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