While everyone knows who Tom Brady is, he isn’t the only one to have been called one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Tom Brady, who announced that he had “retired for good” is almost universally considered the NFL’s greatest quarterback. In fact, he may very well be the GOAT in the world of American Football. His influence and popularity are so great that his name is well-known even outside of the sports community. Almost everyone recognizes the name, Tom Brady. But the NFL has a rich history with many incredible quarterbacks who have come before and who have competed against Brady.
Here are the top five greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
5. Dan Marino
Can we consider a quarterback who never won a Super Bowl as one of the greatest of all time? The topic is up for debate. But Dan Marino is one of the sport’s most revered figures and is someone whom many quarterbacks in the game today look up to.
There are still-standing records that point to Marino’s lasting greatness such as most seasons leading the league in pass completions, with six, and most consecutive seasons leading the league in lowest sack percentage, at seven.
But the Miami Dolphins quarterback’s impact went beyond numbers. His quick release and superb throwing arm made him a thrilling, elegant player to watch. And having played in an era when the NFL was just beginning to gain fans outside of North America, he was in many ways the first quarterback to enjoy a significant name outside of North America.
4. Peyton Manning
A two-time Super Bowl champion, with the Indianapolis Colts and then the Denver Broncos, the five-time NFL MVP, is the only quarterback in the past 20 years to be close to Brady’s level. His father Archie and his brother Eli were also NFL quarterbacks and that deeply ingrained knowledge of the position made him one of the most innovative.
Manning wasn’t the most athletic of quarterbacks but what stood out was his ability to scan coverage and then call his own play, confounding his opponents. In many ways, he was like an offensive coordinator on the field with the ball in hand and the ability to execute the plays.
3. Johnny Unitas
Unitas’ career spanned from 1955 to 1973, a period which saw enormous change in the way the game was played and its popularity — and his play had a huge impact on the game’s rise. He led the then Baltimore Colts to the 1958 NFL championship, winning what became known as the “greatest game ever played” a nationally televised sudden-death overtime win over the New York Giants.
He won three NFL championships and then the fifth-ever Super Bowl at the end of the 1970 season. A three-time MVP, many consider Unitas to be the pioneer modern quarterback.
2. Joe Montana
A four-time Super Bowl winner, Montana was nicknamed “Joe Cool” for the unflappable way in which he kept calm under pressure and the “Comeback Kid” for the resilience he showed to overturn deficits. All four of Montana’s Super Bowl wins came with the San Francisco 49ers, including back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1989. In those four Super Bowls, he threw 11 TD passes with zero interceptions.
Brady, a 49ers fan as a kid, witnessed Montana’s famous pass to Dwight Clark, known as “The Catch” which won the NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys and was also at Montana’s last game at Candlestick Park.
1. Tom Brady
European football may debate its greatest of all time for eternity with Pele, Diego Maradona, and Lionel Messi all with cases of their own. But in American football, there is near universal agreement that Brady is the man. Not only did he win more Super Bowls than anyone else ever, with seven victories, but he also smashed records across the league and did so until the age of 45. His skill has gone far past the limits of age.
Like Montana, he was a master of comebacks, like Manning he was a student of the game, like Marino he was stylish and effective and like Unitas, he was a defining figure in an era when the NFL exploded to even higher levels of popularity. Brady was the first American football player to truly be a global superstar, and he will go down as the man on top among all the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Banner image from Tom Brady on Instagram.