Greatest QB of All Time: 10,000 Careers

Imagine if every QB throughout history could play his career out 10,000 times. Each signal caller would be subjected to the full spectrum of circumstances, ranging from the good fortune of being drafted onto a ready-made dynasty, to the rotten luck of being stuck with a talent starved, mismanaged franchise. In some careers he would manage to play 15+ years without a significant injury, in others he’d spend half of his days on IR or watch his career end suddenly with one unlucky hit.

The actual careers we’ve witnessed from NFL quarterbacks merely represent one of these 10,000 outcomes (in reality there are an infinite number of outcomes, but that makes my brain hurt). We critique these players through a frighteningly narrow lens, equivalent to following a person around for one random day and declaring their entire life a success or failure based upon that day alone. Wouldn’t you feel cheated if everyone judged your life that way? Yet that’s precisely how we treat our quarterbacks.

Methodology

In this post, I’m going to rank the 100 greatest quarterbacks of all time from the perspective of the 10,000 careers thought experiment. This list is entirely subjective, and is undoubtedly colored by my personal biases and blind spots. I looked at the skill set, temperament, and durability of each QB, and used those qualities to infer how much success he might have across a wide variety of circumstances. Notably absent in my evaluations are the gruesome details of these player’s careers, as I don’t believe a single game or play has any predictive value in determining how good the QB really is. I also ignore things that I don’t believe are innate abilities, such as winning playoff games or raising one’s game in the clutch.

Note – The list has been revised after receiving feedback and giving it some more thought.

The List

I am the greatest.

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers

 

Tier 2

Peyton Manning

Dan Marino

 

Tier 3

Fran Tarkenton

Steve Young

Sammy Baugh

 

Tier 4

Sonny Jurgensen

Joe Montana

Norm Van Brocklin

Johnny Unitas

Otto Graham

John Elway

Roger Staubach

L-U-C-K-Y

Brett Favre

Drew Brees

Tom Brady

Warren Moon

Bobby Layne

 

Tier 5

Donovan McNabb

Steve McNair

Ben Roethlisberger

Philip Rivers

Ken Stabler

John Brodie

Dan Fouts

Joe Namath

 

Tier 6

Greg Cook

Andrew Luck

Tony Romo

Jim Kelly

I could’ve been a contender.

Bert Jones

Y.A. Tittle

Vinny Testaverde

Boomer Esiason

Len Dawson

Troy Aikman

 

Tier 7

Randall Cunningham

Daunte Culpepper

Daryle Lamonica

Russell Wilson

Phil Simms

Kurt Warner

Cam Newton

John Hadl

Bart Starr

Roman Gabriel

Bob Griese

Charlie Conerly

Terry Bradshaw

Ken Anderson

Bob Waterfield

 

Tier 8

Jim Everett

Doug Flutie

Steve Grogan

Matt Ryan

Mark Brunell

Don Meredith

Earl Morrall

Ed Brown

Carson Palmer

Jeff Garcia

Rich Gannon

Archie Manning

Dave Krieg

Jim Hart

Craig Morton

Norm Snead

Joe Theismann

Milt Plum

 

Tier 9

Mark Rypien

Matt Hasselbeck

Bernie Kosar

Michael Vick

Chad Pennington

Brian Sipe

Tommy Thompson

Neil Lomax

Danny White

Ron Jaworski

Lynn Dickey

Doug Williams

Tobin Rote

Billy Kilmer

Jim Plunkett

Matt Schaub

Frank Ryan

Eli Manning

Trent Green

Bobby Hebert

Steve DeBerg

Jake Delhomme

David Garrard

Jim Zorn

Jay Schroeder

Matthew Stafford

Chris Chandler

Drew Bledsoe

Wade Wilson

Ken O’Brien

Tommy Kramer

 

Questions? Complaints? Agreement? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.