Finding Brett Favre's Place Among the NFL's Greatest QBs of All Time as I Rank the Top 10
OK, so yesterday I asked you to give me your thoughts on Brett Favre's legacy now that he appears to have played his last game. Unfortunately, only a few of you weighed in. In an attempt to spark some serious debate, here are my top 10 quarterbacks of all time. The criterion is simple: If I had my choice of one guy to win a game for me, who would I choose?
10. Dan Marino
147-93 record, 420 TD, 252 INT, 254 YPG, 86.4 rating
He may have lost his only Super Bowl appearance, but Marino took the Dolphins to the playoffs 10 times without a strong supporting cast. He averaged 4,057 yards with 28 touchdowns and 17 interceptions over a 16-game season with virtually no running game during his career and Mark Clayton and Mark Duper as his top targets.
Marino had perhaps the quickest release in the history of the NFL, and his sophomore season of 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns ranks among the top individual feats of all time. And although John Elway is known as having the most fourth-quarter comebacks, it's actually Marino who's tied for the most with Johnny Unitas at 36.
9. Brett Favre
181-104 record, 508 TD, 336 INT, 238 YPG, 86.0 rating
He and Marino had very similar careers, but Favre won a Super Bowl and was more of a threat to pull a rabbit out of his hat while scrambling around to find an open receiver. Of course, Favre's propensity to hold onto the ball and attempt to squeeze it into tight spots led to many costly interceptions throughout the years, which knocks him down a few spots.
The three-time MVP (although Barry Sanders should have been the sole MVP in 1997) averaged 3,806 yards with 27 TD and 18 INT per 16 games and not only surpassed most of Marino's records that were expected to last forever, but he just ended the longest consecutive-games-played streak in NFL history at 297. He's one tough SOB -- no doubt about it -- but he should have hung up his cleats last year.
8. Troy Aikman
94-71 record, 165 TD, 141 INT, 200 YPG, 81.6 rating
No Cowboys bias here. While Aikman's numbers (3,194 yards, 16 TD and 14 INT per 16 games) weren't flashy, he was a fantastic leader and precise passer. He also posted a combined 111.93 rating and 70 percent completion percentage in his three Super Bowl victories that happened in a four-year span.
Aikman's career stats would have been much better had Emmitt Smith not been gobbling up the most yardage and TDs in NFL history for a running back and had he not called it quits early at age 34 after suffering multiple concussions.
7. Roger Staubach 85-29 record, 153 TD, 109 INT, 173 YPG, 83.4 rating
Despite missing his first four years because of his commitment to the Naval Academy, Staubach led the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances, including wins against the Dolphins and Broncos and two four-point losses to the Steelers.
He was not only one of the best athletes to play the position, but, like Aikman, Staubach was a tremendous leader and gifted passer who simply knew how to win.
6. John Elway
148-82-1 record, 300 TD, 226 INT, 220 YPG, 79.9 rating
He got his ass kicked in three Super Bowls, but once his targets changed from Mark Jackson and Vance Johnson to Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe and his running back became Terrell Davis instead of Bobby Humphrey, he won two consecutive championships against the Falcons and Packers to end his spectacular career.
With Elway, no victory was secure until the final seconds ticked off the clock, as evidenced by his 35 fourth-quarter comebacks. And more so than Favre, Elway bought time to find an open receiver when the pocket broke down or his targets simply needed more time to get open.
5. Steve Young
94-49 record, 232 TD, 107 INT, 196 YPG, 96.8 rating
His career quarterback rating is topped only by Aaron Rodgers and Phillip Rivers (who woulda guessed that?) and he racked up the third most rushing yards for a QB (4,239), yet he spent his prime years of ages 26 to 29 backing up Joe Montana after he was traded to San Francisco from Tampa Bay.
The league's MVP in 1992 and '94 and a Super Bowl winner in between the three won by the Cowboys in the early '90s, Young averaged 3,136 passing yards, 22 TD and 10 INT per 16 games and displayed the best combination of accuracy through the air and effectiveness on the ground the NFL has ever seen.
4. Johnny Unitas
118-64-4 record, 290 TD, 253 INT, 191 YPG, 78.2 rating
I can't say I ever saw the man play other than a few clips on TV, and he sure tossed a lot of picks (19 per 16 games) while completing just 54.6 percent of his passes, but everything I've read about Unitas says he simply was The Man during his playing days.
He won three MVPs ('59, '64 and '67) and led the Baltimore Colts to back-to-back NFL Championships in '58 and '59, including what has been dubbed as the NFL's greatest game -- a 23-17 overtime victory over the New York Giants in Yankee Stadium.
3. Peyton Manning
131-61 record, 394 TD, 196 INT, 264 YPG, 94.9 rating
Somehow it seems impossible that Manning has won as many Super Bowls as his brother Eli, but he does have time to rectify that at 34 years old. If he can stay healthy, Favre's passing records are likely history, along with his coveted consecutive games played streak. (Manning's at 206.)
Manning has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in 11 of his 13 seasons and is averaging an eye-popping 4,224 yards, 31 TD and 15 INT per 16 games played. The four-time MVP's path to Canton is already secure, but a couple more championships could earn him the title of the NFL's greatest player by the time he calls it quits.
2. Joe Montana
117-47 record, 273 TD, 139 INT, 211 YPG, 92.3 rating
One of the smartest players to ever put on pads, Montana was the MVP of three Super Bowls and won another, tying him with Terry Bradshaw for the most Super Bowl victories by a quarterback. And in those four games, he had a sparkling 127.83 combined rating.
Montana didn't possess the athleticism of Staubach, Elway or Young, but he established himself as an elite quarterback by reading defenses with precision and avoiding mistakes like no other.
1. Tom Brady
97-30 record, 256 TD, 103 INT, 241 YPG, 94.9 rating
Too early for this? Nah. Somehow Brady won three Super Bowls without an elite wide receiver or running back and almost won a fourth had it not been for a couple fortunate plays by the New York Giants.
He has the most TDs in a single season with 50 during his 2007 MVP year, while leading his club to the only undefeated 16-game regular season in NFL history. His teams have always finished the season with a winning record; his rating is identical to Manning; and he averages 3,850 yards, 29 TD and only 12 INT per 16 games.
Brady, quite frankly, has done it all. And at 33 years old with his team atop the AFC with a 12-2 record, the résumé only figures to improve.
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