The Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks

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mount rushmore
In the midst of the NFL offseason, cover32 debuts a series entitled, Mount Rushmore where various writers list the top 4 for the topic at hand. The Mount Rushmore series comes on the heels of the DoppelgangerRoundtable, and Debate series.

In today’s game, the quarterback is more valuable than ever. The league has become pass-first, making it nearly impossible to win a Super Bowl without a good quarterback.


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Coming off of a season which saw the New England Patriots win yet another Super Bowl, the conversation regarding the greatest signal-caller of all time has never been more relevant. With our Mount Rushmore series underway, why not bring that topic back for debate?

If one were to make a Mount Rushmore out of NFL quarterbacks, these four would be on it.

Tom Brady

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) yells while running onto the field prior to the Patriots’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you like it or not, Tom Brady is arguably the greatest player to ever step foot on a football field.

He will be turning 40 this August, but has shown no signs of slowing down. He ranks fourth all time in passing yards, as well as fourth in passing touchdowns. His 97.2 passer rating is the third highest of all time – second if you only count player who have been in the league for more than six seasons. He has also topped 4,000 yards eight times in his career.

Those stats are impressive, but the thing that stands out the most is Brady’s ability to win. He has the highest win-loss percentage of all time among full-time starting quarterbacks. He also has won five Super Bowls, which is more than any quarterback in history. Along with Charles Haley, Brady is one of two players to have ever won five Super Bowls.

As controversial as he may be, it’s tough to deny that Tom Brady would belong on a hypothetical Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks.


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Joe Montana

This Week in NFL History
Jan. 22, 1989; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana (left) and wide receiver Jerry Rice during Super Bowl XXIII. Rice caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ 23-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Joe Robbie Stadium. It was Montana’s third Super Bowl victory and the second for Rice, who was named Super Bowl MVP. Montana was drafted 82nd overall out of Notre Dame in 1979. Rice was drafted 16th overall out of Mississippi Valley State in 1985. Photo Credit: Bob Galbraith: Associated Press

If you don’t think Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, then odds are your choice is Joe Montana.

His individual statistics aren’t as great as Brady’s, but his big-game success is arguably the greatest in all of football. He and Terry Bradshaw are the only two quarterbacks with four or more Super Bowl appearances who never lost in the championship game.

Montana was consistent throughout much of his career: he had little to no regression when he came to Kansas City in the twilight of his career. He only played in all 16 games four times in his career, so his stats aren’t as good as they could’ve been. However, his playoff success helps propel him this high on the list.

Joe Cool was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro and a two-time MVP. His late-game heroics and overall success solidify Joe Cool’s spot on this list.

John Elway

Credit: The Denver Post

Before John Elway was the general manager leading the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, he was leading them to the Super Bowl on the field.

Elway was a big-armed gunslinger who could beat you through the air or on the ground. Not only did he finish sixth in passing yards and tenth in touchdowns, but he also finished in the top 10 among quarterbacks in all-time rushing yards. He made five Super Bowl appearances, which is the second-highest number among quarterbacks.

Although he started off with an 0-3 Super Bowl record, he eventually redeemed himself by winning the final two Super Bowls of his career. The former No. 1 pick out of Stanford was a stalwart of Denver’s offense for 16 seasons with very little drop off in production.

For those factors, Elway deserves a spot on this Mount Rushmore.

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws a pass for a two-point conversion against the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. It was his final pass of the game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning

Forget recency bias for a second. Sure, Peyton Manning’s last NFL season was horrendous, and sure, he only won his final Super Bowl because of his defense. But overall, he had one of the greatest careers in football history.

Manning is the all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and fourth-quarter comebacks. He is also fifth in pass completion percentage and sixth in passer rating. He made the Super Bowl four times, winning twice.

Another thing that makes Manning a legend is his consistency and durability. He played all 16 games in all but two seasons of his career. He topped 4,000 passing yards in 14 of his 18 seasons. And, up until his final season, he was dominant throughout his career.

Whether it be as a member of the Colts or Broncos, Manning was constantly one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Honorable Mentions

  • Drew Brees
  • Dan Marino
  • Johnny Unitas
  • Brett Favre

– Jacob Infante is the Social Media Director for cover32. He can be followed on Twitter @jacobinfante24.

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