Ranking the top five quarterbacks in Giants franchise history

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Feb 6, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning during the Super Bowl most valuable player and winning head coach press conference at the Super Bowl XLVI media center at the J.W. Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are one of the NFL’s premier franchises.


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Big Blue ranks third behind the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears all-time in league championships with eight. The Giants won NFL Championships in 1927, 1934, 1938, and 1956 as well as Super Bowls XXI, XXV, XLII, and XLVI.

The Giants also appeared in the 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, and 1963 NFL Championship Games and Super Bowl XXXV, all losing efforts.

Defense has long been the hallmark of the New York Football Giants, so much that quarterback play has often been overlooked or flat out ignored. Some of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks have worn Giants uniforms for all or a significant portion of their careers.

Forty-seven quarterbacks have started for the Giants in their existence but only a select few are the best of the best to ever suit up for Big Blue. Individual success is only one component that makes a quarterback success. The team’s success must also be taken into consideration.

With that being said, here are the top five quarterbacks in Giants history:

5. Fran Tarkenton (1967-71)

Tarkenton, who arrived via a trade from the Minnesota Vikings, is a Hall of Fame quarterback but a polarizing one to Giants fans. The Giants never made a postseason appearance with Tarkenton behind center. At the same time, Tarkenton’s performance on the field cannot be overlooked.

In five seasons, Tarkenton threw for 13,905 yards, 103 touchdowns, and just 72 interceptions. He still ranks fourth in franchise history in touchdowns and fifth in passing yards more than 40 years after his last game for the Giants.

In Tarkenton’s day, the NFL regular season was 14 games long, which makes his stats even more impressive.

Tarkenton made the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons with the Giants. His best season came in 1970 when the Giants overcame an 0-3 start to win nine of their next 10 games. They entered the final game of the season with a chance to win the division but were soundly thrashed by the Los Angeles Rams 31-3 to finish with a 9-5 record, just missing the playoffs.

The 1970 season was the closest the Giants came to making the postseason during their 17-year playoff drought from 1964-81.

Tarkenton was traded back to the Vikings in 1972. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowls (VIII, IX, XI), losing them all. Tarkenton was the NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 1975. He would be higher on this list if he had that type of success with the Giants.

4. Charlie Conerly (1948-61)

“Chucking” Charlie Conerly is often overlooked in the annuls of Giants history because his highlights are all in black and white. His achievements under center for Big Blue still hold more than a half century after he hung up his cleats.

Conerly threw for 19,488 yards and 173 touchdowns, retiring as the Giants’ all-time leader in both categories. What is surprising is that he still ranks third in franchise history in passing yards and touchdowns and fourth in completions (1,418).

Conerly led the NFL in passer rating (102.7) in 1959 and was named NFL Most Valuable Player. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1950, 1956) and a three-time First-team All-Pro (1956, 1957, 1959).

The Giants reached three NFL Championship Games in four seasons (1956, 1958, 1959) with Conerly at quarterback. The high point was a 47-7 rout of the Chicago Bears in the 1956 NFL Championship that was the Giants’ last league title until Super Bowl XXI.

Conerly’s success is often attributed to the offensive coordinator the Giants hired in 1954, a former Army assistant named Vince Lombardi. He also held the record for most interceptions (167) at the time of his retirement.

Giants founder Wellington Mara often said Conerly belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Charlie is the best player who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Mara said. “He has better numbers than some quarterbacks who are there.”

Conerly’s No. 42 was retired in 1962. He is one of three Giants quarterbacks to have their number retired.

3. Y.A. Tittle (1961-64)

Yelberton Abraham Tittle Jr. spent the last four seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Giants. His place in Giants history cannot be denied although his time as the Giants’ quarterback is relatively short.

In his first season with the Giants, Tittle threw for 2,272 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He followed up his 1961 season with single-season franchise records with 3.224 yards and 33 touchdowns in 1962. Tittle then threw for 3,145 yards and 36 touchdowns in 1963.

Tittle’s Hall of Fame teammate, Frank Gifford, described Tittle as having “the attitude of a high school kid with the brain of a computer”.

He threw the ball with a sidearm, almost underhanded position, something that was unheard of in his day. Despite the perceived quirkiness of his throwing motion, Tittle had a quick release and was very accurate.

Tittle tied an NFL record by throwing seven touchdown passes in a single game and set a the single-season touchdown record during his tenure with the Giants. He led the Giants to NFL Championship Game appearances in 1962 and 1963, losses to Vince Lombardi’s Packers and George Halas’ Bears respectively.

Tittle was a charter member of the New York Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

2. Phil Simms (1979-93)

Phil Simms was the right quarterback for Bill Parcells. He didn’t have the eye-popping statistics of his contemporaries nor does he have an individual play that stands out. Simms was steady, reliable, dependable. These qualities helped the Giants end a 30-year championship drought.

Simms’ biggest moment was on the NFL’s biggest stage. In Super Bowl XXI, he completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. His completion percentage (88 percent) and passer rating (150.9) are Super Bowl records that still stand three decades later.

Super Bowl XXI was Simms’ biggest moment by it was by no means his only big moment.

In 1984, he became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 4,000 yards (4,044). He led the NFC in quarterback rating (92.7) in 1990 before a broken foot sidelined him for the rest of the season, a season that ended with a Giants victory in Super Bowl XXV with backup Jeff Hostetler behind center.

Simms threw for 33,462 yards and 199 touchdowns in his Giants career, second all-time in both categories. The mantra “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is especially true when speaking of Simms’ career. His No. 11 was retired by the Giants. The fact that Simms hasn’t been inducted into the Pro Football of Fame is confusing considering his resume.

1. Eli Manning (2004-present)

Elisha Nelson Manning is perhaps the most underappreciated quarterback in NFL history. All he’s done is put together a Canton-worthy resume but most people who aren’t Big Blue fans will find something…anything…wrong with him.

All he’s done is become the Giants’ all-time leader in passing yards (48,214), touchdown passes (320), completions (4,072), attempts (6,825) and wins (108).

Despite not being a very mobile quarterback (and playing his entire career in the Black and Blue division), Easy Eli has more consecutive starts at his position (199 and counting) than any other quarterback not named Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Manning is eighth all-time in passing yards and seventh all-time in passing touchdowns in NFL history.

He has championships too: victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. The Super Bowl XLII victory was against the mighty 18-0 New England Patriots, one of North American professional sports’ greatest upsets. In fact, he has more league championships than the three Hall of Fame quarterbacks on this list…combined.

He’s one of four quarterbacks with at least 45,000 passing yards, 300 touchdowns, four Pro Bowl appearances, and two Super Bowls. One of them, John Elway, is already in the Hall of Fame and the other two, his brother Peyton and Tom Brady (the guy he beat twice) will be in Canton one day.

He’s also one of five quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl MVPs. Three of them (Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, and Joe Montana) are already in the Hall of Fame and the fourth, Brady (the guy he beat twice) will be there one day as well.

Eli Manning is the greatest quarterback in Giants history…and it’s not even close.

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