At Some Point Did Every NFL team have a Good-to-Great QB?

I believe Colin Cowherd claimed this was the case, with the sole exception of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (He discounts Steve Young, who didn’t play there long, and wasn’t that good when he was there, if I recall correctly.) He has a strong case for the Bucs, but claiming that every other NFL team had, at some point, a good to great QB seems wrong. Do you agree or disagree?

13 thoughts on “At Some Point Did Every NFL team have a Good-to-Great QB?

  1. The first team that came to mind for me was Detroit Lions, but I was thinking of the years before Stafford. Stafford would probably qualify as a good-to-great QB.

    I liked Jim McMahon, and he probably qualifies, but he had one or two good years–but besides him, I think it’s been pretty dismal.

    Am I missing any teams?

  2. How far back are we going?

    Let’s say to qualify though, the QB had to be a top 8 guy in his time (so in the top 25% of the league). I cannot remember, but I would be surprised if McMahon would qualify under that stipulation.

    1. In our lifetime.

      Who would be better than McMahon–and let’s say, specifically, in ’85? Elway, Marino, Montana, Fouts, Kelly. That’s five. Some other potential good QBs at that time (I think):

      Ken O’Brien
      Danny White
      Boomer Esiason or Ken Anderson
      Phil Simms

      Who am I missing?

  3. 1985 QBs (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1985/passing.htm)

    Pro Football Reference ranks the top 10:
    Elway
    Marino
    Krieg
    Tommy Kramer
    Simms
    Montana
    O’Brien
    Jaworski
    Lomax (no, really)
    Danny White

    Marc Wilson at 15
    McMahon at 21…right behind 36-yr-old Lynn Dickey.
    Walter Payton at 67. Marcus Allen at 69. 🙂

    EDIT: Oh. Hahahaha. I just noticed that the rankings default to pass attempts. Which is a silly way to rank the QBs.

    If you go by QBR (a stat I hate but it’s probably the best one in this table):

    O’Brien
    Esiason
    Montana
    Fouts
    Marino
    Bill Kenney
    McMahon
    Dieter Brock
    White
    Lomax (no, really)

    Elway was 11-5 but ranked 17.
    Wilson was 11-2 but ranked 24.
    Ken O’Brien’s league-leading 96.2 would rank him 12th in 2019 behind Deshaun Watson and ahead of Aaron Rodgers.

    By the way: in 1985 there were only 28 teams (we’ve since added the new Browns, Panthers, Jaguars, and Texans). So to be in the top 25% in 1985 you’d have to be in the top 7. McMahon just makes the cut.

    1. Lomax making it on both of those lists is not surprising. I want to say he and Roy Green wracked up a lot of yards. They were a really good 1-2 combo, especially going deep. Would Lomax qualify as a good QB? For example, if Kurt Warner never played for the Cardinals, would we say they had at least one good-to-great QB? Lomax is close call for me. I guess I’d say he was good. What about Jake Plummer, or Jim Hart? (I barely remember Hart, so I can’t really comment.)

      I remember Kenney, and I think he was solid. He’d be a close call, too. I remember Tommy Kramer, too, whom I kinda liked.

      Dieter-Brock? Was he the Rams QB? I don’t remember him being all that good.

  4. In our lifetime is a loooooong time. We’re already at Super Bowl fifty-something, and the Cowboys beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XII, which I’m assuming we all watched.

    AFC East
    Patriots — Brady
    Bills — Kelly
    Jets — O’Brien, I guess, but you could argue Sanchez too
    Dolphins — Marino

    AFC North
    Steelers — Bradshaw
    Browns — Ohhhh here’s your exception
    Browns/Ravens — Kosar
    Oilers/Titans — Stabler (yes, I’m picking him over Moon)

    AFC South
    Jaguars — Brunell
    Colts — Manning
    Texans — Watson
    Titans — (above)

    AFC West
    Raiders — Stabler
    Broncos — Elway
    Chiefs — Mahomes
    Chargers — Fouts

    NFC East
    Cowboys — Staubach
    Eagles — Jaworski
    Giants — Manning
    Skins — Theismann

    NFC South
    Buccaneers — Brady (we’ll see?)
    Saints — Brees
    Panthers — Newton
    Falcons — Ryan

    NFC North
    Packers — Rodgers
    Lions — Stafford
    Vikings — Moon
    Bears — McMahon

    NFC West
    Seahawks — Wilson
    49ers — Montana
    Rams — Warner
    Cardinals — Warner

    Conclusion: Cowherd is wrong unless he’s counting the old Browns and the new Browns as the same team. In which case he would have to count the old Oilers and the current Texans as the same team, which is absurd.

  5. Jets — O’Brien, I guess, but you could argue Sanchez too

    I agree with O’Brien–he qualifies as good to me. (UC Davis grad!) But not Sanchez–even when he had decent years with them. He was a game-manager at best in my opinion, and I wouldn’t call him a really good one. I think I’d choose Richard Todd over Sanchez. Two others, for sure: Chad Pennington and Vinny Testaverde. Esiason played there, too, for more than one year, I want to say. All three of them are better than Sanchez.

    Browns — Ohhhh here’s your exception

    You’re treating them as the team that started after the Ravens left I assume? I wasn’t really doing that. I mean, when you look at the all-time records for the Browns, do you cut off the players that played prior to their return?

    Which QB would you choose that played on the Ravens? Lamar Jackson? Flacco? McNair? What if Jackson flames out like RGIII, would he still qualify?

    Oilers/Titans — Stabler (yes, I’m picking him over Moon)

    Yeah, I wouldn’t do that. Stabler was on the decline at that point, too.

    Conclusion: Cowherd is wrong unless he’s counting the old Browns and the new Browns as the same team. In which case he would have to count the old Oilers and the current Texans as the same team, which is absurd.

    If the team that “re-started” in Houston was named the Oilers, then, yes, you’d lump the old and new teams together. If the “re-started” team in Cleveland chose a different name, I wouldn’t lump them in with the old Browns. The Titans and Texans are “new” teams–they’re separate from the Oilers to my mind. Or is there a problem with this approach that I’m not noticing?

  6. If we go with Don’s top 8 criteria, I think Sanchez qualifies for at least two years. I’m not exactly saying he’s their best QB ever, but if O’Brien didn’t exist, you could still argue Cowherd’s point with Sanchez.

    For all-time Browns records, I think you have to go with Browns-Ravens records and new Browns records. Two separate teams.

    On the other hand, if Ravens history begins in 1996, I suppose I can live with it. We can think of it as a new team, but I never have. I’ll have to get used to it. A city change PLUS a name change makes it a new team, even if owner and players are the same? Give me time to adjust. In that case the Ravens winning the Super Bowl in their fourth year of existence makes them the most successful expansion team in NFL history, I think. Although the league didn’t expand when they moved, so we have to call them something else.

    This means (as you suggest later) the Titans came into existence in 1999, and the team we think of as the Oilers existed from 1960 to 1998 in three cities (Houston, Memphis, Nashville), and no longer exists. You could argue that (like Kurt Warner), Steve McNair is the best quarterback in the history of two franchises.

    I don’t think the team thinks of itself that way. Warren Moon, George Blanda, and Steve McNair are all in the Oilers-Titans hall of fame. 34 and 1 (among others) are retired Titans numbers.

  7. Sanchez would not be the top 8 of his time, would he? Man, I’d be shocked if that were true–going but whatever reasonable QB metric or evaluation. Or are you thinking about his best season? Even then, I’d be a little surprised if he were in the top quartile.

    I don’t think the team thinks of itself that way. Warren Moon, George Blanda, and Steve McNair are all in the Oilers-Titans hall of fame. 34 and 1 (among others) are retired Titans numbers.

    That’s a little more understandable because there isn’t another Oilers team. I doubt this would still be true if the Texans were called the Oilers.

    1. Ohhh well when we were talking about McMahon we were only looking at one season. I was thinking Sanchez might have been a top 8 QB for two years.

    2. I was thinking Sanchez might have been a top 8 QB for two years.

      OK, I see where you’re coming from–and I assume you’re basing this on stats. All I know is that I would put McMahon, when healthy, far above Sanchez. I would put Testaverde, Esiason, and Pennington above him as well.

      Am I wrong in thinking Sanchez was a slightly better game manager than Trent Dilfer?

      1. Well just to be clear, I wasn’t always trying to name the best QB each team has ever had. For a lot of teams, the best QB was just the obvious mention. For a few, I favored players I’m fond of. But each time I think I satisfied the good-to-great criteria.

    3. Yeah, I didn’t think you were naming the best for each team. But Testaverde, Esiason, and Pennington came up because they played on the Jets, and I think they were good QBs.

      Who are some comparable QBs, from any team, with Sanchez at his best? Flacco at his best? Cousins? What about someone like Kerry Collins with the Giants?

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