The discussion of who the greatest of all time (GOAT) in the quarterback position is/was has raged for decades. From humble beginnings with Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas, to modern dynasties led by Tom Brady and Drew Brees, everyone thinks they know the answer.
Who do you have listed as the best ever? For New England fans, it's unquestionably Tom "Terrific" Brady, while San Francisco Bay Fans will argue for Cool Joe Montana until the sun goes down. Here's our take on the issue. These are the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Ben Roethlisberger - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
Love him or hate him, it's hard to deny how dominant Ben Roethlisberger has been throughout his career in Pittsburgh. As a rookie in 2004, he led the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Pittsburgh lost 41-27.
Undeterred, Roethlisberger led the team all the way back in 2005, this time taking down the Broncos before defeating the Seattle Seahawks to win his first ring. Three years later he repeated the act, commanding the team to second Super Bowl victory against the Arizona Cardinals. In 2018, he threw for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Bart Starr - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
For 15 years, Bart Starr manned the helm in Green Bay. His greatest achievements unquestionably came closer to the end of his career, in 1967 and 1968. During those years he won back-to-back Super Bowls. Those weren't just any Super Bowls, though, they were the first two ever.
When Starr retired, his legacy as the greatest quarterback of his era was cemented. He led the league in passing yards five times, was named the NFL Most Valuable Player once, was a two time Super Bowl MVP, and a one-time First-Team All-Pro.
Brett Favre - Three Consecutive NFL MVP Awards
Brett Favre had a long, illustrious, and controversial NFL career. Over the course of 20 seasons, he set records, won over fan bases, retired, unretired, and burned fanbases in the processes. Still, one look at his accolades and it's clear the good overwhelmingly outweighs the bad.
Favre is the only player to ever win three consecutive MVP awards and hung up his cleats as the leagues all-time passing leader. He also had an incredible knack for staying healthy and started every game for 18 and half seasons.
Troy Aikman - Three Time Super Bowl Champion
Several years after Roger Staubach retired, Troy Aikman ushered in the next great era of Dallas Cowboys football. Alongside Michael Irvin and Emmit Smith, Aikman won three Super Bowls under center, never losing. In Super Bowl XXVII, he threw four touchdowns and earned MVP honors.
Aikman's career was cut short when linebacker LaVar Arrington sacked him, giving him the tenth concussion of his career. When he retired, Aikman had 32,000 career passing yards and 165 career touchdowns. He was enshrined in Canton in 2006.
Aaron Rodgers - One Time Super Bowl Champion
A lock for the Hall of Fame, the only knock on Aaron Rodgers not being higher on this list is his lack of success in the postseason. He's won one Super Bowl, but otherwise has been unspectacular in getting Green Bay over the hump.
If Rodgers can win another ring or two before he retires, he could be in the argument for the greatest of all time. His stats arguably already make him the GOAT. Earning the title isn't just about the numbers though, it's also about the jewelry.
Jim Kelly - Five Time Pro Bowl Selection
Jim Kelly is an icon in Buffalo. He turned the city into a destination for football fans, creating one the league's greatest ever shows on turf. He retired after 11 seasons, playing through the highest highs and the lowest lows.
The highest highs were his four straight Super Bowl appearances. The lows, sadly, are his four straight Super Bowl losses. Kelly had an innate ability to lead his team to the promised land, but for some reason (looking at you Scott Norwood), he could never seal the deal.
Drew Brees - 12 Time Pro Bowl Selection
Few quarterbacks have had as big of an impact on their city as Drew Brees. Signed by New Orleans in 2006 after San Diego let him go, Brees turned into one of the greatest statistical quarterbacks of all-time. In 2009, he brought the city back together, winning the Super Bowl after Hurricane Katrina.
In that Super Bowl, Brees beat Peyton Manning, who was playing at the top of his game with the Colts. Outside of the big game, he is the most accurate quarterback in NFL history, and is the league's all-time passing yards leader.
Steve Young - Two Time NFL MVP
Steve Young took on the impossible task of replacing Joe Montana in San Francisco in 1992. Not many would be up to the task, but Young attacked the opportunity like a kid at a candy shop. We won his first NFL MVP award that same season.
Two years later, Young got the "monkey off his back" and led the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl title; the team's first without Montana. After throwing a record six Super Bowl touchdown passes, Young had teammates literally rip the invisible primate off his jersey.
Roger Staubach - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
Without Roger Staubach, who knows if the Dallas Cowboys would have become "America's Team." For 11 years he stood under center for the blue and silver, taking them to the Super Bowl five times. Twice he struck gold, creating a legacy that would be hard for even Troy Aikman to live up to.
Staubach played until his body gave up on him. The season he retired, Dallas offered him a two-year contract extension. After 20 concussions, however, his doctor told him one more could have life-altering effects. He was replaced by Danny White.
Warren Moon - Nine Time Pro Bowl Selection
Would you be shocked to find out that Warren Moon went undrafted by the NFL in 1978? It took six years in the Canadian Football League, and five CFL titles for an NFL team to finally take a chance on Moon.
What followed was a 17-season NFL career that saw Moon earn nine Pro Bowl selections. In 1990, he led the league in touchdown passes and was named the AFC Player of the Year. In 2006, he became the first African American quarterback ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Johnny Unitas - Three Time League Champion
The second greatest quarterback to ever don a Colts' jersey, Unitas was the team's leader while they were still in Baltimore. In that time, he won three league championships, including one Super Bowl (Super Bowl V). A ten time Pro Bowl selection, Unitas was one of the greats of his era.
Enshrined in Canton in 1979, Unitas will forever be known to football fans as "Mr. Clutch" for his ability to lead comeback wins. His 290 career touchdown passes, an NFL record when he retired, currently ranks him 15th since the NFL has become more of a passing league.
Sammy Baugh - Two Time NFL Champion
Dipping further down the well of history, Sammy Baugh played for the Washington Redskins from 1937 until 1952. In that time he won a record-setting six NFL passing titles and two league championships. In 1943, Baugh played multiple positions, and led the league in passing, punting, and interceptions (as a defender).
Perhaps because of his multi-positionality, Baugh isn't higher on this list. He played all over the football field, and is undeniably one of the greatest to ever play. We're not talking greatest football players of all time, however; only quarterbacks.
Otto Graham - Seven Time League Champion
Since he played in an era that came before the first Super Bowl, it's easy to forget just how good Otto Graham was. For ten seasons (1946-1955) he was the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Every single one of those seasons, the team made the Championship game.
Seven of those ten years, Cleveland won it all. He retired with two league records, most yards per pass attempt (nine), and winning percentage (0.814). Both of those records still stand today, proving just how good Graham really was.
Peyton Manning - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
Known more these days for his Papa John's commercials then his NFL career, it's easy to forget that Peyton Manning might be the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. Like Dan Marino before him, when Manning retired, he owned just about every record he could.
Elected to 14 Pro Bowls, Manning retired with 71,000 passing yards and five MVP awards. His postseason play left something to be desired, though. He appeared in four Super Bowls, two with the Colts and two with the Broncos, winning twice, although he gave the defense credit for the last one.
Tom Brady - Seven Time Super Bowl Champion.. And Counting
Tom Brady has been to 10 Super Bowls. He could still go to more before he retires. He is the only quarterback to win seven Super Bowls. He could still win more before he retires. He is the NFL's all-time passing leader if you combine the regular and postseason.
The argument for why Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time is strong. Every year when people discount him, he proves that he is only getting better with age. He has publicly said he wants to play until he's 50. Do you think he will?
Dan Marino - Nine Time Pro Bowl Selection
When Dan Marino retired in 1999, he held just about every quarterback record there was. He was the only quarterback at the time to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a seasons and had 420 touchdowns. The only thing Marino retired without was a Super Bowl ring.
Marino did make it to a Super Bowl. In his second season in the NFL, he took the Dolphins to the big game at the end, losing to the 49ers 38-16. Marino never made it back, despite making the playoffs seven more times in his career.
Fran Tarkenton - Nine Time Pro Bowl Selection
One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the history of the league, Fran Tarkenton accomplished a lot in the NFL. His nine Pro Bowl selections put him in elite company, and that earns him a place on this list.
Splitting 18 years between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, Tarkenton retired with 47,000 career passing yards and 342 touchdowns. He was named the NFL MVP in 1975 and led the league in passing yards in 1978. For everything he was able to do, Tarkenton was never able to reach the top of the mountain and win a Super Bowl.
Joe Montana - Four Time Super Bowl Champion
Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl. He went to four Super Bowls and went a perfect 4-0, and was named MVP three times. In those four games, he threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. It's hard to argue with just how great Montana was on the game's biggest stage.
Why isn't he higher, then? To be frank, he played in an era where passing wasn't emphasized. In 14 seasons, he never threw for more than 4,000 yards and only threw more than 30 touchdown passes once.
Terry Bradshaw - Four Time Super Bowl Champion
The most underrated quarterback to win four Super Bowls, Terry Bradshaw did it all with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1989, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, but will never find himself compared to Tom Brady (seven Super Bowl rings) or Joe Montana (four Super Bowl rings).
The lack of respect from analysts comes from Bradshaw's career numbers. He only threw for 3,000 yards twice in his career, completing 51 percent of his passes. Still, he makes this list for his incredible ability to show up in the biggest games and in the most clutch moments.
John Elway - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
It took John Elway and entire career to prove his doubters wrong. The greatest quarterback to ever wear a Broncos' jersey, Elway was also criticized for his inability to play up to his potential in big games. That criticism ended when the Hall of Famer won back-to-back Super Bowls.
Since retiring, Elways has only added to his trophy case. He accepted a job as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Denver in 2011. Five years later, the team won another Super Bowl. Coincidence?
Dan Fouts - Six Time Pro Bowl Selection
Proving that great quarterbacks who play for the Chargers can't catch a break, we give you Dan Fouts. A Hall of Famer, Fouts retired with 254 career touchdown passes and 43,000 career passing yards. Yeah, he was pretty good.
If only he hadn't been surrounded by mediocrity most of his career. Fouts did manage to rally San Diego (now Los Angeles) to two AFC Championship games, but was let down by his poor defenses. Oddly enough, the Chargers did make the Super Bowl seven years after Fouts retired, but you won't see that quarterback on this list.
Kurt Warner - Two Time NFL MVP
Kurt Warner is the greatest accidental quarterback of all-time. When he took over for an injured Trent Green in 1999, no one in their right mind would have expected him to lead the team to the Super Bowl and win league MVP honors.
In case you forgot, before he signed with St. Louis, he was bagging groceries. His glory days with the Rams were short lived and he fumbled around the league a few years until landing with the Cardinals. And do you remember what happened there? He led them to the Super Bowl.
Tony Romo - Four Time Pro Bowl Selection
Tono Romo never won a Super Bowl. In his first playoffs with the Cowboys, he fumbled a critical snap on a field goal, sealing the game. That event followed him unfairly his entire career. Known as a choker, Romo is actually one the most efficient clutch quarterbacks ever.
The biggest problem Tony Romo had during his career was his inability to stay healthy. In his last season he broke his back, leading the way for Dak Prescott to take over in Dallas. If he could have stayed healthy, who knows how many rings he might have.
Phillip Rivers - Eight Time Pro Bowl Selection
A sure fire Hall of famer, the only thing that has eluded Phillip Rivers in his career is a Super Bowl ring. Most eight time pro bowl quarterbacks have at least one! Not Rivers, even though he has led some of the most dominant teams in Charger' history.
Still playing in 2019, there's always the chance Rivers' luck will change. With the ability to throw the ball to Keenan Allen and hand off to Melvin Gordon, his most recent squad might be the best yet. Will it help him get over the hump?
Joe Namath - One Time Super Bowl Champion
One of the most controversial all-time great quarterbacks, Joe Namath earns his place in Canton based on how he changed the game. He brought attitude and style to an otherwise cookie cutter league in the '60s. He also guaranteed the the Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl Three.
He was right, too. If you've ever watched highlights of Namath, you know how athletic he was. We bet you didn't know he played most of his career with a torn ACL. How many quarterbacks could do that today?
Eli Manning - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
Eli Manning has never been the flashiest regular season quarterback. Put him in the playoffs, however, and something changes. He becomes elite and has shown the ability to carry New York on his back. The two time Super Bowl winner won the MVP award in both games.
Most impressively, one of those Super Bowls was against the undefeated Patriots. One of the only tarnished marks on Tom Brady's career resume is courtesy of Eli Manning. As Matt Dam on says in Good Will Hunting, "How 'bout them apples?"
Russell Wilson - One Time Super Bowl Champion
Continuing our list with a quarterback still playing, Russell Wilson has proven time and time again that his short stature doesn't matter. He plays big. In the moments where games look lost, Wilson scrambles and finds someone downfield, hitting them with pinpoint accuracy.
Anyone who is a fan of other NFC West teams knows just how dangerous Russell Wilson. With one Super Bowl and two Super Bowl appearances before his 30th birthday, there's no telling just where Wilson will rank when he hangs up his cleats for good.
Bernie Kosar - One Time Super Bowl Champion
One of the most famous Browns' quarterbacks in NFL history, Bernie Kosar didn't win his Super Bowl in Cleveland. From 1985 to 1993, Kosar was still treated like royalty in Cleveland. Like Jim Kelly, Kosar helped make Cleveland a place players wanted to play.
It all fell apart when Bill Belichick was hired as the Browns head coach, though. After two disappointing seasons, Belichick released Kosar, much to the chagrin of the fan base. Just a few years later, the Browns became the Baltimore Ravens. Kosar went to on to back up Troy Aikman and win a ring.
Bob Griese - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
In NFL history, only one team has ever gone truly undefeated. That team was the 1972 Dolphins, and their quarterback was Bob Griese. After rolling through the regular season and playoffs, Miami were actually two point underdogs in the Super Bowl.
Sometimes the odds-makers just get it wrong. Griese would go on to win one more Super Bowl and earn six Pro Bowl selections. He retired with 192 career touchdowns and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Ken Stabler - One Time Super Bowl Champion
Nicknamed the "Snake" during his career with the Raiders, Ken Stabler is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. Playing under the tutelage of iconic head coach John Madden, Stabler led the Raiders to Super XI, beating the Viking 32-14.
Nearing his 40s, Stabler called it a career in 1984. He finished with 194 touchdowns and 28,000 passing yards. Considered a borderline Hall of Famer for two decades, he finally found his bust in Canton in 2016.
Joe Theismann - One Time Super Bowl Champion
Joe Theismann only has one Super Ring on his fingers, but he could have had more. A gruesome leg injury ended his career before he could. We recommend not watching the video. It will churn your stomach, just like Theismann's brilliant play on the field did to defenders.
To this day, Theismann still holds several Washington records; career wins (87), passing yards (25,000), completions (2,044), and passing attempts (3,602). The Redskins were hoping Kirk Cousins might break those records, but he proved to be too much to handle after multiple seasons under the franchise tag.
Len Dawson - One Time Super Bowl Champion
If you don't know the name Len Dawson, you should. As the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs for 14 seasons, he was incredible. The culmination of his career came in 1970, when he beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV.
In the Super Bowl, Dawson completed 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He won the game MVP award for his performances, etching his name in Kansas City, and NFL history.
Vinny Testaverde - Two Time Pro Bowl Selection
You'll never see Vinny Testaverde in the Hall of Fame. For 21 years, he moved between being a starting and backup quarterback for seven different teams. His best years came with the New York Jets from 1998 to 2003. He was one tough son of a gun, though!
In 1998, he took the Jets from mediocrity to AFC Super Bowl contender. Riding a wave of great luck, Testaverde lifted the Jets to a 12-4 record and the AFC Championship game, where he lost to John Elway and the Broncos.
Doug Williams - One Time Super Bowl Champion
Doug Williams, on the surface, had an average NFL career. When you look at what he accomplished in his three short years with the Redskins, though, you can see why he made this list. As the starting quarterback for the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, Williams became the first black quarterback to win it all.
To earn his Super Bowl ring, Williams had to beat a young John Elways. He proved up to the task, scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter. Washington beat Denver 42-10, and the legend of Doug Williams was born.
Randall Cunningham - Four Time Pro Bowl Selection
Like Joe Namath before him, Randall Cunningham electrified the NFL when he became the Eagles starting quarterback. Riding the speed of his legs and strength of his arm, Cunningham was named to four Pro Bowls. He retired with 29,000 passing yards and 5,000 rushing yards.
His 35 rushing touchdowns are more than most running backs retire with. Sadly, Cunningham has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Looking at his career statistics, we bet if he had ever won a Super Bowl, he'd have a bust in Canton.
Phil Simms - Two Time Super Bowl Champion
Another quarterback whose numbers won't jump off the computers screen at you, Phil Simms showed up in big games. He won two Super Bowl as the Giants starting quarterback, cementing his selection to the Giants' Ring of Honor.
By the time Simms decided he had enough winning, he had compiled 33,000 passing yards and 199 touchdowns. In 1986, he was named the NEA NFL Most Valuable Player. One day Canton might fight a spot for Simms, but for now he'll have to settle for having his number retired in New York.
Drew Bledsoe - Four Time Pro Bowl Selection
Over the course of his career, Drew Bledsoe was a statistical monster. He retired with 44,000 passing yards and 251 touchdowns. He was elected to four Pro Bowls and is one of the most respected players to ever put on a uniform.
For the first nine seasons of his career, Bledsoe played for the Patriots, taking the team to one Super Bowl loss. In his final year in New England he got hurt, paving the way for Tom Brady. Brady, as you know, led the team to a Super Bowl win. Bledsoe retired with the Cowboys in 2006.
Matt Ryan - One Time NFL MVP
Matt Ryan had big shoes to fill in Atlanta when the team drafted him. Coming off the Michael Vick prison saga, Ryan was tasked with erasing the embarrassment and leading the team to greatness. It didn't take him very long to do that.
In 2012, Ryan and the Falcons reached the NFC Championship game, losing to the 49ers after building a large lead at halftime. Then, in 2017, Ryan was named NFL MVP and took Atlanta to the Super Bowl. In a sad twist of fate, history repeated itself as the Falcons built up a sizable lead before losing to the Patriots.
Ken Anderson - Four Time Pro Bowl Selection
Ken Anderson was played for the Cincinnati Bengals his entire paying career. For 16 seasons he set franchise records and did things Marvin Lewis could only dream of. For one, he won a playoffs. He even took the Bengals to the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
In that Super Bowl, the Bengals were beat by the 49ers, but not because of Anderson's effort. He played well in the game, completing 25 of 30 passes for 300 yards. It was his defense that let him down, spotting San Francisco a quick 20-0 lead.
Carson Palmer - Three Time Pro Bowl Selection
Carson Palmer had a colorful NFL career. Drafted by the Bengals, he resuscitated the hapless franchise. For eight years he was everything the team needed. He was named to two Pro Bowl teams and led the league in passing touchdowns in 2005.
Then, in 2010, everything went south. Palmer decided he would rather retire than play another snap for Cincinnati, which he did. Kind of. After sitting out most of the 2011 season, he was traded to Oakland. In 2013 he signed with he Cardinals. In 2016, he was spectacular, leading Arizona to a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship game.
Let's Not Forget About Mahomes!
Patrick Mahomes lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a Superbowl championship in 2023. He was named MVP for the game, and in 2020, received the same MVP award for their performance in the final as well even though they didn't win.
Mahomes is one of only two players in NFL history with 5,000 passing yards and 50 passing touchdowns in a single season and has lead the Chiefs to the Superbowl three times in 2020, 2021, and 2023.