The argument of best quarterback to ever play in the NFL has seen some of the highest contenders since the early 2000s and into today. I’m talking about guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning. Not to mention the older guys like Joe Montana, and the new possibilities for best to ever play like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. What goes into naming the best quarterbacks of all time? For me, I think team success is important along with statistics, leadership, athletic ability, and the clutch factor. Here is the best quarterback ever to play in the NFL, plus those who just missed the thrown.
1. Tom Brady
Probably in the most anticlimactic way, yes, the best quarterback of all time is Tom Brady. I know, he is gifted with the best coach of all-time in the NFL, yearly high caliber defenses, and solid offensive lines. I understand the argument, and I think there will be a day where Tom Brady will meet his match for the best quarterback. But, for now, the crown belongs to Tom Brady. In 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, he has had 74,571 yards, 541 touchdowns, 179 interceptions, and a 63.8% completion rate in the 285 games he has played in the NFL. He has hardly missed any games in his NFL career due to injury. The only serious time he missed was in 2008 due to an ugly sack by Bernard Pollard that caused Brady to tear his ACL. Besides that, Brady has won six of nine super bowls, 4 of which he was super bowl MVP. He has also won three NFL league MVP awards and has many notable NFL records including most playoff passing records and best NFL career record. Brady has been the most entertaining quarterback to watch perform in the super bowl. His super bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 after being down 28-3 is a true display of being the greatest of all time. His clutch factor is unmatched amongst any other quarterback and his composure and drives for the game of football are inspiring and entertaining for anyone to watch. He has only seen devastating losses at the hands of Eli Manning and the Eagles miracle behind Nick Foles.
Tom Brady is one of the best pocket passers and has one of the most accurate arms ever in NFL history. He has the most dominant resume over any other quarterback and he is always a guarantee to make the playoffs and more. Brady has been saying for a while that he could play until he is 45 years old, and I seriously believe that. Brady ages as well as LeBron James in the NBA, seeming to gain more intelligence and bettering his craft in the game. Brady has never been on a losing team besides his rookie year where he only played in one game, and every team he has been on is scary for the opponents to play. The Patriots offense has always played a work smarter, not harder style play, and it has paid off for them every year. Now going into his 21st season, he begins his new journey with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Tom Brady could have a Cinderella ending to his long career in New England, he wants to prove his greatness without needing Bill Belichick. The next few seasons for Tom are vital for sealing off his status as the greatest of all time in the NFL. Tom Brady will have everything he did not have in New England and will lose everything he did have in New England. His receiving core in Tampa Bay is deeper than anything he has ever seen on the New England Patriots. While he did have Randy Moss, a prime Rob Gronkowski, and Wes Welker in his career, he will have two top ten receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and star tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and O.J Howard. Tom will have a phenomenal run game with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones Jr to diversify their offense, although, Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball most of the time. Furthermore, Tom Brady will not have the spectacular offensive line nor a top tier defense that he is used to helping him win games. This expedition to the Bucs will be the true test of the best quarterback of all-time.
2. Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning played 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts in the early and mid-2000s and played his last four seasons with the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning was known for his fun-loving southern attitude and great leadership on the field. In his career, Peyton Manning recorded 71,940 yards, 539 touchdowns, 251 interceptions, and a 68.3% completion rate. He won two super bowls in his career, one with the Colts and one with the Broncos, and won the NFL league MVP award five times in his career. Peyton Manning is seriously one of the smartest quarterbacks to play along with his accuracy and arm strength. More significantly, Peyton Manning should have the “Comeback Player of the year” award named after him. In 2011, Manning needed serious neck surgery twice to repair a herniated disc, which ended up affecting his right triceps so he was not able to throw properly. At the beginning of his rehabilitation, Manning could not out throw his average seven-year-old fan. Two seasons later with the Denver Broncos, he had the most yards in a season with 5,477 and the most touchdowns in a season with a blistering 55. Peyton Manning is a Mount Rushmore quarterback without a doubt in the history of the NFL. However, he did not have the team success, playoff dominance, or the durability that Tom Brady had during his career. Those things plus lack of career statistics against Brady will keep him away from Brady’s GOAT status.
3. Joe Montana
Joe Montana played 16 seasons in the NFL, 14 with the San Francisco 49ers, and 2 with the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana put in 40,551 career yards, 273 touchdowns, 139 interceptions, and a 63.2% completion rate in his NFL career. Joe Montana was a greek god of football in the 1980s, having a cannon of an arm while being extremely accurate with his passes. Montana could play with great defenses and arguably the best NFL player of all-time with Jerry Rice. However, Joe’s success was good before and during the appearance of Jerry Rice to his team. Joe Montana has a perfect 4-0 record in the super bowl and was always dominant in one of the biggest stages in professional sports. Montana owns the record for the best career passer rating in the super bowl with a rating of 127.8. With his four super bowl wins, he also has two NFL league MVPs to add to his resume. However, injuries plagued Montana in two of his 16 seasons in the NFL. Not to mention, he did not perform very well with the Kansas City Chiefs after he departed from the 49ers. While his team and postseason success were present during his career, his statistics are not as impressive as Brady’s or Manning’s nor was his durability and bounce back after injury in the league.
4. Dan Marino
Iconically known as the “exception quarterback” because of his ability to be talked about as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL without a super bowl ring, Dan Marino was a dangerous threat at the quarterback position. Marino had one of the strongest arms and quickest releases ever at quarterback in the NFL. During his 17 year career with the Miami Dolphins, Marino had 61,361 yards in his career, 420 touchdowns, 252 interceptions, and a 59.4% completion rate. In his MVP 1984 season, Marino had 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns, an NFL record in both categories at the time. While the statistics are in Marino’s favor as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, the team success was not there as much as the rest of the quarterbacks on the list, putting him at the #4 spot.
5. Aaron Rodgers
Trust me, I know Aaron Rodgers is a stretch to make this list of very accomplished quarterbacks, however, the argument is for the best quarterback and I believe Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. In his 15 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers has 46,946 yards, 364 touchdowns, 84 interceptions, and an NFL record 102.4 career passer rating. Rodgers is the only quarterback on this list to have under 100 interceptions which proves he is one of the most efficient quarterbacks. While he is the king of the throw-away ball, he is also king of the hail mary. Realistically, Aaron Rodgers has escaped pockets, scrambled away from defenders, and has made throws I fully believe the rest of the quarterbacks on this list could not do in their primes. Aaron Rodgers is a phenomenon of modern quarterbacks and has the best skill set of any quarterback to ever play. He has been tortured with bad coaching and management that has hurt his ability to succeed in the post-season. His post-season success is not there, nor is his consistent health, or career statistics, placing him at a very generous #5.
While Tom Brady will reign as the best quarterback of all-time in the current state of the NFL, the end of his career in Tampa Bay will be crucial to his outcome on the all-time best list at the quarterback position. Brady has one goal in mind in Tampa Bay: win another super bowl ring. Brady needs to prove his ability to carry a team without Belichick, and Belichick needs to prove his ability to coach a successful team without Tom Brady. Fans should watch for two things this season: Tom Brady’s success in Tampa Bay, and Cam Newton’s success in New England. If Belichick can have the same success with Cam Newton at starting quarterback, then his system will prove indestructible and making the quarterback for his system meaningless. If Brady can carry this Bucs team to a super bowl win, he will go down as the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL.
What if he does not gain success in Tampa Bay? The answer will be to look out for two guys: Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Patrick Mahomes is currently the highest-paid quarterback in history after signing a 10 year, 500 million dollar contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes is going into his fourth season in the NFL, and his last two seasons have been nothing short of pure success. In his sophomore season, he had an astounding 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. He won his first MVP and then his first super bowl the next season against the San Francisco 49ers. He is the youngest player to ever win the MVP and a super bowl at 24 years old. If Mahomes keeps this play up for as long as Brady had in his career, he will certainly make the argument for being the best quarterback of all-time. Furthermore, Lamar Jackson is going into his third year in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Lamar is the reigning MVP of the NFL and set an NFL single-season record for rushing yards with an unbelievable 1,206 rushing yards. He combined for over 4,000 total yards and 43 touchdowns in his sophomore year. This year, I think his Ravens have a serious shot at winning the super bowl after taking a shocking second-round exit to the Tennessee Titans. Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes could certainly be knocking at the door of being the best quarterback all-time if they continue to produce the numbers and highlights we already know they can perform.
- Who has the most passing yards in a season? Career?
- Who has the most touchdowns in a season? Career?
- Who has the most super bowl wins as a quarterback?
- Who has the best career record as a quarterback?
- Who has the best passer rating in a season? Career?
Peyton Manning has the most single season passing yards with 5,077 while Drew Brees came one yard short in 2011. Tom Brady is currently in third place in this category, also from the 2011 season. The most career passing yards is Drew Brees with over 77,000 career passing yards.
Peyton Manning has the most single season touchdowns from his outstanding performance in 2013 with the Denver Broncos, having 55 touchdowns that season. Drew Brees has the most career touchdowns with 547 touchdowns, followed by Tom Brady with 541 and Peyton Manning with 539.
Tom Brady has the most super bowl wins at the quarterback position with six. Brady has made it to nine super bowls and played in 41 playoff games, which is an NFL record. Tom Brady is the most dominant playoff quarterback to ever play.
Tom Brady has the best career record winning 219 games, while Brett Favre and Peyton Manning remain tied for second place with 186 career wins.
Aaron Rodgers holds both records in this category having the best season quarterback rating at a value of 122.5 and a career rating of 102.4. Rodgers is notorious for having great vision and ball protection on the field.