When it comes to “game manager” quarterbacks many people have different opinions and interpretations of the meaning. I am going to bypass all the hoopla and explain briefly the definition I based this article on and how players were chosen for the list of top 15 “game manager” QB’s in NFL history.
The definition of “game manager” I used to determine this list is as follows:
An NFL quarterback who is able to manage and win games despite having below average or poor personal statistics. They typically depend on a strong defense and/or running game on offense to win games while the QB simply manages the game well enough to win. A “game manager” quarterback is not an elite, play-making quarterback and will not win a Super Bowl single-handed. Their career statistics show consistent mediocrity.
Some of the quarterbacks who made the cut are definitely more talented than others and even had some highlight plays from their own personal efforts. You will know them when you see them. I tried my best to stick to the exact definition as written above, but may have veered off a bit with a couple guys.
Feel free to comment with anyone I missed or your thoughts on “game manager” quarterbacks in the NFL. We would love to hear your opinion.
15. Jon Kitna
Jon Kitna used his game managing ability to stay in the NFL for 16 seasons while playing for four different teams. He had two positive seasons (individual statistics-wise), but other than that was perfectly mediocre.
Every team he played for was pretty poor and they were not good enough for him to win a Super Bowl. His two positive seasons were impressive, especially the 2003 season with the Bengals when he threw for 3,500 yards, 26 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions with a QB rating of 87.4.
Other than that, he was simply a good “game manager” quarterback that bounced around multiple NFL teams throughout his career. A game manager on a bad team = Many losses.
QB Rating: 77.4
14. Kyle Orton
Orton’s touchdown to interception rate is not as bad as most of the quarterbacks on this list, but he definitely was more a game manager type quarterback and when the pressure was squarely on him, it did not work out well.
He played for five teams in his 10 seasons and has not been picked up for the 2015-2016 season yet. His NFL career is full of ups and downs with a good season here, a bad season there, getting benched multiple times, getting booed by fans and somehow coming back for another chance.
His numbers were not bad last year with the Bills, but he was not their quarterback of the future and was let go at the end of the season despite throwing over 3,000 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions through 12 games. If Orton had been on some better teams, there is a good chance he sneaks a Super Bowl victory like others on this list.
QB Rating: 81.2
13. Jake Delhomme
Delhomme had a few great seasons for the Panthers with some talented offensive weapons and a stout defense. His best two seasons came in 2004 and 2005 playing when he threw for well over 3,000 yards and over 25 touchdowns in each season while keeping the interceptions to a fair amount.
However, the majority of his career Delhomme was just a game manager type quarterback who played well when on a talented team. His career numbers would be a lot higher if he did not have injury problems throughout the second half of his NFL career, but when healthy, he was able to successfully manage the football game.
12. Doug Flutie
Although he was a fan favorite everywhere he played, Flutie was a mediocre quarterback who could manage a game when needed and the one edge he has on the other quarterbacks on the list is his running ability.
He played for four teams throughout his NFL career and had his best years playing for the Bills, but even those numbers are those of a game managing QB.
Though he played for 12 NFL seasons, Flutie did not even surpass the 100 touchdown mark for his career. Regardless, he was definitely a lot of fun to watch.
QB Rating: 76.3
11. Jeff Garcia
Jeff Garcia is arguably the most talented quarterback on the list and it’s possible that he shouldn’t even be on this list. Because of that, one could also argue that he should have been placed closer to the top 3 based on talent.
However, Garcia was on a very good 49ers team that included Terrell Owens, Garrison Hearst and a dominant secondary on defense. During his span with the 49ers, Garcia showed what he could do with talent surrounding him and taking the pressure off.
He had two stellar seasons early in his career and trended downhill from there once he left the 49ers and was not surrounded by the same levels of talent.
Garcia was a great quarterback and was able to manage the game exceptionally well at time in his career, but ended up being an above-average quarterback.
QB Rating: 87.5
10. Mark Rypien
Rypien, like Jeff Garcia, had a few great seasons with a talented team and fell off the planet after he was let go and forced to play on a team with less talent or simply better competition at the quarterback position.
He had one star worthy season in 1991 when he threw for over 3,500 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in a year he led the Redskins to a Championship and even won Super Bowl MVP.
Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there and Rypien landed in a game manager position before being moved to the bench..
QB Rating: 78.9
9. Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler had a few really good seasons in the NFL, showing glimpses that he could become more than a game managing quarterback. Unfortunately, for every good season he had, there was a bad one with opposite numbers.
It was good enough to keep him in a starting quarterback position for nearly his entire 15 season career with three different teams.
Most of his career was with the Raiders where he was able to win a Super Bowl with them and play just good enough to keep him and hope for another.
QB Rating: 75.3
8. Jim McMahon
Jim McMahon was definitely a “game manager” quarterback in the NFL and was able to contribute just enough to help the teams he played for. In particular the Bears, where he won a Super Bowl and threw his career high 15 touchdowns that season. Yes I said it, 15 touchdowns was a career high. Not very impressive.
However, the 1985 Bears were arguably the best team in NFL history and that was the team McMahon was on for his only starting role in a Super Bowl.
He also won a Super Bowl as a backup to Brett Farve before retiring from the NFL and going out in style. Unfortunately, his stats were nothing special and mediocre throughout his career.
QB Rating: 78.2
7. Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw easily could have gone higher on this list because his career is pretty synonymous with the definition of “game manager” QB in the NFL. He sure seems like a great guy and recently donated all of his NFL and college championship rings along with his Hall of Fame ring to his college Louisiana Tech. He’s also a decent character on Fox every week.
But man are his stats below average. Bradshaw threw over 20 interceptions in five separate seasons which has to be some kind of NFL record for a four time Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame quarterback.
He played alongside what is known as the “Steel Curtain” and one of (if not the) best defensive lines in NFL history.
QB Rating: 70.9
6. Doug Williams
Doug Williams made NFL history when he became the first African American Quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. Not only did he win it, he dominated the game and earned the Super Bowl MVP after getting the starting nod in playoffs despite only starting two games that season.
Other than that one amazing NFL moment in history, Williams was a very inconsistent and mediocre quarterback. After the Super Bowl win, he went on to play in a total of 15 games before calling it quits after the 89 season.
He was a game manager on most of his teams, but was able to step up late in his career to earn a Super Bowl win.
QB Rating: 69.4
5. Jeff Hostetler
Jeff Hostetler was an average quarterback during his career when he was starting. His incredibly safe and consistent play in the Super Bowl was the definition of a “game manager” quarterback.
He stepped in for injured started Phil Simms midway through the season and led the Giants to a Super Bowl win and won the starting quarterback job the following season. He was a quarterback that could effectively follow the game plan without turning the ball over.
Unfortunately, most of the second half of his career was marred by injuries and he did not get the chances to go to another Super Bowl.
QB Rating: 80.5
4. Jim Plunkett
Jim Plunkett landed on some great teams and his main role was to manage the game and do just enough to win games. He was good enough to help the Raiders win two Super Bowls during his career and even netted Super Bowl MVP honers for one.
Unfortunately, that is where the over achievement stopped. His career numbers boast more interceptions than touchdowns through his 16 years in the NFL. He also had multiple 20+ interception seasons.
QB Ranking: 67.5
3. Bob Griese
Who remembers Griese? Based on his career numbers, you would not think that he helped lead the Dolphins to three consecutive Super Bowls and win two of them. When Griese played football, he was considered a solid quarterback and made multiple Pro Bowls. He was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, do not let that fool you. Griese was not an elite quarterback and his numbers prove it. The Dolphins were a stellar team when he helped them to the Super Bowl victories and Griese was a solid “game manager” quarterback.
QB Rating: 77.1
2. Brad Johnson
Who would have thought that Brad Johnson would lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl in franchise history back in 2002? He also made the Pro Bowl that season throwing 22 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions.
If only he could have done that more consistently then maybe he would not be on our list. He had a solid NFL career and was a good starting quarterback in the NFL.
However, he was far from an elite quarterback and his inconsistencies kept him stuck as the “game manager” quarterback we know him as today. He may not make the Hall of Fame, but he landed at number two on our list.
QB Rating: 82.5
1. Trent Dilfer
We probably could have given the number one spot on the list to Brad Johnson because he was a better quarterback than Trent Dilfer, but Dilfer was the definition of “game manager” and did it for pretty much every team he was on. He only put up great numbers for one season and it led to nothing.
When he somehow landed on the 2000 Ravens and won the starting job midway through the season, he was in the perfect place at the perfect time. The 2000 Ravens had one of the best defenses in NFL history.
Dilfer could have probably won the Super Bowl that year with the Ravens even if he did not throw a single pass. That is how good the rest of the team was. He finished the game with barely 150 yards passing and 1 touchdown with no interceptions and they still blew out the Giants.
QB Rating: 70.2
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