Let me preface this list with a few quick notes. Guys you won't see on my list because I never saw them are Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham, Bart Starr, Sid Luckman, Sammy Baugh, Norm Van Brocklin and Y.A. Tittle. These guys played in black and white and are in another, much older class. I am also omitting some of the new guys that may make the list some day like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Today's NFL is more of a passing league than ever and the game is catered toward the success of the pass given all the bogus defensive rule changes. That all being said here is my list of the top 10 greatest QB's that I have ever seen.
1. John Elway - The ex-Yankee draftee is regarded as maybe the most complete quarterback to ever play the game. Elway had mobility in the pocket, the ability to extend a play and perhaps the best arm the NFL has ever seen. John would simply fire the ball to receivers that other quarterbacks would deem covered and complete a 45 yard rope to the sideline. Elway played in 5 Super Bowls and won his final 2 being named MVP in his last game he ever played. John Elway consistently carried his team through the regular season and into the playoffs just about every year he played.
2. Joe Montana - He was Joe Cool for a reason. Always calm and collect in the pocket. He had deadly accuracy and an awareness of the game that is unmatched. The man went 4 for 4 in Super Bowls and was the MVP in 3 of them. Montana orchestrated one of the best offenses ever seen for an entire decade. He was so smart in the pocket, knowing just when to release the ball and knowing exactly where his receivers were at all times.
3. Tom Brady - If not for Mo Lewis of the New York Jets knocking Drew Bledsoe out of a week 2 game 2001, we may never have seen the legend of Tom Brady. Brady is so good they named a rule after him "Tuck Rule". Brady, winner of 3 out of 4 Super Bowls claimed MVP honors in two of them. Brady battled Peyton Manning for NFL QB supremacy and continuously came out on top in big moments. Brady has several single season NFL records like passer rating, most touchdowns thrown and best TD to INT ratio among others. With his rocket arm and high NFL IQ, I think Brady just may grab another ring.
4. Peyton Manning - True he has only won 1 out of 2 Super Bowls but come on...this guy is not only a quarterback but also a coach on the field. Just look at the Colts this year and you realize how valuable Peyton is to his team. He has 4 regular season MVP awards which is most of all time. He is on his way to breaking almost all of Brett Favres records except the key one, interceptions. He is the model of consistency by winning the division every year, throwing for 30 touchdowns and 4,000 passing yards guaranteed. And he had always done this without any good defense to back him up.
5. Dan Marino - If this guy had any running game or a decent defense he would have had a couple rings. Especially when Ray Finkle blew the game winning kick. Oh that was a Ace Ventura, my bad. Anyway old Danny boy had arguably the best arm in NFL history and definitely had the quickest release. Analysts say he had the single greatest season a QB ever had in 1984 when Marino threw for 5,084 yards, 48 TD's and 17 interceptions. And that was when you could mug the wide outs down the field. Marino was a pure passer in every sense of the word.
6. Brett Favre - I just remember watching Favre in his prime and thinking I've never seen a quarterback like this before. He was the best athlete on the field and he was a quarterback. When you watched Favre in his prime you just knew he was going to get the job done. He could run, he had a bullet arm and a fearless attitude that sometimes got him in trouble. Brett Favre is the only player in NFL history to win 3 consecutive MVP's. That along with his Super Bowl victory in 1996 makes Favre a top ten QB. Oh yea he has a bunch of records too. Sorry forgot to mention those.
7. Steve Young - This slot may surprise some of you but I watched every game that Steve Young played and man what a competitor. If he hadn't backed up Joe Montana for 5 years in San Francisco we may be talking about Steve Young having won 2 or 3 Super Bowls . However he won 1 Super Bowl, was named MVP and threw a SB record 6 touchdowns in the game. Young won 2 MVP's in his short career and held the best passer rating of all time for many years. Young was Mike Vick before Mike Vick, just not quite as fast. But Young's duel threat of passing accuracy and running ability made him an MVP candidate every season.
8. Terry Bradshaw - Maybe a little low on the poll for some of you but Terry wasn't the light it up kind of quarterback. True he did have a big arm and was smarter than most gave him credit for, and hey the guy won 4 Super Bowls. You're not the starting QB of a team that wins 4 Super Bowls and not be considered a phenomenal player. However any of the above mentioned quarterbacks most likely would have won 5. But Terry is a HOFer and he belongs there.
9. Dan Fouts - Fouts led some of the best offenses in San Diego. He was always near the top in all passing categories throwing for over 4,000 yards 3 years in a row in a time when 4,000 yards weren't easy to come by. Some say today that Dan Fouts was the best pure thrower of the ball in NFL history. He made the pro bowl 6 times and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
10. Troy Aikman/Jim Kelly - Aikman's numbers weren't eye popping, he didn't have a big arm and he couldn't move around that well. But he won 3 Super Bowls in the 90's and led one of the greatest teams ever under the coaching of Jimmy Johnson. His players loved him and battled for him. Troy was extremely accurate with the ball which made up for what he lacked in arm strength. Troy was a leader on the field and had the attention of his teammates. Aikman was a smart quarterback that knew what his role was and he played his part perfectly.
Jim Kelly could have easily gone down in history as a top 5 of all time. But the fact that he and the Bills couldn't win any of the 4 consecutive Super Bowls they played in the early 1990's unfortunately drops him down the list a bit. Kelly was the leader of the best offense in the AFC for the better part of a decade. The "K Gun" offense that the Bills used was ran to perfection by the hall of fame quarterback. Just being able to lead a team to 4 straight SB's is an amazing feat that will most likely never be matched again.
Honorable Mentions: Warren Moon and Kurt Warner