December 26, 2013
NFL Truly A Quarterback League, Then And Now
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
He's the one with the star on his door, the one who always gets the girl, and the other 52 guys simply know their place.
Well, an offensive lineman can snag a pretty honey also, but he enjoys far more anonymity and privacy than his teammate who hangs out in the gun or under center. Out in Denver, Wes Welker enjoys his Hooters wife, but Peyton Manning has him by a mile in global popularity. After the epic Jet win in Super Bowl III, defensive lineman Gerry Philbin extended his retirement by one game so he could play the Giants in a preseason game the year after and called the win the greatest day of his life. After the same epic win, Joe Namath went out partying with "whoever he ran into" and is still globally popular to this day.
The quarterback. He is an archetypical American glamour boy. He has a golden arm, a golden personality, golden looks, and is perceived by most everyone as heroic when he wins and wistful when he loses. Good or bad, he is still the figurehead of the team and the one man everyone remembers. Even for those teams who have MVPs at other positions, the quarterback is still the ringmaster in the center of the circus, the Cary Grant or John Wayne of the team.
Greater heralding is accorded the quarterback who happens to be the best in his team's history. Many quarterbacks have gone on to the Hall of Fame. But how long a quarterback spends time with one team and develops his legacy is crucial to that team's long term heritage and public perception. For most all teams in the NFL, that one individual defines the entire history of the franchise.
That said, here are the top quarterbacks in history for every team in the NFL. As always, your list and opinions will vary. Two teams in particular will engender much discussion from the fan bases of the respective teams.
New England We won't insult your intelligence. Drew Bledsoe, Steve Grogan and Babe Parilli had their long term successes. Jim Plunkett won Super Bowls elsewhere and had no offensive line to speak of until Leon Gray and John Hannah came along. But Patriot Nation may never see the likes of Tom Brady ever again when he retires.
Miami Bob Griese won two Super Bowls, and along with Earl Morrall, authored the now time-worn perfect season of 1972. The Dolphins from that year party it up every year when the last undefeated team loses its first game. Griese was a great quarterback. But you cannot choose against Dan Marino, who has the raw numbers but no rings in his long and illustrious career.
Buffalo Jack Kemp led the Bills to two AFL titles. Joe Ferguson was one of the most underrated quarterbacks of the 1970s. But Jim Kelly, who cut his teeth with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, gets the nod here. He led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl berths, and while he lost all of them, it remains a remarkable if underrated accomplishment.
New York Jets The Jets have done little since Super Bowl III. This must be clearly understood or else no understanding can come of what I am about to relate to you. Ken O'Brien had some terrific Jet offenses, and Chad Pennington was great until he got hurt. But Joe Namath still reigns supreme here. He still is the Jets, literally and figuratively.
Pittsburgh When he retires, Ben Roethlisberger will probably force a re-write. For now, you still have to go with Terry Bradshaw and his four Super Bowl wins. He has forged a great second career as a Fox analyst and is Jay Leno's funniest guest. But he is still the best quarterback western Pennsylvania has ever seen.
Cleveland Frank Ryan, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde had nice runs. But the best quarterback in Browns history has to be Otto Graham, bar none. When Cleveland entered the NFL from the old AAFC (they were the champs in all four years in that league), Graham led the Browns to three NFL titles. Ryan was the only other QB to win a title for the Browns. Graham may have been the best quarterback ever in the opinions of some, but he certainly was in Cleveland.
Cincinnati You have to give the nod here to Ken Anderson over Boomer Esiason and Carson Palmer. The first two led the Bengals to their only Super Bowl appearances, but Anderson was one of the more accurate passers in league history. HIs 70.6 completion percentage in 1982 (since broken twice by Drew Brees) set a then NFL record.
Baltimore They may have moved from Cleveland in 1996, but their records begin with the move. Here you have little choice but to give the nod to Joe Flacco, the top man in a weak field. Flacco led his team to a win in Super Bowl XLVII; the only other Super Bowl winning quarterback in Ravens history was the immortal Trent Dilfer.
Indianapolis Here is the first decision which will bring about a ton of controversy. To pick against Peyton Manning might seem like sheer stupidity. But the best Colt quarterback in history is Johnny Unitas. He threw for 40,000 yards when quarterbacks didn't do so back then, and was the first quarterback to surpass that mark. Unitas won three NFL titles, including the iconic 1958 game and Super Bowl V. That beats Manning, if longevity and global popularity don't.
Tennessee This also includes the old Houston Oilers. George Blanda, Dan Pastorini, Steve McNair, all of them made Bud Adams proud. But Warren Moon did the most pleasing the owner. Moon parlayed a successful CFL career into a very good NFL career, and spent ten seasons becoming the all-time passing leader in franchise history. If only his team hadn't blown that big playoff lead at Buffalo.
Houston Lack of team longevity, like the Ravens, makes this one hard. Matt Schaub wins literally by default.
Jacksonville Longevity is also a bit of a problem here. Give the nod to Mark Brunnell over Byron Leftwich. Brunnell led the Jaguars to their only AFC title game appearance in 1996, and is also their all-time passing leader.
Denver Manning is Manning, but he won't make a dent in the legacy of John Elway. Elway is the Alpha and Omega where Denver quarterbacks are concerned. There is no second place or lower here.
San Diego Phillip Rivers is still writing his legacy book. John Hadl led a powerful Charger offense in the 1960s. Stan Humphries led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl. But the man in San Diego is Dan Fouts. He was at the helm of Air Coryell, one of the greatest offensive blitzkriegs in NFL history. If Don Coryell had any defense at all back then, the Chargers would have won a few titles.
Oakland Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls. Darryl Lamonica played in a Super Bowl and was dubbed "The Mad Bomber". Rich Gannon also led Oakland to a Super Bowl. But the best Raider quarterback was Ken Stabler. He was the most accurate and led the Raiders during their best years. He also won a Super Bowl, the one Ben Dreith gave the Raiders in 1976.
Kansas City They played in two of the first four Super Bowls and have done little since. The best Chief quarterback played in both of those Super Bowls and won Super Bowl IV. Len Dawson still owns most all Kansas City passing records, and overcame a lot of adverse prognostications early on to enjoy a great career. Bill Kenney, Trent Green and Matt Cassel don't measure up.
Dallas Very tough choice here. It's between two very good guys. Tony Romo isn't one of them. Neither is Dandy Don Meredith. Roger Staubach led Dallas to two Super Bowl wins and was one of the most clutch quarterbacks in league history. But Troy Aikman went one better, becoming the first quarterback to win three Super Bowls in four years, which Brady matched in the next decade, during a brilliant 11-year career with Dallas.
New York Giants Patriot Nation won't like this one. Charlie Conerly was your grandpa's Giant quarterback, Fran Tarkenton your father's, and Phil Simms yours as a youth. Simms did win two Vinces, but the second of the two was injured and Jeff Hostetler actually brought home the bacon. But Eli Manning is already the passing leader in team history, and has one more Super Bowl win than his big brother.
Philadelphia Long history, but a rather weak field. Tommy Thompson won two NFL titles in the late 1940s, Norm Van Brocklin won the 1960 title, Ron Jaworski led the Eagles to a Super Bowl, and Randall Cunningham redefined the position. Donovan McNabb is the all-time passing leader and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. He also has longevity on his side.
Washington Joe Gibbs won his Super Bowl titles with three different quarterbacks: Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. Sonny Jurgensen was one of the best quarterbacks of his era. But the choice here is Sammy Baugh, who was one of the best quarterbacks when throwing wasn't what it is today. Baugh led the Redskins to titles in 1937 and 1942, and was also one of the best punters in NFL history.
Chicago Slim pickings here. Jim McMahon did win a Super Bowl, and Jay Cutler is the all-time passing leader, thus the slim pickings. Give the nod here to another oldie, Sid Luckman. He won 4 NFL titles between 1940 and 1946, including a 73-0 pasting of Washington in the 1940 title game.
Green Bay Here is the other controversial choice. Brett Favre has the longevity and the numbers. But the best quarterback in Packers history was Bart Starr. He had longevity too, and a lot more titles. The Packers won five NFL titles under Starr and Vince Lombardi, including the first two Super Bowls where Starr was the MVP in both games.
Detroit All you need to say about Detroit quarterbacks is that Matthew Stafford is already the all-time passing leader. Give the choice here to Bobby Layne, who led Detroit to its last title, in 1957 and played nine seasons with the Lions.
Minnesota The choice here is Fran Tarkenton, who led the Vikings to three of their four Super Bowls. He played two separate stints and is their passing leader. Tommy Kramer and Daunte Culpepper had somewhat long stints, but Tarkenton rules here without any doubt.
Tampa Bay Very weak field. Brad Johnson won their only Super Bowl. Doug Williams got them out of the cellar in the late 1970s. Give it to Vinny Testaverde, their all-time passing leader.
Carolina Lack of longevity makes this very hard. Jake Delhomme led them to their only Super Bowl and is their all-time passing leader. Cam Newton may pull ahead of Delhomme when he is done.
Atlanta Chris Chandler took them to their only Super Bowl. Michael Vick didn't stay long enough. Matt Ryan may be the top dog when he's done. For now, give it to Steve Bartkowski, the all-time passing leader and the first Falcon quarterback to lead them to playoff berths in the late 1970s.
New Orleans Papa Manning. Archie is still the favorite in that family among many. Bobby Hebert won a USFL title and then became the first Saint quarterback to get that team to the playoffs. Drew Brees won the only Super Bowl in Saint history, is their all-time passing leader, and is still writing his brilliant legacy in the Big Easy.
San Francisco You cannot forget what John Brodie and Steve Young did. Brodie had a long and great career with good 49ers teams. Young did win a Super Bowl with a game record six touchdown passes. But you cannot pick against Joe Montana, perceived by many as the best ever.
St. Louis Kurt Warner had three terrific years, going 1-1 in Super Bowls and lost a Wild Card game in the third. Jim Everett is the all-time passing leader. Give it here to Norm Van Brocklin, the leader of the "point a minute offense", which would give the Greatest Show On Turf a run for its money.
Arizona Paul Christman won the only title in team history. Warner led them to their only Super Bowl. Jake Plummer and Neil Lomax had some nice years. But Jim Hart is the all-time passing leader and led the team to two straight playoff years in the late 1970s.
Seattle The first two Seahawk quarterbacks, Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg, gave the team stability and four playoff appearances for the latter. Russell Wilson may top this list some day. But Matt Hasselbeck is the all-time passing leader and led the Hawks to their only Super Bowl. And he'll always be remembered for "we'll take the ball and we're going to win" just before throwing a pick-six in a playoff game in Green Bay. That did take guts, albeit lack of common sense.
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