Line: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but if you think he wins the argument as the Colts' greatest quarterback hands-down, you'd be wrong. Even with their careers spread apart by five decades, Johnny Unitas wins the argument as the best runner-up on this list.
But Manning was too good for too long and his five NFL MVP awards and his two Super Bowl titles give him the edge. And if we're talking about feelings (which is OK), it's hard to make an argument that Manning isn't one of the most popular, beloved NFL players of all time.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Born: Sept. 17, 1995 (Tyler, Texas)
College: Texas Tech
Drafted: Round 1, No. 10 overall, Kansas City Chiefs (2017)
NFL career: 4 seasons (2017-present)
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs
Stats: 31 games, 9,412 passing yards, 76-18 TD-INT, 65.9 completion percentage, 560 rushing yards, 4 rush TD
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2020), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2020), NFL Most Valuable Player (2018), Pro Bowl (2018, 2019), NFL All-Pro (2018)
Bottom Line: Patrick Mahomes
You say Len Dawson should be in this spot, we say just believe what your eyes tell you. In his first two seasons as a starter for the Chiefs, Mahomes won a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, NFL MVP and was named to two Pro Bowls.
And unlike many players on this list, Mahomes' NFL MVP came in the season before he won the Super Bowl, the same year the Chiefs narrowly lost to the Patriots in the AFC title game.
After winning the 2020 Super Bowl, Mahomes signed a 10-year, $477 million contract extension with the Chiefs — the richest contract in NFL history.
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers: Dan Fouts
Born: June 10, 1951 (San Francisco, California)
Drafted: Round 3, No. 64 overall, San Diego Chargers (1973)
NFL career: 15 seasons (1973-87)
Teams: San Diego Chargers
Stats: 181 games, 43,040 passing yards, 254-242 TD-INT, 58.8 completion percentage
Career highlights: Four-time NFL All-Pro (1979, 1980, 1982, 1985), six-time Pro Bowl (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1982), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1993)
Bottom Line: Dan Fouts
Just like Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, Dan Fouts saw his career fortunes change when the Chargers hired Bill Walsh as their offensive coordinator early in his career. Just like with Anderson, Walsh put the "West Coast Offense" into play for Fouts, and NFL records began to fall.
In one of the greater, lesser-known cases of NFL sliding doors, Fouts was in a contract dispute with the Chargers in 1983, and they'd worked out a deal to trade him to the Colts in exchange for the rights to No. 1 overall pick John Elway.
Fouts, rightfully terrified of moving to Baltimore, acquiesced to the Chargers' contract demands, and Elway was shipped to the Broncos.
Los Angeles/St. Louis/Cleveland Rams: Kurt Warner
Born: June 22, 1971 (Burlington, Iowa)
College: Northern Iowa
Drafted: Undrafted (1994)
NFL career: 11 seasons (1998-2009)
Teams: St. Louis Rams (1998-2003), New York Giants (2004), Arizona Cardinals (2005-09)
Stats: 124 games, 32,344 passing yards, 208-128 TD-INT, 65.5 completion percentage
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2000), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2000), two-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1999, 2001), two-time NFL All-Pro (1999, 2001), four-time Pro Bowl (1999, 2000, 2001, 2008), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2017)
Bottom Line: Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner's career represents one of the greatest underdog success stories. Not just in the history of the NFL, but in all of sports.
Undrafted out of FCS Northern Iowa (then Division I-AA), Warner started just one year in college and made his bones in the Arena Football League while stocking shelves in a grocery store at night. His success there led him to NFL Europe, then to the Rams.
With the Rams, he won two NFL MVP awards and led the team to one Super Bowl win and another Super Bowl, this time losing to Tom Brady and the Patriots in Brady's first of six Super Bowl wins. Not bad for an undrafted, former grocery store worker.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Brunell
Born: Sept. 17, 1970 (Los Angeles, California)
Drafted: Round 5, No. 118 overall, Green Bay Packers (1993)
NFL career: 19 seasons (1993-2011)
Teams: Green Bay Packers (1993-94), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995-2003), Washington Redskins (2004-07), New Orleans Saints (2008-09), New York Jets (2010-11)
Stats: 193 games, 32,072 passing yards, 184-108 TD-INT, 59.5 completion percentage, 2,421 rushing yards, 15 rush TD
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2010), three-time Pro Bowl (1996, 1997, 1999)
Bottom Line: Mark Brunell
Mark Brunell is one of two University of Washington quarterbacks to make this list, alongside Warren Moon, but Brunell's placement here is a little more ignominious.
Which isn't really Brunell's fault, because he was really, really good with the Jacksonville Jaguars, joining the franchise from their very first game in 1995 and leading them to two AFC championship games.
That sort of early success didn't set the franchise up to be good long-term, even though the Jaguars have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round since 2003, including two in the last decade.
Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino
Born: Sept. 15, 1961 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 27 overall, Miami Dolphins (1983)
NFL career: 17 seasons (1983-99)
Teams: Miami Dolphins
Stats: 242 games, 61,361 passing yards, 420-252 TD-INT, 59.4 completion percentage
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (1994), eight-time NFL All-Pro (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1995), nine-time Pro Bowl (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1994), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2005)
Bottom Line: Dan Marino
Dan Marino had perhaps the greatest throwing arm in NFL history (sorry, kids) and retired with more than 40 NFL single-season and career passing records.
One sports debate you can start — and win — with your friends based around Marino is by posing the question of who is the greatest player never to win a Super Bowl.
In a weird aside, Oliver Stone's 1999 pro football opus about the fictional Miami Sharks, "Any Given Sunday" had a character largely based on Marino, played by Dennis Quaid, and Marino allowed Stone to use his house as a stand-in for Quaid's character's house in the film.
Minnesota Vikings: Fran Tarkenton
Born: Feb. 3, 1940 (Richmond, Virginia)
Drafted: Round 3, No. 29 overall, Minnesota Vikings (1961)
NFL career: 18 seasons (1961-78)
Teams: Minnesota Vikings (1961-66, 1972-78), New York Giants (1967-71)
Stats: 246 games, 47,003 passing yards, 342-266 TD-INT, 57.2 completion percentage, 3,674 rushing yards, 32 rush TD
Career highlights: NFL Most Valuable Player (1975), two-time NFL All-Pro (1973, 1975), Nine-time Pro Bowl (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1976), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1986)
Bottom Line: Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton had a bizarre career arc. He played his first six seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, was traded to the New York Giants and played five seasons there, then was traded back to the Vikings for his final seven seasons.
Tarkenton was a dual-threat quarterback before we even really knew what that was, won the NFL MVP in 1975, his best season, and led the Vikings to three NFC championships.
His three Super Bowl losses all came in his second stint with the team.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Born: Aug. 3, 1977 (San Mateo, California)
Drafted: Round 6, No. 199 overall, New England Patriots (2000)
NFL career: 21 seasons (2000-present)
Teams: New England Patriots (2000-19), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-present)
Stats: 285 games, 74,571 passing yards, 541-179 TD-INT, 63.8 completion percentage
Career highlights: Six-time Super Bowl champion (2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017, 2019), three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (2007, 2010, 2017), four-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2002, 2004, 2015, 2017), five-time NFL All-Pro (2005, 2007, 2010, 2016, 2017), 14-time Pro Bowl (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Bottom Line: Tom Brady
From being overlooked and, quite frankly, disrespected at the University of Michigan, he was a throwaway sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL draft. Tom Brady used the slight as motivation and rose to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
He has started more Super Bowls than any quarterback in NFL history — nine — and his six Super Bowl wins are the most by any player in NFL history. In 2019, at 41 years old, Brady also became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.
After 20 seasons with the Patriots, Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2019 season.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Born: Jan. 15, 1979 (Dallas, Texas)
Drafted: Round 2, No. 32 overall, San Diego Chargers (2001)
NFL career: 20 seasons (2001-present)
Teams: San Diego Chargers (2001-05), New Orleans Saints (2006-present)
Stats: 275 games, 77,416 passing yards, 547-237 TD-INT, 67.8 completion percentage
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2010), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2010), five-time NFL All-Pro (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2018) 13-time Pro Bowl (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
Bottom Line: Drew Brees
Early on, Drew Brees got the picture that coaches thought he couldn't be a top-level quarterback — first when he didn't receive any Division I offers in his home state of Texas as a high school senior.
It was further reinforced when the Chargers decided to cut bait with Brees after a shoulder injury in his fifth NFL season. Brees signed with the Saints, led them to their first and only Super Bowl win in 2010 and is now the NFL's career leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards and completions.
Brees, headed into his 20th NFL season in 2020, may put those records out of reach in the next few years.
New York Giants: Eli Manning
Born: Jan. 3, 1981 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall, San Diego Chargers (2004)
NFL career: 16 seasons (2004-19)
Teams: New York Giants
Stats: 236 games, 57,023 passing yards, 366-244 TD-INT, 60.3 completion percentage
Career highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (2008, 2012), two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (2008, 2012), Four-time Pro Bowl (2008, 2011, 2012, 2015)
Bottom Line: Eli Manning
The hot takes and debates have already begun on whether or not Eli Manning belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame following his retirement in 2019. And that's understandable. He had some pretty awful years, especially later in his career.
But you can't shake off what he did over the first decade, winning two Super Bowls, including the greatest Super Bowl upset of all time in 2008 when the Giants took down the unbeaten New England Patriots.
New York Jets: Joe Namath
Born: May 31, 1943 (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 12 overall, St. Louis Cardinals (1965)
NFL career: 13 seasons (1965-77)
Teams: New York Jets (1965-76), Los Angeles Rams (1977)
Stats: 140 games, 27,663 passing yards, 173-220 TD-INT, 50.1 completion percentage
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1969), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1969), Pro Bowl (1972), NFL All-Pro (1972), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1974) Pro Football Hall of Fame (1985)
Bottom Line: Joe Namath
One of the most famous football players of all time, Joe Namath guaranteed a win for his New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl, and his delivery on that promise ushered in the era of the NFL as we know it today after the AFL and NFL merged.
Namath had his best seasons in the AFL, winning two league MVP awards in his first five seasons and being named to the All-AFL team four times.
Namath's legacy extends beyond the game he played. He's the prototype for the sports anti-hero. Truly the first of his kind.
Las Vegas/Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders: Ken Stabler
Born: Dec. 25, 1945 (Foley, Alabama)
Died: July 8, 2015 (Gulfport, Mississippi)
Drafted: Round 2, No. 52 overall, Oakland Raiders (1968)
NFL career: 17 seasons (1968-84)
Teams: Oakland Raiders (1968-79), Houston Oilers (1980-81), New Orleans Saints (1982-84)
Stats: 184 games, 27,938 passing yards, 194-222 TD-INT, 59.8 completion percentage
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1977), NFL Most Valuable Player (1974), two-time NFL All-Pro (1974, 1976), four-time Pro Bowl (1973, 1974, 1976, 1977), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2016)
Bottom Line: Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler began to lay the foundation for his bad-boy image during his days at the University of Alabama, when Bear Bryant kicked him off the team for partying too much but let him back on the team in time to defeat Auburn in one of the best games in Iron Bowl history.
Stabler's time in the NFL was just as exciting, with an NFL MVP award in 1974 and a Super Bowl win in 1977 for the Raiders.
Stabler died in 2015 of colon cancer. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously in 2016.
Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb
Born: Nov. 25, 1976 (Chicago, Illinois)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 2 overall, Philadelphia Eagles (1999)
NFL career: 13 seasons (1999-2011)
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2009), Washington Redskins (2010), Minnesota Vikings (2011)
Stats: 167 games, 37,276 passing yards, 234-117 TD-INT, 59.0 completion percentage, 3,459 rushing yards, 29 rush TD
Career highlights: Six-time Pro Bowl (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009)
Bottom Line: Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb's entire career, unfortunately, was somewhat defined by his performance in his lone Super Bowl appearance against the New England Patriots in 2004, when he threw three interceptions, including two in New England territory and one inside the 20-yard line.
That's unfortunate because, for most of his time with the Eagles, McNabb was one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks and led the league in quarterback wins from 2000 to 2004, and had the fourth-most wins in his 13-year career behind just Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
San Francisco 49ers: Joe Montana
Born: June 11, 1956 (New Eagle, Pennsylvania)
College: Notre Dame
Drafted: Round 3, No. 82 overall, San Francisco 49ers (1979)
NFL career: 16 seasons (1979-94)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers (1979-92), Kansas City Chiefs (1993-94)
Stats: 192 games, 40,551 passing yards, 273-139 TD-INT, 63.2 completion percentage, 1,676 rushing yards, 20 rush TD
Career highlights: Four-time Super Bowl champion (1982, 1985, 1989, 1990), three-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1982, 1985, 1990), two-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1989, 1990), eight-time Pro Bowl (1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993), six-time NFL All-Pro (1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2000)
Bottom Line: Joe Montana
The title of NFL's greatest quarterback of all time was firmly entrenched with Joe Montana until Tom Brady wrenched it away sometime in the 2010s. But Montana was as good as they get.
He didn't have great size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) or speed or arm strength. All he did was win.
One of three quarterbacks on this list who owe a large part of their success to legendary coach Bill Walsh, Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins and also had the benefit of playing with Jerry Rice, hands-down the greatest wide receiver in NFL history.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
Born: Nov. 29, 1988 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Drafted: Round 3, No. 75 overall, Seattle Seahawks (2012)
NFL career: 9 seasons (2012-present)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks
Stats: 128 games, 29,734 passing yards, 227-68 TD-INT, 64.5 completion percentage, 3,993 rushing yards, 19 rush TD
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2014), seven-time Pro Bowl (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019), NFL All-Pro (2019), NFL Rookie of the Year (2012)
Bottom Line: Russell Wilson
Headed into the 2020 season, Russell Wilson appears to be about halfway through what looks like, for all intents and purposes, a Hall of Fame career.
In eight seasons, Wilson has been named to the Pro Bowl seven times and holds the record for most wins by any quarterback in NFL history through that same amount of time — including a Super Bowl win in 2014 and missing a Super Bowl win by the narrowest of margins in 2015.
Wilson cashed in before the 2019 season, signing a four-year, $140 million contract extension with Seattle.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Terry Bradshaw
Born: Sept. 12, 1948 (Shreveport, Louisiana)
College: Louisiana Tech
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970)
NFL career: 14 seasons (1970-83)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 168 games, 27,989 passing yards, 212-210 TD-INT, 51.9 completion percentage, 2,257 rushing yards, 32 rush TD
Career highlights: Four-time Super Bowl champion (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1979, 1980), NFL Most Valuable Player (1978), two-time NFL All-Pro (1978, 1979), Pro Bowl (1975, 1978, 1979), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1989)
Bottom Line: Terry Bradshaw
One of the greatest winners in NFL history, Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories and was always at his best in the postseason.
Critics of Bradshaw say that he played on teams with stacked defenses so he shouldn't be considered among the best quarterbacks of all time. Those people are haters. Bradshaw was an underrated running quarterback, and of the seven times he passed for at least 300 yards in a game, three of those came in the postseason.
And he won four Super Bowls. What else do you need?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Williams
Born: Aug. 9, 1955 (Zachary, Louisiana)
College: Grambling State
Drafted: Round 1, No. 17 overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1978)
NFL career: 9 seasons (1978-82, 1986-89)
Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1978-82), Washington Redskins (1986-89)
Stats: 88 games, 16,998 passing yards, 100-93 TD-INT, 49.5 completion percentage, 884 rushing yards, 15 rush TD
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (1988), Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (1988), NFL All-Rookie Team (1978)
Bottom Line: Doug Williams
Doug Williams is best known for his short stint with the Washington Football Team (formerly the Redskins) at the end of his career, when he led the franchise to a Super Bowl win in 1988 and was named Super Bowl MVP, becoming the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
But Williams also was the first Black quarterback drafted in the first round and turned around a moribund franchise in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first five NFL seasons, with three playoff appearances.
He bounced to the upstart USFL after a contract dispute with Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse.
Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers: Warren Moon
Born: Nov. 18, 1956 (Los Angeles, California)
Drafted: Undrafted (1978)
Teams: Houston Oilers (1984-93), Minnesota Vikings (1994-96), Seattle Seahawks (1997-98), Kansas City Chiefs (1999-2000)
Stats: 208 games, 49,325 passing yards, 291-233 TD-INT, 58.4 completion percentage, 1,736 rushing yards, 22 rush TD
Career highlights: Nine-time Pro Bowl (1988-95, 1997), NFL All-Pro (1990), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1990), Pro Football Hall of Fame (2006)
Bottom Line: Warren Moon
Warren Moon was the first Black quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But he wasn't even drafted out of the University of Washington, despite being the Rose Bowl MVP and one of the best quarterbacks in the nation as a senior. It was a stunning indictment of long-held, racist ideas held by NFL front offices and head coaches in regards to Black quarterbacks.
Moon spent his first six years as a pro in the CFL, leading the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Grey Cup championships. When he got the NFL with the Houston Oilers in 1984, he ripped up those defenses as well.
Washington Football Team/Redskins: Sammy Baugh
Born: March 17, 1914 (Temple, Texas)
Died: Dec. 17, 2008 (Rotan, Texas)
Drafted: Round 1, No. 6 overall, Washington Redskins (1937)
NFL career: 16 seasons (1937-52)
Teams: Washington Redskins (1937-52)
Stats: 167 games, 21,886 passing yards, 187-203 TD-INT, 56.5 completion percentage
Career highlights: NFL champion (1937, 1942), NFL Player of the Year (1947, 1948), nine-time NFL All-Pro (1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1948), Pro Bowl (1951), Pro Football Hall of Fame (1963)
Bottom Line: Sammy Baugh
Sammy Baugh's first love wasn't football. He desperately wanted to play baseball, but fate had other ideas.
The native Texan was originally set to go play baseball at Washington State, but hurt his knee on a slide the summer before college, and his scholarship disappeared. Then, after becoming a two-sport star at TCU, he went to play in the minor leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals but was benched behind future major league shortstop Marty Marion.
Baugh wasn't just Washington's best quarterback. He was maybe their best player of all time. In 1943, Baugh led the NFL in passing, punting and interceptions while playing defensive back.