Who are the top 15 best quarterbacks of all time? Questions like this have been thrown at football fans since the sport began in the late 1800s. This rich history is a blessing and a curse, as it’s difficult to compare the quarterbacks from back in the day to the best and brightest of today. Should you favor the players you grew up watching, or do you need to look back further to respect the pioneers?
Here at Bet Station, we celebrate the history of every sport, but it would be foolish to say the quarterbacks in 1890 were the best of all time. There are no stats or clips to prove it, and it would be a pointless endeavor. Instead, we are looking for the players who inspired a generation, set records, and changed our minds as to what is humanly possible. That means we are looking at player stats, achievements, awards, and how much of an impact they had on getting fans into stadiums.
It is unlikely that everyone who reads our list of the best quarterbacks of all time will agree with every placement, and that’s ok. Think of our list of the best quarterbacks of all time as a celebration of football. We will try to be as impartial as possible and pay homage to true legends who changed the sport for good!
15. Terry Bradshaw
Some of you might know Terry Bradshaw from his sports analyst role on Fox NFL Sunday. But before he took up a position behind the mic, he was one of the best quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen. His career began and ended with the Pittsburgh Steelers, joining the team in 1970 and retiring in 1983. Bradshaw had an incredible reputation while he was playing, having one of the most powerful throws in the history of the NFL. Add this to his physical skills and physique, and you had a quarterback not to be messed with.
Bradshaw was the first quarterback in NFL history to win three and then four Super Bowls. He won four Super Bowls in a very successful six-year period, starting in 1974 and ending in 1979. During his career, Bradshaw won a variety of awards and set several records. He made three Pro Bowl appearances and was the NFL’s most valuable player in 1978. He was Super Bowl MVP in two of his four wins and he is also a two-time NFL passing touchdown leader. Bradshaw wore the number 12 for his entire career, a number which the Steelers unofficially retired.
- Passer Rating: 70.9
- Completion Percentage: 51.9
- TD-INT: 212-210
- Passing Yards: 27898
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 107-51
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 4-0
14. Otto Graham
You cant talk about the best quarterbacks of all time without mentioning Otto Graham. Graham began and finished his career with the Cleveland Browns, starting in 1946 and ending in 1955. In his remarkably short NFL career, Graham dominated the scene, taking the Browns to the NFL Championship Game six consecutive times in his career. Before becoming a football icon, he served at the end of WWII and returned to the states to play in the NBL. He won the NBL with the Rochester Royals and then made the jump to the AAFC. Otto Graham is one of two players to win a championship in two of the four North American major sports.
Graham holds a number of records, such as the highest win percentage of any NFL starting quarterback and the most average yards gained per pass attempt. He is a three-time NFL Champion, winning three NFL MVP awards along the way. He made five Pro Bowl appearances, he was a two-time NFL passing yards leader, and a four-time NFL completion percentage leader. Graham was selected for the 1950s NFL All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the 100th Anniversary Team. Few players have been able to leave such a big impact on football in such a short period, earning Otto Graham his spot as one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
- Passer Rating: 78.2
- Completion Percentage: 55.7
- TD-INT: 174-135
- Passing Yards: 13499
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 57-13-1
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 3-3
13. Roger Staubach
There is enormous pressure on players nowadays to get into the NFL as young as possible, but that pressure did not apply to Roger Staubach. He first played in the NFL in 1969 at 27, as he had to fulfill his military obligation. Staubach volunteered for a one-year tour of South Vietnam and spent the rest of his military career in the United States. The Dallas Cowboys drafted him as a future selection in the 1964 NFL Draft.
In the 1971 season, Staubach would take over starter duties and lead the team to a ten-win streak, including the Cowboys’ first-ever Super Bowl. A feat he would repeat in the later stages of his career, winning the Super Bowl again in 1978. Staubach would lead the Cowboys to two more Super Bowls but narrowly missed out on both occasions. Although Staubach had a short career when compared to others on our list, he achieved a lot. He was a Super Bowl MVP winner, NFL Man of the Year, and a four-time NFL passer rating leader. Also, he made six Pro Bowl appearances, won the Heisman Trophy in 1963, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
- Passer Rating: 83.4
- Completion Percentage: 57
- TD-INT: 153-109
- Passing Yards: 22700
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 85-29
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 2-3
12. Steve Young
Steve Young was a first-round pick in the 1984 Supplemental NFL Draft. His career got off to a disastrous start after he signed with the Los Angeles Express. Luckily for Young, the team collapsed, and he moved to the Buccaneers for a couple of seasons before signing with the San Francisco 49ers. It is with the 49ers that Young finally shone, championing rushing touchdowns and rushing yards.
His success led the 49ers to three Super Bowls during his career, all of which he came out on top. Young was Super Bowl MVP in 1995, right at the height of his NFL career. During his career, he was the NFL MVP twice, NFL Offensive Player of the Year once, and made it to seven consecutive Pro Bowls between 1992 and 1998. Besides those accolades, Young was a six-time NFL passer rating leader, five-time NFL completion percentage leader, and he was the NFL passing touchdowns leader on four occasions. At the time of his retirement, he was up there with the very best passers to play the game. In fact, he is second on the All-Time Passer Rating according to Pro Football HOF.
- Passer Rating: 96.8
- Completion Percentage: 64.3
- TD-INT: 232-107
- Passing Yards: 33124
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 94-49
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 3-0
11. Troy Aikman
One of the best quarterbacks of all time is Troy Aikman. He was the first pick in the 1989 draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He stayed with the Cowboys for the duration of his career, retiring in 2000. Aikman won three Super Bowls, earning the match MVP in his first Super Bowl appearance. Aikman went on to break Joe Montana’s record by throwing 89 passes without an interception.
Unfortunately, Aikman was quite injury-prone throughout his career. He missed large parts of multiple seasons with various issues and concussions. However, even with these ailments, Aikman set multiple records for the Cowboys. He was the first player to have three consecutive 3000-yard seasons for the franchise. Between 1991 and 1996, Aikman made six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He also won the NFL Man of the Year in 1997, plus he was the NFL completion percentage leader in 1993. Who knows how successful Aikman would have been without his persistent injury problems, but he was still one of the best, regardless.
- Passer Rating: 81.6
- Completion Percentage: 61.5
- TD-INT: 165-141
- Passing Yards: 32942
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 94-71
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 3-0
10. Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers with over 200 appearances. His career with the Packers began as a backup for Brett Favre in 2005 for three seasons. After he finally made his breakthrough, there was no looking back, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2011 and earning him a spot amongst the best quarterbacks in history.
Rodgers holds some remarkable NFL records, including a 122.5 passing rating in 2011. He also made 402 consecutive passes without an interception and holds the record for the fastest NFL quarterback to make 400 career passing touchdowns in 193 games. He won the Bert Bell Award in 2011 and made the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. Plus, Rodgers is one of the highest paid NFL players this season.
Few players in NFL history have been as prolific as Rodgers, making him an excellent player to start the top ten. If you want to know more about Rodgers, check out his career profile on the official NFL website.
- Passer Rating: 104.0
- Completion Percentage: 65.1
- TD-INT: 429-92
- Passing Yards: 53,139
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 131-64-1
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 1-0
9. Ben Roethlisberger
Benjamin Roethlisberger is a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He began his professional career in 2004 with the Steelers, playing over 230 games and winning two Super Bowls. In 2006, he became the youngest starting Super Bowl-winning quarterback in NFL history, in only his second professional season.
Roethlisberger also holds several NFL records, including the most touchdown passes in a two-game span. Plus, he is the only player with consecutive games of six or more touchdown passes. Roethlisberger won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 and made three Super Bowl appearances, winning two. He retired from the NFL in January 2022, around the same time Tom Brady said he was finished with football. Brady would of course reverse his decision but Big Ben decided that his retirement was final.
- Passer Rating: 93.8
- Completion Percentage: 64.4
- TD-INT: 402-205
- Passing Yards: 61,634
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 159-77-1
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 2-1
8. Dan Marino
Dan Marino is arguably the greatest NFL player to never win a Super Bowl. He began his career in 1983 with the Miami Dolphins, where he remained until 1999. He played in 242 regular-season games for the Dolphins, making one Super Bowl appearance in 1985 against the San Francisco 49ers. If you want to see why many regard Marion as one of the greats, check out the highlight below!
Marino is another quarterback on our list with an incredible range of records. He made nine Pro Bowl appearances and won the NFL Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player, and Comeback Player of the Year in 1994. Marino was the first Quarterback in NFL history to reach 50,000 and 60,000 career passing yards. He was the first NFL player to have six 4,000-yard seasons and passed over 5,000 yards in a single season in 1984.
- Passer Rating: 86.4
- Completion Percentage: 59.4
- TD-INT: 420-252
- Passing Yards: 64,361
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 147-93
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 0-1
7. Brett Favre
Brett Favre was a quarterback who played for the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and Minnesota Vikings. Favre began his career with the Falcons for one season, before joining the Packers from 1992 to 2007. He made two Super Bowl appearances, winning one in 1997.
Favre holds several records, including the joint longest touchdown pass of 99 yards. He also holds the NFL record for consecutive starts, 297. He made 302 regular season appearances across four teams. The legendary quarterback was the NFL's Most Valuable Player for three consecutive years and was selected for 11 Pro Bowl games. Favre also won the Bert Bell Award twice, once in 95 and the other in 96.
- Passer Rating: 86.0
- Completion Percentage: 62.0
- TD-INT: 508-336
- Passing Yards: 71,838
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 186-112
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 1-1
6. John Elway
John Elway is a quarterback who spent his entire professional career with the Denver Broncos. Elway made five Super Bowl appearances, three of which he lost. He won two Super Bowls back to back in 1998 and 1999 before retiring. Elway began his career with the Kansas City Royals playing Major League Baseball in 1979. He played in the NFL in 1983 after being picked and traded by the Baltimore Colts. As a player, he was invited to nine Pro Bowl games, became the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1987, and made the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
One of his most memorable moments was the 1986 AFC Championship Game played between the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos. The Broncos won in overtime thanks to Elway making a series of plays, resulting in a 98-yard drive, taking the game to overtime. If you would like a more detailed breakdown of "The Drive", check out the summary on Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Passer Rating: 79.9
- Completion Percentage: 56.9
- TD-INT: 300-226
- Passing Yards: 51,475
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 148-82-1
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 2-3
5. Drew Brees
Drew Brees had a lengthy playing career spread across the San Diego Chargers and the New Orleans Saints. Brees only made it to one Super Bowl, which he won with the Saints in 2010. This remains the Saints’ only Super Bowl appearance to this day. If you question Brees' legendary status, just check out the tribute left by the Atlanta Falcons below.
Brees is towards the top end of our list because of the incredible selection of highlights and records he achieved. He held the NFL record for the most completed passes in a career and holds the record for the joint most touchdown passes in a game. He won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice, made 13 Pro Bowl appearances, and was a seven times NFL passing yards leader.
- Passer Rating: 98.7
- Completion Percentage: 67.7
- TD-INT: 571-243
- Passing Yards: 80,358
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 172-114
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 1-0
4. Johnny Unitas
Johnny Unitas is an NFL icon credited for helping popularize American Football. He started his career with the Baltimore Colts in 1956, where he stayed until 1973, joining the San Diego Chargers for one season. He made it to one Super Bowl in 1971, where the Colts beat the Cowboys 16-13, the first Super Bowl after the AFL-NFL merger.
Unitas won the NFL Most Valuable Player three times, making ten Pro Bowl appearances. He was included in the NFL's 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams. Unitas also won the Bert Bell Award three times and the NFL Man of the Year 1970. While many of us never saw Unitas play live, he undoubtedly helped make football the sport it is today. In 1958, he played his part in “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. This sudden death overtime game was the first in NFL history and helped spark a surge in football fans throughout the 60s.
- Passer Rating: 78.2
- Completion Percentage: 54.6
- TD-INT: 290-253
- Passing Yards: 40,239
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 118-63-4
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 1-0
3. Joe Montana
Joe Montana was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers for most of his 16 seasons. He finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, retiring in 1994. Montana is a four-time Super Bowl champion, winning in each of his four appearances. He is often a candidate when talking about the best quarterbacks to play in the NFL
Montana had a legendary NFL career, selected as Super Bowl MVP in three of his four games. He also won the NFL Most Valuable Player twice, NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and made it to eight Pro Bowls. He is a two-time NFL passing touchdown leader and a five-time NFL completion percentage leader. Montana also holds the Super Bowl record for most passes without an interception, 122, and the all-time highest passer rating of 127.8.
Players like Montana are exceptionally rare. However, that does not stop the pundits from making various comparisons to up-and-coming prospects. Rick Mirer was a victim of this comparison, having come through the ranks at Notre Dame, just like Montana. Unfortunately, that's where the comparison ends as Mirer went down as one of the worst quarterbacks of all time.
- Passer Rating: 92.3
- Completion Percentage: 63.2
- TD-INT: 273-139
- Passing Yards: 40,551
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 117-47
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 4-0
2. Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning played in the NFL for 18 seasons, 14 of which for the Indianapolis Colts. He is one of the best quarterbacks ever, spending the final four years of his legendary career with the Denver Broncos before retiring in 2015. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion and comes from a family of successful football players. His father, Archie Manning, played for the New Orleans Saints and made two Pro Bowls appearances. Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, is also a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants.
Manning has a fantastic collection of awards and NFL records to his name, including being a five-time NFL Most Valuable Player. He is a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year winner and played in 14 Pro Bowl games. Peyton also holds the record for most passing touchdowns in a season with 55 and the joint-most touchdown passes in a game with seven. Careers as successful as Mannings’ are few and far between, but there is one quarterback that stands far above the rest.
- Passer Rating: 96.5
- Completion Percentage: 65.3
- TD-INT: 539-251
- Passing Yards: 71,940
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 186-79
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 2-2
1. Tom Brady
If you are a fan of football over the past 20 years, then there is one name you would have heard countless times; Tom Brady. He began his career with the New England Patriots in 2000 and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020. Brady has an unrivaled NFL career, holding an incredible number of records that will take some time to beat.
For starters, Brady is a seven-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Super Bowl MVP. He has made it to the Super Bowl ten times, another record that will surely stand the test of time. He has appeared at 14 Pro Bowl games, named the NFL Most Valuable Player three times, and made the number one spot for the NFL Top 100 Players three times. Brady has the NFL records for the most career wins, most career touchdown passes, most passing yards, passing attempts, and joint longest touchdown pass at 99 yards, making him the best quarterback on our list by some margin.
We could go on and on about how incredible this man’s career is, but we think the stats speak louder than our words.
- Passer Rating: 97.6
- Completion Percentage: 64.1
- TD-INT: 606-196
- Passing Yards: 81,854
- Regular Season Record (W-L-D): 236-71
- Super Bowl Wins to Losses: 7-3
Best Quarterbacks: Honorable mentions
Unfortunately, with any list, there are certain players that just miss out on a spot. Quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, and Fran Tarkenton narrowly missed out on being included in the Top 15 Best Quarterbacks of All Time. If you enjoy reading about football, we have plenty of other articles for you to read. We have a list of the 15 best NFL fan bases plus a list shaming the worst quarterbacks to ever play the game.
- Fran Tarkenton
- Bart Starr
- Eli Manning
- Russell Wilson
- Kurt Warner
- Jim Kelly
- Sammy Baugh
- Bob Griese
- Len Dawson