“In addition to the hopes and dreams of his team, the quarterback carries the flag for entire cities, regions, and metaphorically, ways of life,” writes Kofi Bofah in his article from Wall St. Cheat Sheet, “The 10 Greatest NFL Quarterbacks of All Time” (December 2014). He continues:
“The pressure is unreal, considering the fact that sports-obsessed Americans look to the gridiron gladiator strength, controlled violence, and an escape from the routine fare of the daily grind. The quarterback is viewed as the one member of the entourage that combines leadership, intelligence, and strategic thought alongside brute force to control games and emerge victorious…
“…Sports fans, of course, recognize that the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time emerge as icons that define cities, dynasties, and eras…indeed, the term “Quarterback” entices the imagination to personify ‘all that is right’ with America.”
It is in the spirit of excitement and anticipation of Super Bowl XLIX that we put forth ATG’s top quarterback picks from the past, followed by our favorite quotes of theirs:
Johnny Unitas (1933-2002)
Born near Pittsburgh, PA, in college he played for the University of Louisville after being rejected by Notre Dame, his dream school, for being too skinny. In 1956, after being let go by the Steelers’ draft in 1955, he signed with the Baltimore Colts #19. Nicknamed “The Golden Arm”, he had a 17 year career with the Colts and is best remembered for what has been called “The Greatest Game Ever” in 1958 leading the Colts to a sudden-death win against the New York Giants (23-17). The game, televised by NBC, can be credited with the rise in popularity of football becoming a favorite American pastime. He led the Colts to 1 Super bowl Crown and 3 NFL Championships. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
“There are no shortcuts and no magic carpet methods to success. It’s nothing but hard work. And its teamwork…everybody’s got to be on the same page.” –Johnny Unitas
Roger Staubach (1942- )
Born in 1942 in Cincinnati, Ohio, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy where he received the Heisman Trophy in 1963. Upon graduation he went on to serve in Vietnam. He joined the Dallas Cowboys when he was 27 years old in 1969, where he developed a reputation for “making the big play.” He led the team to two Super Bowl Championships: Super Bowl VI & XII. He was Super Bowl MVP (VI) and became the first of four players to win both the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP (Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allan and Desmond Howard were the others). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
“Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something…hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.” –Roger Staubach
Joe Namath (1943- )
Born 1943 in Beaver Falls, PA (north of Pittsburgh), he played for Paul “Bear” Bryant (1943-1983) (University of Alabama) who called Namath “the greatest athlete I ever coached.” In his 13-year career with the New York Jets, he led the team to a championship in Super Bowl XIII against the Baltimore Colts and was named MVP. Nicknamed “Broadway Joe” for his flamboyant lifestyle he was the first quarterback to pass more than 4,000 yards in one season and was listed in 1999 #96 on Sporting News’ list of 100 Greatest Football players. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
“How you recover from what life’s throwing at you is what matters.” –Joe Namath
Terry Bradshaw (1948- )
Born in 1948 in Louisiana, he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. Bradshaw was known for his powerful arm and for calling his own plays, as well as for his field leadership. He led the team to an unprecedented 4 Super Bowl Championships and was Super Bowl MVP twice: Super Bowl XIII & Super Bowl XIV.
“You’ve got to stand up and do your own battles. My daddy taught me that a long time ago, that you fight your own battles.” –Terry Bradshaw
Joe Montana (1956- )
Montana was born in 1956 in the coal-mining town of Monongahela, PA (south of Pittsburgh). Nicknamed “the Comeback Kid” or “Cool Joe”, he played for the San Francisco 49er’s from 1979-1992. Known for his “calm under pressure” demeanor, he led the 49er’s to four Super Bowls and was Super Bowl MVP three times. He was also deemed the #1 “clutch” quarterback of all time” by Sports Illustrated.
“Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. There is, I believe, no other way to live.” –Joe Montana
Dan Marino (1961- )
Born in 1961 in Pittsburgh, PA, he played for the Miami Dolphins from 1983-1999. Remembered for his “quick release” and his powerful arms, he led his team to the AFC Championship in 1984. Though the Super Bowl title eluded him, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
“I just try to be myself, whatever that is. I don’t think about how I’ll be remembered. I just want to be consistent over a long period of time. That’s what the great players do.” –Dan Marino
Our thoughts on #deflategate? See here.