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Dr. Masse's Top 10 Greatest Quarterbacks in NFL history

July 8, 2014 - Chris Masse
Dr. Masse's Top 10 NFL Quarterbacks of All-Time

10. Brett Favre: One can make a case for Favre being higher or lower on this list. I think he should thank his lucky stars that he is on it at all. Favre owns

most of the meaningful passing records, including yards, touchdowns (71,838) and touchdowns (508) during his 20-year career. He also did not miss a start from

1992-2010, a streak likely never to be broken. Conversely, though, Favre threw a record 336 interceptions and had an uncanny knack for making bone-headed

plays at key times in big games (2003 divisional playoffs, 2001 divisionals, 2007 title game, 2009 title game...). He made as many moronic decisions at the end of his career as he did at the beginning but he also took two straight Packers teams to super bowls, winning it in 1996 and he helped turn around a dormant

franchise. Between 1994-97 Favre was as good as anyone has ever been. His longevity and consistent winning earn him a top 10 spot. He mistakes in critical

moments, including in 12 playoff losses prevent him from going higher.

9. Dan Marino, Dolphins: Marino held many of the records that Favre broke, including touchdowns (420) and yards (61,361). What holds Marino back is his

lack of playoff success. He led the Dolphins to the super bowl in his second year but played a mediocre game there and never returned, advancing to the AFC

title game just twice more in his 15 final seasons and playing mediocre in those games as Miami was blown out at home both times. Yes, Marino did not have a great team around him so I will cut him some slack but the AFC was not a juggernaut throughout the 80s and up to the later 90s and Marino was unable to

elevate his team to elite status. Marino did put up staggering numbers and his 1984 season was the best single-season by a QB in NFL history in my opinion

when he threw 48 touchdowns in an era where they did not have all the sissy pass coverage rules they do now. I think Marino is the second-best passer in NFL history but as much as some may argue, the lack of postseason success keeps him from going higher.

8. Roger Staubach, Cowboys: Coming from the opposite spectrum we have Captain Comeback. Staubach has nowhere near the numbers the other QBs do

on this list but he was the consummate winner and always made his teams better. Before Tom Brady broke it, Staubach had the greatest winning percentage

in NFL history, going 85-29 during his 11-year career. Staubach protected the football, put up good numbers for his era and just kept winning. He consistently

pulled games out for the Cowboys including in dramatic fashion in the 1972 and 75 playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to two super bowl wins and four super

bowl appearances while going 11-6 in the playoffs. Dallas always had a chance when Staubach was under center and was the NFC's best team during his

tenure.

7. Sammy Baugh, Redskins: In an age where the instant historianism rampant at ESPN reigns, many probably do not even know who Baugh was. However, he owned just about every passing record when he retired in 1952. When making a list of best ever in whatever category one cannot just go on numbers

because every era is different. Baugh played at a time when defenses had almost all the advantages. Who knows what he could do in today's pass-happy NFL.

One has to compare quarterbacks to those of their era and Baugh blew his rivals away. He also was an elite punters and defensive back and Washington to two

world championships and five title games.

6. John Elway, Broncos: Before the last few years I had Elway in the top 5. His career numbers are impressive but Elway usually was not among the

league's leading passers during his career. However, Elway consistently made his teams better and led some pretty average Broncos teams to three super bowls in four years in the 1980s. Elway played some of his best football late in his career and led the Broncos to two straight super bowls in his final two seasons.

Why I like Elway over Marino is because Elway did not have a great supporting cast either in the 1980s but he still took Denver to three super bowls. Elway

was as clutch as they come too and was masterful playing from behind. Other than a QB who is higher on the list there is no other quarterback I would rather

have in a late-game situation when my team has to score to win.

5. Peyton Manning, Colts/Broncos: Without a doubt, Manning is the best regular season quarterback in NFL history. His numbers and his ability to lead

his teams to great successs in the regular season is astounding. But like his boss, Elway, says, "you make your living in the regular season, you make your

legacy in the playoffs." And Manning's playoff legacy is average. Yes, he has a super bowl ring from 2006 when his defense carried him but other than that, he

has consistently been a much worse QB in the playoffs than during the regular season. He also has thrown nearly as many touchdowns to opponents as he has

to his own team in three super bowls in which he is 1-2. People have made excuses for Manning's 11-12 playoff record but in all but three of those losses if

Manning leads his teams to 21 or more points they win and considering his numbers in the regular season that should not be that hard. If Manning would have played great in last year's super bowl and led Denver to a win I was ready to move him to NO. 2 but but his poor performance was yet another stain on an

otherwise remarkable career. He is the perfect QB in the regular season but struggles when the games matter most. that is all that holds him back from being

at the top of this list.

4. Tom Brady, Patriots: And that is exactly why Brady is higher than Manning. While Brady has not led the Patriots to a super bowl since 2004 he led them

to three in four years and is two fluke passes (and a Wes Welker drop) from having a record five super bowl rings. Brady has the greatest QB winning

percentage in NFL history and also has won a record 18 playoff games. He often has been at his best in the playoffs and led game-winning super bowl drives in

2001 and 2003 (if not for David Tyree's miracle catch he would have had a third in 2007). And Brady's command of the offense has been stunning. If Manning is

the best regular season QB of all-time, Brady is probably No. 2. All he does is win and he showed his brilliance last year when he took a team that had no

business winning more than eight games to the AFC championship. The three super bowl Patriot teams too were devoid of superstars but Brady made them

better, the ultimate compliment to a leader.

3. Otto Graham, Browns: When I mentioned Graham as one of the all-time great quarterbacks on a radio show a few months ago the host laughed at me.

Guess what folks, they played football before the 1980s. He is often forgotten but Graham owned his era and was an amazing winner. In 10 seasons he led his

team to 10 straight championships. that is mind-boggling. Those first four seasons were in the AAFC but the move to the NFL was an easy one and Graham

led the Browns to six straight championship games and three championship wins. His record in the NFL was an astounding 57-13-1 and five times he led the

league in yards. three times Graham led the league in touchdowns and he was always near the top in both categories. He had the total package, excelling in big games and putting up big numbers and is worthy of this lofty ranking.

2. Johnny Unitas, Colts/Chargers: The modern QB, the modern passing game really started with Johnny U. A man who took a bad Colts team and helped it become a dynasty in the late 1950s also held most of the significant passing records when he retired in 1973. Unitas had the whole package, winning

championships, revolutionizing the game and putting up big numbers. He consistently was one of the league's top passers, delivered repeatedly in the clutch and threw a then-record touchdown pass in 47 straight games, amazing considering how tough the pass coverage rules were back then. Unitas basically invented

the no-huddle, 2-minute offense now run all the time in the 1958 NFL championship against the Giants. He finished 118-64-4 and led the Colts to three world

championships and four title games.

1. Joe Montana, 49ERS, Chiefs: Joe is the GOAT, Greatest of All-Time. He was the ultimate winner and was perfect in the biggest games. In addition to

going 4-0 in super bowls, he also threw a whopping 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions while also running for two scores. His last three super bowl

appearances were three of the best in super bowl history, including his last-minute, 92-yard game-winning drive against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

Montana also was brilliant in the regular season and retired with one of the NFL's greatest winning percentages. He was the engine that powered the Niners.

Some say he was helped by Jerry Rice. No doubt, but remember that Montana won as many super bowls (2) with Rice as he did without him. Also remember

that he took a bunch of no-names to the super bowl in 1981 in his first full year starting and that the Niners went 18-1 the year before Rice arrived. Montana

helped turn a once rotten franchise into one of the game's all-time great dynasties and when the pressure was highest he was at his best. There is no other

quarterback I'd rather have in a big game. Others might have had better numbers or better arms, etc., but nobody was better than Joe Cool.

Others strongly considered for Top 10: Frank Tarkenton, Bart Starr, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Sid Luckman

 
 

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