Its not hard to make a list of the best QBs ever. The difficulty lies in deciding how they rank within a particular decade. Not only must you determine exactly when the players were at thier best, you also have to weigh what means more: How they performed during an entire decade, or how well they played during a certain number of years within that time period. In the list below of the best QBs in the 1950s, 60s, 70's, 80's and 90's the only thing that can't be questioned is the overall merit of the players who made the list. When they were at their best, they established standards that defined their respective eras. 1950s This was the decade when QBs often were measured by their toughness. Many of the top signal callers had an amble amout of guts, determination, poise and natural ability. A few benefited from playing in a more progressive offensives. But most earned their keep by operating as quintessential field generals. QUARTERBACK OF THE DECADE Otto Graham, Cleveland Browns (1946-1955) Graham was great at the start of his career, he lead the Browns to a 47-4-3 record and four championships in the All-America Football Conference from
1946 through 1949, then he got better.
When the Browns moved into the NFL in 1950, Graham was the leader who never let them think they couldn't thrive against tougher competition. He lead the Browns to three NFL titles and they also played in three other championship games. Add'em up and that's 10 straight championship births, a feat that is as impressive as Grahams career record of 105-17-10! Honorable Mention: Norm Van Brocklin, Los Angeles Rams / Philadelphia Eagles (1949-1960) Y.A. Tittle, San Francisco 49ers (1951-1960) Bobby Layne, Detriot Lions (1950-1958) Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (1956-1972) 1960s Because there were 2 different leagues during these years, the American Football League started in 1960 and merged with the NFL in 1969, there were basically two type of passers. Most AFL QBs loved throwing the ball all over the field and one New York Jet QB Joe Namath, became pro football first 4,000 yard single season passer. He threw for 4,007 yards in 1967. NFL teams, on the other hand, were far more conservative with their signal callers. They liked QBs who managed the game and limited their mistakes. Still, the best QB of this decade played in the more established league. Quarterback of the decade Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (1956-1975) Unitas made his name in the classic overtime victory against the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL title game, but he made his mark in the 1960s.
Unitas actually compiled the bulk of his NFL records -- he finished his career with 2,830 completions, 40,239 yards and 290 TDs -- during this decade. He also started the 1960s by extending his streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 47. That record still stands and it's just one example of why Unitas was one of the most celebrated QBs ever! Honorable Mention Joe Namath, New York Jets (AFL) (1965-1976) Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (1956-1971) Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) (1963-1975) Sonny Jurgenson, Philadelphia Eagles / Washington Redskins (1957-1974) George Blanda, Houston Oilers (AFL) (1960-1966) 1970s These were the years when the NFL decided that offensive football needed a boost. Thanks to new rules, offsensive linemen could use their hands more liberally while blocking, and receivers could run downfield with the knowledge that defenders had to limit their contact after 5 yards. Those 2 changes opened up a whole new world for pro-QB's and they haven't looked back! Quarterback of the Decade ROGER STAUBACH, Dallas Cowboys (1969-1979) I bet some of you particulary those who live in Pittsburgh will think Terry Bradshaw should be the pick here because of his 4 Super Bowl wins as a Steelers QB! Sorry, but Staubach was the better player.
A 4 year commitment to the Navy prevented Roger from beginning his career with the Cowboys untill he was 27, yet he still produced extraordinary numbers, 22,700 passing yards, 153 TD's, and 2,264 rushing yards. He also didn't do too shabby in the hardware department. With Roger as the starter, the Cowboys won 2 Super Bowls while losing 2 more, and yes I know, to the Steelers. Honorable Mention Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983) Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings (1972-1978) Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins (1967-1980) Ken Stabler, Oakland Raiders (1970-1979) 1980s One year really made the difference in this decade: 1983. That's when the greatest draft class of QB's entered the NFL, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly among the 6 signal callers selected in that years 1st round. Nearly every team still wanted a classic, strong armed passer to lead its offense, and that trio fit that description. However there was an ambitious, introspective head coach in San Fran who had a different idea about where the passing game was going and what kind of QB could get him there. His name was Bill Walsh and the vision for the position involved a player with intelligence, accuracy and a feel for the game that couldn't be taught. Quarterback of the decade JOE MONTANA, San Franciso 49ers (1979-1992) Montana was the perfect fit for the intricate, short passing attack of Walsh's West Coast offense. The 49ers and Montana won 4 Super Bowls during the 1980s with Montana claiming 3 MVP awards in those games! His career passer rating is 2nd only to Steve Young's.
Of course, there were plenty of memorable highlights as well, including that 92 yard drive in the final minutes to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. In fact, Montana isn't the best QB of this decade. He is, without question, the best ever! Honorable Mention Dan Marino, Dolphins (1983-1999) John Elway, Broncos (1983-1998) Dan Fouts, Chargers (1973-1987) 1990s This was the decade when Bill Walsh's influence really changed the NFL landscape. As more members of his coaching tree moved into head coaching jobs. Men like Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan and Dennis Green. More teams started running different versions of Walsh's West Coast system. By the mid-'90s, nearly half the league used some principles of that system. And most of them ran it so well that passing numbers skyrocketed during this 10-year period. Quarterback of the Decade Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (1987-1999) It still seems unfair that the 49ers had 2 of the best QB's in NFL history on the same roster! Young replace Montana as a starter in 1991, and he picked up right where Montana had left off!
Young won 2 NFL MVP Awards during the 1990's, led the league in passing 6 times, a record he shares with Sammy Baugh, and retired with a career league passer rating record of 96.8. That record may never be broken! He also won over Montana loyalists when he lead the 49ers to a win over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Honorable Mention Brett Favre, Green Bay (1991-2007) Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (1989-2000) John Elway, Denver Broncos (1983-1998) Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins (1983--1999) Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills (1986-1996) Warren Moon, Houston Oilers / Minnesota Vikings / Seattle Seahawks / KC Chiefs (1984-2000) 2000 - present This has been the decade when football coaches have taken a more open minded approach to what a QB should be. More teams now covet mobility in their signal callers, with Pro Bowlers such as Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia and former Atlanta QB Michael Vick serving as primary beneficiaries of this change in thinking. Of course, there's still a place for the classic pocket passer in today's world. Just ask the fans in Indianapolis and New England. Quarterback of the Decade Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (1998-present) Manning cemented his status as the best QB of his era when the Colts beat Chicago in the Super
Bowl in 2006. True, New England Patriots star Tom Brady has 2 more Super Bowl wins on his resume. But he certainly doesn't have Mannings numbers. Manning has already thrown for 41,626 yards and 306 TDs in his 10 year career. At the pace he's on, he's likely to hold every major career passing record by the time he's done playing! Honorable Mention Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2000-present) Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers / New York Jets (1991-present) Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles (1999-present)