In 1925, Tim Mara purchased the New York Giants for $500. They joined the NFL and exist today as the second-oldest team with the same city and name. The Green Bay Packers are the oldest. The New York Football Giants have won eight total championships (four Super Bowls and four pre-merger crowns). The expansive history, now less than a decade away from a century, has provided countless ups and downs at the quarterback position.
In the Giants’ early days, the quarterback position was still under construction. Wingbacks and halfbacks ran the majority of passing plays. It was routine to see players make an impact on both sides of the ball or fulfill a special teams role. The Giants utilized several of the NFL’s more prolific passers even in this era, allowing them to capture three championships in their first two decades.
As Johnny Unitas and other quarterbacks opened up the passing game, a shift marked by the Indianapolis-New York faceoff in “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” the Giants experienced a prolonged championship drought. The team went thirty years (1956 to 1986) between its last championship and first Super Bowl. Since the 1980s, the franchise has enjoyed more competitive seasons than not.
From Polo Grounds to MetLife Stadium and all the games in-between, let’s take a look at every starting quarterback who has donned a Giants uniform. Fair warning – it’s a long list. Things will get worse before they get better:
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40 Joe Pisarcik (1977-1979)
With a ranking that spans this many years with different eras of play, it’s best to start off with a tier or grouping. The following three quarterbacks, poor old Joe Pisarcik included, represent disappointment and pain from Giants fans. Skill wise, is Pisarcik the worst quarterback in team history? No, but emotions can make it feel that way. His career with New York spanned three years and 32 games. He threw for 3,979 yards, 18 touchdowns and 43 interceptions. The numbers aren’t spectacular, but that’s not why he’s the worst. No one remembers his 18 touchdowns – or even his 43 interceptions. Giants fans remember “The Fumble.” Eagles fans recall the play as the “Miracle at the Meadowlands.” Up 17-12 in the waning moments of a November matchup, all New York had to do was take a knee to seal the victory. The credits were literally already rolling on CBS’ telecast. Instead, Joe Pisarcik tried to hand the ball off to Larry Csonka. He badly mangled the transfer. The ball ended up on the ground. Defender Herm Edwards scooped it up and scored to win the game. Joe Pisarcik, master of clutching defeat from the jaws of victory, retired after playing five years (1980-1984) with those very same Eagles.
39 Frank Filchock (1946)
A long time Washington Redskin, Frank Filchock only played one year in New York. All things considered, he posted solid stats for the run-centric era. He completed 87 of 169 passes for 1,262 yards, 12 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. It was good enough to help the Giants reach the NFL Championship game against the Bears. Scandal soon broke out when accusations reached the league office that Filchock and another teammate, Merle Hapes, had been bribed to throw the championship. Filchock denied any wrongdoing and was allowed to play. He accounted for all of New York’s points, but the team still fell 24-14. Afterward, despite both men being exonerated, Commissioner Bert Bell suspended them indefinitely. Shamed and shut out, Filchock played four years in the CFL. He earned NFL reinstatement in 1950, but never played another down. Shoeless Joe Jackson has a movie about him. Filchock, now a forgotten man, had to finish his career playing football in Canada.
38 Dave Brown (1992-1997)
Heightened expectations, poor performance and playing more recently has damned Dave Brown to the bottom of this list. Drafted with the first pick in the 1992 Supplemental Draft, Brown was meant to take the torch from Phil Simms upon the star’s shocking release. A successful journey into the post-Simms era never came to fruition. Brown won the starting job in 1994 and tallied off six straight wins to end the season, but it was not enough to make the playoffs at 9-7. Brown managed only 11 wins over the next two seasons. His play, especially during the torturous 12 touchdown, 20 interception 1996 campaign, led to the firing of Head Coach Dan Reeves. Brown lost his job following a chest injury midway through the 1997 season. He served as Arizona’s backup quarterback from 1998 to 2001.
37 Pre-WWII Cluster
Although a few escape the thankless designation due to exemplary play, many of the faces who threw the ball for early Giants teams don’t have stats to separate themselves. Running backs crowded the backfield and threw the ball on rare passing plays. They wouldn’t recognize today’s NFL. Here are a few of the starting players who served as hybrid quarterbacks before the game evolved: Hinkey Haines, Bruce Caldwell, Hap Moran, Red Smith, Eddie Miller, Tony Sarausky and Jack McBride. The most prominent among them, Jack McBride, led the Giants in scoring in each of their first three seasons of existence. His career total for passing touchdowns (31) only exceeds his number of rushing touchdowns by five. One could argue Tim Tebow was simply born at the wrong time. He could have easily fulfilled the role of wingback passer, just as these early gridiron warriors did.
36 Jim Crocicchia (1987)
In 1987, NFL players went on strike after week two of the regular season. The league cancelled week three games, shortening the season to 15 games. Teams filled out rosters with replacement players for the next three weeks. This is where Jim Crocicchia, a former Penn quarterback who led his school to the Ivy League Championship, received his one and only shot at starting in the NFL. It did not go well. Crocicchia went 6-15 for 89 yards and one touchdown in a 41-21 drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Jim didn’t make it through the game due to a shoulder injury and never saw the field again. Worse yet, New York went 0-3 during the strike. They failed to reach the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl the previous year.
35 Mike Busch (1987)
Mike Busch originally signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 1986 after going undrafted. Atlanta cut him during training camp. The Giants gave Busch a tryout the next preseason but ultimately came to the same conclusion. It was not until teams had to field all new rosters that Busch finally got his chance – and even then, it didn’t come until Crocicchia went down with an injury. The Giants were trailing the 49ers 34-7 when a hit jammed Crocicchia’s throwing shoulder. Busch entered the game and threw two touchdowns on six pass attempts. He also tossed an interception. In Busch’s first and only career start, he went an embarrassing 14-41 for 183 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Despite being Jim’s backup and posting ugly statistics, Busch made more of an impact during the replacement period.
34 Arnie Galiffa (1953)
Think of every armchair quarterback you know. The people who critique Super Bowl champions based on mechanics and decision-making despite the fact they never personally played football past high school. Arnie Galiffa’s career stat line finally gives armchair quarterbacks ammo. Someone pulled off the street could likely perform at the same level. Galiffa played quarterback at Army and served in the Korean War, making him a 26-year-old rookie when he made his only start for the New York Giants. Galiffa attempted 13 passes and threw more interceptions (5) than completions (4), although one of the four resulted in a touchdown. He also added a single yard on five rushing attempts. Galiffa spent a year with the 49ers before moving to the CFL. His NFL completion percentage sits at 28%.
33 Emery Nix (1943, 1946)
Emery Nix played quarterback for the TCU Horned Frogs and led them to the 1942 Orange Bowl. He appeared in 10 games his rookie year with the New York Giants, completing 45.3% of his 53 passes for 396 yards, three touchdowns and three picks. Nix then served in the Navy during the remainder of the war. He misses the pre-WWII designation because of a measly 19 pass attempts in 1946. That year, Nix returned to New York and threw two touchdown passes in four games. It was his last year in the league. His son, Kent Nix, played in the NFL for six seasons during the 1960s and 1970s. They were one of the earliest father/son quarterback combinations to play in the NFL.
32 Randy Dean (1977-1979)
There’s not much to say about Randy Dean the football player. He actually enjoyed a more prolific career as a handball player. Both Randy and his twin brother, Robert, played handball for the United States in the 1976 Olympics. Randy scored 24 goals in five losses (we're not sure if those are good statistics for handball!). The number of Olympic defeats matches his career interception tally. Dean started three games over the course of his NFL career. He completed 46.2% of his passes while managing only one touchdown, with five interceptions. The New York Giants traded Dean to the Green Bay Packers following the 1979 season. Green Bay held onto Randy Dean for only three weeks before cutting him. He then retired from the NFL.
31 Jim Del Gaizo (1974)
Jim Del Gaizo joined the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 1971. His most memorable accomplishment in the NFL, winning the Super Bowl on an undefeated team, occurred with Del Gaizo on the bench. He did attempt 9 passes during the 1972 season, converting two of them for touchdowns. Del Gaizo spent a year in Green Bay before another trade to the Giants in 1974. In three starts (and an additional appearance) with New York, he went 12-32 for 165 yards and three interceptions. He did not throw a touchdown. His abysmal 37.5 completion percentage and 15.8 quarterback rating as a second stringer left Del Gaizo without a job. He joined Miami’s 1975 roster late in the season due to injury and performed well the following preseason, but Del Gaizo retired after the Dolphins released him.
30 Tom Landry (1950-1955)
Tom Landry was a jack-of-all-trades. After playing one year for the New York Yankees in the now-defunct All-America Football Conference, Landry joined the New York Giants in 1950. Landry served primarily as a punter and defensive back, but he also filled in as a quarterback. In 1952, Landry completed 11 of 47 passes for 172 yards, one touchdown and seven interceptions. Although that’s not necessarily pretty, his contributions obviously went further. He was named an All-Pro in 1954 and made 31 interceptions during his career as an NFL player. He returned three of those for touchdowns and added two more scores from fumble recoveries. Landry became New York’s defensive coordinator in 1954 despite being an active player. He remained on the coaching staff after his retirement as a player. Landry eventually became the first head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and cemented himself as one of the game’s most historic figures. Fans can’t hold too much of a grudge for Landry’s affiliation with Dallas. His widow, Alicia Landry, claims he died a Giants fan.
29 Jerry Golsteyn (1977-1978)
Drafted 333rd overall out of Northern Illinois, Jerry Golsteyn started five games for the Giants during his two-year stretch with the organization. He failed to impress, throwing two touchdowns and eight interceptions during his three starts in 1977. His 11.4% interception rate led to a 1-2 record. Although Golsteyn went .500 in two starts the next year, he failed to manage a touchdown and added another interception to his career total as a Giant. After failing to find a home following the 1979 season, Golsteyn revitalized his NFL career by excelling with the Orlando Americans in the American Football Association. He returned to the NFL and won a starting job in Tampa Bay after two exemplary preseasons. The numbers promptly fell off once the games counted. In the book, Tales From The Bucs Sideline, Coach John McKay had this to say about Golsteyn: “Jerry’s a nice kid. But so is my wife. And she’s no quarterback.”
28 Travis Tidwell (1950-1951)
Travis Tidwell operated out of the T-Formation during his college days at Auburn. He led the nation in total offense in 1946 and again in 1949. The two-time All-American and 1949 SEC MVP, sure to become a star in the NFL, went to the Giants at 7th overall in the 1950 Draft. Unfortunately, Tidwell only lasted two years in the league. He went 3-0 in starts during his rookie campaign, finishing the year with 338 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. While appearing in six games (one start) the next season, Tidwell saw a drop-off in every significant statistic. Out of 21 passes, four went for interceptions and only one found a target in the endzone. Tidwell left the NFL with a career 48.8 rating. He continued his playing career in Canada.
27 Bob Clatterbuck (1954-1957)
First things first – Clatterbuck is not a legendary name. Bob Clatterbuck should have known from the start that he couldn’t be a Hall of Famer. Joe Montana. Mickey Mantle. Pelé. Names of all-time greats in most sports seem to roll off the tongue. Clatterbuck? It was never in the cards. Nevertheless, Bob Clatterbuck attended Houston and was drafted by the Giants in the 27th round of the 1954 NFL Draft. He saw his most action as a pro during his rookie year, when he started two games and appeared in several others. Clatterbuck completed 49.5% of his passes for 781 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He added another score on the ground, but ended the year with -21 rushing yards. Clatterbuck spent the next three seasons behind Charlie Conerly and Don Heinrich on the depth chart. He spent 1960 with the AFL’s Los Angeles Chargers before retiring from football.
26 Jesse Palmer (2001-2004)
Jesse Palmer is one of the top three best Canadian-born quarterbacks of all time. That’s because only three have played in the NFL. Charlie O’Rourke and Mark Rypien are the other two. Palmer mostly served as a backup to Kerry Collins during his tenure in New York, but he did manage to start the final three games of the 2003 season. The game tape from getting off the bench may have actually served as a detriment to Palmer’s career longevity. In the season finale, Palmer threw the ball 43 times for an abysmal 110 yards. That’s 2.6 yards per attempt. He managed two touchdowns but also committed four turnovers. The Giants cut ties with Palmer after the 2004 season. He flirted with CFL opportunities and failed to find a permanent home with the San Francisco 49ers before retiring. He has since gone on to star in The Bachelor and enjoy a successful broadcasting career.
25 Gary Wood (1964-1966, 1968-1969)
The Cornell product joined the Giants as an 8th round pick in 1964. The team intended to use him as Y.A. Tittle’s backup. Tittle’s 1964 season was plagued by injuries and diminishing skills, which opened the door for Wood to flash his potential. He filled in often, throwing for 952 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Wood also ran for three touchdowns. Tittle retired, but Wood lost the starting job when New York landed Earl Morrall in a trade. Wood did not see extensive use again until 1966. He went 0-6 in relief starts and matched his 1964 passing touchdown total (6), but he tossed 13 interceptions. Wood spent a year as New Orleans’ third string quarterback before returning to New York to back up Fran Tarkenton. He retired in 1970 with 2,575 yards, 14 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
24 George Shaw (1959-1960)
George Shaw backed up some of the greatest quarterbacks of his era. In college, he contributed at nearly every position for the Oregon Ducks. Shaw played quarterback and safety with occasional stints at halfback and wide receiver. He served as both a kicker and punt returner. When the Baltimore Colts selected him first overall in 1955, the franchise’s future seemed set. Then, Shaw suffered a leg injury in 1956. Rookie Johnny Unitas took over and never relinquished the job. The Giants traded for Shaw before the 1959 season. He sat behind Charlie Conerly and performed well when called upon. Shaw spent 1961 in Minnesota. He started the franchise’s inaugural game, but Fran Tarkenton replaced him in the first half. Once again, Shaw was forced to retreat to the bench. Shaw retired after the 1962 season with 5,829 yards, 41 touchdowns and 63 interceptions.
23 Paul Governali (1947-1948)
Paul Governali starred as a passer, runner and punter at Columbia. He won the 1942 Maxwell Award and placed second in Heisman voting. Upon his graduation, Governali served a three-year tour as a Marine in World War II. Governali joined the New York Giants in 1947 and posted impressive stats given the time period. He went 85-197 for 1,461 yards, 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Governali split time with Charlie Conerly during a disappointing sophomore season. After throwing only 56 passes with one touchdown and one interception, Governali retired from professional football. He returned to Columbia as an assistant coach. Using the position as a springboard, Governali became head coach at San Diego State in 1956. He posted an 11-27-4 record in five years.
22 Harry Newman (1933-1935)
Harry Newman is one of the quarterbacks who deserves individual recognition outside the cluster of early throwers. Newman played college football at Michigan and served as a dual threat out of the backfield. Newman’s Wolverines only lost once during his college career, and he won the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy (predecessor to the Heisman) in 1932. As a rookie with New York, Newman led the NFL in touchdown passes (11) and passing yards (973). He also led the team in rushing with 473 yards. Newman threw the first ever touchdown pass in an NFL title game, but the team fell to the Chicago Bears. Newman fractured two bones in his back the next year and the Giants won the championship with Ed Danowski filling in. Following the 1935 season, Newman jumped to the short-lived American Football League in search of a more lucrative contract. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the University of Michigan Hall of Honor and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
21 Jeff Rutledge (1983-1989)
Jeff Rutledge stuck around the league for 14 years despite starting only 10 games. Eight of those came with the Giants. During the 1983 season, Rutledge went 0-3-1 while throwing three touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed exactly half of his 174 attempts. His next extended opportunity came during the 1987 season. Although his record improved (2-2), Bruner’s numbers remained unsightly. He completed 51% of his passes for five touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Rutledge spent the bulk of his career in New York, but his claim to fame stems from his final start with a different team. The 1990 Redskins tabbed Rutledge as a starter against the Philadelphia Eagles for a November matchup. In what became known as the Body Bag Game, Philadelphia knocked out both Rutledge and his backup, Stan Humphries. Mark Rypien, the normal starter, had already been out for weeks with an injury of his own. Washington was forced to use their rookie kick returner, Brian Mitchell, as an emergency quarterback. Philadelphia won the game, nine Redskins left the field with injuries and Rutledge never started another NFL game.
20 Randy Johnson (1971-1973)
Randy Johnson was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the 16th overall pick in the 1966 NFL Draft. He became the franchise’s first starting quarterback, as Johnson started 23 games for the Falcons over his first two seasons, compiling 3,415 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 42 interceptions. As a Giant, Johnson backed up Fran Tarkenton in 1971 and Norm Snead the following two seasons. His biggest window of opportunity with the Giants produced a 1-6 record during the 1973 season. He completed 55.9% of his passes for 1,279 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Compared to Rutledge’s eight games, Johnson threw nearly the same amount of touchdowns in one less game, posted a better completion percentage and threw far less interceptions. That’s enough to move Johnson ahead of Rutledge. Still, Johnson isn’t exactly a desirable quarterback. He never made an impact as starter on any team and he threw more touchdowns than interceptions in a season only once. He retired with 8,329 yards, 51 touchdowns and 90 interceptions.
19 Don Heinrich (1954-1959)
Don Heinrich’s largest contributions to football took place in college. While at the University of Washington, he led the nation in passing in 1950 and 1952. Heinrich broke nearly every school passing record during his four-year career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987. As a pro, Heinrich enjoyed a solid but unremarkable career (2,287 yards, 17 touchdowns and 23 interceptions). The Giants drafted him 35th overall in the 1952 Draft. Heinrich reported to the team after two years of military service and assumed the backup role behind Charlie Conerly. Heinrich appeared in three National Championship games, winning in 1956 but losing the other two. He split time at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 and played sparingly for the AFL’s Oakland Raiders in 1962. His post-playing days involved coaching and broadcasting.
18 Scott Brunner (1980-1983)
When Scott Brunner arrived in New York as a 6th round pick, Phil Simms was already the man, albeit an oft-injured one. After an injury knocked Simms out ten games into the 1981 season, Brunner took over and led the team to the playoffs with a 4-2 record. The organization had not seen the postseason since 1963. In other words, Brunner was at the helm when the Giants made their first playoff appearance of the Super Bowl era. Sure, Brunner threw five touchdowns to 11 interceptions during those final six games, but he was suddenly the man. He improved in the playoffs, throwing six touchdowns and three interceptions in two games. New York ultimately fell to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the 49ers. Brunner remained the starter during the nine-game 1982 season abd Bill Parcells picked him over Simms again in 1983. Due to Brunner’s inefficiency, Parcells replaced the quarterback with Simms in a game against Philadelphia. Phil Simms promptly dislocated and fractured his thumb. Brunner gained a reprieve but did little with it the rest of the season. 1984 marked the conclusion of the Brunner hype train. Between 1984 and 1985, Brunner was traded to three different teams. He retired with 29 touchdowns and 54 interceptions after the Cardinals released him.
17 Danny Kanell (1996-1998)
The Giants drafted Danny Kanell in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Although his numbers were far from inspiring, Kanell ended the Dave Brown era and gave Giants fans their first playoff trip since Phil Simms’ retirement. Kanell took over the team’s starting role with 10 games remaining in the 1997 season. He threw 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while guiding the team to a 7-3-1 record down the stretch. He threw for 199 yards and one touchdown in a wildcard loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The postseason appearance provided Kanell another year to run New York’s offense. He posted similar stats during the 1998 team’s first ten games (11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions), but went 3-7. The Giants benched him in favor of Kent Graham. Kanell lasted two years each as a backup in Atlanta and Denver. He retired after the 2004 season with 5,129 yards, 31 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. Kanell now hosts an ESPN radio show, Russillo and Kanell.
16 Kent Graham (1992-1994, 1998-1999)
The man who replaced Danny Kanell had slightly better career numbers, but he failed to reach the playoffs in two seasons as New York’s part-time starter. What truly pushes him ahead of Kanell is the miraculous victory over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos in 1998. That victory was part of Graham’s 5-1 record as a starter once he replaced Kanell. The late-season surge brought the Giants to .500 but wasn’t good enough to make the postseason. Graham was largely ineffective during his first nine starts of the 1999 season. Kerry Collins supplanted him as the starter and Graham never took another snap for New York. He spent three more years as a backup with three different teams. Graham retired in 2003 with 7,801 yards, 39 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.
15 Kurt Warner (2004)
The top fifteen begins with a grouping of five quarterbacks who cannot rightfully be placed below previous players, but who did not necessarily make their NFL mark with New York. They appear in order of contributions to the Giants. Kurt Warner is the ultimate bags to riches story. That’s not a typo. It’s a bad joke. Warner worked at a grocery store in 1994 after the Green Bay Packers released him. Fast forward to the 1999 Preseason. The Rams’ starting quarterback, Trent Green, went down for the season with a knee injury. Kurt Warner stepped in and threw 41 regular season touchdowns en route to a Super Bowl victory. After five years leading The Greatest Show on Turf, Warner joined the Giants as a mentor to Eli Manning. He only played nine games for the organization. He managed a 5-4 record, 2,054 yards and 6 touchdowns, but was replaced with Eli after two consecutive losses. The Giants did not win their sixth game until week 17. Once New York became Manning’s team, Warner resurrected the Arizona Cardinals franchise. He fought off another young quarterback, Matt Leinart, and brought Arizona to the Super Bowl in 2008. He retired in 2010 having appeared in three Super Bowls.
14 Craig Morton (1974-1976)
Craig Morton’s career resume could easily catapult him higher in this ranking. Sadly, nothing good came from his time as the quarterback of the New York Giants. Morton led the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl V, but his three interceptions in the game and the presence of Roger Staubach led to a timeshare at quarterback the following year. Staubach eventually won out and captured a Super Bowl victory. Morton looked into the World Football League before a trade finally sent him to New York. At the time, the Giants were a hopeless football team in complete disarray. Morton struggled through three losing seasons, passing for 5,734 yards, 29 touchdowns and 49 interceptions. A trade to Denver revitalized his career. He brought the Broncos to the Super Bowl in his first year, becoming the only quarterback to start for two different teams in their first Super Bowl. The matchup pitted them against Dallas in a revenge game of sorts, but Morton fell far short of redemption. The Doomsday Defense overwhelmed Denver’s offensive line during a 27-10 demolition. They held Morton to 39 yards and caused four interceptions. Morton played for Denver until 1982. He retired with 27,908 yards, 183 touchdowns and 187 interceptions.
13 Norm Snead (1972-1974, 1976)
Norm Snead went second overall to the Redskins in the 1961 Draft. He made two Pro Bowls in his first three years, but the franchise’s best result was 5-7-2. Washington traded him to Philadelphia for Sonny Jurgensen, who became a Redskins legend. Snead spent seven years with the Eagles, making one more Pro Bowl but never posting a winning record as a starter. Finally, in 1972, Snead joined the Giants and accomplished an above-.500 mark. He went 8-5 in 13 games. New York missed the playoffs at 8-6 overall. Snead, who threw 2,307 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, led the league in completion percentage (60.3%) and was third in passer rating (84.0). Snead paced the league in interceptions during a losing campaign the following year. After a two-year hiatus with San Francisco, Snead finished his career in New York. He started only two games in 1976. Miraculously, Snead won one of them with a 0.0 rating. He’s the last quarterback to do so. Snead finished his career with 30,797 yards, 196 touchdowns and 257 interceptions.
12 Earl Morrall (1965-1967)
Earl Morrall is far and away the greatest backup quarterback in NFL history. He played behind numerous Hall of Famers over 21 seasons: Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese, Fran Tarkenton, Len Dawson and Y.A. Tittle. He joined the Giants as a nine-year veteran. The team was reeling and in flux. As a starter in all 14 games the 1965 season, Morrall threw for 2,446 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 picks. Despite his productivity, Morral took a backseat his next two years. He moved onto the Baltimore Colts and led them to a 13-1 record after Unitas injured his elbow in the preseason. He performed poorly and lost to Namath’s Jets in Super Bowl III, but he led a come-from-behind Super Bowl victory two years later when Unitas was knocked out of the big game. He followed Don Shula from Baltimore to Miami in 1972. Bob Griese fractured his fibula five games into the season. Morrall, at 38 years old, won 11 games in a row until Griese returned to capture a Super Bowl and an undefeated season. Earl Morrall played in the NFL until 1976. He retired with 20,809 yards, 161 touchdowns, 148 interceptions and three Super Bowl rings.
11 Arnie Herber (1944-1945)
Arnie Herber is the last of the five quarterbacks to deserve special recognition based on his overall career – despite the fact he spent limited time with the Giants. He receives a bump over the others due to his Hall of Fame credentials and the success of the 1944 season. Like many players of his day, Herber logged time at several positions on both offense and defense. He spent his entire career (1930-1940) with Green Bay, and then returned to the league while many players served in WWII. Four years removed from the game, Herber still had enough in the tank to bring New York to an NFL Championship Game. They fell to Herber’s former team 14-7. Herber had a forgettable 1945 before retiring with 8,041 passing yards and 81 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.
10 Tuffy Leemans (1936-1943)
A true product of his era, Tuffy Leemans is listed on Pro Football Reference as a fullback, tailback, defensive back, punt returner and quarterback. Obviously the game has evolved to a nearly unrecognizable level since 1936, but I’d pay good money to see Tom Brady cover Antonio Brown or return a punt. Leemans captured the rushing title as a rookie with 830 yards. He was a vital part of the 1938 championship team, but he is only listed as the team’s leading passer in 1941 and 1942. He retired with quite a remarkable stat line. Leemans threw for 2,318 yards, 25 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He rushed for 3,132 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also returned 19 punts and tallied four defensive interceptions. The Hall of Fame inducted Leemans in 1978. Upon his death the next year, The New York Times quoted a teammate regarding Leemans’ passion. After a missed block, Leemans reportedly addressed the huddle, “Gentleman, some clown failed to block for me on that last play. And if he doesn’t this time, I’m liable to climb up his back and stomp right down his throat.”
9 Kerry Collins (1999-2003)
The Carolina Panthers made Kerry Collins their first player ever taken in an NFL Draft when they selected him with 1995’s fifth overall pick. Collins repaid them with a trip to the NFC Championship game in the franchise’s second year of existence. After a down year and a 0-4 start in 1998, Collins promptly quit on the team. He signed on as New York’s second-string quarterback to start the 1999 season. Collins struggled after taking over for Kent Graham midway through his first year. Then, he revitalized his career with a 22-touchdown, 13-interception performance while leading the Giants to a Super Bowl in 2000. Kerry Collins threw four picks and New York lost to Baltimore in a 34-7 blowout. Collins helmed the team until 2004, throwing over 3,500 yards in every season except his last with the team. The Giants released Collins after drafting Eli Manning and acquiring Kurt Warner. Collins disappeared into the football ether that is Oakland before making one last flash in 2008. Collins replaced Vince Young as the Tennessee Titans starter early in the season and ignited the team, which finished 13-3. Tennessee lost in the divisional round. Collins spent two more years in Tennessee and one in Indianapolis before retiring with over 40,000 career passing yards.
8 Benny Friedman (1929-1931)
Benny Friedman, one of the league’s early forgotten stars, was the NFL’s first revolutionary force in the passing game. Friedman played for the Cleveland Bulldogs in 1927 and the Detroit Wolverines in 1928. Tim Mara, the owner of the Giants, purchased the Detroit franchise and disbanded it simply to acquire Friedman’s services. Official stats for yardage and completion percentage were not kept during Friedman’s career, but he led the league in touchdown passes every year between 1927 and 1930. In 1928, Friedman was the league leader in both passing and rushing touchdowns, a feat never accomplished by another player. During Friedman’s first two seasons in New York, the Giants went a combined 26-5-1. His 20 passing touchdowns in 1929 stood as a record for over a decade. Friedman retired in 1935. He is a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
7 Jeff Hostetler (1984-1992)
Earl Morrall may be the greatest backup quarterback in NFL history, but Jeff Hostetler is the greatest backup the Giants have ever had. He joined the franchise as a third round pick in 1984. He didn’t throw a regular season pass until 1988. Two years later, Simms injured his foot 14 games into the season. Hostetler stepped up and kept the train moving. He went 2-0 in New York’s final two games to finish the season at 13-3. The longtime backup then posted a flawless postseason, throwing for 510 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also scored one on the ground. When the Giants won Super Bowl XXV over the heavily favored Bills, it opened up a quarterback competition. Hostetler initially won the job in 1991, but injuries and competition kept the quarterbacks alternating playing time for two consecutive seasons. New York released Hostetler following the 1992 season. He became the Raiders’ starter for four years and spent one season on the bench in Washington before retirement. Hostetler had 16,430 passing yards, 94 touchdowns and 71 interceptions over 15 seasons. He went 16-9 as a Giants starter.
6 Ed Danowski (1934-1941)
Ed Danowski played his entire career for the New York Giants. As a halfback and the team’s primary passer out of the single wing, Danowski delivered two NFL Championships to the city of New York. In the famous 1934 “Sneakers Game,” the Giants faced the Bears on a frozen field at Polo Grounds. Down 10-3 at halftime, many of the New York players switched from cleats to sneakers due to lack of traction. Danowski led a second half rally with one rushing and one passing touchdown. The Giants won 30-13. Danowski played the hero again in the 1938 Championship. He threw the game winning touchdown pass to Hank Soar during the third quarter of the 23-17 victory. Danowski led the league in passing in 1935 and 1938. He retired with 3,817 yards, 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.
5 Fran Tarkenton (1967-1971)
Fran Tarkenton’s greatness transcends two metrics utilized in this countdown. Tarkenton did not bring the Giants multiple winning seasons or playoff glory. However, he belongs in the top five. He’s far superior to quarterbacks 15-11. Secondly, Tarkenton breaks the Clatterbuck name rule. Fran Tarkenton is a mouthful. More importantly, he was a handful for opposing defenses. He began and ended his career with the Vikings. In the franchise’s first ever game, Tarkenton sparked a come-from-behind victory over the favored Bears with four passing touchdowns and one rushing score. The wild performance set the tone for Tarkenton’s career. He routinely put on a one-man show, hurting teams both on the ground and through the air. In 1967, the Vikings traded Tarkenton to the Giants. Despite New York’s inability to compete consistently, Tarkenton rushed for over 1,000 yards, threw for 13,905 yards and tossed 103 touchdowns in five years. When the Giants shipped him back to Minnesota, Tarkenton took the Vikings to three Super Bowls in seven years. Tarkenton retired holding every significant passing record in league history: 3,686 completions, 47,003 passing yards and 342 touchdowns.
4 Y.A. Tittle (1961-1964)
Y.A. Tittle is another Hall of Fame quarterback who spent a short amount of time with the Giants, but he made the most of it. Unlike the team Tarkenton inherited, the Giants were built to win when they acquired Tittle from San Francisco. Tittle split snaps and playing time with the great Charlie Conerly his first year in New York. It soon became clear Tittle was the superior option. He led the Giants to an NFL Championship Game, but lost in a crushing 37-0 defeat to the Green Bay Packers. He threw four interceptions and only 65 yards that day. Tittle took over after Conerly’s retirement. His pattern of greatness and a championship defeat became a trend the next two seasons. Tittle set an NFL record with 33 passing touchdowns in 1962. He lost to the Packers in the NFL championship. He broke his own record with 36 the following year. It would stand until Dan Marino threw 48 two decades later. New York lost to Chicago in the NFL Championship. The 1963 season proved to be the last gasp of the Giants’ glory days. Tittle and the team struggled in his final year, finishing at 2-10-2. In four seasons, Tittle guided the team to three Championship games and won MVP three consecutive years. He’s one of six Giants to throw for over 10,000 yards. He retired with 33,070 yards and 242 touchdowns in his career.
3 Charlie Conerly (1948-1961)
Although Fran Tarkenton and Y.A. Tittle were better quarterbacks, Conerly is the better Giants quarterback. Both of their career passing totals dwarf Conerly’s, but with 19,488 yards, he sits third on the Giants’ all-time list. Although drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1945, Conerly played his entire career with New York. Like Tittle, Conerly also led the Giants to three Championship games (not counting the 1961 season). Conerly and the Giants trounced the Bears in the 1956 Championship Game. It led to a significant surge in New York fandom. Conerly’s Giants returned to championship contention in 1958. They lost to the Colts in “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The nationally televised matchup marked the beginning of football’s ascent to the top of American sports. The 1959 Championship Game resulted in a second consecutive loss to the Baltimore Colts. Conerly played until age 40, when he backed up Tittle in 1961. He retired with the team record in yards, touchdowns (173) and attempts (2,833). In Conerly’s New York Times obituary, Wellington Mara claimed, “Charlie is the best player who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
2 Phil Simms (1979-1993)
Phil Simms is considered by many to be the ultimate Giant. It wasn’t always so. Drafted with the seventh pick in the 1979 Draft, Simms battled inconsistency and injuries during his first half-decade in the league. In 1981, he went down with a separated shoulder. Scott Brunner rallied the team to their first playoff appearance since the 1960’s. Simms missed all of 1982 with a knee injury. Bill Parcells elected to start Brunner over Simms during his first year as head coach in 1983. Given a chance to prove himself after Brunner struggled, Simms fractured his thumb on his second drive of a week six game. Finally, realizing New York is not a friendly place to disappoint, Simms broke free from his apparent injury curse and excelled in 1984. The Giants made three consecutive playoff trips. The third, in 1986, gave the franchise its first Super Bowl in team history. Phil Simms, the MVP of the game, went 22-25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The Giants missed the playoffs during the 1987 strike season and again in 1988 despite going 10-6. Simms had the team at 11-3 in 1990 when the injury bug bit again. He broke his foot. Jeff Hostetler entered and captured the team’s second Super Bowl. Forced into another QB controversy for the next two years, Simms finally had a resurgent 1993 season. New York fell in the divisional round, but the immediate future looked bright – until the team cut Simms in an effort to evaluate younger talent. Phil Simms retired after the blindside release with 33,462 yards, 199 touchdowns and 157 interceptions.
1 Eli Manning (2004-Present)
It is tremendously difficult to anoint Eli Manning as the greatest Giants quarterback in team history. The team has been in existence for nearly a century. They have had a handful of Hall of Fame quarterbacks. And yet, Eli Manning – the man who constantly takes the field looking like someone just shot his dog – has to be number one. From the start, doubters criticized Manning’s forced Draft Day trade from San Diego. They wondered if he had NFL talent. Perhaps he was riding Peyton and Archie’s coattails. He’s thrown 20 or more picks in three regular seasons. He’s made the playoffs only once in his last seven seasons. Here’s why none of that matters. Eli Manning has started and won two Championships. Phil Simms didn’t do that. Y.A. Tittle lost all three. Charlie Conerly went 1-2. Eli Manning has led the sixth most fourth quarter comebacks in NFL history (30), tied with Brett Favre and Fran Tarkenton. He sits seventh all time in passing touchdowns (314) and eighth in passing yards (47,089). Since taking the ball from Kurt Warner, Manning has not missed a start. There has been no quarterback controversy. His first 20-pick year, the verdict was out. Eli Manning was no good. That same year, he went 4-0 in the postseason with 854 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He defeated the 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The 2011 Giants barely earned a playoff birth at 9-7. Eli Manning made his 2007 playoff stat line look pedestrian. He went 4-0 with 1,219 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. He again defeated the heavily favored Patriots for a second ring. For all of his flaws, Eli Manning is the only player to ever beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl. As of this writing, Eli has the Giants in a playoff spot, picking up momentum toward their first playoff appearance since winning their last Super Bowl. Look out.
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