The Mt. Rushmore of NFL QBs: The 4 Best Quarterbacks of All-Time

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We often talk about the “Mt. Rushmore” of Quarterbacks around the water cooler. We never have parameters, just hyperbole. I decided to set some parameters and give you my take on who are the four greatest QBs in NFL history and why. 

Ground Rules

Statistics count for approximately 40% of the grade

In today’s pass-happy, defense-restrained league, this will give some quarterbacks that are playing in the year 2000 and beyond a leg up on the competition.

The specific number of wins and losses do not count.

The quarterback impacts the team’s ability to win without a doubt, but a solid quarterback with a bad defense or no running game can’t impact the game significantly enough to overcome those deficiencies in most situations.

Championships count in the conversation for 20% of the grade

Our society wants to see winners, but the quarterback has less to do with that than society would like to believe.

John Elway has played some incredible football, but he couldn’t do enough to stop some lopsided Super Bowl losses. That doesn’t make him any less of a great quarterback.

The theory that a quarterback takes the glory in the wins and the brunt of the defeat in the losses is unreasonable in a game where nearly everyone on the team impacts the game in some way.

The Eye Test is highly important

If I was able to see a quarterback play and how he competed, that is going to count for 40% of the grade to get on Mt. Rushmore.

I will apologize to fans of Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr, I believe they could be deserving of recognition here, but I didn’t see them play.

With these ground rules in mind, let’s build my version of the NFL Quarterback Mt. Rushmore.

Dan Marino

My friends and I jokingly called him Dirty Dan because it seemed what he did to opposing defenses seemed to be unfair.

He was so much better than other quarterbacks. Those amazing completions and escapes in the pocket couldn’t be legal. They had to be some type of “dirty” play.

It was just Marino being the incredible player that he was, piling up 61,361 yards, 420 TDs against 252 INTs in 16 seasons.

A nine-time pro-bowler and three-time first-team all-pro, Marino led the league in touchdowns and yards when he retired at the end of the 1999 season. 

Marino accomplished everything a quarterback could accomplish with the lone exception of winning a Super Bowl.

Joe Montana

This is a bittersweet pick.

I’m a Cowboys fan. “The Catch.”  Enough said.

Montana was probably the most surgical quarterback of his day.

During his 15 seasons, he methodically dissected teams in ways I’m sure they still have nightmares about.

The comeback against the Bengals in the Super Bowl XXIII was the most talked-about drive for years.

A three-time All-Pro, eight-time pro bowler, 92 career rating, and the stat people remember most, four-time Super Bowl Champion. Montana was truly a great quarterback.

Tom Brady

It’s got to be pretty difficult being Tom Brady. Three-time Super Bowl winner. Five-time AFC Champ. 95 Career QB rating. Two-time first-team all-pro and has appeared in nine pro bowls.

Going into his 15th season in the league, he has 359 TD passes against only 134 interceptions.

He owns the record for the second-most touchdowns and yards in a single season.

He’s the only quarterback of the four in this list who is statistically dominant, wins multiple championships, and passes the Eye Test with flying colors.

Peyton Manning 

Peyton Manning is easily the most cerebral quarterback to ever play the position. He understands many defensive schemes better than most defensive players.

Manning broke the record for yards and touchdowns this past season at only 37 years old.

He has over 8,000 pass attempts and a 97.2 passer rating. He’s a statistical monster and he passes the Eye Test most of the time.

My apologies to Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw, and Roger Staubach. Although they are great QBs in their own right, they didn’t make the cut time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my picks.

Do you agree with them or would you have chosen differently? Share your picks for the best quarterbacks of all-time in the comments.

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