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Who is the best QB of all time?

Who is the best QB of all time?
By Brad Davis

The best quarterback of all time? In America, there’s no greater sports debate. If Baseball is America’s pastime, then football is its present and future. Football is so great it makes everyone forget that they have to go to work on Monday. It’s basically a religion, or at least in my house growing up it was. And nobody in the sport is more important than the starting quarterback. Teams give guys 40 million dollars in guaranteed money before they even take an NFL snap because he has a possibility of being one of the greats. That’s how important having a great one is.

Even my beloved Steelers couldn’t win Bill Cowher or Jerome Bettis a Super Bowl until they got rid of the Neil O’Donnell’s and the Kordell Stewart’s. They had one of the best defenses and running games year in and year out, but not until they landed their franchise quarterback, did they win it all. And they did it twice. I’m not saying Big Ben’s the best. He’s not. It’s too early, his team is too good, and his coaches have been too good. I would love to make the argument for Terry Bradshaw, who is one of two quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls, but it’s the same problem. Bradshaw had the Steel Curtain defense, two Hall of Fame wide-receivers, a Hall of Fame running back, and his regular season statistics were never anything to write home about. He only had two 3,000 yard seasons and twice threw for over 25 touchdowns in a season. He even got booed his first few seasons in Pittsburgh. Bradshaw was clutch, which there’s something to be said for, but not enough to be the best.

After that, there are no more Steelers possibilities. I’ll wait for the Tommy Maddox chant to die down. Okay. So I move on to my Alma Mater, The University of Pittsburgh and the great Dan Marino: The man who never had anybody. No running game, no great defenses, and a couple of good receivers, but not nearly enough. I’d love to give it to the Pittsburgh boy, but he never won a Super Bowl. How can you be the best when you’ve never achieved the best? So I go down the list of other Pittsburgh boys. Jim Kelly? 4 Super Bowl APPEARANCES, no victories. Joe Namath predicted one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history and then delivered on it. His drunken attempt to make out with Suzy Kolber was classic, and I can’t blame him for the effort. I can blame him for throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. Sorry Broadway Joe.

Sticking in the Burgh, we got our first legitimate candidate in Johnny Unitas. He revolutionized the quarterback position. He was the first to ever throw for over 40,000 yards and they only played 12 or 14 game seasons, as opposed to 16 today. It’s hard to do a perfect comparison because of that same reason. He won three championships, two before the game was even called the Super Bowl. And he holds the record to this day for most consecutive game with a touchdown pass at 47. Yes, 47. There’s no denying he belongs in this discussion, it’s just hard to determine exactly where. Near the top for sure.

If we want to stay a little more contemporary, we can move to John Elway. Before Big Ben’s drive this past Super Bowl, Elway was known for having the best one. His career numbers definitely qualify and he won the Super Bowl twice. But both times was when he had Terrell Davis in his prime, which was exactly those two years. Davis rushed for 1,700 yards and over 2,000 yards in those two seasons. That’s pretty significant considering Elway couldn’t win it without it. If we are in the Marino/Elway Era, we might as well talk about Brett Favre, because that’s all anyone else does. As a huge Favre fan, let me preface this by saying his bit the last few years has tainted my love for him to a certain extent. I will say he’s doing great things in Minnesota this year and if he continues to play at this level, this could change the entire discussion, especially if he gets another ring. There’s no denying all of the passing records including most passing yards and touchdown passes ever, and his consecutive games started streak speaks for itself. However, he also holds the record for the most interceptions ever thrown. Only one Super Bowl and his, let’s call it erratic, behavior off and sometimes on the field, keeps him off the top for now, but not by much.

The case for Favre could change if Peyton Manning ends up breaking all of those records, which he could. Everyone thought he’d me a modern day Marino, until he won the big one. He already has 3 League MVP’s, tied for most all time with Unitas, but only one Super Bowl. Peyton may get in the discussion if he wins one or two more, but isn’t quite in the mix, yet. To be honest, and as much as it pains me to say this, Tom Brady is. I’ve watched Brady torch the Steelers over the years, almost single handedly. He had the record-breaking season two years ago, with the help of Randy Moss, but no Super Bowl. He did win three before that with an unknown supporting cast. Yes, they had a good defense, but not the best. Many people want to credit Bill Belichick as being a genius and the big reason behind their success, but coaches can only call the plays, not make the throws. Before Brady, Belichick coached six full seasons and only had a winning season once. If Brady wins a fourth super bowl, this discussion could be over.

If he does win the fourth that would probably leap him over the guy whose number one right now, Joe Montana. I’m not saying that’s definitely the correct answer, but he’s the one you can make the easiest case for. He’s the only other quarterback to win four Super Bowls, along with Bradshaw. He had Jerry Rice, arguably the best receiver ever, but nothing compared to the support cast Bradshaw had. He was consistent and never made mistakes. And “The Throw” is an iconic play that is about as clutch as it gets. Montana’s got the complete resume and he’s ANOTHER Pittsburgh guy. I got to admit, I kind of love it.

In this debate, the biggest factor is Super Bowl victories. Career numbers are key, as well, but you have to look at the ones who were champions the most. That’s what it’s all about. Ask any player. They’ll tell you MVP’s and even the Hall of Fame are great, but both take a back seat to winning it all and holding that Lombardi Trophy above your head. I’m sure Marino would agree.


  1. As a DENVER fan - you need to have a 2nd look at Elway.
    When he had a great team around him he was 2-0 in the Super Bowl, before then he was 0-3 in Super Bowls.
    Have you had a look at those 0-3 team rosters? It's got to be some of the most impressive collection of solid players/misfits who've ever been to a SB - Elway's 1st SB team had a FB lead the team in receptions!

    No one else will EVER go to five Super Bowls with such a slim cast of Hall of Fame players on their team! (1 player so far - maybe 2 by tomorrow!) ;)

  2. Best QB ever - Unitas.

    Top 3 - Unitas, Montana, Marino.

    That is all I will say.

  3. the game Tom Brady has this week where he threw over 500 yards was pretty insane. But Unitas is in another league