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Who's the Greatest Quarterback of All Time

Updated on October 1, 2011
Montana was one of the greats through the 80's
Montana was one of the greats through the 80's

Who's the Greatest QB of All Time?

The long debated topic around the league and NFL fans for years. Who's the best signal caller of all time? My answer? It's impossible to say for certain. There are way too many variables involved. Some of the names that have been mentioned are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, John Elway, and many others. Each quarterback has his own unique skill set and many times they flourish because of the system they are in. Let's look at an example.

Kurt Warner came from bagging groceries to lead the St Louis Rams to two Super Bowls, one of which he was successful in winning. They ran a spread offense with a hybrid running back and fast receivers, and were dubbed the "Fastest Show on Turf". Warner then took his talents to New York, where he was an average QB at best with the Giants. He then went to the Cardinals, where they implemented the same spread type offense he ran with the Rams and he was able to take them to the Super Bowl for the first time in Franchise history. Kurt Warner is now retired and will most likely be a first ballot hall of famer. Do you think he would get this recognition if he played in the Giants scheme his entire career? Probably not.

I've discussed Tom Brady numerous times about being a system quarterback that would've never been in this conversation if he was drafted anywhere else in the league. Belichick is a genius and knows how to get the most out of his players, and has made Brady one of the best ever. Being drafted late to a good team isn't always a bad thing, you just have to wait for your opportunity. Look at Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith. I'm not saying Smith is anywhere near as good as Rodgers, but if Rodgers were drafted first overall instead of Smith, he would not have a Super Bowl ring right now.

Troy Aikman was a "good" quarterback, but look at the talent that surrounded him in Dallas. John Elway couldn't get the job done until he got a legitimate running game with Terrell Davis.

Let's look at some of the guys that have legitimate arguments to be mentioned in this category. Peyton Manning is arguably the smartest QB to ever play the game. He can dissect a defense and change the play at the line of scrimmage better than anyone. His issue has been winning big games, which he only has one Super Bowl title to his name.

You won't hear me mention guys from the 60's and 70's because the league is totally different now. The athletes are bigger and faster, the schemes are a lot harder to learn and recognize, and there's more pressure to perform due to endorsements and other outside deals. Johnny Unitas may have been the his era. But I really don't think he would have been able to compete against today's athletes.

Dan Marino put up great numbers because he had to throw the ball every down. Can you name a running back that lined up behind Marino during his career? Brett Favre holds every record imaginable, because he played for 40 years! He had his great moments, but he made way too many costly mistakes to be considered the greatest ever. Terry Bradshaw is a lot like Tom Brady. Neither of them were very athletic but they were surrounded by a strong cast and great coaching, and made plays when they needed to. As a result, they've combined for seven Super Bowl titles.

Joe Montana wasn't real athletic in his own right, but this guy knew how to win. They had some amazing talent on those 49er teams, but no one was more clutch in big games than Joe Cool.

After looking at film and reviewing statistics, it's impossible to say who the greatest QB is. Variables like era played in, supporting cast, coaching staff, system played in, and many other factors need to be weighed in and evaluated.

I believe if you take Peyton Manning's intelligence, Tom Brady's accuracy, Joe Montana's calm demeanor and clutch play, Michael Vick's speed, Drew Brees' deep ball, and Dan Marino's swagger, you will then have the ultimate quarterback.

Take the poll below and comment on your thoughts.

Is Brady one of the best or is he just a product of the system?
Is Brady one of the best or is he just a product of the system?

Who Is The Greatest QB of All Time

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    • Miller2232 profile image

      Sinclair Miller III 

      5 years ago from Florida

      While I love Tom Brady, Joe Montana is the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time. Joe Montana played in a not so offensive friendly league in his time and he didn't lose a Super Bowl as well. Also, he made a Kansas City Chiefs team better with his presence as he nearly got them to a Super Bowl in his first year there in 1993, but got knocked out of that game against the Buffalo Bills with a concussion and Kansas City lost that 1993 AFC Championship game.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I would put fran tarkenton in there somewhere. Although he didn't when a championship he moved the ball over 29 miles in his career and held every meaningful quaterback record when he retired. Also he lost the superbowl to the dolphins and steelers. Two teams that could kill. His skills weren't as good. He didn't throw down the feild like namath but he made the most of his talents.

    • Bigpayno profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      I respectfully disagree. I think he's a product of the system he's in. If we go by rings you'd have to say Montana and Bradshaw are the best. Trent Dilfer won a ring but he won't be mentioned EVER among elite QBs. Brady is good but watch him carefully and see how accurate he is past fifteen yards. Not real great. He has had the best line in football his entire career and usually throws to his third or fourth option. A great luxury most QBs don't have.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You have to give it to tom brady with 3 rings i think he is the best

    • JasonCulley profile image


      6 years ago from Cheyenne, WY

      I think this topic can be debated until you turn blue in the face. All great QBs mentioned so far but how can you choose a best? It is sure fun trying though!

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 

      6 years ago from The Lone Star State

      It is difficult to compare quarterbacks of different eras because most people place too much emphasis on statistics. Montana had great statistics but that is not what made him great. His near perfect play in 4 super bowl victories puts him among the elite quarterbacks of all time.

      Marino I think is overrated because of his numbers. He didn't play well in post season so I wouldn't list him with the all time great quarterbacks.

      Tom Brady has excellent numbers in both the regular season and post season so I give him the edge over Peyton Manning. Aaron Rogers I think is the next great quarterback in the NFL.

    • Bigpayno profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      I love seeing guys like Phil Simms and Bernie Kosar on this list that never get any recognition. It's so hard for me to put guys like Starr and Namath in this category, because they played in a weaker era and the numbers they put up are comparable to average quarterbacks these days. You can't deny the rings but there wasn't many people that could compete with the Packers in those first two. Before it's all said and done, Aaron Rodgers will be better than Brett Favre. He may not get all the statistics because he won't play as many games, but he has a better team and will win more titles than Favre because he makes less mistakes.

      Sadly, Manning will not get anymore because his surrounding cast will be depleted if and when he comes back, but his brother may get another one because he plays best under pressure, he always has a great running game and good defense. Does that make him better than Peyton? Absolutely not.

    • Bigpayno profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      Bart Starr did win the first two Super Bowl's ever, but against what competition? It's hard to gauge who's better from decade to decade because the athletes get so much better from year to year. I don't know if I would say if Bart Starr is the greatest ever because the average corner ran a 5.6 forty at best back then, and there really wasn't much of a thing as timing routes, and the playbook was about two pages instead of 150 like it is now. That's what makes it difficult to judge.

    • joejagodensky profile image


      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Bart Starr?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      As a huge Browns fan, I am still distraught about the Broncos knocking out Kosar and the Browns all those years. As for Brady being one of the greatest, you can make a legitimate argument based on stats and rings, but I'm an avid believer that he's the epitome of a system quarterback. I don't think he does much with another team. Belichick may be the greatest coach in NFL history before it's all said and done. The offense is set up for Brady to no make mistakes. Throw 8-10 yard slants and hitch patterns. You play to your players strengths, and that's what Belichick is great at.

    • Manny2437 profile image


      6 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Tom Brady is 2 Superbowls away from being the greatest

    • DC62 profile image


      6 years ago from Springville, Utah

      It is a fun debate and your hub is great. Getting a team to the Super Bowl is a major feat in itself. Kelly got the Bills to four straight. It is too bad so many people only remember that those Buffalo teams lost there. They got close to winning that first one against the Giants. Scott Norwood's field goal just missed....

      Bernie Kosar had the Browns on the Super Bowl doorstep three times. He is one who knows how hard it is to get a team to the Big Game. But those Cleveland teams were pretty darn good too. Good to see him finally win a Super Bowl as Aikman's backup. He actually helped the Cowboys win the NFC Championship game after Aikman was knocked out with a concussion.

    • Bigpayno profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      That was a very enlightening post. I agree with a lot of what you said. Many people forget about what Jim Kelly did in Buffalo. I don't believe a team will ever make it to 4 straight Super Bowls again. He had an amazing supporting cast though, with that team averaging 9 to 10 pro bowlers a year. They were an example of a great system as well. Look how well Frank Reich and Kenneth Davis performed when Kelly and Thomas were hurt. It really is all about the system that these guys play in.

    • DC62 profile image


      6 years ago from Springville, Utah

      Simms was good in big games for sure. So much of the debate should also hinge on the team that a quarterback had around him. A lot of people only considered John Elway a great quarterback after he won two Super Bowls. He also got the Broncos to three other Super Bowls without a great supporting cast. That showed in those defeats. When Elway had Terrell Davis and a cast of weapons that he just had to feed the ball to rather than carry on his back, he finally won the big games, twice.

      Put Joe Montana as quarterback on those Broncos teams of the 80s with questionable offensive lines and a lack of a power rushing attack, I'm not sure the Broncos get to three Super Bowls in that decade.

      On the other hand, put Elway on some of those great 49ers teams, maybe they win more Super Bowls than they did. There are so many variables to consider when comparing great QBs of any era. When Montana, Elway, Simms, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman and Steve Young played at the same time, what a great collection of signal callers playing in one era.

      There are sure some good ones going now too.

    • Bigpayno profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      I love the Giants and I love Phil Simms. Had one of the greatest performances in Super Bowl history completing something like 22-25 passes. I totally agree. He didn't put up the numbers but he was an exceptional quarterback! Great comment!

    • WindMaestro profile image


      6 years ago from Rhode Island, United States

      He might not have been the best, but Phil Simms is a viable contender. He was an accurate quarterback, who led his team to victory, and has his rings to show for it.


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