Second only to the U.S. President, the NFL quarterback is the most glamorous, if not important, job in the country. In addition to the hopes and dreams of his team, the quarterback carries the flag for entire cities, regions, and metaphorically, ways of life. The pressure is unreal, considering the fact that sports-obsessed Americans look to the gridiron gladiator for 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.
NFL teams sell their collective souls to trade up at the draft, or wheel and deal at the free agent marketplace to land that once-in-a-lifetime franchise quarterback opportunity. Certainly, today’s NFL fanatics are privy to the circus atmosphere that has surrounded Cleveland Browns’ rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. The outrageous hype is largely based on potential — for now, Manziel is the solid number 2 behind incumbent veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Sports fans, of course, recognize that the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time emerge as icons that define cities, dynasties, and eras. In order to be defined as great, the signal caller must combine top-shelf mechanics with game-time smarts and decision making. Beyond the nuts and bolts of execution, the quarterback must have “it.” Best described as the ability to win, “it” is the poise to lead comeback drives, refuse to back down from raging linebackers, and inspire offensive linemen and teammates to lay it on the line and go to war, day in and day out. Further, “it” is a style and flair that matches success on the field, with the ideals of a nation off the field.
Indeed, the term “quarterback” entices the imagination to personify “all that is right” with America. Let’s introduce the top ten greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time after the jump. All stats are from Pro-Football-Reference.com.