This time around, I decided to come up with a list of all possible contenders for the best of all-time (feel free to mention in the comments if I overlooked a reasonable contender). As before, I am NOT considering active quarterbacks (sorry Tom Brady and Peyton Manning fans).
The contenders (in alphabetical order by first name): Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, John Elway, Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham, Roger Staubach, Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, and Warren Moon.
Accuracy is an area where it is difficult to compare quarterbacks from the modern era, where short passes are more frequently thrown, with those from previous eras. on the other hand, quarterbacks from previous eras tended to throw longer passes, so this category tends to balance out with the "arm strength" category below.
Completion percentage is the simplest statistic for accuracy. The top five from the list are:
1. Steve Young - 64.3%
2. Joe Montana - 63.2%
3. Troy Aikman - 61.5%
4. Brett Favre - 61.4%
5. Dan Marino - 59.4%
By itself, arm strength is nice, but it won't win games.
Early in his career, Doug Williams had the strongest arm I have ever seen. Unfortunately, when he threw little passes into the flat, the ball would bounce off the receiver because it was uncatchable.
For arm strength to be effective, it has to be combined with touch on shorter passes.
In this category, average gain per pass attempted tells us the quarterback is using his arm strength to its ultimate advantage. The top five of all-time:
1. Otto Graham - 8.98 yards/attempt
2. Sid Luckman - 8.42
3. Steve Young - 7.98
4. Bart Starr - 7.85
5. Johnny Unitas - 7.76
In a team sport, the championship stands out as the ultimate test of how much a quarterback is helping his team.
The top five championship winning quarterbacks of all-time:
1. Otto Graham - 8
2. Bart Starr - 5
3t. Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Sid Luckman - 4
The first quality all rookie quarterbacks must learn is game management. By this I mean the ability to avoid mistakes, specifically interceptions.
The top five in lowest career interception percentage:
1. Joe Montana - 2.5783%
2. Steve Young - 2.5789%
3. Troy Aikman - 2.99%
4. Dan Marino - 3.01%
5. John Elway - 3.12%
A quick release is not necessary to be a great quarterback, but it seems the great ones tend to have quicker releases than most quarterbacks.
The reason for this is the quicker the ball is gone, and the fewer hits the quarterback has to take, thereby cutting down on fumbles (as well as sacks).
If you take the number of fumbles and divide it by the total number of rush and pass attempts, the overall result shows the two quarterbacks generally considered to have the quickest releases of all-time: Dan Marino and Joe Namath.
The top five quickest releases of all-time (based on fumbles/rush + pass attempts):
1. Dan Marino - 0.48%
2. Joe Namath - 0.86%
3. Joe Montana - 0.91%
4. Troy Aikman - 1.15%
5. Fran Tarkenton - 1.18%
The key to any quarterback's running ability is how many times do they score touchdowns? More specifically, does the defense have to respect a quarterback's ability to run with the ball?
The best way to judge this is to take the number of rushing touchdowns and divide it by the number of rushing attempts AND passing attempts. The top five running quarterbacks of all-time:
1. Otto Graham - 1.45% rushing td's/total attempts
2. Steve Young - 0.88%
3. Terry Bradshaw - 0.74%
4. Roger Staubach - 0.59%
5. Fran Tarkenton - 0.45%
In order to throw a lot of touchdowns, you have to be able to throw the ball in the red zone. You won't make a career out of only lobbing 70 yard bombs. You also have to be able to toss the little two yard pass to the tackle eligible in the end zone.
The top five all-time in touchdown percentage:
1. Sid Luckman - 7.24%
2. Otto Graham - 7.19%
3. Sammy Baugh - 5.91%
4. Steve Young - 5.65%
5. Terry Bradshaw - 5.62%
WHO IS THE BEST QUARTERBACK OF ALL-TIME?
If you sum the rankings of all the quarterbacks on the list, the final ranking would then be determined by the lowest total (assuming all categories are weighted equally) of ranking values.
The final ranking of the 17 quarterbacks:
Rank. QB - Overall score (lower is better)
1. Steve Young - 29
2. Joe Montana - 34
3. Otto Graham - 38
4. Roger Staubach - 54
5. Bart Starr - 56
6t. Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton - 61
8. Johnny Unitas - 64
9t. Sid Luckman, Troy Aikman - 65
11. Terry Bradshaw - 69
12t. Brett Favre, John Elway - 73
14. Dan Fouts - 74
15. Sammy Baugh - 77
16t. Joe Namath, Warren Moon - 81
Before everyone starts crying about how their favorite quarterback played on a lot of bad teams or didn't have enough talent around them, consider two things. How good would Archie Manning have been if he had played on a good team instead of the horrible Saints teams of the 70's? Also, if championships are removed as a criteria, the top 4 remain the same (and Steve Young gets an even better score).
As I stated in my previous post, Steve Young is the best of all-time. And now that Brett Favre is retired, we can put to bed the notion that he was somehow the best of all-time.
Let the argument commence.