Thursday, August 18, 2011

Best NFL Quarterbacks, Past and Present

Today’s lesson is intended to educate you on a bit of NFL history, as well as acquaint you with some of the top stars in today’s NFL.  This is the first in a series of posts where I will talk about the current stars in each position, and some of the people that have played that position in the past.  Which players are the “best ever” can be debated endlessly, and is largely subjective.  I’m not trying to do that here; I’ll leave that to your judgment.  However, there are certain names every football fan should know, and I’m hoping to enlighten you on who they are.

First up, the quarterbacks:
Today’s Stars:
Tom Brady:  New England Patriots, 2000-present.  Brady attended the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) where he (inexplicably) shared the quarterback job with Drew Henson.  He was drafted by the Patriots with the 199th pick overall (the sixth round of the draft).  He got the starting position after veteran Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the 2001 season, and he’s been their starting quarterback ever since.  He has won an incredible three Super Bowls and holds the record for, among other things, the most touchdown passes in a regular season.
Peyton Manning:  Indianapolis Colts, 1998-present.  Manning attended the University of Tennessee and is the son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, and the older brother of Eli Manning, the current quarterback for the New York Giants.  Peyton’s records include the most NFL Most Valuable Player (“MVP”) awards with four.  He is also an advertising giant, appearing in numerous commercials for a wide variety of products.  It is estimated he earned $15 million in endorsement money in 2010.* 

 Great Quarterbacks in History
Johnny Unitas:  Unitas played most of his career for the Baltimore Colts and his career spanned three decades, from the 1950’s into the 70’s.  In 1958, the Colts beat the New York Giants for the championship in sudden death overtime, the first overtime game in the NFL and referred to as the “greatest game ever played.”  He set several records during his career, and his 47-game touchdown streak still stands as the best.
Joe Namath:  New York Jets, 1964-1977.  Namath attended the University of Alabama and was drafted by the New York Jets (he spent his last season with the then-Los Angeles Rams.  Namath was a brash, charismatic player.  He won two championships and is famous for guaranteeing (and delivering) a championship victory against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, 1969 (against Johnny Unitas).
Roger Staubach:  Dallas Cowboys, 1969-1979.  Staubach attended the U.S. Naval Academy and was drafted by the Cowboys in 1964 (he didn’t play until 1969 because of his military commitment).  He played under the legendary Cowboys coach Tom Landry and led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories, and four total Super Bowl appearances.
Joe Montana:  San Francisco 49ers, 1979-1992 (retired 1994).  Montana played for Notre Dame and was drafted by the 49ers in 1979.  Montana won an incredible four Super Bowls for the 49ers, establishing the 49ers as the dominant team of the 1980s.  The most significant single play of Montana’s career is referred to simply as “The Catch.”  At the end of the NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, Montana engineered a game-winning 89-yard drive that culminated in a pass to receiver Dwight Clark, who made a spectacular leaping catch at the back of the end zone. 
John Elway:  Denver Broncos, 1983**-1999.  Elway attended Stanford University and was drafted number one overall by the Baltimore Colts, who traded him to the Broncos.  Elway won two Super Bowls, and appeared in five.  Though he had many incredible games and statistics, his standout highlight was his execution of “The Drive” on January 11, 1987, in which he led the Broncos on a 98-yard, five-minute drive in the AFC Championship game against the Cleveland Browns.  The resulting touchdown tied the game and the Broncos went on to win the game by a field goal in overtime.
Dan Marino:  Miami Dolphins, 1983-2000.  Marino attended the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted by the Dolphins.  He spent his entire career in Miami, and although he never won a Super Bowl, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, holding at one time most of the passing records a quarterback can achieve.
Brett Favre:  Green Bay Packers, 1991-2011.  Favre (pronounced like “starve”) attended the University of Southern Mississippi and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, but traded to Green Bay in 1992 where he was quarterback and local hero until 2007.  Favre has been the subject of much criticism in recent years.  When he retired from the Green Bay Packers after the 2007 season, the Packers moved on, grooming Aaron Rodgers to take over as quarterback.  However, just before the start of the 2008 season, Favre wanted back into football.  He was hired by the New York Jets and then the Minnesota Vikings.  The move to the Vikings was difficult for Packers fans as the Vikings are in the same division as the Packers and therefore a big rival for several decades.  However, no one can dispute that Favre is one of the all-time greatest quarterbacks.  Over a 20-year career, Favre won one Super Bowl, appeared in two and won an incredible eight NFC North division championships.  He holds several records, including most career touchdown passes, most career passing yards, and most consecutive starts at 297, a record which many people feel will never be broken.  Because of his sometimes reckless approach to the position of quarterback, Favre also holds the record for most fumbles and times sacked.
**The NFL draft in 1983 is often referred to as the Quarterback Class of 1983 because an incredible six quarterbacks were selected in the first round.  Despite the importance of the quarterback position, it is rare to have more than two or three picked in the first round of the draft.  This is due, in part, to the longevity of quarterbacks compared to other positions; many can play 10 to 15 years or more, while other players, like running backs, last only 5 or 7 years.

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