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Top 25 Best Quarterbacks of All Time

It is the most interesting, constantly changing, and ever-heatedly discussed topic in football. Who are the elite quarterbacks and where do they rank across history?

It’s a debate that will rage on throughout a season, into the playoffs, and then again through the spring and summer. The most important position in the game, and the most visible, is the quarterback. So much goes into how we simply decide whether one is good or not, and we allow factors such as supporting cast, coaches, and even demeanor inform our decisions and how we value them.

Even more varied is how people define greatness and being elite. Obviously the first criterion has to be winning, because that after all is why you play the game. However, Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer won Super Bowls, but we don’t necessarily think of them as among the best ever, or even elite for that matter. For those kinds of QB, we throw around the term game-manager, which has always been, and will continue to be, sort of back-handed compliment.

Then there has to be more than just winning. It has to do with consistency too. The level of competition around a player, the era, the changing rules in the league, and records, however sometimes trivial, all must factor in as well. We will always wonder how Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would have fared if they traded receiving corps; Brady has historically had a less than impressive cast around him.

It’s also become harder to rate quarterbacks across the decades because the game has changed so much and continues to move far more towards a passing-first league. Throwing for 4,000 yards isn’t really singularly impressive today. Josh Freeman and Matt Schaub hit that mark in 2012, but have little to no presence in the league just a couple years later. Then again, Peyton Manning has done it 14 times since 1999, including twice when he was only one of two quarterbacks to accomplish that feat in a season.

So where does that leave us? Trying to comb through the stats, the wins, and the intangibles to figure how who is the best of the best. Here’s what we have.

25 25. Ben Roethlisberger

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

24 24. Drew Brees

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

23 23. Eli Manning

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

22 22. Steve Young

via parade.com

21 21. Jim Kelly

via nfl.com

20 20. Sonny Jurgensen

via espn.go.com

19 19. Randall Cunningham

via 247sports.com

18 18. Y.A. Tittle

via blog.sfgate.com

17 17. Dan Fouts

via cbssports.com

16 16. Warren Moon

via flickr.com

15 15. Aaron Rodgers

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

14 14. Kurt Warner

via defpenradio.com

13 13. Terry Bradshaw

via cbssports.com

12 12. Otto Graham

via imgarcade.com

11 11. Troy Aikman

via netbrawl.com

10 10. Bart Starr

via quotecollection.com

9 9. Fran Tarkenton

via sikids.com

8 8. Peyton Manning

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

7 7. Roger Staubach

via en.wikipedia.org

6 6. Brett Favre

via flickr.com

5 5. Dan Marino

via finsupdate.wordpress.com

4 4. Johnny Unitas

via americanfootball.wikia.com

3 3. John Elway

via rsvlts.com

2 2. Tom Brady

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

1 1. Joe Montana

via complex.com

Four Super Bowl Appearances, four victories, three MVPs, 11 touchdowns passing. It’s hard to argue with that in the big game. He also beat out John Elway and Dan Marino in two of those games. Montana mastered the West Coast offense, earning 40,551 career passing yards. He was one half of the indelible reception that was so amazing it simply became known as ‘The Catch.' Across 15 seasons he was the picture of consistency, constantly rising to any occasion and claiming victory as his own, and being the best at the most important time. Montana, without question, was the most calm and quarterback to ever play, unflappable when the big play needed to be made and victory was within reach.

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Top 25 Best Quarterbacks of All Time