Skip to main content

NFL’s 10 best quarterbacks of all time: From Joe Montana to Tom Brady

Many NFL fans wonder who are the best quarterbacks of all time. Well, wonder no longer as we rank the greatest players to snap a chin strap, and step onto the gridiron to play, arguably, the most important position in all sports.

Related: Live Super Bowl 2024 Updates: Follow Our Real-Time Coverage Blog for Latest News & Highlights

Our rankings of the best quarterbacks of all time include several multi-time Super Bowl champions, men who took home the NFL MVP award a few times, and a slew of individuals who changed the game and position with what they were able to do during their tenures in the league.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the NFL’s 10 best quarterbacks of all time.

10. Drew Brees

best quarterbacks of all time
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Also Read: 10 Players with the longest NFL careers, including Brett Favre and Tom Brady

Drew Brees had a very good stint while being the man under center for the then-San Diego Chargers. However, when he took his talents to New Orleans for the Saints he would build a legendary legacy that would solidify his place as far and away the greatest QB in franchise history.

During 15 impressive seasons in Louisiana, Brees earned Pro Bowl honors 10 times and threw for over 4,000 yards in a dozen seasons, including four years where he surpassed 5,000. Brees was an absolute stats monster that also tossed over 30 touchdowns in 10 seasons.

  • Drew Brees stats (Career): 80,358 yards, 571 TD, 243 INT, 98.7 rating

Drew Brees’ biggest accomplishment was his effort in winning the 2009 Super Bowl MVP and finally bringing New Orleans their first and only NFL Championship.

9. Otto Graham

Cleveland Browns icon Otto Graham may not be a familiar name to recent generations of fans but he was a true pioneer of the league and a game-changer talent during the NFL’s formative years in the 1950s.

  • Otto Graham stats (Career): 23,584 yards, 174 TD, 135 INT, 86.6 rating

The three-time champion and five-time Pro Bowler threw for over 23,000 yards in an era where the game plan for many teams was to run first, run second, and maybe think about throwing the ball on third and long. He was an innovator known for his patented spin move and was a forefather to future QBs that could both run and pass like Johnny Unitas, Archie Manning, and Randall Cunningham.

8. Aaron Rodgers

best quarterbacks of all time
Credit: USA Today Network

While many current fans may not be aware of the exploits of Otto Graham, they are well aware of Green Bay Packers icon Aaron Rodgers. There are few things that Rodgers couldn’t do on the football field during a career that includes winning three NFL MVP awards and making 10 trips to the Pro Bowl.

The Packers great seemed to create the blueprint that is now used by current superstars like Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. Where extending plays with their legs and avoiding injuries became a path to monumental success.

  • Aaron Rodgers stats (Career): 59,055 yards, 475 TD, 105 INT, 103.6 rating

Yet, what may be Rodger’s greatest achievement in a legendary career was being able to follow another legend in Brett Favre, and actually surpass that greatness and set a new standard in Packers history.

Related: 10 Most Valuable Aaron Rodgers Rookie Cards

7. John Elway

Syndication: USATODAY
MICHAEL MADRID via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The NFL has seen many QBs with the athleticism to tuck the ball and run. However, few of them could do that while still also being an elite pocket passer in the modern era of the league. Denver Broncos icon John Elway broke that mold.

Elway could toss the ball around with the best of them during the 1980s and 90s, but he was one of the first truly special passers that could extend plays with his legs and run out a first down when necessary. He set the stage for players like Steve Young and Rodgers who would have similar success in their legendary careers.

  • John Elway stats (Career): 51,475 yards, 300 TD, 226 INT, 79.9 rating

What makes him unique is the fact that he was able to rise above his shortcomings in two previous failed Super Bowl appearances to lead Denver to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the late 90s, and solidify his place among the immortals. He is also the only QB ever to rush for a TD in four separate Super Bowl games.

6. Roger Staubach

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are not America’s team without the exploits of team legend Roger Staubach. The Vietnam War veteran and Navy cadet put the team on the map by leading them two their first two Super Bowl titles in 1971 and 1977. Beginning an era that continues today with the franchise being one of the most prominent brands in the NFL.

  • Roger Staubach stats (Career): 22,700 yards, 153 TD, 109 INT, 83.4 rating

Staubach’s teams almost always won double-digit games and were always in the mix for a championship throughout the 70s. While he wasn’t as efficient in his passing as some of his contemporaries on this list, there is no player among the best quarterbacks of all time that was more clutch and as consistent a winner as “Roger Dodger.”

5. Dan Marino

best quarterbacks of all time
Credit: USA Today Network

Dan Marino was one of the most influential quarterbacks of his era, and that is saying something since he never won a Super Bowl title and reached the game just once. However, in an era where quarterbacks were legally still allowed to take an absolute pummeling and defensive backs could be far more physical, the Miami Dolphins legend stood in the pocket and carved opponents up for 17 seasons.

  • Dan Marino stats (Career): 61,361 yards, 420 TD, 252 INT, 86.4 rating

Despite the NFL being geared toward passing and scoring more than ever, many of Marino’s passing records still are among the best in league history. He was excellent from the start by winning the 1983 offensive rookie of the year award and NFL MVP in the following season. He would also go on to make nine Pro Bowl appearances

Plus, despite being on some weak rosters, he was still able to guide his teams to 10 playoff appearances during a legendary run in Miami.

4. Johnny Unitas

Baltimore Colts icon Johnny Unitas was a one-of-a-kind talent in his day. The three-time champion was one of the league’s first elite pressure players and excelled on many of the sport’s biggest stages. What helped to grow his legend, is an uncanny grit and toughness in an undersized frame, even for an era before the giant athletes that play the sport currently.

  • Johnny Unitas stats (Career): 40,239 yards, 290 TD, 253 INT, 78.2 rating

Unitas was the idol of a generation of fans and was one of the NFL’s earliest superstar talents. The Hall-of-Famer was also a trendsetter in being a part of the league’s first dynamic passing duo with fellow HOFer Raymond Berry. They built a chemistry that many great combos like Joe Montana-Jerry Rice and Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison would follow.

3. Joe Montana

best quarterbacks of all time
Credit: USA Today Network

No matter what sport it is, fans love winners, and there was no better team at just that than the San Francisco 49ers during the 1980s. And no player epitomized that success more than Joe Montana.

Beyond the eight career Pro Bowl appearances, All-Pro honors three times, and being a league MVP twice, when it came time to make winning plays, no one was better than “Joe Cool.”

  • Joe Montana stats (Career): 40,551, 273 TD, 139 INT, 92.3 rating

During his 12 seasons in San Francisco, the team only missed the playoffs three times and made four trips to the Super Bowl. Yet, unlike some of the other players in these rankings of the best quarterbacks of all time, Montana and the 49ers never lost in the big game.

If you had to pick one quarterback to lead your team in a Super Bowl, few were better than Joe Montana.

2. Peyton Manning

best quarterbacks of all time
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning is among the best quarterbacks of all time biggest he succeeded throughout his career despite the game going through a major transition. He was an elite quarterback when the ruleset was more geared toward the defense and when the NFL adjusted the rules to allow for more scoring and offense, the Indianapolis Colts icon become a football immortal.

  • Peyton Manning stats (Career): 71,940 yards, 539 TD, 251 INT, 96.5 rating

Like Montana to Rice and Unitas to Berry, there was no better one-two punch in NFL history than Manning to Harrison. However, the Hall-of-Famer helped turn many receivers into stars over a 17-year career that included an insane 14 appearances in the Pro Bowl.

He was the man under center for some of the best offenses in league history, but what makes the five-time NFL MVP special is he overcame some of his career failings and made four trips to the Super Bowl, winning on two occasions. He is one of only two players to win it all with two teams — the Colts and Broncos.

1. Tom Brady

best quarterbacks of all time
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As great as Peyton Manning was at putting up wild stats, and Montana was at winning big games, New England Patriots legend Tom Brady did both. No player has been to more Super Bowls (10) and won as many (seven) as “Tom Terrific.” He is also the only other man to bring a title home for two different cities (New England and Tampa Bay).

  • Tom Brady stats (Career): 89,214 yards, 649 TD, 212 INT, 97.2

Yet, what makes him a true one-of-a-kind was that he only got better with age, and dominated the toughest sport in the world for 23 seasons. Winning 19 division titles with the two teams he played for and reached the conference championship 12 times.

Related: The Most Valuable Tom Brady Rookie Cards

The numbers he put up in the second half of his career are unbelievable, but for his entire tenure in the NFL, no player was better in a big moment than Tom Brady. There is a very good reason he is considered the GOAT of the NFL.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: