There is no position in all of sports that is more important than the quarterback of a football team.
The offense, and entire game, really, runs through the quarterback. Especially in the modern-day NFL where an elite passing game is critical to a team’s success.
But who are the best quarterbacks? And what makes a quarterback great?
Super Bowls are certainly an indicator of greatness, but winning a Super Bowl requires great teams in addition to the quarterback. MVP awards show dominance as well as setting and breaking records — whether it is single season or all time.
These are some of the factors weighed as we compiled the 10 greatest NFL quarterbacks ever.
10. John Elway
There are plenty of deserving names to get this list going — Roger Staubach, Frank Tarkenton, Warren Moon — but we start with John Elway. The Denver Broncos quarterback was a nine-time Pro Bowler and 1987 MVP and ranks 10th all time in career passing yards and 12th in career touchdowns.
For much of his career, Elway's legacy was marred by the fact he lost three Super Bowls, but he salvaged his legacy with two Super Bowls to ride off into the sunset on top and cement his spot in the top 10. He is also one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the game, having led the Broncos on 31 fourth-quarter comebacks and 40 game-winning drives in his career.
9. Steve Young
Steve Young may not rank as high as some other in the all-time categories, but his career did not really get going until he turned 30. Young won two MVPs and was a three-time All-Pro in a career in which he was only an NFL starter for nine seasons. Yet, in those seasons, he led the league in passing touchdowns four times and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl (after Young won two others behind Joe Montana) in which he set a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes in the game.
Young was also a threat with his legs, rushing for 4,239 career yards and 43 touchdowns in addition to his 232 touchdown passes in 169 games.
8. Johnny Unitas
What QB list would be complete without a mention of Johnny Unitas? He may not have the gaudy numbers of the quarterbacks of today, but he was a trailblazer for the modern-day quarterback. In his first of three MVP seasons in 1959, Unitas led the league in passing yards (2,899), TDs (32) and completions (193).
Unitas, like Brady and Montana, was also synonymous with winning. He was a three-time NFL champion prior to the Super Bowl era and then added a Super Bowl to his resume leading the Colts over the Cowboys in Super Bowl V.
7. Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers' career is far from over, as evidenced by his MVP season in 2020 and perhaps his best statistical season of his career, finishing with 48 touchdowns and a 70.7 completion percentage. The Packers quarterback may be the best on this list on pure talent alone, being able to make throws on the run and big plays with his legs — with 3,271 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns in addition to his 412 passing touchdowns, which has him seventh all time and should be fifth by the end of next season.
Rodgers has one Super Bowl under his belt but it feels as if he has underachieved by not having another. Should Rodgers hoist the Lombardi Trophy once more, it is easy to see him eventually move into the top-5 of all time, perhaps even higher.
6. Drew Brees
The New Orleans Saints quarterback retired following the 2020 season to complete one of the most impressive careers in NFL history. Brees finished his career as the all-time passing yards leader with 80,358 yards and second on the all-time passing touchdown leaders behind Tom Brady with 571. His 67.7 career completion percentage is also the best among all non-active quarterbacks.
He led the Saints on a memorable Super Bowl run in 2009 in which he was named Super Bowl MVP. While he never won a regular season MVP, he did lead the league in passing yards seven different times, including four seasons of 5,000 or more yards, and led the league in touchdown passes four times.
5. Dan Marino
Dan Marino may not have any Super Bowls to his name, but that should not deter him from ranking this high on the list. Marino was a quarterback ahead of his time. His 1984 MVP season is one of the