Though I’ll confess I’m a bit surprised that nobody has replied much to my posts on the top QBs of all time, particularly my assertion that Brett Favre and John Elway are the two most overrated QBs of all time—and that Ken Anderson ranks above them both—I’ve started this, and I’ll soldier on ’til the end, today ranking QBs 6-9. Before I do, as I continue to consider the formula I’m using, I’m wondering how things would change if I gave a point for every Pro Bowl team made, and another for every MVP. It’d jack up Brett Favre’s rating a bit, that’s for sure. I think I’ll finish this out, and then go back and do that, and see how things change. Thinking out loud…
Anyway, the 9th-best QB of all time is Roger Staubach. Again, not a guy that generally gets into a serious discussion of the greatest of all time, but he belongs here. Roger is a great guy, but I could never root for him, because he played for Satan’s Team. But he was a good quarterback, looked at as objectively as I can any Dallas Cowboy. If you remember, the best score a QB could get, in a given year, was 6 points. You get 6 if you lead the league in passing, leading the 2nd-place finisher by more than the 2nd-place finisher led the 5th-place finisher, and win the league championship in the same year. In all of my rankings, there were five “6’s”, and Roger had one of them (for the record, the other five were by Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, and the immortal Cecil Isbell. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Tom Brady will get the sixth all-time, and this is an oddity: after three “6’s” in the history of the league, Brady’s would be the third in the past eight years, and second in a row. I have no idea what that means…). He won championships, lost championship games, and was a great passer. All-around great QB.
A three-way tie for 6th exists, and we’re now in that rarefied air where we can begin to ask, “is this guy the greatest QB of all time?” The first is Sid Luckman, who played QB when my dad was a kid, and is better known as the architect of some tremendous passing offenses in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t care about Sid Luckman, and neither do you, so let’s move on. The second guy in this tie is Fran Tarkenton. I was never a fan of Fran either, I guess maybe because I, along with so many others, didn’t consider him a winner. He never won a championship, a la Dan Marino. But he was an entertaining guy to watch; I remember as a kid imitating Fran Tarkenton in my backyard by running around behind the line of scrimmage for 15 seconds before throwing the ball; he was the original scrambler, a running quarterback before his time, but a guy who was truly a great passing QB. Who’s third? My first-ever favorite football player, Johnny Unitas. I’m gratified that the numbers bear out what I’ve always believed, and that is that Johnny U belonged in the discussion of the very best ever. He won the game that catapulted the NFL into the nation’s consciousness, the overtime 1958 NFL championship against the New York Giants. With his trademark black hightops and crewcut, he was a gunslinging, gangly, loping ballplayer who was drafted—and then cut—by the Pittsburgh Steelers (how might history have been different had the Steelers not made that blunder?). I loved this man, and he was great—but probably not the greatest of all time. To answer that question, we head to the final five…coming up soon!
Oh, and by the way, to my buddy Chris, the answer is that Ken Stabler ranks even with Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms, just a bit behind Jim Kelly and Kurt Warner, and a bit ahead of Joe Theismann, Warren Moon, and Sonny Jurgensen. Somewhere around 25th-30th, to put a number on it.