Who is the Greatest Quarterback to play the game? Many of us love a good debate, and with Peyton Manning playing in the Super Bowl this past week, it has sparked the debate of who is the greatest Quarterback to have ever played the game. Now for this argument, I will only talk about those Quarterbacks who played during my time. I have never seen some of the great ones like Johnny Unitas and Y.A. Tittle play, so I apologize for leaving these guys out of the discussion. My time goes back to the Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach days, so I will only be talking about Quarterbacks who have played since the late 70s, early 80s.
To start with, I think we to define what makes a truly great Quarterback. To me, it is a combination of being a great passer and a great leader. Some would argue these days that you need to be a great runner as well, but to me there have been many great ones who were not great runners, so I leave that off my list of what assets a great Quarterback must possess. The reason that I say you must be a great passer is because as a Quarterback, that is your primary responsibility, so I think everyone would understand and agree with the fact that to be a great Quarterback, you must be a great passer. The reason that I say you must be a great leader is because on just about every team, the Quarterback is a team captain, he runs and leads the offense, often times he calls the plays and most of the team looks to the Quarterback to be a leader. So, based on this, to be a truly great Quarterback, you must be a great leader as well.
Now, what defines a leader? A leader’s job is to lead by example, inspire and motivate and to get the absolute most out of what he/she has to work with. This is why I argue that Peyton Manning is not the best Quarterback ever. I think Peyton is a great passer, is a very intelligent person, and although I have never met him, from what I hear he is a great guy. But if you look at “leadership”, he has not done what other Quarterbacks have been able to do. When with the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton arguably had the best Center in the game in Jeff Saturday, he had arguably the best RB in the game in Edgerrin James, arguably the best WR in the game in Marvin Harrison, arguably the best receiving groups in the game with Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark, and arguably Peyton was the best QB in the game. Nearly 40% of their offense was made up with arguably the best players in the game at their positions. My argument is that with that team, and him as the leader and one of the captains, did he get the most he could out of what he had to work with? NO, he did not. This team only won 1 Super Bowl. Joe Montana had a great deal to work with during his days, and he won 4 Super Bowls. He got the most out of his teams. Tom Brady has often times had much less to work with than Manning and he has won 3. Peyton’s brother Eli has had much less to work with than Peyton has as well, and Eli has won 1 more Super Bowl than Peyton. As leaders, all of these other Quarterbacks have risen to the occasion and have gotten more out of themselves and what they had to work with than Peyton has.
Now, with the Denver Broncos, Peyton ran the highest scoring offense of all time. This team has one of the best receiving groups that has ever been put together, a tremendous offensive line, a great running game, and a good, solid defense, and they lose 43-8 in the Super Bowl. This was one of the worst defeats in Super Bowl history. I know you cannot put the losses solely on Peyton, you win as a team, and you lose as a team. However, again, I contend that it is the Quarterback’s or “Leader’s” job to get the most they can out of what they have to work with, and that is why guys like Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly cannot be in the same discussion with guys like Joe Montana and Tom Brady. To me, when you take everything into consideration, Montana is the best ever, and Brady is a close number 2. As pure passers, they probably don’t have the passing talents of Peyton Manning, Dan Marino or even Warren Moon. However, when you couple their passing talents together with their leadership skills, that is what makes them the greatest Quarterbacks of all time. Remember, they are called Quarterbacks, not Passers!
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