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30 Greatest NFL QBs of the Super Bowl Era


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I've been making QB algorithms for years to rate QBs. I think I came up with a simple way to compare QBs over the years. Basically, a QB is compared with the peers of their time using efficiency %s, rather than raw stats. I give a point to anyone that is in the top 3 in any efficiency state -- comp%, TD%, low int%, adjusted yard per attempt, and 75%+ win%, SB W, SB L. The only awards I consider are MVP and SB MVP. QBs must start half the games of the season to qualify, unless a backup played an entire Super Bowl, in which case they can get SB W, SB L, or MVP. 

Here are the top 30 NFL QBs of the SB Era:

  1. Tom Brady, 90 pts
    1. 58 of these pts come from Wins and Post season. He'd be in 6th place if this ranking was on just efficient QB skills. 
  2. Peyton Manning, 79 pts
    1. He would be tied in 1st with Aaron Rodgers if this was based on just efficient QB skills. 
  3. Aaron Rodgers, 64 pts
    1. He has no weakness in any of the efficient skills areas. His weakness is in wins and post-season. 
    2. The top three sort of highlight that the 2010s was probably the High Point in NFL QBing in the SB Era. we had over 10 years of these guys competing against one another!
  4. Joe Montana, 59 pts
    1. Best of the QBs in regards to being way up this list and being balanced between skills and wins. Generally, the QBs are skill guys or wins guys. The latter is generally due to having a great running game and/or great defense or both. The former generally means they carried the team or routinely had great WRs. Montana had Jerry Rice. 
    2. Montana got 16 of his points from 1989 alone. He is one of four to do this -- a 16 is the highest any QB has received. 
  5. Steve Young, 47 pts
    1. He would be in 3rd place if this list was just efficient QB skills. This is all the more surprising when you consider that he didn't really get going until he was 30 as he was backing up Montana for years. Young was basically a faster version of Aaron Rodgers. 
    2. Got 16 pts for 1994 alone
  6. Brett Favre, 46 pts
    1. Crazy to think Rodgers dwarfs Favre. However, Favre has 2 more pts if this was based on the "Wins & Post-Season" category. I should also note that some years Favre's TD% was so high that I didn't award pts to a 2nd or 3rd pace. When he was great, he was great. 
  7. Terry Bradshaw, 37 pts
    1. 26 from wins+post season alone. He might not even make a top 30 list if this was based on only efficient QB skills.
  8. Kurt Warner, 37 pts
    1. Got 16 pts for 1999 alone. 
    2. Overall, strange career. Almost all of his points come from the beginning and the end of his career. However, the pt total is impressive as he was in his late 20s during his rookie season. 
  9. Roger Staubach, 36 pts
    1. Impressive when you consider he got a late start (in the Navy for 4 years), and had to split time at QB until he was 30.
  10. Fran Tarkenton, 32 pts
    1. Arguably the first great dual-threat QB. Prior to him, all the rushing QBs were very erratic. Some rushing QBs, didn't really run but were just great at goalline QB sneaks. Tarkenton foreshadows Cunningham, Newton, Lamar Jackson, etc. 
  11. Drew Brees, 31 pts
    1. 12 of his pts come exclusively from me top 3 in comp% in 12 seasons. To compare, Peyton Manning did that in 10 season, and Tom Brady in only 1 season. 
  12. John Elway, 30 pts
    1. He's the most overrated QB in history. Before Brady, almost every NFL list tried to cram Elway in 1st place and justify the ranking. That was always bizarre to me.
    2. 21 of his pts come from wins+Post season, which puts him in 5th in that category. 
    3. He has only 9 skill pts, which makes him the greatest QB to be single digits in efficiency skills. He would not make the top 30 if this were a list on the most skilled QBs. 
  13. Troy Aikman, 30 pts
    1. 18 pts from wins+post season. 
  14. Ken Anderson, 29 pts 
    1. *NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME* How is he not in the Hall of Fame?
    2. 25 of his 29 pts are from efficiency skills. He'd be tied for 7th in a list exclusive to being a skilled QB.
    3. The argument that he isn't in the SB because he lacks a SB win is weak. He at least went to a SB and won the MVP. Warren Moon is in the Hall of Fame and he's done neither. He isn't even in this top 30 list! 
  15. Bart Starr, 25 pts
    1. Note: He would have more points if this list included his stats prior to the 1st Super Bowl
    2. Starr gets 16 of his pts from 1966 alone, the season with the 1st SB. No one would get 16 pts for a season again until Joe Montana in 1989.
  16. Ben Rothlisberger, 23 pts
    1. 16 pts from wins.
    2. Kinda drowned out by Brady, Rodgers, PManning, and Brees
  17. Bob Griese, 23 pts
  18. Ken Stabler, 23 pts
  19. Dan Marino, 23 pts
    1. 18 pts from skills
    2. He's another QB that is generally placed in the top 10, but that's a list that considers raw #s rather than efficiency. That is, he threw a lot, but the rate that he threw TDs, avoided INTs, threw for deep gains on average, etc. wasn't generally top 3. Marino was known for TDs and Yards, but he's only top 3 in TD% and AYA three times. 
    3. If I included avoiding sacks in my ranking, he'd probably skyrocket up the list, but avoiding sacks means nothing if it isn't aiding efficiency and winning games. For this reason, I also don't include rushing yards. 
  20. Pat Mahomes, 21 pts
    1. He will certainly be higher than this. 
  21. Len Dawson, 21 pts
    1. RIP, as he just died the other day.
    2. Note, this does not consider the decade he played prior to the 1st SB. He'd be much higher. 
  22. Jim Kelly, 19 pts
    1. 12 pts from wins+post season. Remember he lost 4 SBs in a row.
  23. Russell Wilson, 19 pts
    1. I'm not sure how many more pts he'll get in his career. He could get zero if he's on the decline. It's hard to get a pt.
  24. Joe Theismann, 19 pts
    1. Not in the Hall of Fame, possibly because he only had 1 great season and the rest were only good.
  25. Joe Namath, 18 pts
    1. Probably the most overrated QB after Elway. 
    2. Namath earned two MVP trophys in what were two statistically mediocre seasons when compared to other QBs that season. However, he was extremely popular to NFL fans. I think he's the only QB to get MVP for personality. His only skill pt is for 1 pt for AYA. 10 of his pts are for the 2 MVPs. 
  26. Boomer Esiason, 18 pts
    1. Not in the Hall of Fame
    2. 15 of his pts are for skill. 
    3. I was surprised when he retired. His final season was one of his best seasons. 
  27. Earl Morrall, 17 pts
    1. Not in the Hall of Fame -- Greatest Backup QB in history
    2. Was in three Super Bowls, filling in for half the game in two of them when Unitas was injured. He got all the early wins in MIA's perfect season when Griese was injured too. Played the majority of seasons several times because starters got injured and often made the Pro Bowl. He didn't do as well when he was recognized starting QB. 
  28. Johnny Unitas, 17 pts
    1. He's be in the top 5 probably if this considered seasons prior to the 1st SB. He's got all 17 of his pts despite being on the series tail-end of his career. He was wracked with injuries and got 17 points despite this.
  29. Rich Gannon, 17 pts
    1. Not in the Hall of Fame
    2. Very weird career. He was a starter early in his career for the Vikings, but was not really that good. He was invisible for ages, and then out of nowhere late in his career he became a Super Star, but his run ended with a major injury. 
  30. Craig Morton, 16 pts
    1. Not in the Hall of Fame
    2. Had a solid career with the Cowboys, Giants, and Broncos, going to the SB with the Cowboys and Broncos, losing both of those SBs as the starter. 
    3. Morton was a good QB, but when you consider some QBs on this list got 16 pts in one season, you realize why he might not be in the Hall of Fame. 

Notables left off the list:

  • Eli Manning has 13 pts. 0 from skill. 
  • Dan Fouts is in the Hall of Fame but scored only 12 pts.
  • Warren Moon is in the Hall of Fame but scored only 3 pts. Perhaps if the Canadian League stats were included, he'd get to 16 pts.
  • Sonny Jurgensen is in the Hall of Fame but scored only 10 pts.
  • Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys was my favorite QB when I was a little kid. He scores only 8 pts. He went to three straight NFC Championships, but he lost them all. He was only majorly effective for 4 years. I was really young then, so my memory of him is on the downside of his career.
  • Philip Rivers has only 12 pts.
  • Tony Romo has only 10 pts
  • Matt Ryan has 14 pts--11 from just one season. 
  • Matthew Stafford has 8 pts
  • Joe Burrow has 6 pts, and will likely have many more. 
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13 hours ago, pilight said:

The game is so different now than it was in the 70's and 80's that it's hard to compare someone like Montana or Bradshaw to Rodgers.  Going further back will exacerbate this problem.

That's why I alleviate this issue by comparing them with their peers. Unitas scores points against Dawson, Starr, Blanda, Namath, Jurgenson. So he might score a pt for a top 3 comp% with a 54% comp, while Brees will need a 70%, while competing with Manning, Brady, and Rodgers. This ranking basically measures how dominant each QB was during their time. So the actual calculating does not compate Montana with Rodgers. It's only compared after the fact---was Rodgers as dominating in his time as Montana was in his time, for instance. My whole reason for making the algorithm this way is to avoid the issue you state. I think it works.

Will tag @Rezi and @WVProgressive too since they agreed with your statement.

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2 hours ago, MrPotatoTed said:

Pfft.  All that matters is wins and rings.  The rest is just a popularity contest.  ;c)

Very simplistic thinking. Under this logic, Trent Dilfer would be a greater QB than Dan Marino.

11 starters on each side, special teams, coaches calling plays and designing schemes, homefield advantage/ref error, etc. all play into team success. And all are important to winning beyond just one player.

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Good list; I'll probably comment more later when I can really pick it at, but Bradshaw in the top 10 is a Ehhh decision (meaning he shouldn't be in the top 10, probably not in the top 20 either), and Marino not being top 10 is too (he should definitely be in the top ten).

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