20. Ben Roethlisberger
Career stats: 51,065 passing yards, 329 touchdowns, 174 interceptions
Individual accolades: 2-time Super Bowl champion, 6-time Pro Bowl selection, 2004 Rookie of the Year
In one of the most confusing career arcs in NFL history, Ben Roethlisberger has gone from phenomenal to terrible and then back to phenomenal over the course of his 12 seasons. With two Super Bowl titles and the chance for one or two more before he hangs it up, Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s success over the next 2-3 years will determine whether he moves higher up this list. Arguably the best quarterback at extending plays and improvising in NFL history, Roethlisberger’s deceptive agility and incredible arm strength ensure a spot in Canton.
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19. Otto Graham
Career stats: 23,584 passing yards, 174 touchdowns, 135 interceptions
Individual accolades: 3-time NFL champion, 5-time Pro Bowl selection, 5-time All-Pro, 3-time NFL Player of the Year (1951, 1953, 1955)
Dominating during an era that is often forgotten in the confines of NFL history, Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns couldn’t be stopped from 1946-1955. Reaching the league championship every year in that span, Graham was the biggest reason why. He holds the record for highest win percentage of any starting quarterback in NFL history (0.814), with Cleveland finishing 114-20-4 in games started by Graham. As an efficient passer and the ultimate winner, Graham would have gained even more notoriety had he played during the Super Bowl era.
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18. Sammy Baugh
Career stats: 21,886 passing yards, 187 touchdowns, 203 interceptions
Individual accolades: 2-time NFL champion, 6-time All-Pro, 2-time NFL Player of the Year (1947, 1948)
Sammy Baugh’s passing numbers certainly won’t blow anyone away, but it was his unmatched versatility that makes him worthy of this ranking. In addition to playing quarterback, Baugh also played defensive back and punted for the Washington Redskins. In 1943, Baugh led the league in passing, punting and interceptions (as a defensive back) – a feat that will never be repeated.
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17. Bart Starr
Career stats: 24,718 passing yards, 152 touchdowns, 138 interceptions
Individual accolades: 2-time Super Bowl champion, 5-time NFL champion, 4-time Pro Bowl selection, 3-time All-Pro, 1966 MVP
The winning quarterback of the first two Super Bowls in NFL history, Bart Starr was named the Most Valuable Player of both games. He owns the highest playoff passer rating (104.8) of all-time and finished 9-1 in the postseason in his career. Playing in the run-first era certainly deflated Starr’s stats, but there’s no denying his place as one of the best and winningest quarterbacks in NFL history.
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16. Fran Tarkenton
Career stats: 47,003 passing yards, 342 passing touchdowns, 266 interceptions, 3,674 rushing yards, 32 rushing touchdowns
Individual accolades: 9-time Pro Bowl selection, 2-time All-Pro, 1975 MVP/Offensive Player of the Year
Fran Tarkenton played 18 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, finishing as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history. When he retired in 1978, he was the all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards by a quarterback and wins by a starting quarterback. Although Tarkenton was never able to bring a Super Bowl title to either franchise he played for, his individual excellence made him a no-brainer to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
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15. Terry Bradshaw
Career stats: 27,989 passing yards, 212 touchdowns, 210 interceptions
Individual accolades: 4-time Super Bowl champion, 3-time Pro Bowl selection, 1978 MVP
Contrary to the next player on this list, Terry Bradshaw cracks the top-15 on this list for his ability to win on the NFL’s biggest stage. Bradshaw was far from a prolific passer during the days of Pittsburgh’s smash-mouth brand of football (only threw for more than 3,000 yards in a season twice), but he finished a perfect 4-0 in games with the Lombardi Trophy on the line. Despite the uninspiring touchdown-to-interception ratio (212:210) and a 51.9 percent completion percentage, Bradshaw’s induction into the Hall of Fame in 1989 is well deserved.
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14. Jim Kelly
Career stats: 35,467 passing yards, 237 touchdowns, 175 interceptions
Individual accolades: 4-time Super Bowl runner-up, 5-time Pro Bowl selection, 3-time All-Pro
While Jim Kelly will (unfairly) best be remembered for his 0-4 record in Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, Kelly was one of the premier quarterbacks during his 11-year career. Kelly teamed with Andre Reed to form one of the most potent quarterback-wide receiver duos in NFL history and finished with a 101-59 record in the regular season. In 2002, his first year of eligibility, Kelly was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
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13. Drew Brees
Career stats: 70,445 passing yards, 488 touchdowns, 228 interceptions
Individual accolades: Super Bowl XLIV champion/MVP, 11-time Pro Bowl selection, 4-time All-Pro selection
Playing in the same era alongside Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Brees has gone underappreciated throughout his brilliant career. Brees is one of only five quarterbacks to throw for at least 5,000 passing yards in a season, and he has accomplished the feat five times (no other quarterback has done it more than once). Despite being short for the position, Brees’ combination of impeccable footwork and precision makes him a surefire Hall of Famer.
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12. Steve Young
Career stats: 33,124 passing yards, 232 passing touchdowns, 107 interceptions, 4,239 rushing yards, 43 rushing touchdowns
Individual accolades: 3-time Super Bowl champion, 7-time Pro Bowl selection, 6-time All-Pro selection, 2-time MVP (1992, 1994)
Known as one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history, Steve Young had the nearly impossible task of replacing Joe Montana in San Francisco. However, the BYU alum filled the void admirably, winning 2 MVP awards and a Super Bowl MVP during his eight years as the franchise’s leader. In addition to his prowess as a passer, Young sits third all-time among quarterbacks with 4,239 career rushing yards, but still falls just short of cracking the top 10 on this list.
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11. Roger Staubach
Career stats: 22,700 passing yards, 153 touchdowns, 109 interceptions
Individual accolades: 2-time Super Bowl champion, 6-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1978 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
After winning the Heisman Trophy following his junior season at Navy, Staubach’s NFL career was delayed while he served his four-year military commitment. First starting a game at 29, Staubach went on to lead the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories in five appearances from 1970-1978. ‘Captain America’ captured the 1971 MVP and Super Bowl VI MVP, and is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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10. Warren Moon
Career stats: 49,325 passing yards, 291 touchdowns, 233 interceptions
Individual accolades: 9-time Pro Bowl selection, NFL MVP (1990) and the 1989 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
The first undrafted quarterback to make the Hall of Fame, Moon had an illustrious career in both the NFL and CFL. After winning five Grey Cups in the CFL, Moon started a Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Houston Oilers. Following nine Pro Bowl appearances, Moon retired finishing in the top-five in passing yards, TD’s, attempts, and completions. If Moon’s statistics from the CFL and NFL were combined, his numbers would be almost unmatched in the history of football. In 2006, Moon became the first African American quarterback to be enshrined in Canton.
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9. Troy Aikman
Career stats: 32,942 passing yards, 165 touchdowns, 141 interceptions
Individual accolades: 3-time Super Bowl champion, 6-time Pro Bowl selection, 1993 First Team All-Pro selection
The No. 1 pick out of UCLA in 1989, Aikman quarterbacked the great Cowboys dynasty of the early 90s. Aikman led the Cowboys to a 32-17 trouncing of the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, completing 22-of-30 passes for 273 yards and 4 TDs. Aikman then led the Cowboys to two more Super Bowls in the next three years, capped off by a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. Aikman amassed over 32,000 yards and 165 TDs in 12 seasons, ending his career with a 3-0 record in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Aikman, his Hall of Fame career was cut short in 2001 following his tenth concussion.
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8. Johnny Unitas
Career stats: 40,239 passing yards, 290 touchdowns, 253 interceptions
Individual accolades: 1-time Super Bowl champion, 3-time NFL champion, 10-time Pro Bowl selection, 4-time NFL MVP (1957, 1959, 1964, 1967)
Once the gold standard for NFL quarterbacks, ‘The Golden Arm’ was a 3-time MVP, 3-time NFL champion, and the winning quarterback of Super Bowl V. Unitas set the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (47) between 1956-1960 – a mark that stood until Drew Brees surpassed the record in 2012. Unitas still ranks 10th all-time with 290 touchdown passes. His performance in the two-minute drill garnered him the nickname ‘Mr. Clutch,’ and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
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7. Aaron Rodgers
Career stats: 38,502 passing yards, 313 touchdowns, 93 interceptions
Individual accolades: Super Bowl XLV champion/MVP, 6-time Pro Bowl selection, 3-time All-Pro selection, 2-time MVP (2011, 2014)
Aaron Rodgers’ nimbleness in the pocket, unbelievable precision, and rocket arm might make him the most talented quarterback the NFL has ever seen. However, that talent hasn’t necessarily translated into postseason success. At 34 years old with plenty of football still left in him, Rodgers’ legacy will be tied directly to his postseason success (or lack thereof) over the next 4-6 years. Rodgers is already a lock for the Hall of Fame, but if he is to enter the greatest of all-time discussion, he and the Packers need to add a few more Super Bowls to their respective trophy cases.
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6. Dan Marino
Career stats: 61,361 passing yards, 420 touchdowns, 252 interceptions
Individual accolades: 9-time Pro Bowl selection, 3-time First team All-Pro, NFL MVP (1984)
The greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl, Marino held the record for most touchdown passes (420) and most career completions (4,967) when he retired. In Marino’s 1984 MVP season, the Dolphins made their only Super Bowl appearance under Marino, losing to the Joe Montana-led 49ers 38-16. During his MVP season, the 9-time Pro Bowler became the first quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season, as well as the first to surpass 40 touchdown passes in a season. To go along with his rocket arm, Marino arguably possessed the quickest release the league has ever seen.
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5. Brett Favre
Career stats: 71,838 passing yards, 508 touchdowns, 336 interceptions
Individual accolades: 1-time Super Bowl champion, 11-time Pro Bowl selection, 3-time First team All-Pro, 3-time NFL MVP (1995-1997)
The ultimate gunslinger, Favre holds NFL records for most pass completions, attempts, interceptions, starts, and wins. The only quarterback to win three consecutive MVPs, Favre is one of only two quarterbacks to win a playoff game over the age of 40. A Super Bowl champion, Favre ranks 2nd all-time with 508 TD passes. For all of the personal accolades, Favre’s most impressive achievement might be his durability, as seen during his NFL-record 321 consecutive starts.
Following his retirement from the Packers, Favre decided to come back and play for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, who he helped lead to the NFC Championship. After leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of the Green Bay fan base, Favre made amends and had his jersey retired at Lambeau Field in 2015.
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4. Peyton Manning
Career stats: 71,940 passing yards, 539 touchdowns, 251 interceptions
Individual accolades: 2-time Super Bowl champion, 5-time NFL MVP (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013), 14-time Pro Bowl selection
Arguably the greatest regular season quarterback ever, Manning cemented his place among the game’s elite by capturing his 2nd Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl 50. Manning retired a 5-time MVP, holding the NFL records for most touchdowns (539) and passing yards (71,940). Manning came off serious neck surgery to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2012 with the Denver Broncos. A 14-time Pro Bowl selection, Manning’s one knock has always been his play in the postseason. And although his performance in Super Bowl 50 was rather underwhelming, the second ring will go a long way in helping elevate his legacy.
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3. John Elway
Career stats: 51,475 passing yards, 300 touchdowns, 226 interceptions
Individual accolades: 2-time Super Bowl champion, NFL MVP (1987), 9-time Pro Bowl selection
The storybook ending to a Hall of Fame career, Elway capped his legacy by winning back-to-back Super Bowls, defeating the Packers and Falcons. The ultimate dual-threat, Elway rushed for four touchdowns in his Super Bowl appearances. Tom Brady is the only quarterback to best Elway’s five Super Bowl appearances, and he ranks among the top five in the four major passing categories (completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns). His 14 playoff wins stand amongst the best in the game, and his all-time winning percentage of .641 shows his greatness. Elway has followed his Hall of Fame career by leading the Broncos to four division titles, two AFC Championships and a Super Bowl title as Executive VP/GM of the Broncos.
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2. Joe Montana
Career stats: 40,551 passing yards, 273 touchdowns, 139 interceptions
Individual accolades: 4-time Super Bowl champion, 8-time Pro Bowl selection, 2-time NFL MVP (1989, 1990)
Four Super Bowl appearances, four victories, three MVPs and 11 touchdown passes – Montana’s performances in the Super Bowl are nothing short of spectacular. And with these victories coming against Dan Marino and John Elway, the Super Bowls look even better. The master of the West Coast offense is arguably the most clutch player in NFL history. Montana holds Super Bowl records for most passes without an interception (122 in four games) and a quarterback rating of 127.8.
Montana led his teams to 31 come-from-behind victories in his career, including all-time moments such as “The Catch” and his touchdown pass in the closing moments of Super Bowl XXIII. And while he safely held the title of G.O.A.T for two decades, the next player on this list’s consistent excellence leaves Montana at #2.
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1. Tom Brady
Career stats: 66,159 passing yards, 488 touchdowns, 160 interceptions
Individual accolades: 5-time Super Bowl champion, 2-time NFL MVP (2007, 2010), 13-time Pro Bowl selection
Two miraculous plays away from being 7-0 in Super Bowls, Tom Brady’s case as the greatest quarterback of all-time is strong. With more Super Bowl appearances (7) and playoff victories than any quarterback in NFL history, Brady’s ability to win without dominant supporting casts is nothing short of incredible.
Now a 5-time Super Bowl champion, 4-time Super Bowl MVP and 2-time NFL MVP with a TD-INT ratio of 456-152, at 40 years old, the former Michigan Wolverine shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. With legendary performances in countless high-pressured games – none better than his masterful comeback performance against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI – Brady has safely asserted himself as the greatest quarterback of all-time.
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