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Best NFL Quarterbacks of All Time: Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes Headline Top 10

Who are the best NFL quarterbacks of all time? We offer our top 10, which includes QBs such as Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Peyton Manning.

Who is the best NFL quarterback of all time? There probably isn’t a bigger, more polarizing debate in football.

For now, the No. 1 spot is secure. But some feel differently, that the events of last season have forced a change atop the G.O.A.T. rankings. However, while that sub-debate is interesting, the real meat on this bone is found in the second half of the list.

Let’s rank the 10 best NFL quarterbacks of all time, along with six honorable mentions.

10 Best NFL Quarterbacks of All Time

Honorable mentions: Otto Graham, Drew Brees, Troy Aikman, Bart Starr, Steve Young, Sammy Baugh

10) Brett Favre

Favre certainly has his detractors, particularly those who justifiably condemn his off-field behavior. But he was also flawed on the field, as evidenced by his 336 interceptions, which are the most in NFL history.

But let’s not get it twisted. Favre, a Hall of Famer, 11-time Pro Bowler, three-time MVP, and one-time Super Bowl champion, is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. A true gunslinger, Favre led the league in yards twice, led in touchdowns four times, and finished his career with a 62% completion percentage.

His spot in the top 10 is tenuous, but Favre still belongs.

9) Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers’ all-time ranking has reached a fork in the road.

He could stay in this spot for a while or slip further if his career ends with a whimper. But he could rise if he returns to form in 2024 after suffering a torn Achilles in 2023. And if Rodgers somehow leads the New York Jets on a deep playoff run, perhaps even earning a Super Bowl berth, he could force his way into the top five.

As it stands now, Rodgers is a no-doubt pick for the top 10. One of the most accurate and mistake-averse (perhaps to a fault) quarterbacks in history, Rodgers has four MVPs, four first-team All-Pro nods, and one Super Bowl title on his résumé.

He’s one of the most gifted playmakers the position has ever seen.

8) Roger Staubach

“Captain America” might be the most underappreciated QB in NFL history. Such is the passage of time.

Roger Staubach won the 1963 Heisman Trophy while playing for the United States Navy Academy. He then played 11 seasons in the NFL (all for the Dallas Cowboys), winning two Super Bowls (he also lost two) and earning six Pro Bowl nods. In between his collegiate and professional careers, Staubach spent a year in Vietnam as a naval supply officer.

Staubach might be the coolest QB in NFL history, as well as one of the best ever to play the position.

7) John Elway

John Elway was ahead of his time. He blended incredible arm talent with high-level mobility in a way that is now commonplace in the NFL. But Elway was the original, and he would’ve been just as successful in today’s game.

In 16 seasons with the Denver Broncos, Elway appeared in five Super Bowls, winning two, and earned nine Pro Bowl nods and one MVP. He eventually landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is an obvious choice for this list.

6) Johnny Unitas

This is the problem you inevitably run into with these kinds of rankings. How do you compare Johnny Unitas, who began his career when Dwight D. Eisenhower was the U.S. President, to someone like Patrick Mahomes? It’s an inherently flawed exercise.

Nevertheless, you can’t find a top-10 QBs list that doesn’t include Unitas. He was so good that he changed how the position was played while pioneering many aspects of the modern passing game. The two-minute drill, as we know it, doesn’t exist without Johnny Unitas.

He finished his Hall of Fame career with three MVPs, 10 Pro Bowl nods, five first-team All-Pro selections, and four championships (one Super Bowl title, three NFL titles).

5) Dan Marino

Some people will tell you Dan Marino is the best pure passer in NFL history. And they might be right.

And if Marino had a Super Bowl title on his résumé, he probably would be even higher on this list. Either way, we’re talking about an absolute legend who dominated the league — when he wasn’t busy getting kidnapped by Ray Finkle.

Marino’s 48 TD passes in 1984 broke the single-season record of 36 and stood for 20 years. That same season saw him become the first quarterback to break the 5,000-yard barrier. He also was sacked just 13 times despite making a league-leading 564 pass attempts.

Before landing in the Hall of Fame, Marino earned one MVP, nine Pro Bowl nods, and three first-team All-Pro selections.

4) Patrick Mahomes

There’s a 99.847% chance Mahomes will be higher on this list in a few years, perhaps even as early as next year. He’s the best quarterback on the planet, and it’s not particularly close.

If the goal were to rank the 10 most skilled quarterbacks in NFL history, Mahomes might be at the top. But that’s not what this list is. And we can’t justify giving top-three status to someone who’s only been a starter for seven seasons. It’s too early.

With all that said, Mahomes is ridiculous. Still just 28 years old, he already has three Super Bowl titles, two MVPs, and six Pro Bowl nods on his résumé. If his career ended today, he’d be a Hall of Famer.

3) Peyton Manning

You definitely can poke holes in Peyton Manning’s résumé.

His first Super Bowl title came against an inferior, unworthy opponent, and his second saw the defense-led Broncos win in spite of him. The early years of Manning’s career also were filled with postseason choke jobs, including two against the New England Patriots. Manning probably would be the first to tell you he left some championships on the table.

But that’s where the negativity ends. There wasn’t a ton of flash in Manning’s game, but he was as good of a pure quarterback as the NFL has ever seen. A football savant, Manning outsmarted opposing defenses before and after the snap. With him under center, the Indianapolis Colts were AFC contenders year in and year out.

The accolades speak for themselves: five MVPs, 14 Pro Bowl nods, seven first-team All-Pro selections, and two Super Bowl titles. He’s also pretty good in commercials.

2) Joe Montana

Joe Montana was the consensus No. 1 until late in the 2010s when the top QB on this list ended the debate. But he remains an easy choice for the No. 2 spot.

Montana didn’t have the strongest arm. And while his mobility was underrated, he wasn’t exactly a burner. Yet, he did have pinpoint accuracy, great leadership, arguably the most catchable ball ever, and the clutch gene.

The San Francisco 49ers legend went 4-0 in Super Bowls and won two MVPs. His postseason run from 1988 to 1990 was particularly absurd, as Montana posted a 100+ passer rating in eight straight playoff games.

He was just about the perfect quarterback.

1) Tom Brady

If you’re not putting Tom Brady in this spot, it’s probably for one of three reasons:

1) You’re just bored of Brady.
2) You’ve diluted yourself into thinking Deflategate matters.
3) You have recency bias with Mahomes.

That’s it. And none of those are good reasons.

Seven Super Bowl titles in 10 appearances. Fourteen Conference Championship game appearances, including eight in a row. Fifteen Pro Bowls. Three first-team All-Pro selections. Three MVPs. Two of the greatest statistical seasons in QB history (2007 and 2010).

Brady also led New England to 17 AFC East championships, including 11 in a row. He did what Mahomes is doing, and he did it for literal decades.

The cherry on top came in 2020 when Brady proved he could do it elsewhere. In his first season with the Buccaneers, Brady led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title over Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Brady basically had three Hall of Fame careers.

2000-2007: Three Super Bowl titles (four appearances), four Pro Bowls, one MVP, one first-team All-Pro, undefeated regular season.

2008-2014: One Super Bowl title (two appearances), six Pro Bowls, one MVP, one first-team All-Pro.

2015-2022: Three Super Bowl titles (four appearances), five Pro Bowls, one MVP, one first-team All-Pro.

Brady is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, and completions. At 45 years old, he threw for 4,694 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also tore his ACL during the prime of his career.

Brady is the best quarterback of all time. Period.