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Who are your Top 3 NFL quarterbacks of all-time?

I wanted to go baseball today.

I really did.

Honestly, I wanted to go anywhere that was 70 degrees and sunny, but I digress.

The Peyton Manning debate from earlier this week, made me stick with the NFL a little longer.

While watching the Super Bowl, dome buddies and I had a quick debate about where Manning fits into the pantheon of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks.

Is he Top 10? Top 5? Top 3?

We started to discuss it but then something diverted our attention (maybe a Go ad) and we didn’t get back to it.

I’m curious as to whom the majority in here believe are the NFL’s three greatest QBs. I don’t necessarily want an order – just Top 3.

It’s so hard to pick, especially across generations. And I am sure our answers will vary. They should, honestly.

Although, you must be something special if you can stroll in here and not name Johnny Unitas in your Top Three. For the record, my father’s Top Three: Johnny Unitas, Johnny U. and John Unitas. I kid you not.

I’ll be a little more diverse. Cue the criticism.

I’m going with Johnny U., Joe Montana and Peyton Manning.

That means I am leaving out Dan Marino and Troy Aikman and Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw and Sammy Baugh and John Elway and Brett Favre and a host of others.

I can only pick three. And, honestly, in Montana’s prime, I’d rather have him than any of his contemporaries. And, right now, I say the same about Manning, even against, say Brady or Favre. And I probably say Johnny U. over everyone.

For me, it’s about being the ultimate leader, and leading your team to victory. Yes, you can poke holes in that theory (since Manning has just one ring, etc.) And these are three pretty amazing leaders.

So those are my picks. Name yours.

Daily Think Special: Who are your Top 3 quarterbacks of all time? Why?



I think you need to separate QBs into pre and post "illegal contact." It makes a big difference when a DB can do everything but hold anywhere on the field as long as the ball is not in the air.


They all knew how to win the entire stretch of the season, including the playoffs and the big game. You can look it up. Aside from lighting up the league during the regular season, their postseason wins are much higher than their losses. Great QB's.




Well, my only comment is Peyton Manning does not belong in the Top 3. I said that before the Super Bowl, and I am only more sure after the game. He is the most overhyped QB I have ever watched. He is great, without question. However, I am stunned and befuddled by the level of adulation he receives. I will also point out that he was extremely undeserving of the MVP this year when compared to Brees, Favre and C. Johnson and I think Rodgers and Rivers might also have been better choices.


Top three, huh:

1. Unitas
2. Marino
3. A small surprise - Ken Stabler

Johnny U
Joe Montana
Terry Bradshaw

There are a lot of other deserving guys, but ultimately it is about the rings. Though Dan Marino should get honorable mention. The other guys in the discussion had HOF recievers to throw to- Dan's teams weren't the same calibur as Unitas, Montana, Bradshaw, Brady, Elway, Farve etc...

johnny unitas
joe montana
otto graham

"dome buddies"? A typo or a Freudian slip? But you did (inadvertently, I believe) point out the one asterisk that goes beside Peyton's name. (I suppose in the context of this discussion I could just say "Manning" and nobody would assume I was talking about Eli or Archie.) And that is that he plays half his games (at least) indoors in nicely controlled environments. I have no idea what his splits are like indoors/outdoors, good weather/bad weather. I'll assume he's pretty good no matter where he plays, but there is that little detail to keep in mind.

Top 3: Unitas. Don't bother to try to confuse me with facts, whatever they may be. Johnny U is The Man and will always be.

Jeff is right about the different eras, and for putting Slingin' Sammy on the list. I'm not going to go quite that Old School, but Baugh probably should be there.

Other two: hmmmm... heck, I don't care. Let's say Marino because I was a Dolphins fan while he was playing. And... Montana for being the most like Unitas in his field generalship abilities.

Peyton's somewhere in the top 10 but I don't know where, exactly. I'm not quite that bored, even with all this snow, to sit down and make a true top ten list and try to sort out the order.

Gimme a beer and a shot...cold out there. My three:

John Constantine Unitas
Joe Montana
Tom Brady

The first two were no-brainers for me. I took Brady cause he has multiple rings and was the focal point of the offense. Aikman had Smith & Michael "prison mike" Irvin. Bradshaw won 4 rings in spite of having Bradshaw as the QB....seriously, could TB the most overrated QB of all time. Ah, another discussion for another day.

Anybody know if dickeyville daycare is closed today? You know it's bad when you start remembering all the snow closing info...

It does take a lot of guts to pick Manning for a place in the top three, but I don't immediately disagree with you.

The only hesitation I have with Sammy Baugh is I did not see him play. Does he stand out because there wasn't much else QB-wise in that era, and there were few teams? I don't know. I hate judging what I haven't seen. Just based on his record and deserved stature, he certainly belongs in a top ten discussion.

Montana was certainly cool, cool, and more cool. He was also fortunate to be surrounded by top players playing a style of offense before the league had caught up to it. I'm not so sure he belongs in the top three. I can't drop him either.

I know people will use championships as a major criterion. That makes it almost unfair when football is the ultimate in team sports. I know I would place Marino ahead of Bradshaw, but top three? I can't do it.

Brady will certainly get consideration, and deservedly so. The measuring stick I like to use is what does the team do when a player is not in there for that team. That makes Unitas an easy choice, and warrants strong consideration for P. Manning.

The irony with Brady is how well the Patriots did when he came in for Bledsoe and, yet, didn't miss much of a beat with Cassel.

Montana was replaced by Young, another HOFer, in SF. Grbac didn't do badly in SF as the salary cap was starting to bring that franchise down. Grbac did fairly well in KC, too. We know Grbac doesn't belong in this conversation, but he and Young make judging Montana difficult using the when-he-is-out argument.

Elway deserves consideration as it doesn't take much to see how DEN wallowed after he retired. I am not a fan of comeback victories being a measurement as one has to fall behind in the first place in order to comeback.

Elway was a shell of himself when DEN won their two championships. They got to the SB on his back in the years he "couldn't win the big one" -- making rings a bad argument once again.

Personally, I would take Marino over Elway. Top five? Maybe. Maybe even for both.

Then there's the (somehow) underrated Aikman. Sure, he had a great RB (Smith) and WR (Irvin) but the rest of the players thrived with his leadership and abilities -- another criterion I like.

I could change my mind by lunchtime, and maybe remember someone else. Since there are no wrong answers, here goes:

1 - Unitas
2 - Aikman
3 - Manning
4 - Montana
5 - Marino
6 - Elway
7 - Brady
8 - Baugh
9 - Favre
10 - Staubach


First, no-one ever did more with less. Aside from Reggie White, no-one will from his Green Bay era will go in the Hall Of Fame with him. Favre made B plus receivers better and did it with a running game, that during the Super Bowls run, consisted of Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens. Two good backs, but neither will be confused with Barry Sanders. Favre (Elway also) played in oft-times HORRID weather conditions and did not have the benefit of playing in a dome for 3/4's of his career. Plus, he hasn't missed a game in 19 years. You try playin' football, let alone QB, let alone...outside at Lambeau and see how long you last. Favre did not have the benefit of having A listers like a Rice, Marvin Harrison, Smith and Ervin (Aikman was very good, but never great. He'll have maybe 9-10 guys in the HOF from that team when all is said and done.). Yet, after all is said and done, it's Favre who has all the records.

I wont take up more time, but Elway was successful for many of the same reasosn Favre is. Montan was Montana. He played at a time when dynsties were still prevelant, but no-one was more clutch.

Just a critique'. Unitas has a higher interception percentage ration than Favre does. Have you seen his TD's to INT's numbers? I saw them both and I believe Bart Starr was better.
Sonny Crockett

First and foremost (with no close second) Johnny Unitas..... was close....Bart Starr I said, close...Bert Jones

John Unitas
Otto Graham
Sammy Baugh

fkterp got the order right:

Don't allow a DB to touch Raymond Berry after 10 yards and think about how Johnny U's numbers explode. Johnny U also made better use of the running game than Manning and didn't have the overhead photos of defensive alignments Montana and Manning have. Manning is definitely Top 5 for his smarts and numbers.


Manning is the most overhyped QB of all time. All I can say is good luck with him at the helm, and plan on going .500 in the playoffs. In his entire career, going back to high school, he's a total of 1-7 in championship games, despite the obscene stats when the games are less important. This is his pattern, his MO over the past 17 years! He never won a high school title or a college championship game, in six total tries. Please, someone explain how that (and throwing your Offensive line under the bus) makes Manning a leader?

Obviously, Johnny U is one of my top three!!! I'd have to go with Dan Marino instead of Joe Montana, though. The last pick is a tough one, but Peyton Manning has been too good for too long not to include him --- that one bad pass Sunday shouldn't taint his whole career. Montana would make my top five, along with Terry Bradshaw and all his Super Bowl wins.

Pre-Rules Changes:

Post Pules Changes

Sonny C....Unitas played when DB's could actually rough up the receiver so he should have more INT's. Let's see how your 3 would have fared in that era.

As for Bart Starr being better, look up the numbers...they don't lie. We have that Johnny U statue by the door, the one you touch as you enter or leave the bar, for a reason.

Go back and re-do your assignment. You failed.

Thanks to the NFL network I have been able to see John Unitas so:

John Unitas
Joe Montana
John Elway

Although the QBs of today seem to be better, the rules allow them to be protected unlike the ones I named.

my top 3 jonhy u. joe montana and roger staubach


The rules have changed so much this will always be an open ended debate.
Having said that, Unitas is the man.
How many of you know that when Johnny played offensive line men could not use their hands? Try stopping Ray Lewis, Dwight Freeny, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Singletary etc. w/o using hands.


Manning is the most overhyped QB of all time. All I can say is good luck with him at the helm, and plan on going .500 in the playoffs. In his entire career, going back to high school, he's a total of 1-7 in championship games, despite the obscene stats when the games are less important. This is his pattern, his MO over the past 17 years! He never won a high school title or a college championship game, in six total tries. Please, someone explain how that (and throwing your Offensive line under the bus) makes Manning a leader?

Its hard putting any player whose career has not ended yet in the best of all time conversation. Manning might eventually be in the top 3 but as of now I don't think so. My top 3 quarterbacks of all time are Unitas, Montana, & Elway.

Otto Graham

Graham won more championships than the rest put together.

1. Johnny Unitas
2. Joe Montana
3. Dan Marino

Johnny U

Lest we forget; Johnny U. was the greatest. He was the Man that brought attention to and credibility to the NFL. He played in an era when men were men and not just a bunch of overpaid wusses. I would really like to see some of today's "stars" in the fifties and sixties. Most of them would not make it through training camp. By today's standards Pee Manning is a star. I say he-s just a Unitas wannabe. The Balt Colts are gone forever---long live the RAVENS..



Johnny Unitas
Most fun to watch:
Fran Tarkenton

my criteria is who do you want out on the field in the championship game.

1. Montana
2. Unitas
3. Elway

It was hard not putting Unitas first but Montana was money on a closing drive.
Unitas was just the field general of field generals and Elway has a number of "named" drives to his credit and could throw the ball better than either of the others on the list.

the rules and style,certainly affect a quarterbacks play.offensive co-ordinators changed the management of the offense.
as such-baugh/graham are the best of their era., while unitas/'starr reflect the best of theirs.
montana/bradshaw are the best of theirs,and don't let anybody belittle bradshaw's brains, dumb he wasn't.

than you get elway/young,gunners both.
today there's brady/manning, the thinking man's qb's

john UNITAS,. JOE MONTANA,. and before he retires it will be peton manning ,he will have very excellent numbers,.


Oh, and to those spouting off about TD-INT percentages, please realize that the game has changes in the last 40-50 years. Hell, the game has changed in the past 15 years to allow even a mediocre quarterback to throw for close to 4000 yards a season.

Between the no contact rules for DBs covering WRs, the fact that offensive linemen never used to be able to lift their hands up back in Johnny's day and the fact that QBs are now protected more than baby white rhinos, offensive numbers are as bloated as Preston following a doughnut binge.

Otto's Cleveland teams from 1946 to 1955 had a record of 105-17-8 and won 4 AAFC Championships as well as 3 NFL Championships.

Montana was 117-47 as a starter, won 4 Super Bowls and had a 16-9 record in the playoffs.

Johnny revolutionized the passing game with his aerial attack, put up a 117-61-4 record with the Colts, threw a TD pass in 47 consecutive games (a record, like Dimaggio's 56 game hit streak that has not even come CLOSE to being challenged), won 4 NFL Championships (I count the 1968 NFL championship in this along with '58, '59 and '70), was the league MVP 3 times and was the first quarterback to surpass 40,000 yards passing.

He was an innovator, and the originator - The Best There Ever Was.

#19 > #18 Always has been, always will be.

1. Marino - all those yards and TD's with NO running game to help set up the pass.
2. Unitas - golden arm
3. Montana - one of the smartest QB's


Ten years from now, I think the top three that will be mentioned are:

1. Brady
2. Manning
3. Rothlisberger

I'm old school, but the past QBs can't hold a candle to these guys. And if I was starting a team today, as much as I hate Shitzburg, I'd take Big Ben.


Johnny U. played when a defensive back or linebacker could mug the receiver without a penalty.

Championships count. So does toughness and the will to win.

Starr? 8 winning seasons and 7 losing seasons.

Unitas? In 18 yrs he only had 3 losing seasons (his 1st yr and last 2 yrs).

Bradshaw? In 14 seasons only 2 losing seasons (his 1st 2). 4 Super Bowl Rings.

Roethlisberger? 1 losing season out of 6 seasons. But 2 Super Bowl Rings - gentlemen, that is a super bowl win every 3 years. Who comes close?

Great post, keith. Separating it as pre- and post-rule change was brilliant.

1. Favre
2. Favre
3. Favre

Brandon -
Namath??? c'mon now. I know the game is more than numbers but a 65 career QB rating is hard to ignore.



If, for some silly reason you want to mention Roethlisberger, then you should first mention Bradshaw. Neither one has dominating stats but one has more rings than the other.

unitas and the rest,
lombardi said unitas was
the greatest football player
he ever saw....

i seriously doubt if lombardi
lived, he would say that about

one last fact, a sporting news
book of some of the all time
front office personnel, gm's
did a rating and unitas stood
above everyone...

montana a distant 2nd, he
was lucky in the bengals super
bowl win... a db had the ball
intercepted in the end zone,
before he threw the td to
john taylor to win... alot
of people overlook this....

3rd tie marino and elway, two
modern qbs' who were definite
hof's but fell short of the
top two......

Tough picking the top three out of such an illustrious group, but I'll start with Unitas, who is still the standard by which all QBs are measured, followed by Montana and Brady, both of whom have been outstanding in the post season. Frankly, any of those mentioned in this "blog" are interchangeable after......Unitas!

I completely agree with Frank, Bruce and Will.

1. Johnny Unitas
2. Joe Montana
3. John Elway


Close behind

Johnny Unitas (by a mile)
Sammy Baugh
Tom Brady

Manning's 9-9 playoff record eliminates him. Baugh played with the balloon football & played both ways (best 2-way QB). Unitas greatest leader & ice cool with no BS & played in era with no Ref protection. Brady best of current skirt-wearing QBs with 3 rings.

elway had it all & did the most w/ the teams he had. + he had a brain for not coming here to play for that drunken idiotic owner. montana also had it all,but he had more weapons than most qb's,but give him credit alot of teams are good,they just don't lead there teams to multiple superbowls.except(bradshaw)i think he is in the top 10,but not my top 3.marino was a leader.he had everyones attn.on that team.he was p.manning of the 80' a little prejudice. the 80's were my teenage thats main reason for my top 3.i wathched these 3 guys growin up &they always seemed larger then life then.sorry unitas i never saw ya play.can only listen to stories from dad about unitas.have to see to believe& im not saying watching him on nfl network

dan— c'mon, let's keep this football thing going.
unitas - easy first
montana - easy 2nd. his competition was stellar and his play is still legendary.
young - a player doesn't replace one of the greatest and not skip a beat the way young did.
and bradshaw a close 4th and aikman/brady/elway/namath tied for 5th. but if we are talking only about talent then michael vick easily sits at number 1.

1. Unitas
2. Montana
3. Marino
4. Elway
5. Baugh
6. Graham
7. Bradshaw
8. Manning
9. Aikman
10. Young

I do not remember Unitas . I am too young for his vote. When I saw him was after his career was over and he had more class than some on this list could ever dream of. I can not include Brett Farve because I watched him play the Ravens and he was pathetic that night in Baltimore. John Elway thumbed his nose at Baltimore and called us a blue color town not worthy of his talent. NO Class.
1. Joe Montana
2. Troy Aikmen
3. Peyton Manning
4 Trent Dilfer -if he had not been trade we could have had 2 superbowls instead of one.
He played to win, he had heart, and class.

Best quarterback of all time?

Best retired quarterback to remain and contribute to the community?

Who owned the good ole Golden Arm with the Irrsay room to piss and sh*t in?

Who picked me up as I was hitch-hiking up Loch Raven at Green Spring when I was a kid in his white T-Bird?

Who made everyone light up and feel great just by walking into church, or a bar, or a office building? My family thought I finally turned to the lord. Hell I went to St. Johns in Baldwin just so I could be in the same room as the GREAT ONE.



He and his troops made this city and not just for their football careers, but even til now and beyond.

Then there the other great Q-B's - Montana, Elway, Brady, and that crummy but fantastic big Ben.

Just too hard to stop at three ...
1) Unitas
2) Montana
3) Staubach (grossly undermentioned)
4) Manning
5) Marino
6) Favre
7) Elway
8) Brady
9) Young
10) Stabler


I don't think Montana or Elway would have been as successful in the hard-nosed era of the NFL. Brady or Manning may not have even made the team! Perhaps Staubach, or even Bradshaw, although his low IQ would have held him back.

Although QB may be the one position on the field where comparions between players from the 60s/70s to today may still be possible, even to consider that is a stretch.

Unitas (and most QBs of the era) called his own plays. Unitas was a master play caller but that part of the game no longer rests with the QB. Leadership skills are common to all eras and for that alone, number 19 remains at the top of the pyramid of all NFL QBs.

"I can not include Brett Farve because I watched him play the Ravens and he was pathetic that night in Baltimore."

You dis-include one of the greatest QB's of all time due to a bad game?! I've seen many QB's in my 45 years or so of watching football, and Favre was the best I've seen. I also question how guys like Baugh, Tittle, Unitas (Starr was better) and Starr would do against todays football player. Guys like Butkus, Nitschke and Huff were terrific, but are smaller and slow when compared to todays guys. You got HUGE linemen runnin' a 40 in 5.2! So...gimme Favre and Elway.
And to "assignment" Missy was seein' them play live and Unitas was not as good as Starr. So...sit down turn off ESPN and try to absorb something useful.
Sonny Crockett

Also to KEITH...Unitas was great but statutes don't mean much. Stalin has one. I wonder if the youngster knows who Stalin is?

Sonny Crockett


Number 1: Unitas for leadership, toughness and the ability to win. Plus three championships.
Number 2: Montana for his stats and the ability to win.
Number 3: Bradshaw. Regardless of what his detractors say, four championships are tough to knock.

I have read all post and Jim Kelly got no mention. If Scott Norwood had made the field goal I think his name would be added. Maybe not in the top 3. As far as Brett Farve two championships lost on Quarterback Ints. at the end of games. Is he in the top 10 yes but the top 3 no. On again off again retirement also an issue.

1. Dan Constantine Marino

2. John Constantine Unitas

3. Peyton

I'll make this my last post on the topic and will go out with a bang before I take my leave from ya'll. I agree with Terry Bradshaw about Favre being the best ever. The guy has all the records, a Super Bowl win and hasn't missed a game in 19 years. Hid "good" outweighs any and ALL negativity that besmirches his legendary career. Also, the fact that he had one of the best years ever for ANY QB is mindboggling. No QB at Favre's age has EVER played as well. Unitas, Starr and others were all shells of themselves at this point. And as for INT's, Favre may have have the most but he's thrown the ball over 9700 times! For instance...Joe Montana has 159 int's I believe in his career. Clutch Joe threw the ball less than 5400 times. Favre has thrown the ball over 9700 times andf has, I believe 321 picks. The percentage between the two isn't all that great. 2.7 for Joe...3.2 for Favre. Opens up the eyes when one looks at how far down Favre is on the list for INT's amongst the greats. Nice jibba-jabbin with ya'll and I hope I see another 45 years of football!
Sonny Crockett

1. Manning
2. Unitas
3. Montana




1. Joe Montana
2. Jim Kelly
3. Warren Moon

All three of these quarterbacks sustained excellence from their first year until the day they retired. Super Bowl wins shouldn't matter because Trent Dilfer and Jim McMahon each won a Super Bowl but that fact doesn't mean that they are better than Dan Marino or Fran Tarkenton who never won a ring.

In my opinon I can only comment on the quarterbacks that I grew up watching. I never saw Bart Starr or Unitas or Sammy Baugh play so for that reason alone I had to leave them out of the top three.


1. Baugh
2. Unitas
3. Starr

1. Montana
2. Brady
3. Peyton

Dan, I totally agree with your picks.

Diego Garcia - Brees over Manning for MVP? You're kidding, right?

Manning had to play the entire season: 1) without any running game to speak of (makes it much easier for the defense when they know he's going to be passing), 2) without an All-Pro starter at wide receiver (Harrison), 3) without Harrison's replacement (Gonzales) who was injured on the first offensive play of the year, and 4) with a tandem of inexperienced receivers (one a rookie and the other with all of four NFL catches) filling in for that injured starter.

To be able put up the numbers he did and lead the team to a near perfect record while dealing with that kind of adversity makes him an easy pick for MVP, despite Brees' excellent year.

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