In August 2021, legendary quarterback Peyton Manning entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s where he joined the ranks of the greatest Hall of Fame quarterbacks in history. But it also caused NFL fans to stop and think; who is the greatest of the great? There are 28 quarterbacks enshrined in Canton with many glorious feats between them.
Let’s take a look at these signal-callers and rank them in order from very good to the greatest. This isn’t easy because some players like Dan Marino posted incredible individual statistics without ever winning the Super Bowl. Then there are players like Joe Namath who led a franchise to its greatest moment but with less passing success. Check out the NFL’s top Hall of Fame quarterbacks below via Sporting News.
28. Joe Namath
It’s time to upset fans of Gang Green. While Namath holds a special place in the hearts of Jets fans, realistically he is one of the worst quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. We’re not saying he’s not a legend or that he wasn’t a great player. After all, he definitely inspired the Jets to their greatest day. But from a technical perspective, he doesn’t compare to the likes of Dan Marino, who never won a ring.
Namath was an amazingly charismatic individual and this helped him to create a rock star mystique. Arguably, Broadway Joe’s greatest individual achievement was when he became the first quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards. While a lot of his statistics don’t hold up against other players, Namath earned his spot in Canton after some iconic moments.
After seven seasons in Philadelphia, Jurgensen moved to Washington. That’s where he spent the final 11 seasons of his Hall of Fame career. Jurgensen was a beautiful pure passer of the ball and stayed calm in the face of adversity. He refused to allow opposing defenses to pressure him and stayed cool. His only championship win came as a backup but he took over as starter for Norm Van Brocklin.
A five-time Pro Bowler, Jurgensen’s final couple of seasons in Philly were the most decorated of his year. But he carried his good form to Washington and led the league in completed passes five times. When he retired, he had amassed over 30,000 passing yards. Perhaps his most impressive feat was his glorious 99-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Allen in 1968.
Blanda’s longevity is striking and one of the main reasons why he made the Hall of Fame. He spent an insane 26 seasons in the NFL and was still a dominant force at the age of 43. Finally, at the age of 48, he hung up his cleats for good as the oldest player in history. The 1974 NFL Man of the Year was a three-time AFC champion. Most fans remember his Raiders days but he had lengthy spells with the Bears and the Oilers.
Blanda placed lower on this list because statistically, he wasn’t as influential as other all-time great quarterbacks,t but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a legend. Meanwhile, he also scored 335 field goals as proof of his versatility. Blanda was a unique character as well as a great presence in the locker room.
Amazingly, the Rams once had two of the league’s best quarterbacks on their roster at the same time. Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin competed with each other for the starting spot for several seasons. In the beginning, Waterfield had the advantage. After World War II, Waterfield helped the then-Cleveland Rams to their first NFL championship before they moved to Los Angeles.
This made him the first rookie in history to win the NFL MVP award. He was the undisputed starter for five seasons before Van Brocklin landed in L.A. Waterfield was an excellent general on the field and led the league in completed passes twice. Van Brocklin was a more dramatic player than Waterfield, but the latter exuded calm and precision on the playing field.
One of the best passers of his generation, Fouts showed the then-San Diego Chargers what it means to have a Hall of Fame talent on their hands. Fouts was only the third player in history to break the 40,000 passing yard mark and was a six-time Pro Bowler. The Chargers never won a Super Bowl with Fouts at the helm but they were no longer the laughingstock of the NFL.
Fouts passed for over 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. This made him the first quarterback ever to achieve this notable feat. Injuries affected him in his later years but there is no doubt about his influence on the Chargers. He brought the franchise forward and won the Offensive Player of the Year award in 1982. After retirement, he made a fortune as a color commentator.
Layne is synonymous with the most successful era in Detroit Lions’ history. He played for the best version of the franchise and is also responsible for their fans’ annual misplaced expectations. A three-time NFL champion, Layne was calm, cool, and collected on the field. A case in point was his direction of their 80-yard drive to beat the Browns in 1953.
Furthermore, Layne endeared himself to fans with a reputation for loving a party. While it wouldn’t go down well in the modern era, it humanized Layne and made him extremely popular in Motor City. He passed for over 26,000 yards in 15 seasons with 196 touchdowns. Meanwhile, his bond with coach Raymond Parker was one of the greatest relationships in football history.
Moon was the first African-American quarterback to receive an induction to the NFL Hall of Fame. He was a true pioneer but make no mistake, he earned his place. He took the bold step of starting his professional career in Canada with the Edmonton Huskies. After winning the Grey Cup, he returned South of the Border to enjoy 10 seasons with the Houston Oilers, where he made his name.
Moon was an exceptional passer. Indeed, he fell just short of 50,000 total yards before his retirement in 2000. The nine-time Pro Bowl enjoyed the best part of his career in the early 1990s. That’s when he won the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. He also led the league in passing yards for two years in a row. A truly brilliant player.
The Miami Dolphins have two amazing quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. If the 1980s were all about Dan Marino, Griese took over the 1970s. He led them during the most successful era in franchise history and helped them to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Miami won two of those games and Griese sealed his place in the annals of Canton.
Griese was one of the smoothest operators in the league. His offense was clinical and ruthless and he was exceptionally efficient. The quarterback didn’t always go for long passes but was a great game-manager. The results speak for themselves but Griese’s passing stats are also very good. The six-time Pro Bowler led Miami in their unbelievable perfect 1972 season.
Has a Texan ever been more popular in New York than Tittle? He spent 17 seasons in the NFL with three franchises. First, he played for three years with the Baltimore Colts before joining the Forty Niners. Tittle enjoyed 10 years of success in San Francisco where he blossomed into an elite quarterback. However, a title eluded him, and they traded him to New York in 1961.
Everybody thought that Tittle was washed up at this point but he proved the world wrong. This is where he set his Hall of Fame credentials in stone. His numbers went through the roof and he won the league MVP award for his amazing efforts. Tittle completed 36 touchdown passes in 1963 with a 60.2 completion rate. Meanwhile, he passed for almost 30,000 yards in total over his football career.
Kelly’s massive shadow hung over the Buffalo Bills for generations before Josh Allen finally broke out as a franchise quarterback. He helped the Bills to four successive Super Bowl finals but didn’t win one of them. However, this doesn’t define his career because he was one of the league’s top signal-caller throughout this period. Incredibly, he chose to play in the USFL before agreeing to join the Bills.
He became a four-time Pro Bowler after signing for Buffalo. Over 12 seasons he completed over 35,000 passes and achieved 237 touchdown passes. It’s unbelievable that he didn’t win at least one ring in Buffalo but he did lead the NFL in passes in 1991. Kelly made it difficult for his predecessors because he was so effective in the position. He made the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Van Brocklin spent the majority of his career with the Rams before three great seasons in Philadelphia. His Hall of Fame credentials was clear after his exceptional performances for Los Angeles. The Flying Dutchman won an NFL Championship with both of his franchises before retiring from the sport. He was a fantastic quarterback and even ousted Bob Waterfield as the Rams’ starter.
The Rams weren’t sure about signing Van Brocklin because of his military commitments. However, it proved to be a phenomenal decision. After an amazing few years in California, Van Brocklin retired from football. But he changed his mind and came back to enjoy an Indian summer in Philadelphia. That’s when he won his second championship and also the league MVP award.
Baugh’s passing range was the stuff of legend. He led the NFL in completions a record eight times and outclassed all of his rivals. The quarterback spent his entire playing career with Washington before a brief foray into coaching. After starring for the TCU Horned Frogs, Baugh turned pro and proceeded to change the sport. It’s not an exaggeration to say he was a true innovator.
The Redskins barely used the forward pass before Baugh proved how lethal an offensive weapon it could be. It may seem bizarre now compared to contemporary football, but this was the reality of the day. However, Baugh’s accuracy was phenomenal. By the end of his time in Washington, everybody was doing it. He was also a prolific punter in addition to quarterback.
Warner’s rise to the top of the NFL was the definition of a Cinderella story. After he went undrafted, he played Arena Football before a foray into NFL Europe. Finally, the St. Louis Rams picked him up as a free agent but he didn’t hold much hope of making an impact until Trent Green suffered a massive injury. Then, Warner became QB1 and he didn’t relinquish the position.
The Rams became the Greatest Show on Earth with Warner making plays. He inspired the franchise to two Super Bowl appearances and was also a two-time MVP in the process. Over the course of 1999 and 2000 he was unstoppable. That’s when Warner led the league in most passing categories and showed his Hall of Fame credentials. He came late to the NFL but finished as an all-time great.
A three-time Super Bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys, Aikman is one of the franchise’s greatest-ever quarterbacks. His stellar career led to his Hall of Fame induction in 2006. Aikman is an example of a number one draft pick who lived up to his potential because he was great in Texas. He averaged a Pro Bowl appearance every other season with six selections.
Dallas went 1-15 in his rookie season but evolved into one of the franchise’s greatest teams. Aikman was a key cog in their machine because he passed for over 30,000 yards in 12 seasons. He was also the winningest starting quarterback of the ’90s. In the end, injuries took their toll on him but he still had the longest tenure of a Cowboys’ QB in history.
Tarkenton didn’t fall into the Vikings’ laps until the third round of the 1961 draft but destroyed every expectation. Tarkenton is definitely the greatest QB in Minnesota’s history. He ensured that he held every franchise passing record before retiring from the sport. Tarkenton failed in his attempts to win a Super Bowl despite three appearances, but one man can’t do it alone.
This shouldn’t take away from the rest of his accomplishments because he was a fantastic quarterback. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and passed for over 47,000 yards throughout his career. Tarkenton’s 80.4 passer rating was also high for the time. With over 3,700 rushing yards, he was a superb all-around talent. It’s too bad that the Vikings haven’t had anyone like him since.
The Green Bay Packers have struck gold with their quarterbacks through the decades. Starr was their first truly elite signal-caller and had an amazing Hall of Fame career. During the Vince Lombardi era, Starr helped the Packers to five titles, including two Super Bowls. He also holds the unique accolade of winning three back-to-back championships. Not even Tom Brady can claim that.
The 1966 League MVP came to life in the postseason because he has the highest passer rating in playoff history. At 104.8, Starr was truly in a different class when it came to the business end of the football calendar. Meanwhile, fans remember him for the ‘quarterback sneak’ in the Ice Bowl against the Cowboys. Starr was charismatic, intelligent, and also tough as nails.
Patrick Mahomes will make the Hall of Fame one day. However, Dawson remains the gold standard of Kansas City quarterbacks after entering Canton in 1987. The former Purdue college star held every Chiefs’ QB record in the book before Mahomes broke onto the scene in 2018. He played a key role in one of the franchise’s greatest days when they won their first Super Bowl in 1970.
He also took home the MVP Award for his efforts that day in New Orleans. But that’s not the sole reason why he’s on this list. He still holds the franchise records for wins, passing yards, and touchdowns because he was elite. While Mahomes will probably overtake him, it must be remembered that Dawson did it before the league changed into what we know today.
Few quarterbacks can claim to possess an arm as powerful as Bradshaw. He led the Pittsburgh Steelers on some of their greatest days and showed up when it counted. Bradshaw was the first quarterback to become a four-time Super Bowl champion before a certain Tom Brady came along and broke his records.
But make no mistake, Bradshaw was brilliant in his own right. Those four rings came during a glorious six-year period and he became a two-time Super Bowl MVP in the process. He was the definition of a great leader because he called his own plays and produced decisive passes. A case in point came in Super Bowl X when Bradshaw had the winning touchdown pass.
The Super Bowl eluded Marino throughout his long NFL career but that doesn’t matter. His 17 seasons in the NFL saw him post some of the most jaw-dropping passing statistics fans had ever seen. Marino was the first quarterback to pass the 5,000 passing yard mark in a single season but he set many more records. No player had ever passed a career total of 50,000 yards before Marino.
Then he went even further and drove his yards up to a sensational 60,000. Marino only played in one Super Bowl final but lost against the 49ers. It’s impossible to hold that against him because his numbers are better than the majority of quarterbacks on this list. The Miami Dolphins were incredibly lucky that he stayed with them throughout his Hall of Fame because he was a force of nature.
The likes of Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles made Bears fans forget what it’s like to have an elite quarterback. Luckman stands apart as the greatest in Chicago’s history because of his glorious 12 seasons with the franchise. His craft and intelligence helped the Bears to four NFL Championships but they should have won another. Nonetheless, Luckman was an exceptional talent as his Hall of Fame status reveals.
Luckman and his offense were pioneers of the T-formation. He was the first quarterback to make this tactic so effective. His passing numbers might not appear amazing at first glance, but it must be remembered that this was a different era. Luckman was still a very effective ball handler and signal-caller before the sport developed into what it is today.
‘The Dodger’ defined what it meant to be a franchise quarterback for ‘America’s Team. ‘The navy curtailed the Heisman winner’s career by drafting him before he could turn pro. Finally, the 27-year-old returned from Vietnam and joined Dallas. Then, he became the starter three years later. Staubach won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and developed into an elite quarterback.
He deserves his high place on this list of Hall of Fame signal-callers because of his remarkable passing stats. Staubach led the league in most categories on several occasions and was a devastatingly effective scrambler. As well as breaking 20,000 passing yards, he also rushed for 2,264 with 20 touchdowns. The military may have been a positive influence on his discipline to help him earn a Hall of Fame spot.
Young had the unenviable task of replacing Joe Montana as the 49ers’ leader but he proved that he was up to the task. After landing in San Francisco from Tampa in 1987, he had a tough road to the starting spot. However, Young overcame injuries as well as the challenges of Joe Montana and Steve Bono to become the franchise QB1. The decision caused Montana to force an exit and put pressure on Young’s shoulders.
But it didn’t faze him. He went on to become a three-time Super Bowl winner with the Niners. Meanwhile, he developed into one of the most clinical passers the NFL has ever seen. Young led the league in completed and touchdown passes, as well as breaking passer ratings. In the end, he stood beside Montana as a franchise icon after a Hall of Fame career.
Most Cleveland fans won’t remember Graham because he played in the ’40s and ’50s. But old-timers remember him with fondness because he was an all-time great. His place in the Hall of Fame was never in dispute after he inspired the Browns to 10 straight title games. This probably looks like a typo because of Cleveland’s recent history, but there’s no mistake.
Graham spent 10 seasons with the Browns, leading them from the AAFC to the NFL. A three-time NFL Champion and NFL MVP, his influence on the franchise was profound. This was true of his entire career because he continued to inspire Cleveland late in his career. His performance against the Rams in his final game saw him toss a pair of touchdown passes as well as two rushing touchdowns of his own.
It’s easy to forget life before Aaron Rodgers, but Favre was equally brilliant. He played in 302 games over the course of 20 seasons before finally retiring in 2010. Arguably Favre should have won more than a single Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers but his personal achievements are ludicrous. He was the first QB to break the 70,000 passing yard mark as well as throw for 500 touchdowns.
Favre was also a machine of an athlete. He played in 299 consecutive games before finally missing one. The three-time NFL MVP retired as the league’s all-time leading passer. Furthermore, he was the first signal-caller to defeat every other NFL franchise. Favre’s career fizzled out in New York and Minnesota but his previous achievements sealed his Hall of Fame status.
Make no mistake, Elway is the king of Denver after spending his entire 16-year NFL career with the franchise. Then, to seal his love affair with the team, he entered their front office. Elway’s career statistics are breathtaking as he broke all kinds of records. He sealed his place in immortality with back-to-back Super Bowl wins but has already guaranteed his place in Canton.
Elway threw for over 50,000 yards with 300 touchdown passes. Fans also loved him because he was a powerhouse of a quarterback. The Broncos QB scored rushing touchdowns in four different Super Bowls. Elite running back Thurman Thomas was the only other player to achieve this feat. Elway places high on this list because of his personal statistics and franchise achievements.
Finally, Manning entered the Hall of Fame in 2021. This was inevitable because he was the best quarterback of his generation. A two-time Super Bowl winner, Manning inspired the Colts to victory in 2006. Then, the aging superstar repeated the same feat with the Denver Broncos in 2013. Meanwhile, he’s the only QB in history to lead two franchises to two Super Bowl appearances each.
Statistically, Manning’s record speaks for itself. The 14-time Pro Bowler broke records in passing yards, career passing touchdowns, and single-season passing touchdowns. He also has the most MVP award wins in NFL history. He set a whole bunch more but we don’t have space to celebrate all of his achievements here. Manning was truly a force of nature.
It’s fair to say that Unitas was the first true modern quarterback. The Baltimore Colts icon won four championships with his team, including Super Bowl V. Unitas threw more touchdown passes than any other quarterback of his era with 290. He was also a 10-time Pro Bowler and threw for over 40,000 passing yards throughout his glorious career.
People talk about Tom Brady’s late draft selection but Unitas took it to another level. The Pittsburgh Steelers picked him in the ninth round before cutting him. However, Unitas made a mockery of the Steelers after making a name for himself on the semi-pro scene. The Colts came in and he made his second chance count.’ Mr. Clutch’ was also one of the first true NFL superstars.
Fans of a certain vintage argue that Montana, not Tom Brady, is the greatest NFL quarterback ever. This is difficult to say, but it’s reasonable to call him the best in the Hall of Fame. ‘Joe Cool’ spent 15 seasons in the NFL and won Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers before a spell with the Chiefs. One of his most amazing records is the most Super Bowl passes without an interception. But he held many more.
Montana didn’t just produce fantastic numbers, he was a true gamechanger. Fans fondly remember his game-winning touchdown pass against Dallas in 1981. The legendary QB also maintained a 93.3 passer rating and produced numbers that stacked up against his greatest rivals. The three-time Super Bowl MVP tops this list because of his profound influence upon the Niners’ most dominant era.