Football is quickly becoming the most popular sport in America, easily surpassing baseball and basketball. We love to play football, watch football, and bet on football. Whether it’s pro or college, fantasy leagues with our friends, or daily sports wagering, Americans have a clear infatuation with the game. With all this love for football, debates about the greatest players of all time are a hot topic, specifically the best quarterbacks of all time.
In fact, a recent study suggests that the average NFL fan spends nearly 46 hours a month thinking about, reading about, or talking about their favorite team. For die-hard fans of an NFL team, that’s nearly two hours per day spent thinking about your favorite NFL team.
But what about playing in the NFL? Every 10-year-old kid playing backyard football with their friends feels like they have a chance to make it to the big leagues, regardless of their size or their family’s background. Honestly, that’s part of what makes football so great – there’s no set prototype for making it to the pros, just hard work and dedication. Still, the process of becoming one of the best quarterbacks of all time is long and strenuous.
One of the most valuable traits the best quarterbacks of all time possess is accuracy. The all-time greats can “thread the needle” with the football and essentially place the ball wherever they want from far away. A recent study reveals how to throw an object with accuracy and found some interesting results. Researchers at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) sought to learn the science behind the perfect throw.
“Our hypothesis was that you choose based on a strategy that minimizes the error at the target while giving yourself the greatest room for error at the release,” L. Mahadevan, senior author of the study, said in a press release.
The science of throwing aside, you came here looking for the best quarterbacks of all time and that’s exactly what we’re giving you. Study Finds did the research, consulting 10 sports review websites in an effort to find the best quarterbacks in the business. As always, we would love to hear from our audience. Feel free to share your picks for the best QBs with us in the comments section below!
The List: Best Quarterbacks of All Time, According to Expert Reviews
1. Tom Brady (Patriots, Buccaneers)
There is only one name that can top the list of best quarterbacks of all time and that’s Tom Brady. Tom Brady appeared in the top spot across every single list we referenced for the best quarterbacks of all time. Brady has a whopping seven Super Bowl rings and has appeared in the big game a record 10 times. Needless to say, Tom Brady holds the record for the most Super Bowl wins and appearances by any NFL player, not just quarterbacks.
“Tom Brady has had an unparalleled career, as just saying that he has won more Super Bowl rings (seven) than any franchise is enough to describe his greatness. To top it off, Brady is a five-time Super Bowl MVP, and three-time AP MVP of the season,” explains The Sportster.
Simply put, Tom Brady just knows how to win football games. Brady isn’t the flashiest or the most entertaining quarterback of all time, but he is the savviest. “Tom Brady may not have the mobility or arm strength of some of his contemporaries, but his other intangibles—namely, accuracy, decision-making and football IQ—exist in rarefied air,” explains Bleacher Report.
It’s hard to describe Tom Brady’s style. He stands in the pocket and throws darts, but it’s his tenacity and longevity that separates Tom Brady from his quarterbacking peers.
“Brady’s longevity is also legendary. Nobody in the league’s history has played at such a high level at such an advanced age. Brady will presumably end his career as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards. He also will most likely be the first quarterback to throw for 600 touchdowns in a career,” writes Pro Football Network.
Spoiler alert: Brady has thrown for over 600 TDs and is the all-time passing yards leader by more than 9,000 yards and he’s still playing.
Tom Brady has won 7 Super Bowls.
Appeared in 10 Super Bowls.
Is a playoff starter at 45 years old.
What else can be said? It still amazes me. pic.twitter.com/3aGpqBqByS
— Savage (@SavageSports_) January 17, 2023
2. Joe Montana (49ers, Chiefs)
Before Tom Brady, there was Joe Montana. For anyone who didn’t get to watch Joe Montana play, he was one of the most elegant throwers in NFL history. Like Brady, Joe Montana just knew how to win football games. Montana wasn’t the biggest, the fastest, or the strongest, but he was a master of his craft and his accuracy was off the charts. “For a long time, it was Joe Montana and then everybody else in the greatest quarterback of all time conversation,” explains NFL.com.
“Montana didn’t own the strongest arm, but he was highly accurate and much more mobile than people remember. He threw perhaps the most catchable ball ever. Watch some of those Jerry Rice and John Taylor highlights. Notice how all the slants each took to the house hit them on the run, softly in stride,” adds NFL.com.
It certainly helped that Montana had Jerry Rice, but one of his most impressive stats is his undefeated record in the Super Bowl.
“During his 15-year career, Montana went to four Super Bowls and won them all. He won three Super Bowl and two league MVPs. He also led the NFL in completion percentage five times, becoming one of the most accurate quarterbacks at the time,” explains Clutch Points.
It’s also worth noting that Montana retired as the highest-rated passer in NFL history.
“He somehow seems to breathe slower when everyone else breathes fast, seems to have a different metabolism. Remember that final drive in the 1989 Super Bowl? Was there ever any doubt that he simply was going to move those Niners 92 yards down the field in the final 3:20 to beat the Cincinnati Bengals? Of course not,” adds Sports Illustrated.
I believe in my heart there is a parallel universe where Joe Montana kept this mustache and won 14 Super Bowls. pic.twitter.com/hfbF8GpWSX
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 19, 2023
3. Peyton Manning (Colts, Broncos)
Coming in next on the list of the best quarterbacks of all time is Peyton Manning. Dubbed “The Sheriff” by players, coaches, and announcers, Peyton Manning was one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. Son of former great Archie Manning, Peyton Manning played in four Super Bowls and won two. Perhaps Manning’s most impressive feat was winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award a record five times. He’s also one of the only quarterbacks in NFL history to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl victory.
“Since the 1998 NFL Draft, Peyton Manning has received a lot of attention from the audience and the clubs. During his 17 years playing for the Colts and the Broncos, Peyton Manning won 5 NFL MVP titles. It is a record number for any NFL player,” explains Scott Fujita.
Peyton Manning could have won league MVP every season and no one would’ve argued, he was that great. “Peyton Manning’s 2013 season was arguably the best season for a quarterback in the history of the sport, with 450 passes completed, 5,477 passing yards and 55 [touchdown] passes. The Sheriff won the Super Bowl twice, including his final season, to end his career with a flourish,” writes The Sportster.
Peyton Manning had the ultimate ending to a career with a Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers and fellow first-overall draft pick Cam Newton. Still, Manning is perhaps best known for his “Omaha” chants and pre-snap theatrics. Don’t get it twisted, though, Manning was never called the most athletic quarterback in the NFL.
“Peyton Manning would get my vote as the greatest quarterback of all time because of the cerebral way he went about dominating the position. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history and one of the most unathletic quarterbacks we’ve seen,” writes Pro Football Network.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”
– Peyton Manning pic.twitter.com/v9S012Y4Gs
— Football Advantage (@AdvFootball) January 26, 2023
4. Johnny Unitas (Colts, Chargers)
The next name on the list of best quarterbacks of all time takes us back to an era when the NFL was a running-oriented league – Johnny Unitas. Johnny Unitas helped transform the NFL, and football in general, into the game fans and players love today. Unitas appeared on nearly every list we referenced, and for good reason, too.
“Before there was Peyton Manning, there was Colts legend Johnny Unitas. A two-time NFL champion and Super Bowl V winner, Unitas dominated the passing game in an era of rush-first (and often) offenses. Unitas won league MVP three times, including in 1959 with 32 touchdown passes. He ended his career with 40,239 yards passing and 290 touchdowns,” explains Full Press Coverage.
Unitas was definitely the face of the NFL during this era. Unitas’s ability to throw the ball downfield had kids everywhere imitating his style.
“When the ten-time Pro Bowler finally retired after 1973, he owned the records for most passing yards and touchdowns in history, and he was viewed as the greatest quarterback to ever play,” writes Clutch Points.
“Unitas wasn’t known for his accuracy, as his 54.6 completion percentage and 4.9 interception percentage are among the lowest and highest, respectively, on this list. But he revolutionized the quarterback position for his sheer offensive production in a run-first era,” adds Bleacher Report.
From 1957-1963, QB Johnny Unitas is a 2-time All-Pro & wins 1 (AP/UPI) season MVP.
*During the same time period, the 6+ years older QB Y.A. Tittle is a 3-time All-Pro & wins 3 (AP/UPI) season MVPs. pic.twitter.com/ZBfqZN5WEG
— Kal S. Majeed (@kalmajeed1) January 24, 2023
5. John Elway (Broncos)
Rounding out the list of the best quarterbacks of all time is John Elway. John Elway had everything you look for in a star quarterback – size, speed, athleticism, and a rocket arm. Elway appeared in the top 10 across 80 percent of the lists we consulted, which is a lot for a player who almost played baseball for the New York Yankees. Close call, Broncos fans.
“John Elway was ahead of his time for his ability to run the ball; he is the only quarterback in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown in four different Super Bowls,” explains Bleacher Report.
Elway had a tough time securing his first Super Bowl victory, too. In all, Elway went to five Super Bowls and won two of them. Still, Elway was a top quarterback in the NFL for years, and he possesses perhaps the best ending to a career ever as he won back-to-back championships to close out his playing days.
“One of the best athletes to ever play the position, Elway was known for big-game theatrics and comebacks, as well as his longevity. Others may have more rings than him, but his dynamic play is what separates him from others to land at #2 [on the list],” explains Worthly.
“In addition to being a fantastic thrower, Elway had an uncanny ability to run the ball, recording 3,407 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns. Elway’s versatility made him a completely unpredictable player, and that was one of the reasons for his successful career,” adds The Sportster.
25 years ago today, after getting blown out in three previous Super Bowls John Elway finally gets the job done! pic.twitter.com/e1Xn3Bpcxz
— Miles Commodore (@miles_commodore) January 25, 2023
- Sports Illustrated
- Bleacher Report
- Clutch Points
- NFL (.com)
- Pro Football Network
- Scott Fujita
- Men’s Journal
- Full Press Coverage
- The Sportster
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Roger Staubach should be on this list.
The idea that Dan Marino is not on the list is absurd. This list is claimed to be made by experts. Seriously?
Marino never won a Super Bowl.
Terry Bradshaw? Undefeated in 4 Superbowls?
Exactly my thoughts. It seems he’s been lost in the sauce among all of these more recent, more “protected” QBs.
I’m not a big Brady fan, but I’ll admit he’s won a lot of Super Bowls. My humble opinion is that winning that game always has more to do with who surrounds you, on both sides of the ball. Second, Montana was so much fun to watch that I probably would put him at numero uno just because of that fact. Third. Yes, Brady has won a lot of SB’s, but so did Terry Bradshaw. If that’s your criteria, where’s Bradshaw. Fourth, I love Johnny Unitas. Met him one time on a golf course. Very nice, humble man. But how can you possibly have Unitas on this list – and he must be on this list – without having Bart Starr on it? I don’t get that at all. I love Elway. But Starr must be on this list. He is the personification of what I said at the beginning: winning, and especially winning Titles, is more about who surrounds the QB than anything the QB does himself.
They need to expand the list to 10 or even 15.
Any GOAT list without Michael Jordan at the top is total bullshiit, man.
Johnny Unitas is true GOAT. This list is way biased towards the present. QBs today should wear dresses. Some of them probably do.