So yesterday afternoon, while driving across the state of Tennessee, I started wondering if the New York Jets had the worst quarterbacks of all time. I started toying with the idea in my mind, then breaking it down, team by team. Then breaking it down again. And again. I decided to ponder only players I’d seen. Which led me to the past 30 years.
Then I made it a blog post.
I wanted to see which franchise had the best quarterback trio of the past 30 years. Which franchise had the worst. Here, just for kicks, are my rankings—as scientific as a desk lamp. I’d love to hear your thoughts …
1. San Francisco 49ers
Joe Montana• Steve Young•Jeff Garcia
Thoughts: One could argue for Colin Kaepernick over Garcia, but one would be wrong. Montana and Young are Hall of Famers. Easy choices for 1 and 2. Garcia was fantastic.
2. Green Bay Packers
Brett Favre•Aaron Rodgers•Don Majkowski
Thoughts: Like the Niners, the Packers feature two Hall of Fame-worthy QBs. Majkowski was great for a season, OK for a couple—then vanished. He’s no Garcia. Hence, the runner-up status.
3. Denver Broncos
John Elway•Peyton Manning•Jake Plummer
Also two Hall of Famers. But Manning is only a short-term Bronco, and Plummer could drive one to drink. Still, the Broncos are closer to the 49ers and Packers than they are the Colts.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning•Andrew Luck•Jim Harbaugh
Easy to forget that Harbaugh was awfully good in Indy, and probably deserves to be ahead of Luck—who oozes phenomenal.
5. Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers
Warren Moon•Steve McNair•Chris Chandler
Would have never thought the Titoilers would rank so high, but Moon was phenomenal, McNair was terrific and Chandler was very good. Strong stuff.
6. New York Giants
Eli Manning•Phil Simms•Kerry Collins
I’ve never much cared for Collins—but he did take the Giants to a Super Bowl. Manning and Simms are awfully good.
7. New England Patriots
Tom Brady•Drew Bledsoe•Hugh Millen
Brady is obviously all-time elite, and Bledsoe had a Simms-esque career. But the dropoff is a plummet. I picked Millen, but could have gone with myriad so-so nobodies.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Boomer Esiason•Carson Palmer•Andy Dalton
The Bengals are surprising. All three quarterbacks are very good, none all-time fantastic. I almost put them above the Pats, but the Brady factor was too much.
9. San Diego Chargers
Phillip Rivers•Dan Fouts•Stan Humphries
I almost put the Chargers in the Top 5, because I thought Rivers, Fouts and Drew Brees was an amazing trio. But by the mid-1980s Fouts was a shell, and Brees was merely good with the Chargers. So, hey.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Troy Aikman•Tony Romo•Steve Pelluer
Aikman was terrific, Romo is maddening, Pelluer is Gary Hogeboom without the talent.
11. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees•Bobby Hebert•Aaron Brooks
I could see people thinking the Saints are too low. Brees is gonna end up in the Hall, Hebert led a revival and Brooks had spectacular moments. Alas, moments are fleeting. And Hebert seems better in hindsight.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Donovan McNabb•Randall Cunningham•Michael Vick
When I was growing up, there was still a stigma about black quarterbacks. That was really dumb. All three of these guys could play, though Vick could drive to drink.
13. Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams
Kurt Warner•Jim Everett•Mark Bulger
Could be a tad higher. Warner was brief but magical, Everett was very good and Bulger was probably propped by great receivers. Still, not a bad trio.
14. St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals
Neil Lomax•Jake Plummer•Kurt Warner
Man, Lomax was really, really, really good—especially with Roy Green going deep and O.J. Anderson lined up behind him. Plummer was erratic, and Warner was fleeting.
15. New York Jets
Ken O’Brien•Chad Pennington•Boomer Esiason
I thought the Jets would rank last. Then I thought about it. Like Lomax, O’Brien was a helluva quarterback, and Pennington and Boomer both could play. Not bad.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
Trent Green•Joe Montana•Steve DeBerg
Green was a solid NFL starter, Montana’s Kansas City time was brief and DeBerg—one of my boyhood favorites—can make a man celebrate and hang himself on a single play.
17. Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson•Dave Krieg•Matt Hasselbeck
I wasn’t going to rank Wilson the best of the three, but … he pretty much is. Krieg had some awesome years throwing to Steve Largent and Brian Blades, and Hasselbeck was better than sold.
18. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan•Chris Chandler•Michael Vick
I like Matt Ryan a lot, but he shouldn’t be your team’s best all-time quarterback. Vick was wild and erratic in Atlanta. But also electric.
19. Minnesota Vikings
Daunte Culpepper•Brad Johnson•Wade Wilson
A big, fat meh. Culpepper was the future of the NFL for about six weeks.
20. Cleveland Browns
Bernie Kosar•Vinny Testaverde•Tim Couch
Kosar was fun to watch—all angles and awkward slings. Vinny started to find himself in Cleveland. Couch was a waste.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger•Kordell Stewart•Neil O’Donnell
You’d think the Steelers would be higher. Big Ben is elite. Kordell was more flash than substance. O’Donnell was a system quarterback. He was exposed with the Jets.
22. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton•Jake Delhomme•Steve Beuerlein
The Panthers have only 20 years, but they’re repped pretty well. Cam is a star. Underrated, yes. But a star. Delhomme was entertaining and did nice things with Steve Smith. Beuerlein beats out Kerry Collins solely because he didn’t use the n-word.
23. Oakland Raiders
Rich Gannon•Jeff Hostetler•Jay Schroeder
Gannon is one of two Blue Hens on this list. Schroeder is one of many brutally awful quarterbacks on this list.
24. Miami Dolphins
Dan Marino•Jay Fielder•Ryan Tannehill
Such an enormous dropoff. I still consider Marino to be the best quarterback of all time, and Fiedler the second-best (Jewish) quarterback of all time.
25. Buffalo Bills
Jim Kelly•Ryan Fitzpatrick•Doug Flutie
Another enormous dropoff. I actually think Kelly is a bit overrated. He’s not Elway or Marino. Closer to an Esiason-O’Brien. Fitzpatrick is OK, Flutie was fun and novel.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
Mark Brunnell•David Garrard•Byron Leftwich
I know the Packers didn’t need Brunnell, but they got nothing for an excellent quarterback. I liked Garrard a lot, until he started stinking.
27. Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford•Rodney Peete•Joey Harrington
Any grouping that includes Joey Harrington is a flawed grouping. Peete was better than you think.
28. Chicago Bears
Jim McMahon•Jay Cutler•Jim Harbaugh
Not a good list. McMahon was over-hyped. Good player, little more. Cutler is still something of a baby. Harbaugh was better as a Colt, but still edged out Rex Grossman.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco•Kyle Boller•Trent Dilfer
Just brutal. There are some trios Flacco doesn’t even crack. He’s a solid NFL quarterback who, despite his Delaware pedigree, is painfully overpaid.
30. Washington Redskins
Mark Rypien•Jason Campbell•Gus Frerotte
Just how bad is this? I almost included Heath Shuler.
31. Houston Texans
Matt Schaub•David Carr•Sage Rosenfels
A train wreck of quarterbacking. Schaub was very good for a handful of seasons. And that’s that.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brad Johnson•Trent Dilfer•Josh Freeman
It’s amazing. It really is. Johnson was a game manager who won a Super Bowl. Nothing but love for him. But Dilfer was b-r-u-t-a-l, and Freeman a flash in the pan.