The Top 64 Quarterbacks in NFL History (2015 Edition) – Part I

This definitely won’t be short. However, I’m not wasting any time in showing you my updated list of the 64 greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

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This is not created with a formula. I put everything I’ve learned and experienced from over a decade of research into creating this ranking. The only things I do not factor in are college career and time spent in other professional leagues like the AAFC, USFL, CFL, XFL, Arena, etc. So you’re still just a one-year wonder to me, Tommy Maddox.

Some players moved around from the 2014 edition, posted last August. So why is this going to be written in two parts on my blog? I figured some people won’t want to scroll through the epic length of Manning vs. Brady to read about the other players. For those who want to see the irrational debate rationalized, I promise Part II is worth the wait.

This might actually be the first time I have formally written about my list of the 64 greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. It was a personal project I started six years ago in an effort to figure out where Ben Roethlisberger stood historically after his fifth season (2008). Such rankings are subjective of course, but sports wouldn’t be the same without this stuff. Even if “that’s your opinion!” means you can’t objectively prove Roethlisberger is a better QB than Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart, Mark Malone and Bubby Brister, you damn sure can make a convincing argument why he is better.

Just look at my list. Once you get past 30 or so, you’re looking at guys who maybe had six quality seasons, or a phenomenal four-year run like Rich Gannon (1999-2002) in Oakland. There aren’t many quarterbacks who sustained greatness over a long period of time in the NFL’s 95-year history. A total of 221 players have thrown at least 1,000 passes in the regular season in NFL history. Unless you mostly played before 1932 (Benny Friedman), are the latest hot rookie/sophomore (Teddy Bridgewater), or your name is Greg Cook or Cecil Isbell, you’re not even relevant from an all-time perspective. A thousand passes is about two seasons these days for a starter. Even the Browns let Derek Anderson throw 992 passes in 2007-09.

My method was to move up the list of all-time attempts, picking out which quarterbacks Roethlisberger was clearly better than, and grouping those he still has to surpass. A few years later I did something very similar to gauge where Joe Flacco stood after his fifth season (2012) led to the destruction of the QB salary market. Since then I’ve had a more concrete list and have updated it annually before the new season. The following explains some of my thought process, especially for the active players.

Five Actives in the Top 15 OF ALL TIME!?!?

I know some people are wondering how I could possibly think five of the 15 greatest QBs in NFL history are playing right now. Well, from 1991-94 we had Montana, Marino, Favre, Young and Elway active. That’s five of my top eight, so there*. Throw in Aikman, Kelly and Moon, and that’s eight of my top 28. It clearly can be done, and I think this has been a golden age of passing that’s not likely to be matched any time soon.

*Counter (because I know how to argue with myself): But Scott, were those five guys worthy of the top eight in 1991-94? This is a fair point. I don’t think Favre and Young were thru 1994, though both were well on their way. I think you could definitely have ranked Montana, Marino and Elway that high by then. My list thru 1994 would look something like Montana, Unitas, Marino, Staubach, Baugh, Tarkenton, Graham, Elway (ahead of Starr and Bradshaw). So yeah, three in the top eight with Young coming off his 6 TDs in the Super Bowl/2nd MVP award and Favre just getting ready for a 3-MVP run. This is legit.

Are the modern rules and modern medicine making it easier to sustain QB success in the NFL? I hesitate to say yes to that, because look at how many quarterbacks can’t sustain their success. Robert Griffin III had his one good year, but has been a disaster ever since. Josh Freeman (2010) can kind of relate, and I hate to see the path Colin Kaepernick is starting to head down after such early promise. Matt Schaub crumbled in 2013 after Richard Sherman picked off his confidence. Carson Palmer has fallen apart a few times, literally and figuratively. Michael Vick was never consistent and managed to have his best years four years apart (2002, 2006 and 2010). Jay Cutler and Cam Newton still can’t hit a 90.0 passer rating season in an era where it’s become common to do so. Matthew Stafford’s pretty much in the same tier, starring as the volume-heavy Drew Bledsoe of his era. Highly drafted quarterbacks are still flopping hard too (see: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Joey Harrington, Matt Leinart, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, etc.). Are rookie QBs overall more successful now? Sure, but they’re also getting more opportunities as of 2008. Try telling Blake Bortles and Derek Carr this is an easy game.

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Where are all the great quarterbacks coming into the NFL since 2006? We’ve seen dips before, but this is starting to get alarming. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson look like the best options, and I obviously think highly of Flacco and Ryan’s seven-year starts, but that’s about it since 2006. Save us, Tannehill, Bridgewater, Mariota and Winston. We need to start having some insurance that this next era when these HOF passers are retired will still be good.

(B)rees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger

We have clearly been spoiled from watching the highest level of sustained QB play in NFL history. We’ve known about “1812” for so long now, but the consistency of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger is also special. Brees broke out in 2004, the rookie season breakout for Ben. Rodgers didn’t get to start until 2008, but I think he just locked up his spot in Canton after his second MVP season in 2014. No, it wasn’t as good as his 2011, but it was another monster year of dominant efficiency and it moved him up from 26th to 14th for me. Roethlisberger is the first great QB I can say I’ve been able to watch every game of his career live. You could definitely make the claim 2014 was his finest season yet. He’ll always be the first quarterback to have multiple 500-yard passing games, and the first to have back-to-back games with six touchdown passes. All of those games were against teams that made the playoffs.

The reasons I keep Brees ahead at 13th are that I think this 11-year run he’s been on (zero starts missed due to injury) is incredible, and he has quite arguably been better in the playoffs than the other two. He just needs to get there with more consistency, though he’s gotten the short end of the stick defensively when it comes to that top five active group. Brees was still great in 2014, but he had some bad decisions at important times. I don’t think he’s done yet by any means, though I question how much higher I could rank him on this list. He might be fifth in his era when it’s all said and done. That’s really not an insult either. This group is simply special.

Some might even put Rodgers higher than 14th, but I think that’s pretty generous for someone who has been a starter for seven years, including a debut season that was more solid than spectacular (2008) and a half-season due to injury (2013). Rodgers’ stats look off the charts right now, but that’s also the benefit of having 100 percent peak performance in this era of great stats. When you look at advanced metrics, especially ones that include sacks, Rodgers is much closer to his peers. Rodgers has led the league in Total QBR one time (2011) and in passing DVOA two times (2011 and 2014).

Any mainstream criticism of Rodgers is almost nonexistent, but I expect that to change if he continues to not shine in January as has been the case since he won a Super Bowl in 2010. His struggles against the other NFC champions in that time have been troublesome, but the good news is the Giants and 49ers don’t look to be contenders any time soon. Seattle is the defense he has to figure out. And yes, I still think he struggles more than the other top quarterbacks when it comes to comebacks or having to win in different styles. If he doesn’t start a game well, I just don’t expect him to pull it together late. Winning ugly is not on the menu yet. He needs to come out with his ‘A’ game, and his ‘A’ game is pretty much as good as any quarterback’s that’s ever played in the NFL. When he’s on, he’s unstoppable. But when he’s off like in Buffalo and Detroit last year or against Seattle, he doesn’t impress.

But if these other guys ever retire soon and the young quarterbacks don’t pan out, Rodgers could enjoy a nice run at various league-leads and awards if his only real competition is Luck. Going forward, I worry a little about Rodgers’ durability, because he still takes some really bad sacks. It’s hard to believe this is already going to be his age-32 season. Health is about the only thing that could stop him from cracking the top 10 soon. If his next seven years are in line with the last seven, I expect to see Rodgers in my top five one day.

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The elite MVP seasons of Rodgers are what put him over Ben, who hasn’t had years like that yet. Amazingly, Roethlisberger has never received an All-Pro vote in his career. He’s also only had three seasons where he’s started all 16 games. The main problem is his best seasons (2007, 2009 and 2014) are years where a lot of quarterbacks were standouts, so it’s understandable why he didn’t get a vote. But considering Luck and Brady got AP votes last year, you could definitely argue Ben deserved one in 2014.

Roethlisberger is having an unusual career path. He had personal and team success immediately, but he’s been statistically better in the second half of his career when he’s had to pick up more of the slack. However, he hasn’t had much playoff success since the night he led that epic drive to beat Arizona in Super Bowl 43. This year the Steelers seem to be fielding their worst defense yet around Ben, which feels like an 8-8 season in the making. Basically, the Steelers are turning into the Saints, which is good for Ben’s fantasy numbers, but terrible for his playoff success. He definitely doesn’t need to get to another Super Bowl, but how is this thing going to end? Is he going through a rough team patch like 1992-95 Elway, only to get a better team around him at the end? Is he going to fade away like Aikman in Dallas, unable to keep the team consistently in the playoffs after their talent core declined? Is he going to have an abrupt ending after taking a shot so big he can’t recover from it?

I’ll end this section by explaining some of the decision to move Rodgers and Roethlisberger past the players previously ranked 14-25. Since most of us can agree Rodgers has had the more dominant career, we’ll just look at this from Ben’s standpoint.

Roethlisberger is entering his 12th year as a starter, which already puts him on a short list of QBs in NFL history. Jim Kelly played 11 NFL seasons. Are you really going to tell me Roethlisberger’s play in the regular season and postseason hasn’t exceeded Kelly’s? It’s not a huge difference, which is why there are only five players between them, but Roethlisberger has put together a better resume with more to come. Kurt Warner played 12 seasons, and we know only six of them really count for his HOF push. He had higher highs than Ben, but good lord did he have many lower lows.

Quarterback is a position where you need to be the full-time starter to have value for your team. This is why I don’t put much stock at all in partial seasons where a guy throws like 150 passes and wins some games off the bench, or makes four decent starts, or has a good seven-game stretch before a season-ending injury. Screw that. True value is found by suiting up every week year after year. Ben’s missed 17 games in his career for various reasons, but he’s found a way to start at least 12 games in every season. That’s important. If he does it in 2015, he’ll be the 10th QB with a dozen starts in at least a dozen different seasons. I factored this into a lot of my decisions here, as a guy like Len Dawson played 19 seasons, but you can basically chop off the first five and the last three, leaving 11 years (1962-1972). Do I think that stretch, largely done in the AFL, is more impressive than Roethlisberger’s 11 years? I don’t anymore, so I moved him past Dawson this year.

Similarly, I downplay Sid Luckman vs. Ben due to his peak coming in WWII seasons, and I don’t see any value in his final two seasons (1949-50). I downplay Norm Van Brocklin’s career for spending time in his prime in a two-QB system with Bob Waterfield and facing some suspect competition. For Y.A. Tittle, I really respect his 1961-63 seasons with the Giants, but he’s another guy with a ton of seasons you have to throw away due to the AAFC, injuries or him just being terrible (1964 swansong). He had about seven or eight really solid years overall, which again I think Roethlisberger has exceeded. So I moved him ahead of those guys.

When the worst thing you can point to in Roethlisberger’s career is his 2006 season, that’s very telling of the quality of his career. Yes, he threw 23 picks, but he still finished 10th in DYAR and 13th in DVOA. He dealt with a motorcycle accident, an emergency appendectomy and a concussion after he was getting back to form. If that’s the low point of your 11-year career, then you’re probably having a hell of a career. A lot of guys sink lower than that.

Which finally leads me to putting Ben (and Rodgers) ahead of Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr. Let’s get Fouts of the way quickly. He was great for eight years (1978-1985) in a record-setting passing offense, which I really respect. That’s why he’s 19th. His other seven seasons and his lack of playoff success — started and ended with 5-INT games — are why he isn’t higher. That’s a good chunk of negative that you can’t just ignore, though I admittedly don’t do a good enough job of punishing for the bad years.

Speaking of bad years, Aikman, Bradshaw and Starr had several and it’s only fitting to talk about this trio together. In fact, Starr was almost worthless without Vince Lombardi as his head coach. Bradshaw is lucky Joe Gilliam was ineffective in 1974, because he may have lost his starting job for good after an (extended) awful start to his career. Aikman was one of the worst QBs in the NFL his first two years, and his finale (2000) was on that level. Yet all three were the quarterbacks of dynasties, the best teams in their decades with great players on both sides of the ball and fantastic coaching. They all won at least three titles and had some great efficiency stats in those playoff wins. These quarterbacks had some nice regular-season numbers at times, but the volume wasn’t there to match their peers. Unitas was better than Starr. Staubach was better than Bradshaw. Young and Favre were better than Aikman if we’re just talking 1990’s NFC. But #RINGZ.

When asked to carry flawed teams, these quarterbacks weren’t capable of getting the job done. When their team’s talent wasn’t up to the level of all-time great, they couldn’t get them into the playoffs with any consistency. Now I won’t slam these guys as much as I would a caretaker like Bob Griese — they’re still in my top 18 — but they just had easier jobs in their primes. Throwing the ball 30 or 40 times wasn’t the plan, let alone a necessity.

I think Roethlisberger would have more than two rings if he had the Steel Curtain defense instead of Dick LeBeau’s “My Defense Works for 75% of the Game Against 75% of the NFL” shtick. But just to start any game with an average team, I’m taking Roethlisberger over Bradshaw, Starr and Aikman. That trio was only effective for about 8-9 years each. Roethlisberger has already surpassed that.

But without a strong finish, I think Ben is going to be stuck at 15 until someone moves ahead of him, or if his play really declines. His career has essentially peaked from an all-time perspective, but as long as the story is still being written, there’s always a chance of changing your legacy. I just don’t think the Steelers are going to build another balanced team in time for him to do so.

Change of Heart: Tarkenton over Graham

The only other change in my top 30 was swapping Fran Tarkenton for Otto Graham. Given what I value in QBs, this should have been the case years ago. Career length is a big factor. Tarkenton was essentially a starting QB for 18 NFL seasons compared to just six for Graham. Remember, I don’t care about the AAFC. What’s amazing is how Tarkenton was such a model of consistency despite his chaotic, scrambling style — he had one below-average passing efficiency season (1962) in 18 years according to Pro-Football-Reference’s advanced tables that adjust for era. Despite all his running around, he was very durable and never had more than eight fumbles in a season. While he never had the stunning peak of a Tittle or Jurgensen, Tarkenton ranks as high as anyone when it comes to the number of quality QB seasons in the NFL. He was a star for nearly two decades, and he retired as the all-time leader in wins, passing yards and touchdown passes. In fact, he’s held the passing yardage record longer than any player in NFL history.

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Tarkenton amassed those numbers without throwing more than 25 touchdowns to any player. John Gilliam was his top guy. Tarkenton excelled under multiple coaches and for multiple teams (Giants and Vikings). He might have been the first great one-man show at quarterback, but unfortunately those guys don’t win rings. With or without Tarkenton, Bud Grant’s Vikings great defense (“Purple People Eaters”) was routinely run over in big games. In his 1975 MVP season, Tarkenton lost at home in the playoffs to Dallas thanks to a 50-yard Hail Mary from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson (push off?) in the final minute. It remains the only game-winning Hail Mary in NFL playoff history and it came at the expense of one of the game’s finest players.

When it comes to Otto Graham, the first thing people like to mention is he led the Browns to 10 championship games in his 10 seasons. It’s as if Graham was the only player in the AAFC, and he’s certainly the only player people ever choose to recognize the stats and accomplishments of from the AAFC. I just want to point out Graham won just as many NFL Championship Games (3) as he lost. Some of the losses were absolutely brutal too. We weren’t that far off from having Bobby Layne and the Lions as the dynasty of that time.

The truth is Graham was a great player on the league’s most loaded team (7-9 HOFers every year), with a great defense and a true innovator (Paul Brown) as his head coach. Players in such situations don’t get full credit from me, because their job was easier. I still think enough of Graham to rank him 12th, and he was the best quarterback of that era (1950-55). He also wasn’t just some caretaker as he won two passing yardage titles. When you rank first in NFL history in passing yards per attempt (8.63), albeit in six seasons, you’re going to earn my respect. I just wish we would stop padding the AAFC stuff onto his legacy, because that league was not up to par with the NFL, which actually drafted Graham in 1944 (Lions). He didn’t play then because of World War II.

Graham is a player I expect to keep dropping as some of the players in my previous section continue to have long, successful careers in a more competitive era.

Eli Manning: Why?

Every year I post this list one of the main responses is why is Eli Manning so high? It bothers me too, because he should be about 10 spots lower with the other New York guys and right there with Romo and Rivers. I just haven’t had the heart to move him since first putting him 29th after the 2012 season. He was a joke in 2013 and played much better last year, but the fact is the Giants have missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Eli and the Giants are like leap year: they strike every four years in February. 2008, 2012, and uh-oh, 2016 is next. It would only be fitting for the Giants to start with a bang (JPP), end with a bang (third title…Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch to beat New England of course) and for Eli to become the highest-paid player in NFL history.

At least that scenario would help keep my sanity about ranking him this high. Eli really is frustrating because you see the moments of older brother-like brilliance, but then you see the plays that would make Archie shake his head. Eli’s always been very good in 4QC/GWD situations, and I still think he engineered the greatest drive in NFL history with everything at stake in Super Bowl 42. The fact that he starts every single game cannot be undervalued either. It’s not easy to have 10 straight 3,000-yard passing seasons in the NFL. Only six other quarterbacks have had more such years. I think Eli’s 2011 season was one of the finest jobs of a QB carrying his team that we’ve seen, and even then it was a 9-7 year that barely resulted in a division title. Eli just doesn’t have the same efficiency as his peers, though his offenses do well at scoring and he doesn’t take many sacks.

If Eli’s playoff record remains intact at 8-3, then that’s very disappointing for the Giants, because that means they continued to miss the playoffs. You can’t go one-and-done or throw game-ending interceptions in January if you keep failing enough from September through December. That’s probably the single most frustrating thing about Eli. His regular-season defenses haven’t been good, so he gets credit for dealing with that. But in the playoffs, those defenses were outstanding, never allowing more than 23 points in any game and shutting down some of the best offenses in NFL history. And yet the QB still gets the most credit there. I want to see some more playoff losses, Eli. Preferably wins, but just get in the damn tournament. Increase that sample size. Give us some insurance you didn’t just have two one-month hot streaks four years apart. I’m going to drop him next year if 2015 doesn’t go well. Promise.

Ken Stabler for the HOF?

As I predicted this summer, the passing of Ken Stabler has led to him getting another look from the Hall of Fame as 2016’s senior nominee. Unfortunately he won’t be able to enjoy it if he gets in (good chance), but that’s how these things work sometimes. I believe enough time has passed to where a discussion on the merits of Stabler’s HOF case wouldn’t sound insensitive.

Stabler is one of four QBs (Charlie Conerly, Ken Anderson and Kurt Warner) to be a HOF finalist without getting voted in. We know there was some media vitriol going back to his playing days going on behind the scenes to keep Stabler out, so with new voters, that’s not likely to remain an issue. Personally, I can accept Stabler getting into the HOF. I’d sooner back Ken Anderson, but Stabler wouldn’t be a bad choice.

The argument for Stabler is simple: you’ve let George Blanda and Joe Namath in already. You can see I put Stabler ahead of both. Those guys had their peak years in the AFL. Stabler’s best years all came in the 1970’s NFL, the toughest modern decade of passing. He played against a lot of legendary defenses and teams, and definitely had the “Fame” part down with big plays in games with names. He was a very good postseason performer, winning a Super Bowl in 1976. He was also league MVP in 1974 and at least the second-best QB in 1976 (AP second-team All-Pro). Not many QBs can claim those accolades in NFL history. Stabler’s peak really lasted seven seasons (1973-79), but as we have looked at here, that’s still very good from a historical standpoint.

One problem for The Snake is that he threw a lot of interceptions, even for his era. In fact, here are some damning facts:

  • Most games with 4+ interceptions since 1970 merger (including playoffs): Ken Stabler (14)
  • Most games with 5+ interceptions since 1970 merger (including playoffs): Ken Stabler (5)

Stabler is also tied for the third-most games with at least three interceptions (29). Stabler somehow threw 20-30 interceptions in each season from 1977-1980, but still had a winning record each season. It was a different game then, but Stabler still threw too many picks. But again, that didn’t stop voters from keeping Namath and Blanda out. Stabler’s last few years with the Oilers and Saints don’t do him any favors. It’s all about the Oakland run, and that was strong enough in my book to crack the top 30. That also looks to be enough for the standards of the HOF. If you haven’t figured it out, the players in yellow in the list are in the HOF (red are active).

Marginal Moves You Probably Don’t Care About

I moved Phil Simms down four spots to 38 after becoming more impressed with the Giants’ defense and less impressed with his individual contributions.

I moved John Brodie up three spots to 32 after seeing he was one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack. Not quite Marino or Peyton level, but right up there. Part of his ascension was also at the cost of moving Bob Griese down a notch. Why did I do that? Well…

The Same Guy, But One’s Slower: Tony Romo and Philip Rivers

I’ve compared Rivers and Romo a few times over the years as equivalents in each conference. They’re basically the Dan Fouts and Warren Moon of this era: the best quarterbacks to not reach a Super Bowl. It’s a shame because this is the era of the Super Bowl quarterback. A record eight active QBs have a Super Bowl ring. Rivers and Romo have some of the highest passer ratings and YPA averages in NFL history, but haven’t enjoyed much January success for various reasons.

I had these guys 53rd and 54th last year. Romo just had probably the best year of his career, and probably deserved to be MVP if he didn’t get hurt against the Redskins on MNF. He moves ahead of Rivers, who had a MVP-like start, but faded fast after a probable rib injury hampered his play.

Both of these guys became relevant in the 2006 season as first-time starters. Here’s how I stack them up.

  • 2006: Rivers gets the edge for being the full-year starter (1-0)
  • 2007: Big edge to Romo (1-1)
  • 2008: Big edge to Rivers (2-1)
  • 2009: Romo good, but Rivers arguably at his best (3-1)
  • 2010: Not enthralled with this Rivers season, but Romo had broken collarbone (4-1)
  • 2011: Big edge to Romo (4-2)
  • 2012: Big edge to Romo (4-3)
  • 2013: Both did great things, but slight edge to Rivers (5-3)
  • 2014: Big edge to Romo (5-4)

Rivers wins the total seasons, 5-4, but Romo had more decisively better years. I also can’t help but side with Romo in the difference of styles. Romo can improvise under pressure, while Rivers can waddle towards the sideline and throw the ball away. Either way they are close, and you’d be fooling yourself to think otherwise.

These guys have been at it for nine years, and have mostly been consistent in that time. In fact, Romo has hit these bare minimums in a record nine straight seasons: 61.3% completions, 7.2 YPA and 90.5 passer rating.

These guys have winning records. They’ve led teams to No. 1 seeds and multiple 12-win seasons. They’ve had more playoff heartbreak than success, but at least they have won some games. More than Y.A. Tittle and Sonny Jurgensen for starters — that’d be none for those guys. And nine seasons as annual top 5-10 quarterbacks is really damn good. That’s why I ended up moving them past the guys with six good years or a smaller number of great years.

Yes, neither has won an MVP award like Steve McNair, Rich Gannon, Boomer Esiason, Bert Jones and Joe Theismann did, but just remember the competition from that elite group. This is the hardest era to win an award like that in. You really think Theismann, who was good for six years, is a better QB than these two? Give these guys Joe Gibbs and the Hogs instead of Norv Turner and Jason Garrett and see what happens. You want to talk about playoff failures? Boomer Esiason never threw for more than 150 yards in his five playoff starts. McNair, may he rest in peace, was a dreadful postseason QB who can thank the Music City Miracle for not leaving him with a 2-5 career playoff record. Bert Jones never won a playoff game either, was a hit machine and couldn’t stay healthy. Rivers has never missed a start in his career and even played on a torn ACL.

I think Romo and Rivers can crack the top 30 with strong finishes. As you can see, there’s just not much separating these players at this part of the table. A Super Bowl for either is likely a ticket to Canton as well.

More Shit You Really Don’t Care About

I dropped Don Meredith six spots to 58 after acknowledging he’s another QB with just about six relevant years.

I dropped Dave Krieg five spots after realizing some of his best seasons were small samples due to injury or being a backup. It’s kind of amazing he made the Pro Bowl despite playing 9 games in 1988, and it’s baffling why he made it at all in 1989. That was a poor year for the AFC though.

I got Matt Hasselbeck ahead of Bernie Kosar now, because I think his run of relevance (2002-07) is underappreciated. I don’t really blame Kosar for not getting to a Super Bowl (bad Cleveland luck), but I blame him for only having about six or seven relevant seasons.

Ryan vs. Flacco (Again)

Seriously, the Joe Flacco vs. Matt Ryan debates are quite heated — or elite as fvck depending whom you ask — on the internet. I guess I’m adding to it by simply ranking Ryan one spot ahead, the same as I did last year, but these two deserve to be very close. Advanced metrics will tell you Ryan is considerably better in his career, but 2014 was a different story. Flacco was 8th in DYAR; Ryan was 7th. Flacco was 8th in DVOA; Ryan was 9th. Flacco was 10th in QBR; Ryan was 7th. Hmm, that last one seemed to change more with the new QBR system, which surprises me since it’s supposed to devalue YAC. You saw those Antone Smith touchdowns last year, right? Then again, what do you do with the Steve Smith fluky touchdown against Carolina?

Either way, they were very close last year, which was arguably Flacco’s best regular season. Of course what happens here is Flacco has the edge in the playoffs, including getting there all but one time in his seven seasons. Ryan has had strong numbers the last two years, but Atlanta is just 10-22 and couldn’t win a pathetic division last year. Advantage: Flacco.

But I really wish something major would happen to create some separation between these two. Until it does, I’m going to continue ranking them side by side. I just hope other people can appreciate the seven-year starts they’ve had to their careers. Appreciate them even more when you consider the lack of quality signal callers joining the NFL since 2006 as detailed above.

Whither Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson?

Why didn’t I include Luck and Wilson? Well, they’ve only played three seasons. Despite the lack of great all-time quarterbacks, three seasons, no matter how impressive they are as a start, are a tiny sample to get into the top 64. However, I quickly threw together some names to branch out of the top 64 and I feel like it’s very possible Luck and Wilson could join this list after 2015. I also think it’s just as possible that at least one takes an unexpected step back this year. We’ll see what happens. And really, I just kept adding to this list Saturday night, and didn’t spend anywhere near as much time on it as I’ve spent on the top 64. I can tell you Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill and even Andy Dalton are a big 2015 away from showing up in the top 130. Yes, even Dalton, which just goes to show how little you have to do to be considered an all-time quarterback.

Part II Preview

Why did Tom Brady stay put at No. 5 after his fourth Super Bowl, and why is Peyton Manning still on top? That’s what I’ll tackle in Part II, along with taking down the thin margin of what makes success in the postseason possible.

If you want an advanced copy of the tl;dr version of Part II, here it is:

Newsroom_Brady

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24 thoughts on “The Top 64 Quarterbacks in NFL History (2015 Edition) – Part I

  1. Hi…I Tweet you all the time. I think the fact that guys like Freeman and RGIII had 1 good year is a testament to how easy it is to play now, not how hard it still is. 1 good year is 1 more good year than they would have had in any other era.

    Even certain guys in your top 5 only have recent success because of the times, plus a few more on down the list. Because it wasn’t exactly that long ago, it seems like the game hasn’t changed that much but it really is that much easier for a quarterback.

    1. Let’s not forget Freeman and RG3 were 1st-round picks.

      I don’t think that makes it any different than previous years where some unheralded QBs had that one big year that looks like a real outlier to their career. This has been possible in the Blount rule era.

      Steve Beuerlein, 1999
      Erik Kramer, 1995
      Scott Mitchell, 1995
      Steve Bono, 1995
      Jim Harbaugh, 1995
      Chris Miller, 1991
      Steve DeBerg, 1990
      Don Majkowski, 1989
      Jay Schroeder, 1986
      Bill Kenney, 1983
      Lynn Dickey, 1983
      Richard Todd, 1981
      Vince Ferragamo, 1980

      And if we’re talking about guys that rarely play at a high level like Cutler/Stafford/Newton, then we could look at Jeff George, Jim Everett, and Tommy Kramer as past equivalents.

  2. At this point, I don’t understand the argument for Manning over Brady. Brady and Manning are statistical equals, but Brady’s teams have consistently won more games than Manning’s, both in the regular season and postseason. Brady has posted a better passer rating than Manning in both indoor games (domes and retroroof) and outdoor games. Yet Manning has a better career passer rating. Why? Because Manning has played many more indoor games.

    Brady’s outdoor rating is 95.8, Manning’s 95.3. So it’s clear that Manning’s advantage in career rating is entirely due to playing more indoor games. Manning has played 49.6% of his games indoors, Brady just 8%.

    Brady has also played in cold weather far more often than Manning, and this is reflected in each player’s stats. From September through November, Brady has a rating of 97.7, Manning 96.7. But in December and January, Manning improves to 98.7, while Brady drops to 92.5. Now December and January are the months when most cold weather games are played, and Brady’s opponents, playing in the same conditions, have gone from a 77.8 rating in Sep-Nov to a 71.7 rating in December and January. Obviously, Brady’s weak late season numbers are the result of the conditions in which those games have been played, and explain Manning’s better career rating.

    And Manning’s career totals are better because he has played longer. If you look at Manning’s first 13 seasons as a starter, through 2010, and compare his totals to those of Brady through the 2014 season, his 13th as a starter, they’re very close. Manning is a little more accurate, and threw about 1,500 more yards, but has an advantage of just 7 touchdowns. Manning threw 198 interceptions through 2010, Brady just 143 through 2014. Those totals, of course, don’t adjust for indoor games and cold weather.

    So it’s clear that Brady is just as good as Manning. Peyton’s stats look better because he’s played longer, has an enormous dome advantage, and rarely plays cold/bad weather games late in the season. But Brady’s teams win more in the regular season, win more in the postseason, and win significantly more often against teams that finish with a winning record. When you combine it with Brady’s superior postseason performance and achievements, it’s obvious that Brady is better than Manning.

    1. Already have a indoor/outdoor table ready for Part II. Your numbers are off, even if you adjust to remove the playoffs, which I included. I doubt four weeks of 2015 have changed anything that much. Manning’s best split is outdoor home games. If he had more outdoor home games, his outdoor numbers would obviously be even better. It’s a home/road thing, not an indoor/outdoor thing.

      They’re not statistical equals. You simply used passer rating. That ignores sacks, which Manning has a big edge in as he’s in the conversation with Dan Marino as the hardest QB to sack. That also ignores fumbles where Manning again has a considerable career advantage as one of the best ever at not fumbling. Passer rating also ignores rushing, which neither guy does much of. Brady usually sneaks. Manning stopped running years ago, but still has more touchdowns and longer runs. Factor all of that in and the gap would just widen more in Manning’s favor. Factor in situational play like third down where Manning has been better over his career, and the gap again widens.

      That’s why for a more advanced metric like QBR that factors in YAC, Manning tops every QB. If they branched that stat back to 2003, I bet he would also have led the league in 2003, 2004 and 2005. He’s already led the NFL in QBR in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. The only year Brady was better was obviously 2007.

      Capturing playing style in statistics is hard, but not impossible. Brady playing in a more YAC-friendly offense and feasting on more short (1-3 yard) TD passes boosts his numbers. 2013 was an outlier year for Manning as he had a lot of YAC. That kind of production is the norm for a Brady offense.

      Manning also beats Brady in win probability. He does more in his team’s wins and is at less fault in his team’s losses. Yet you continue to give Brady more credit for playing worse because his team played better.

      But sure, cite passer rating and call it a day.

  3. Thanks for responding, Scott. I’m surprised you didn’t address my points more directly. First of all, I never said that passer rating was the only useful stat. But there’s no arguing with the rating stats I provided. Manning’s stats are significantly better in domes than outdoors. I don’t see how you can deny this. The same is true for Brady, Rodgers, and most great quarterbacks.

    It’s true that Manning has better sack numbers, but I don’t see why you think this is more significant than Brady’s team achievements. And while Manning fumbles less, he also throws many more interceptions than Brady, so when talking turnovers, Brady still has an advantage. I don’t get how you can claim rushing is an advantage for Manning, when he’s posted several seasons of negative rushing yardage in the second half of his career. Let’s agree that rushing ability is not a strength for either player, and that rushing should have no significant role in evaluating their careers. Manning’s better third down numbers, like with everything else, are boosted by his dome advantage.

    If you like QBR better than passer rating, fine. But passer rating correlates well with win-loss records, both for teams and individual players. Passer rating differential has arguably the best correlation to victory of any single stat. I don’t buy the argument that producing YAC reduces a quarterback’s value. I’ll grant you that Manning is better at throwing deep, and therefore has a more well-rounded skill set. But that doesn’t make him a better or more effective quarterback.

    Short TD passes count just as much as 80 yard bombs. I think it’s wrong to deduct points for a QB because he throws 3 yard TD passes. Would you rather kick 20 yard field goals? I’d have to take a closer look at the win probability numbers, but your claim that Manning typically outplays Brady, in both wins and losses, needs to be substantiated. Show me a link proving what you wrote, and I’ll be happy to take a look.

  4. John Elway should be top-5, easy. I know that the biggest argument against him has to do with his stats under Dan Reeves, but he was in a conservative offense the first ten years of his career. In three of those years (1984, 89, 91), they had more rushing attempts than passing attempts.

    Under Dan Reeves, John only had one season with more than 20 TD passes (1985). After Reeves left, he had four seasons of 25 or more (94 and 98 were the exceptions, but he still threw 22 TD passes in 12 games in 98).

    I really don’t see Young, Favre, and Brady ahead of him. All three QB’s were dependent on going to the right team to have success. Young was floundering in TB, and wouldn’t have sniffed the HOF if he stayed there. Favre had six seasons of 20 or more INT’s, and may not have become anything without going to GB and playing for Holmgren.

    As for Brady, he has had way more luck than anyone at the position. If he starts with another team, his career may not have taken off. He was basically a game manager for the years that they won the Super Bowl, and there is the matter of Spygate. If he had a guy like Ernie Adams talking to him up until the snap through an alternate frequency, how good is he really? That is something that isn’t looked at. It’s like people want to sweep that under the rug since NE won their fourth SB ring.

  5. Elway was a great player, and putting him ahead of Young and Favre is sort of defensible, but there’s no way he’s at Brady’s level. PFR publishes career + stats for quarterbacks that are designed to allow us to compare players from different eras. Brady is ahead of Elway in every single category, and by significant margins. Brady is more accurate, throws for more yards per attempt, with a higher rate of TDs, and a lower rate of INTs, and takes fewer sacks. So he’s ahead by all of the cumulative metrics, which include passer rating, adj yards per att, net yards per att, and adj net yards per attempt.

    Beyond that, he’s also ahead of Elway’s career totals. The Broncos QB had 51,475 yards and 300 TDs. Brady now has 57,663 yards and 427 TDs. Awards? Elway won one AP MVP award, and was named 2nd team all-pro 3 times. Brady has won 2 MVPs, 2 first team all-pros, and was 2nd-team all pro on another occasion. Elway was named the best QB of the 1990s, but Brady was named the best QB of the 2000s. Some of Elway’s postseason numbers are impressive, but Brady has better postseason stats, with a better winning percentage. Elway’s 5 SB appearances is great, but Brady has 6. Brady also has a much better win pct in the regular season.

    So is there any category where Elway is better than Brady? The only one I can find is rushing stats. So the argument that Elway is even close to Brady overall is crazy, though I’ve heard it made by Broncos fans before, so I guess you’re not alone. As for your other points, you can make hypotheticals about everyone’s career. Would Peyton have the TD and yardage records if he hadn’t spent much of his career playing for a dome team, with a cast of all star receivers around him almost every season? Hard to say. How much did playing for Shula and Jimmy Johnson help Marino? We can’t know, because there’s no way to repeat the experiment.

    But I just don’t get the argument that Brady owes his success to getting lucky over and over again. Brady is currently tied with Manning for 5th place in career passer rating. He’s also 5th in passing yards, and 3rd in touchdowns. He has the best win pct for any QB with 100 starts, the most playoff wins by a QB, and the most SB appearances. It’s takes an awful lot of “luck” to explain all that. By bringing up Adams, you’ve given yourself away as a crackpot. The claim about the radio frequencies is based on something Doug Flutie supposedly said, though no one has ever gotten Flutie to verify the claim. There’s no proof that Adams has done any of the stuff you claim. The story about Adams being the secret genius is based on one comment by Art Modell years ago, when he said that he saw Adams around, but didn’t know what he did. That’s literally it. That comment by Modell supposedly proves that Belichick is just a front, and Adams is the real genius behind the Patriots’ success. It’s a nonsense conspiracy theory, supported by zero evidence, which is the reason no one talks about it. Provide some evidence for your claims, and I’ll be happy to discuss it.

    Finally, I’m tired of hearing the game manager comment about Brady. In his first season, he was 6th in passer rating. In 2002, he threw the ball over 600 times and led the league in TDs. In 2003, he was top 10 in rating and anypa. In 2004, his stats were even better, and he was again top 10 in rating and anypa. And since 2005, he’s put up some the best stats by a QB in NFL history. He wasn’t as good his first 2-3 seasons as he is now, but he was never a game manager.

    I understand that you don’t like Brady, but the arguments you’re making against him do not add up to anything coherent.

    1. 1. I am not a crackpot just because I mention Spygate and Ernie Adams. That Doug Flutie incident wasn’t the only thing that they allegedly did. Before the cover-up, Chris Mortensen put forth some articles about their shenanigans, including this one that talked about taping defensive signals and using extra frequencies:

      http://espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3014677

      That was one of the articles Mortensen did on the story until the league told ESPN to go silent after Goodell destroyed the tapes for his good buddy Kraft (why do you think he was hired as Commish in the first place? Kraft knew this day was coming, and he wanted a crony in there to do his dirty work).

      Also, you had Josh McDaniels doing this when he was in Denver in 2010. He had a guy named Sneaky Steve Scarnecchia (since banned for life by the NFL, a fate that should have also happened to Belichick and Adams if Goodell wasn’t a waterboy) that he brought from the Pats to do his filming for him, and then he denies to the other coaches on his staff that it wasn’t like what they did in New England. Horsepucky!!

      Go to Amazon. Look up Spygate: The Untold Story.

      2. All these accomplishments of Brady’s that you throw at me are all a by-product of the team success, and really don’t mean that much. Brady has led the Pats to six SB’s because of his coach. Elway led the Broncos to three SB’s in the 80’s in spite of his coach. Good day.

      1. I’m not interested in wasting time on conspiracies, but I’ll take the time to respond to the specific points you’ve made.

        I have looked at the Spygate book. It’s a load of conspiracy nonsense, backed up by zero solid evidence, written so that people like you could tell themselves there was substance behind the idea that Brady’s accomplishments don’t count. You still haven’t provided any substance to support your very specific claims about Adams and the radio frequencies. We both know that this is because there is no evidence to present, it’s just a wild-eyed theory. The article you linked to said that the Pats were investigated for their use of radio frequencies. It does not say they were found guilty of wrongdoing, or that Adams was speaking to Brady through his helmet. So it has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.

        Mortensen also reported that 11 of 12 balls were deflated against the Colts, a claim that was later proven false. Just because Mortensen reported something doesn’t make it true. This is why you need more evidence to convince me of the extraordinary claims you are making. Are you seriously arguing that Goodell is Kraft’s crony? Then what was all the deflategate nonsense about? If Kraft has Goodell in his pocket, then why would the commish railroad Kraft’s team, and one of the sport’s most marketable stars, with nonsense allegations that have never been proven? Even you have to be able to see that Brady getting his suspension lifted was an embarrassment for Goodell, just as Bountygate was.

        As for your last point, I cannot comprehend your argument. Brady had nothing to do with NE reaching 6 Super Bowls? And you must really hate Dan Reeves. If he’s a moron and Elway won in spite of him, how did Reeves manage to get Atlanta to the SB in 98? Maybe he’s like Brady and he just keeps getting lucky, right? Can you truly not see how stupid that argument sounds? And when Manning reached three Super Bowls, those were team achievements, too, right? Or is it only a team achievement when Brady does it?

        And I hate to burst your bubble, but Elway’s teams cheated, too. The Broncos were later fined for violating the salary cap rules, and Schlereth has admitted that the linemen illegally put vaseline on their arms in the playoffs against Kansas City. The difference between me and you is that I don’t respond to those incidents by declaring that Elway’s super bowl wins are meaningless.

        I don’t know what it is about Manning’s fans and Brady haters that makes them so irrational and inconsistent. They simply refuse to apply the same standards to all players, which is sad.

      2. 1. I don’t think you read that book. Bryan used statistical data and the point spread to show that what the Pats have been doing the last 15 years is two standard deviations from the mean. It’s not just conspiracy and “wild eyed theories” as you say. You talk about Brady haters, but you Brady Bouquet Throwers seem to be way worse to me.

        2. I haven’t looked too much into Deflategate. I am talking about Spygate. And, here is a very good article that gives you an idea of what they were doing over the years:

        http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/13533995/split-nfl-new-england-patriots-apart

        3. The Broncos didn’t cheat the salary cap in the 90’s. They violated the collective bargaining agreement. It centered on timing of cash inflows and outflows, at a time when there was a substantial amount of outflow activity in the manner of capital expenditures on the new stadium (Invesco Field at Mile High). It actually had nothing at all to do with the salary cap. It had to do with the way cash was disbursed from the organization to the players, and the deferrals the players took were too team-friendly, per the letter of the CBA law. The Broncos organization had a good relationship with its players, and they agreed to take the deferrals, but those provisions of the CBA were intended to protect players from bad owners. They didn’t gain a competitive edge on the field.

        4. Yes, Reeves led Atlanta to the Super Bowl in 98, but he needed a Gary Anderson miss to get there. And, outside of his time with Elway, he only led his teams (Giants and Falcons) to three playoff appearances.

  6. On some level, you have to be willing to accept that you live in the real world, and that if you take positions that are actively refuted by the facts, reasonable people are not going to take you seriously. I have read the spygate book, which is how I know what’s in it. If you’re really interested in examining the veracity of O’Leary’s claims, you should read the review on the amazon page posted by a user named BBTL. It does an excellent job of showing why much of the content of the book is a fabrication. The book has been discredited since it was published, and the math in it is flawed. O’Leary actually claims that the Patriots win pct is 3 standard deviations from the mean, which is false. And the Walsh/Siefert 49ers maintained a similar win pct to that of the Patriots, and for an even longer period of time. Are you suggesting San Francisco was also cheating? And if not, why not?

    My point about the Broncos and the deferred payments is the double standards that people like you apply. If the Patriots were accused of what the Broncos were fined for, people like you would go crazy talking about how New England cheats both on the field and off it. But you won’t apply the same standard when it’s the Broncos who are guilty. And actually, the Broncos WERE accused of illegally videotaping the Chargers practices when Shanahan was the coach. But it’s only the Patriots whose SB wins should have an asterisk, right? You also failed to answer my point about Schlereth and the vaseline on the linemen’s arms, which absolutely gave Denver a competitive advantage.

    Again, I guess you really don’t like Dan Reeves. But the fact that he turned a mediocre Atlanta team into a 14-2 NFC champ doesn’t suggest to me that he was a moron. I examined your claim that Elway won in spite of his coach when he played for Reeves. I’ll give you 1987, when Elway was 4th in anypa and Denver didn’t have a good running game, although they did have a defense that finished 7th in fewest points allowed. But what about the other years? In 1986, Elway was 10th in anypa, and the Broncos pass offense was 13th in nypa as a team. In 1989, Elway was 15th in anypa. In other words, he was an average QB. The Broncos reached the SB that year because of their defense, which allowed the fewest points in the league. And 87 was the year that Denver got to the SB thanks to Byner’s fumble, one of the luckiest moments in playoff history. So I don’t agree with your claim that Elway won despite having Reeves as his coach. Even in 97-98, Elway played great, but got help from a great defense and running game. Ironically, Brady critics like you claim that Brady is the one who can’t win without a defense and running game.

    So again, your claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. Arguing with Brady haters is like “debating” the people who deny evolution, or claim that Obama is a socialist Muslim born in Kenya. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you show them that suggests they’re wrong, they simply will not listen to you. Kacsmar recently admitted that even if Brady were to break Peyton’s career TD record, he would still rate Manning higher. This is proof for me that Scott is not interested in what the facts and stats say. He just wants to rate Manning higher than he deserves, and that’s stupid, and a bad reason to pursue a career in analytics. Your claims that Elway should rate ahead of Brady, or that Brady is the luckiest QB in history, don’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s high time you acknowledged the facts.

    1. 1. I read BBTL’s review on Amazon, and while he makes a few solid points, he seems to just take the NFL’s word for it, like when league spokesman Greg Aiello said on 9-21-07 that the league had no evidence as far as the alternate frequencies are concerned. Seems a bit naive to me.

      Also, I found the message board (from a Jet fan board) write-up of someone that said that they listened to Dan LeBatard’s interview with Bob Costas where he mentions to him what John Saunders told him about his interview with Doug Flutie (on a Canadian TV Station, I think). He also said that Costas was sickened:

      http://forums.theganggreen.com/threads/alleged-evidence-from-doug-flutie-about-pats-cheating.26151/

      BBTL seems to indicate that O’Leary invented the 15-second cutoff thing, but I knew of that before his book was even written.

      Also, my friend told me about something that Mike Pereira said once on TV. Mike allegedly said that the Pats were filming in people’s locker rooms, on the sidelines (with people wearing press passes), and a camera placed in another location (I think that he said a flagpole, but I’m not sure).

      2. I know about what Denver did with the Vaseline, and the alleged filming of a Charger practice. That wasn’t right. However, they didn’t gain a competitive advantage with their pay deferments. I try to explain that to Pat fans and bouquet throwers, and people like you just ignore what I say.

      3. Yes, Reeves did turn Atlanta around, but he didn’t lead them back to the playoffs again for four years. He only has three playoff appearances without Elway. Also, while the 89 defense was good (the 91 and 92 defenses were even better, but there were hardly any weapons or a line around Elway those years), the 86 and 87 defenses were undersized, smoke and mirror units that needed to force turnovers to be successful. They weren’t that good stopping the run (gave up over 400 yards rushing to the Giants and Skins in SB’s 21 and 22), and in 86, the Broncos were exposed after Collier stopped stunting his defensive linemen.

      4. As for Brady, his defenses forced 8 turnovers in his first three SB wins, and 13 turnovers in their three AFC Title game wins (in the 01 game, Brady was knocked out, and in the 03 game, Brady was awful). Tom really didn’t carry the team to those SB wins.

  7. I see you’ve bought into O’Leary’s conspiracy theories. You can’t trust anything the NFL says, right? Which is strange, because O’Leary and his lackeys seemed perfectly willing to buy the claims of the league office against Brady in Deflategate, but of course people like O’Leary will claim that that’s different, because…reasons. So when Goodell and his people make bogus charges against Brady about deflating footballs, that’s legit, but when Aiello reports that the Patriots were cleared of wrongdoing in a separate case, Aiello can’t be trusted because he’s a source connected to the NFL? That makes no sense, and is just more conspiracy nonsense.

    Your claims about Pereira, Flutie, and the 15 second cutoff are just more multi-party hearsay. You’ve given me nothing that I can use to actually verify any of these claims. My friend, who I won’t name, once told me that he saw a pig fly outside his window, but he thinks it might have been a donkey. Are you now convinced that pigs can fly? Because you shouldn’t be.

    This is why hearsay evidence can’t be used in court, and shouldn’t be taken seriously outside of a courtroom. What is your source for your claim that you “knew” about the 15 second cutoff before you read the book, because I’m sure O’Leary would love to know what it is. Is it something different than what Flutie supposedly said?

    I have never ignored your claim about the deferred payments by Denver. Maybe they didn’t gain an advantage, and maybe they did. But there’s a reason why they were fined so heavily by the league. And if they did film the Chargers, then they’re just as guilty as New England of cheating. I just wish people like you would admit this, instead of trying to pretend the Patriots are the only team that’s ever been accused of wrongdoing.

    Right, I never said Reeves was a genius. I said that he’s a good coach, and I rejected your claim that Elway was the driving force behind the success of those teams. The 89 and 86 Denver defenses were both top 10 in the league. This absolutely helped Elway reach the SB. I’ve already shown that Elway’s stats in 86 and 89 were nothing special, so claiming that he was the real reason they won is wrong. He also was thoroughly outplayed in each of his 3 SB appearances by the opposing QB. Why should any of that convince me he’s better than Tom Brady?

    Which brings me to your last point. Brady had good defenses in his first 3 SB wins, I’ve never denied this. But Brady himself also played well, particularly in the 03 and 04 postseasons. I wouldn’t say he carried them in every game, but his performance was crucial to NE’s success in the SB against Carolina, and the AFC champ win in Pittsburgh in 04. Look at the guy’s stats in those games and tell me he didn’t play well. And I don’t agree that Brady was “awful” in the 2003 AFC champ. You might be confusing his performance with that of Peyton Manning. Manning completed less than half his passes, at 5 yards per attempt, and had 1 TD and 4 picks. Brady was more accurate, with more yards per attempt, 1 TD and just one pick. It was far from Brady’s best performance, but he was a lot better than Manning, which is a major reason why New England won.

    1. The opposing QB played well against Elway’s defenses, not Elway. I don’t think that Brady would have done better if he was in Elway’s shoes against the Giants, Washington, and SF. Also, in the 03 AFC Title Game, Brady played lousy. He should have had five interceptions. Scott had a link to a video on this site showing that.

      As for the Deflategate thing, I didn’t believe everything the league told me. And, it’s not the same. They seemed to be covering things up in Spygate, but not so much with Deflategate.

      And, I never said that Denver didn’t do anything wrong. However, Pat fans are quick to point fingers at other teams without the facts. Also, I know this stuff is hearsay. However, we know what McDaniels did when he went to Denver. He brought Sneaky Steve Scarnecchia with him, and he got banned for life. McDaniels allegedly (O’Leary said that he got this from Jay Glazer of FOX Sports) told the Denver coaching staff that it wasn’t like what they were doing in Foxboro, where they coached it, they practiced it, and they worked on it (the cheating).

      If the Pats did the things that they were rumored to be doing, then nobody compares to them in the annals of cheating (Before you get carried away, notice I said IF. I didn’t say they did or not. However, their seems to be some smoke, and where there’s smoke, there can be fire).

      1. I can see that Im wasting my time. If you want to parrot O’Leary’s claims, there’s no need to share them with me. I’ve already read the book. The Patriots have been accused of a lot, but very little of it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m sure they were guilty of wrongdoing in the Spygate case, but they paid their fine and lost their draft picks. I don’t even see why it’s relevant anymore. Unless you’re arguing, as O’Leary is, that the Patriots are continuing to cheat now. In which case the burden of proof is on you to prove why this is so, a burden that O’Leary utterly fails to meet. That’s why O’Leary is not a credible source.

        Elway played poorly against San Fran and Washington. That’s why his teams got blown out. Your conjecture that Brady “would have” played as badly as Elway is worthless, because it’s a fake what-if that can never be tested. It also ignores the fact that Brady has much better Super Bowl stats than Elway. Elway had a 59.3 rating in his 5 SB appearances. Brady has a 95.3 rating in 6 Super Bowls. That’s one of the major reasons why Brady has a winning record in SBs, and Elway does not. Saying that the opposing QB played Denver’s defense doesn’t get around the fact that Elway played badly against San Fran and Washington. How did Brady do in the last SB, against the number one defense in the NFL, which was being hyped before the game as one of the greatest in NFL history?

        Saying that Brady “should have” had 5 picks in the 03 AFC CG is nonsense, designed to get around the fact that Manning DID have 4 picks. Had Manning thrown fewer INTs, the Colts may have won that game, but he didn’t. Manning has hurt his team with bad playoff performances far more often than Brady has.

        How did I point fingers without the facts? I agreed with your take on the deferred payments, except that it may have given Denver crucial payroll flexibility, I’m not sure. I’m not going to take your word on how I should judge that episode. I’ll look into it and decide for myself. You can continue to use O’Leary as a source for your claims if you want, but you can’t expect me to take him seriously. And what about the Steelers of the 70s, who have been rumored to have been using PEDs ever since. Did they do it? I have no idea, but I find it hard to believe that the Patriots are the only great team that did something outside the rules. But if I point out that maybe some other team did something wrong, you’ll accuse me of pointing fingers again. Apparently, only people who don’t like the Patriots have license to do that.

      2. I am not just parroting O’Leary’s claims. All I shared in my last post was a quote that he shared from Jay Glazer in the podcast he had with Brad Riter of the Trending Buffalo site. I also talked about what McDaniels and Scarnecchia did as well in Denver (which are facts, not things parroted from O’Leary).

        Also, you give Elway too much blame for his SB losses and Brady too much credit for his SB wins. It’s true that John played bad against SF, but against the Giants, he had them in good position in the first half to score more than 10 points (the kicker missed two FG’s and he got screwed out of a completion on the play before the safety). John also led Denver to a 10-0 lead against Washington before the defense started giving up big plays. When you are giving up splash plays over and over, that’s on the D, not Elway. They couldn’t force a turnover, and they were exposed.

        In Brady’s three wins early in his career, the defense helped out with a lot of key turnovers, and his kicker hit the game winning kick in the first two. Brady led both drives, but he basically hit passes to RB’s against the Rams, and the other kicker set him up at the 40 against the Panthers.

        Also, what about the losses to the Giants? They had explosive offenses (especially in the first Giant SB), and didn’t even score 20 points in either game. Why doesn’t Brady get some blame for either of those?

        And, you like to bring up last year’s SB, but that was against a banged-up Seattle D (Peyton played the much better version the year before, but Pat fans and bouquet throwers like to gloss over that). He also needed Malcolm Butler to stick his hand out and get away with a trip of a wide open Ricardo Lockette on Seattle’s next to last drive, and then Butler made a great pick on that stupid pass play to seal the win.

        This leads me to my next point about Brady: He (and to a lesser extent Montana, although I think that Joe is still a top-5 or 6 QB, while I would have Brady anywhere from 12th all time to 1000th if he benefitted from an alternate frequency) are products of the media, and their propensity to over-hype the QB if their teams win several SB’s.

        Football is a team game, but the media somehow can’t see it that way, and they like to talk about how clutch this QB or that QB is, and it’s those stupid narratives that lead idiots to give guys like Brady more credit for his team’s success than he deserves.

        On You-Tube, there are some fans who did a video series comparing Manning and Brady, and I agree that Peyton is much better. Here it is. You should check it out:

  8. jbsptfn is an example of a person who is confronted with facts that he doesn’t want to deal with, and so he ignores the ones he doesn’t like. His latest post is just more BS, packaged as informed opinion. Let’s take a close look at what he just wrote. If Elway is even close to Brady in SB performance, why is there such a huge gap in their stats? How do you explain the difference between a 95.3 passer rating, and a 59.3 rating? It’s not even close. Elway played like crap against the 49ers and Redskins, to the point where it didn’t even matter what his defense did. He put up a 36.8 rating against Washington, and a pathetic 19.4 rating against the 49ers. How do you explain numbers that bad, if it’s all on the defense? Brady’s worst SB performance was way better than those games.

    Right, Brady put together game winning drives in his first 2 SB wins. The first one was a GW FG after Brady got the ball with less than 2 min on the clock, and no timeouts, deep in his own territory. Check Brady’s stats in the 4th quarter of the SB win over Carolina. It was an epic clutch performance. I do blame Brady for the SB losses to the Giants, though his rate stats were still pretty good in both of those games. It’s only people like you who can’t admit their guy played badly, when Elway or Manning loses a playoff game.

    You conspicuously avoided mentioning the lucky catch by Kearse, which is the only reason Seattle got close to the goal in the Super Bowl. You sure Seattle was banged up? Chancellor looked pretty healthy to me when he put that big hit on Edelman. NE won that game because the great Tom Brady produced 2 big scoring drives in the 4th, against the NFL’s number one defense. When was the last time Peyton Manning did something like that in a Super Bowl? The correct answer is never.

    The reason players like Montana and Brady are rated higher than Manning is not media hype. It’s because the goal of the season is to win the Super Bowl. Manning, who you say is better than Montana and Brady, has done this exactly once, mostly because he defense played great in the playoffs, and his running game averaged more than 150 yards per playoff game. And it helped that he got to face Grossman, one of the worst QBs in SB history. Brady and Montana have each succeeded four times, and have rate stats in the reg season that compare very well with Manning. Brady is getting closer to some of Manning’s career totals, too. The notion that Manning has active QBs like Brady, Rodgers, and Brees dominated statistically is a fabrication, pushed by propagandists like you and Kacsmar. Manning has great career totals, because he’s played a long time. But for most of their careers, Brady, Brees, and Rodgers have been just as good as Manning statistically.

    To say that Brady is no better than 12th all time, like your claim that Elway is better than Brady, shows that you’re either lying, or have no idea what you are talking about. Brady is one of the best QBs, statistically, in NFL history. In addition to that, he’s the winningest QB with at least 100 starts (only Graham is higher for win pct, and Graham only played 6 seasons in the NFL), and is either the best or 2nd best postseason QB of all time. What an overrated bum!!

    The reason Brady is regarded as clutch is because he has the most successful GWDs in postseason history, with 9. 4 of those came in Super Bowls. He’s not perfect, but he’s thoroughly outperformed Manning in the clutch. Manning has just one successful playoff GWD in 9 chances, which is pathetic. So comparing Brady to Manning, Brady has been just as good as Manning, statistically, since the start of the 2005 season. And the period before 2005 was when Brady won 3 SBs in 4 seasons. Brady wins more games than Manning, in both the reg season and the playoffs, and has better postseason stats, especially if you throw out the Wild Card round. Manning has padded his stats playing way more dome games, and mostly avoiding cold weather. Manning has also been surrounded by a cast of all star receivers his whole career, like Faulk, Harrison, Wayne, D Thomas, Sanders, Decker, Clark, etc. Brady has generally had better defenses, but wins way more often with a top 10 defense. Brady’s playoff record with a top 10 D is 18-6, with 5 SB appearances and 4 SB wins. Manning with a top 10 D is 2-6 in the playoffs, with 1 SB appearance, a loss. Brady’s teams outscore Manning’s teams in both the reg season and the playoffs, and far too often, Manning’s teams have failed to put up many points in the playoffs. Examples-the loss to Tennessee in 99, 16 points. The loss to Miami in 2000, 17 points. Loss to the Jets in 2002, 0 points (a shutout!). Loss to NE in 2003, 14 points, and in 2004, 3 points. 2005 Steelers, 18 points, and only 3 before the 4th quarter, when 2 huge lucky breaks allowed the Colts back into the game. 2008 loss to Chargers, 17 points. 2009 SB loss to Saints, 17 points. 2010 loss to Jets, 16 points. 2012 loss to Ravens, the Broncos scored 35, but 14 of those points came from kickoff returns. SB loss to Seattle, with the highest scoring team in NFL history, 8 points. 2014 loss to Colts, 13 points. So virtually every loss of Manning’s career has been a game where his team did not reach 20 points scored.

    If you’re going to say Brady is to blame for the losses to the Giants, because the Pats didn’t get to 20 points, then you have to admit that Manning and the offense have typically been the problem when his teams lost. You can’t have it both ways. Manning has had weak or mediocre performances in the playoffs far more often than Brady.

    It’s time to face the fact that Brady has had a better career than Manning. Your arguments are unconvincing, because you haven’t answered most of the points I’ve made, most of which were backed up with irrefutable stats. You’ve also relied way too heavily on a fraud like O’Leary and the Spygate book. Manning’s a great QB, but he’s no Tom Brady. A much more interesting debate than Manning-Brady is Brady-Montana. If you want to continue this discussion, I’d like to address the question of WHY Brady has been more successful than Manning, but the Brady-Manning debate ended for me, and most of the football fans I’ve talked to around the country, years ago.

    1. 1. Elway’s defenses gave up big plays and drives in those Super Bowls. To blame Elway is irresponsible. Also, John has thrown less impactful INT’s in his SB career than Brady has. What about the INT that Brady threw in SB 38 in the red zone? Or, what about the ones he threw in the last SB to Jeremy Lane in the red zone, and to Richard Sherman in their own territory?

      2. Brady’s performance against Carolina in SB 38 was good, but it wasn’t epic.

      3. Kearse did have a lucky catch in last year’s SB, but what about the one that was dropped in the third quarter in NE territory (Doug Baldwin, I think) when Seattle was up by 10? He holds on to that, and they may put the game on lockdown.

      4. The goal is to win the SB. However, it’s a team game. And, I never had any fabricated propaganda about Manning. I don’t think that anyone playing today is the best ever because it is so much easier to play than it was just 25 years ago. Passing is much easier, and QB’s don’t take as much of a beating as they did then.

      5. Stats don’t matter as much as you think they do. Also, Brady has accumulated his stats in a much more QB-friendly environment than past greats.

      6. Brady hasn’t been that clutch. It took him 10 years to win a SB after those three in four years. He lost more home playoff games in those 10 years than Elway ever lost (he only lost 2).

      7. I never said that Manning wasn’t to blame for some of his playoff losses. However, there are a few where you can’t just blame him, or where he doesn’t deserve much blame at all (like the Baltimore game three years ago. The officials handed the game to Baltimore). I also never said that Brady deserves blame for all of his postseason losses (he just doesn’t deserve as much credit for the wins as you think).

      8. You are right. Manning is no Tom Brady. Like the people say in that video series (they actually watched their playoff games over again. Did you? Or do you listen to ESPN to get your Brady analysis?), Manning is much better, and it isn’t even close.

  9. You haven’t backed up your claim that Manning is “much better” than Brady with any substance, and you haven’t refuted the points I made. The guys in the video are just more Manning fanboys, making the same arguments for Manning that I’ve heard from Peyton’s advocates before. Listen to the first part of the video again. The guy going through Manning’s playoff career admits Peyton played like garbage in several of his playoff losses. How is that supposed to convince me that Peyton is better than Brady?

    1. Brady has much better SB stats than Elway, that’s just a fact. It’s not even close. Brady threw 2 picks against Seattle, which is bad. But they came early in the game, and Brady later made up for it with clutch play in the 4th. Which part of that do you disagree with?

    2. I said Brady’s performance in the 4th quarter against Carolina was epic, which is true. Go back and look at the stats, or better yet, watch the game again. There’s no way NE wins that game if Brady doesn’t play out of his mind in the 4th quarter. I agree, Brady was nothing special in the first half.

    3. A lot of things could have happened differently, in every game. This is why I don’t like using what-if scenarios to rate players. You have to judge players on what actually happened, not what might have happened. This is also why I reject the “Brady is lucky” argument. I don’t believe it’s possible for anyone to win 21 playoff games, 6 AFC championships, and 4 Super Bowls by just relying on luck, or waiting for his teammates to bail him out.

    4. I agree the game has changed a lot since 25 years ago, and it’s easier for QBs. But this has also helped Manning just as much as it has Brady. I don’t understand how this point helps your argument that Manning is “much better” than Brady. If you want to say that someone like Graham or Unitas or Montana rates ahead of both Manning and Brady, I think that’s defensible. But it seems clear to me that Brady has had a better career than Manning. I don’t understand why you disagree with me on that.

    5. If we can’t use stats to compare players, what do we go on? Subjective opinion? The QB friendly era has helped Manning’s stats just as much as Brady’s. My point still stands. For most of his career, 2005-present, Brady has been just as good as Manning. And in the period when Manning had better stats before 2005, Brady won 3 Super Bowls.

    6. I agree Elway often came up clutch. I think the drive against Cleveland from 86 might be the single greatest clutch drive I’ve ever seen. But citing the 10 year drought for Brady doesn’t prove that he’s not clutch. It’s just a way of getting around his successes in the years he won the SB. I could claim that Elway isn’t clutch, because for the first 14 years of his career, he didn’t win the Super Bowl. But I wouldn’t do that, because I don’t think that’s fair to Elway. So Elway had only 2 playoff losses at home. How many does Brady have? 3. Man, what an unclutch choke artist! This stat tells us nothing useful about Brady or Elway’s clutchiness.

    7. I never said that Brady deserves all the credit for winning, or Manning is always to blame. I simply provided facts that showed what Manning’s real problem is: His teams don’t score enough points in the playoffs. Brady doesn’t have that problem, although he has had some bad games. But Brady’s teams outscore Manning’s teams by more than 4 ppg in the playoffs. This is one of the major reasons why Brady has won more in the playoffs, and why the “Brady’s an overrated QB who gets lucky” narrative is a fabrication. I agree with the majority of people that Manning has played better in the playoffs than his 11-13 record would indicate. Where I disagree is when people go further, and claim that Manning has been better than Brady in the playoffs, because he hasn’t.

    8. I have watched every playoff game in both Brady and Manning’s careers. I see nothing that indicates that Manning has been better in the playoffs, and I genuinely don’t understand your repeated claim that Manning has been “much better” than Brady. He hasn’t. I think it’s possible to construct an argument that Manning has been slightly better than Brady, by putting a lot of emphasis on Manning’s yardage and TD records, and his many awards, and minimizing the importance of the playoffs. But I don’t see an argument that suggests there’s a big difference between the two. As a Brady advocate, I’ve never claimed that Brady is way ahead of Manning. It’s close. But I do think Brady has been more valuable to his teams overall, especially when you include the postseason and Super Bowl.

    Although we disagree, I enjoy these debates, which is why I devote so much time to them. I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to answer my posts, and that you’ve kept it polite.

  10. With Cam’s MVP season and Super Bowl appearance in 2015, I think it’s time to elevate him above Daunte Culpepper, especially considering we just saw Cam finish Year 5 and Culpepper’s great 2004 was his fifth season, so lets compare the stats.

    Culpepper through 5 years (2000-2004) 64.4% comp pct, 254.8 yards passing, 129 TD passes 74 int, 7.6 sack %. , 31.8 yards rush 28 TDs rushing, 9 fourth quarter comebacks and 14 game winning drives, made the playoffs 2 of 5 years, 93.2 QB rating

    Cam through 5 years (2011-2015) 59.5% comp pct, 234.1 yards passing, 117 TD passes 64 int, 7.1 sack % , 41.1 yards rushing 43 rushing touchdowns, 12 fourth quarter comebacks and 12 game winning drives, made playoffs 3 of 5 years, 88.2 QB rating

  11. Another guy going into his fifth year coming off four strong ones already is Russell Wilson. If he plays this year like he did in the second half of last year as I suspect he will, that’s another QB who should be in the top 64 by the end of 2016.

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