Top 50 Quarterbacks in NFL History Ranked By Unique Statistical Formula

We Say Greatness, But Some would say this Formula Ranks QBs by Overall Legacy

Cam Newton (By Pantherfan11 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] – Cropped)

Here we look at a few interesting cases within this ranking:

The most fascinating three names on this list to us are Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Cam Newton. Each represent the three different peaks that each quarterback can achieve.

This is an interesting case study for this formula and ranking.

Rivers represents the statistical avenue a quarterback can take to amassing a high point total. He is consistent and a true pocket passer that puts up respectable stats year after year.

Eli Manning is the example of championships elevating a quarterback to legendary status, despite not ever putting up relatively impressive stats.

Newton is the example of a guy who can, through a really high peak or season, can be remembered as an excellent quarterback through individual awards.

Each of their point totals are as follows. Newton: 75.5 Points; Rivers: 75.5 Points; E. Manning: 74.5 Points.

Following the 2019 season, each are within one point of each other.

But what do each of their accomplishments say about their greatness?

As a fan do you want Rivers’ consistency, but to never make it to a Super Bowl? To never have your franchise quarterback be named First Team All-Pro even once? Would you rather have the inconsistent Newtown who, clearly, has the highest ceiling? Looking at his historic 2015 season when he took his team to the Super Bowl? Or would you rather have a quarterback that was often mocked, have many subpar seasons, but delivered two Super Bowl championships that will be associated with your team forever? No one laughs at Manning’s banner raising seasons.

It’s hard to say. I mean, you can’t beat rings, but most would say Rivers is the best quarterback of the three. However we think Newton, with his running ability and nose for the end zone, is the most dominant of the three when he’s at his best.

It is quite encouraging to see three very different quarterbacks, with three very different avenues to success, with three very different legacies be grouped so closely together. It lets us know that the formula respects all three aspects of a quarterback’s overall legacy.

And to think, there are 10 quarterbacks in NFL history (11 in professional football history) that have more than doubled Newton’s career point total to this point.

Roethlisberger (88 Points), Rodgers (148.5 Points), Brees (181 Points) and Brady (330 Points) have all played in the same era as the three aforementioned quarterbacks and have amassed significantly more career points.

The Hall of Fame?

So, here’s the question: Are any of the three unquestionably Hall of Fame worthy? It’s generally accepted that Rivers will get in and that E. Manning may — some day. But I just don’t know. Nearly everyone says Roethlisberger will get in, but I’d like at least one more excellent season from “Big Ben” before saying it’s a lock (that would get him well over that 90 point hump).

As mentioned on the first page of this piece, crossing the 90 point barrier just about gets a quarterback into The Hall. However, we believe it should be bumped up a bit higher to about 100 points. We don’t want Canton to turn into the “Hall of Very Good.”

Regarding Rivers, if this ranking was strictly based on best statistical quarterbacks in NFL history, his ranking would obviously shake out a bit higher. But there’s more to football than strictly numbers, fantasy football is just that — fantasy. Factoring in the other facets of being a quarterback, no I wouldn’t have Rivers in The Hall.

At present, I wouldn’t have E. Manning, Rivers, Newton or Roethlisberger in The Hall. But if I had to pick one, it would no doubt be Roethlisberger and his point total reflects that. Again, one more quality season from “Big Ben” probably puts him over the hump.

Russell Wilson and, as silly as it sounds after just two years as a starter, Patrick Mahomes are both on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

Tobin Rote (114.5 Points) and Jack Kemp (115.5 Points) both have solid Hall of Fame resumes, including their success in the AFL.

As previously stated, Ken Anderson absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame with 103 Points all amassed in the NFL.

Sonny Jurgenson, Ken Stabler and Joe Namath all have very weak Hall of Fame resumes, but are all already in The Hall. Namath, for what he meant to the game of professional football with his guarantee and the AFL-NFL merger, I suppose deserves inclusion.

But these debates will continue to rage on until the end of time.

Who is in the “GOAT” Discussion? Looking at the NFL’s 10 Quarterbacks in the NFL All-Time Team.

Based on our formula, a quarterback has to post at least 180 Points to be legitimately considered for the “GOAT” title. So, check the list again to see if your favorite all-time quarterback is worth debating “GOAT” status or not.

We won’t do the work for ya this time.

That means that John Elway, Dan Marino and Roger Staubach have to sit this discussion out, no matter how loud their fans scream (and some football writers, see the NFL’s All-Time Team below). They’re in the same tier as Terry Bradshaw, Sammy Baugh, Y.A. Tittle, Sid Luckman, Fran Tarkenton and Kurt Warner. Which is still an amazing place for a quarterback’s legacy to hang out. But we’re quite certain most people wouldn’t put Bradshaw’s name atop that list of all-time quarterbacks — even though they maybe should. He was more than just his championships, he put up some quality numbers, too. He, because of team success, is somewhat disrespected similarly to how Bart Starr is.

Funny, isn’t it, that no one seems to “blame” Joe Montana for winning those rings with a genius head coach, strong defense, and once in a generation wide receiver. The same goes for Brady and his defenses and head coach every year.

Quarterbacks on the NFL’s 100 Year All-Time Team:

It’s interesting to see how the results for this formula differ from the 10 quarterbacks the NFL honored on its All-Time Team.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Otto Graham and Brett Favre are in our formula’s all-time NFL top 10 (actually the top six) and are on the NFL’s 100 Year All-Time Team, as decided by a plethora of football historians choosing their top 10 quarterbacks.

Sammy Baugh, Dan Marino, John Elway and Roger Staubach were also on the NFL’s 100 Year All-Time Team, but not according to our formula.

In our formula, these men missed the top 10 all-time. They were still ranked highly though: Baugh (12th), Marino (13th), Elway (16th) and Staubach (18th).

Instead of those four men, our formula decided Bart Starr, Steve Young, Drew Brees and Terry Bradshaw were greater quarterbacks all-time. That said, Bradshaw is likely to be surpassed by Aaron Rodgers in the very near future.

Which four do you think are better quarterbacks? Baugh, Marino, Elway and Staubach or Starr, Young, Brees and Bradshaw/Rodgers?

There’s certainly an interesting argument to be had there.

I’d trust a list that honors Brees in the top 10 all-time, because his numbers are insane. The same goes for Starr’s championship pedigree. How can those two not be in the top 10 all-time? According to our formula they aren’t left out of the top 10.

Elite Point Total Cut-Off:

There is another distinct cut-off at about the 125 Point mark. It seems as though north of 125 Points are, truly, the greatest quarterbacks the game has ever seen.

Some people want to throw Dan Fouts, Norm Van Brocklin, Sonny Jurgensen, Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly into the conversation for some of the best ever, but it’s clear they’re all third tier all-time greats based on the results of this formula.

It would have been nice to see where Len Dawson would land on this ranking if he had spent his entire career in the NFL. We’re thinking he’d still have amassed at least 125 points to be in the upper-echelon of all-time passers. But that’s just speculation, a feeling, something we were trying to avoid in this piece so we won’t expand on that theory.

All of this said, we want to reiterate that we don’t believe Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. But we do admit that, he is, ugh, the greatest. Despite all of his freaking advantages, he’s still earned it.

“GOAT” debates will truly never end, but at least this formula and ranking give a little more perspective to the debate. At least there’s, now, some hard numbers to support certain claims.

The Cradle of Quarterbacks:

Yinz gonna love this!

The Pittsburgh region, or Western Pennsylvania, is known as the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” for all of the high talent its produced at the quarterback position over the years. This ranking proves that, dramatically. The region boasts: Johnny Unitas (ranked 3rd), Joe Montana (ranked 4th), Dan Marino (ranked 13th), Jim Kelly (ranked 24th, including USFL stats), George Blanda (ranked 30th, including AFL stats) and Joe Namath (ranked 37th, including AFL stats) including a bevy of other professional football quarterbacks.

Downtown Pittsburgh, 2018

Babe Parilli, Jeff Hostetler and Johnny Lujack are also in the top 75 all-time. Lujack is ranked 70th with 36 points, despite playing just four NFL seasons. Whereas Hostetler is tied for 62nd place with 49.5 points. Above both of them is Babe Parilli, where he came in 57th place with 55.5 points (mostly amassed in the AFL).

That means six of the top 40 professional football quarterbacks of all-time have come from the Cradle of Quarterbacks and the high school football (and football in general) culture of Western Pennsylvania. To have two of the top four NFL quarterbacks of all-time come from the same region is impressive; to have Dan Marino and Jim Kelly the third and fourth best quarterbacks to come from there is insanity. And Jim Namath may just be the most famous of them all. Now that’s spectacular.

No other region can come close to this level of excellence on this list, not even the whole of Texas.

Even more impressive is that nine of the top 75 quarterbacks in NFL history are from the Cradle of Quarterbacks in Western, PA.

To see how quarterbacks were ranked all-time at the beginning of every decade in the modern era, go to page 5!

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3 Comments

  1. The requirements of the position are so different over time that the criteria should be qualified by era – basically now all that is looked at is passing, but that was just a small part of the position for the first two decades and more of the NFL.  People have to remember that at one point the rules decreed that a passer had to stand at least 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, roughing the passer was allowed, a team was penalized for incomplete passes on consecutive plays, and an incomplete pass in the end zone resulted in a turn-over – not to mention the shape of the ball which was more designed for drop kicking.  And the quarterback, along with all the players, also did the duty of special teams today since once you were taken out of a game you could not go back in until the next quarter. If you asked who was the best quarterback when the position required blocking, running, kicking, punt and kick off returns, playing defense, and calling plays with no direction from the coaching staff – that would be a totally different list.

    • Definitely hear where you’re coming from. You’re a true steward of ancient NFL history. Love it. I think there’s something to be said about trying to find a way to rank those players from the 1920s against each other because the game was SO different then, but that would take an incredible amount of work! Thanks for reading.

  2. There are many variables that make choosing the best QBs a very SUBJECTIVE thing. First off, if the QB had a great supporting cast, esp. offensive line &/or receivers, that alone makes a HUGE difference. Brady is probably the most outstanding example who (as even Belichick has stated) was and is not a great athlete (in comparison to other QBs). Brady benefited (massively) from a superior head coach and coaching staff, organization AND a consistently great offensive line. This last fact is the most overlooked and under-talked about variable. If Rodgers had had the consistent offensive line and coaching that Brady had, he would have four superbowl rings at least. Mike McCarthy wasted Rodgers years at GB. But, the whole GB organization suffered from poor ownership most likely as a result of Green Bay being a tiny community. Secondly, football is a team sport. Praising QBs as great makes no sense without considering the whole team effort (all pro players, coaches, etc.). This is totally overlooked in assessing greatness.

    Third, QBs from the last 50 years are better athletes over-all due to competition and training. Intelligence, discipline, fortitude, etc. are important also. Hence, Rodgers makes better decisions and throws far less interceptions. Last comment, QBs from bigger cities and regions always are praised and hyped more by the media, consistently. There is a significantly failure when evaluating QBs to try to eliminate the hype which is, of course, a challenge.

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