Last Updated March 28, 2023.
It’s the most crucial position in football. The quarterback directs the offense and is responsible for executing plays. He must combine leadership, intelligence, and strategic thought with grit, strength, and courage. In a crucial game, if this gridiron gladiator delivers, especially in the Super Bowl, he’s the King. If he loses, he’s a big disappointment. The pressure is tremendous, so to be effective a champion must be cool and confident, regardless of the circumstances.
Coined the signal caller, the quarterback immediately prior to the start of the play, begins his cadence. “Hut, Hut, Hike!” is the commonly-known phrase, still used by many while playing with family and friends. But today, an NFL offensive leader uses more complicated commands, often colors and numbers, to prepare his team, adjust to the defense’s line up, and even change a play. Each shout is an important tool in the quarterback’s bag of tricks. These top 10 quarterbacks of all time are paramount performers and have dazzled fans with their strategic signal calls and skills. The first two also served in the military.
- Otto Graham
With seven titles in the AAFC and NFL, Otto Graham still holds more league championships than any other signal caller. He silenced the critics that rallied against the AAFC as a weak league by claiming three titles after the Cleveland Browns entered the NFL in 1950, including a 56-10 massacre against the Detroit Lions. Graham is an NFL player who served in the military. He enrolled in the Navy’s V-5 carrier program after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he never saw action in his two years of service.
- Roger Staubach
After attending the Naval Academy, Roger Staubach served active duty in the Vietnam War, and in 1969 at the late age of 27, he started his rookie year with the Dallas Cowboys. He is praised for both his passing accuracy and scrambling ability as he guided Dallas to four NFC Championships and two Super Bowl victories. He became the first player to win both the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP and is the man who coined the phrase “Hail Mary” with a legendary long pass in the 1975 playoff game against the Vikings.
- Johnny Unitas
Known as the crew-cut kid from Pennsylvania, Johnny Unitas was a great signal caller. He is known for picking his own plays, throwing long bombs, and leading game-winning drives, and he successfully marched the Baltimore Colts towards two NFL crowns and one Super Bowl victory.
- Peyton Manning
Groomed by his father, Archie Manning, a former NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI, and then made it to the Big Game two more times, once with the Colts and another time with the Denver Broncos, both resulting in losses. As a rookie, he set five records—including most TD passes (26) and yards (3,739). He is known as the king of the hurry-up offense.
- John Elway
John Elway’s career began with a controversy when he threatened to play baseball for the Yankees unless the Baltimore Colts traded him. They picked him in the 1983 draft, but agreed to trade him and he played for the Denver Broncos. He proved to be a durable, mobile and extremely accurate quarterback. He threw for 51,475 yards, scored 300 touchdowns, and accumulated 3,407 rushing yards. He lost his first three Super Bowl appearances, but won his last two, and at the age of 38, he is still the oldest quarterback to ever win the Big Game.
- Brett Favre
As a three-time MVP player with one Super Bowl championship, Brett Favre, the “gunslinger,” was a tough, gritty quarterback who was always ready to play. He holds the record for starting in 297 consecutive games and for career pass yards, completions, and victories, as well as the most inceptions, fumbles, and times sacked. He led the Green Bay Packers to victory against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
- Joe Montana
Known for his coolness under pressure, Joe Montana was an expert at pulling off 31 fourth-quarter comebacks. He threw for 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl eight times and winning back-to-back MVPs in 1989 and 1990. His post-season play is what sets him apart from the pack. He had a 92-yard drive in Super Bowl XXIII and was four-for-four in the Big Game, including three MVPs. He is truly one of the best football quarterbacks of all time.
- Steve Young
Following the great Joe Montana as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Young became an all-time great in his own right. He made the Pro Bowl in all seven of his years as a starter, winning two MVPs. He is most remembered for his 1995 Super Bowl performance: 24-for-36, 325 yards, six touchdowns, and 49 rushing yards. It was truly a great game.
- Dan Marino
Dan Marino proved that no defense could stop the perfect pass. Recognized for his quick release and ability to throw the ball with precision into tight quarters, he threw for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns. Despite that fact that he wasn’t mobile, he was rarely sacked. In fact, in 1988 he was tackled only six times when he dropped back to pass for 606 attempts. Unfortunately, Marino never won the Big Game and delivered an uninspiring 8-10 career record in post-season play.
- Tom Brady
With a limited pocket presence and supposedly a weak arm, Tom Brady seemed destined for the bench, but when New York Jets linebacker, Mo Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe out of the game in the 2001 season, Brady got his chance and he delivered. He recently guided the New England Patriots to the XLIX Super Bowl and to five more Big Games before that. He is a GQ cover boy who marries models and wins at the Big Game, but with the recent football deflation scandal, his suave image took a beating.
Many NFL Players are Former Servicemembers
Many NFL players served in the military during WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in recent wars dedicated themselves to both their country and this sport. Also, many members of the NFL community have provided exceptional support to U.S. service members, veterans and their families. The Salute to Service Award presented by the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) was created to acknowledge their outstanding efforts.
The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only.
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