It’s easy to forget now, but 2014 was a historic season in the annals of the National Football League, as future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning threw the 500th touchdown pass of his legendary career. Currently, another Manning stands on the cusp of a similar career milestone, as Eli Manning has managed to find himself with 298 career touchdowns to his name, just two away from something that only seven other NFL quarterbacks have managed to do before. Who are they (aside from Peyton, of course)? Lets take a look back at the top of the record books and see what kind of famous and familiar names we find.
7. John Elway – 300
Our list begins with another one-time face of the Denver Bronco, former quarterback, and current general manager John Elway. Elway, the man who brought Peyton Manning to the Mile High City, threw for 300 touchdowns in his 16-year Hall of Fame career, all of them with the same franchise. He was known for bringing the Broncos late, leading his team to 47 fourth quarter comeback wins, and finished his playing days with a pair of Super Bowl rings.
6. Fran Tarkenton – 342
Fran Tarkenton threw for double-digit touchdowns in 17 of the 18 years he played professional football, including a career-high 29 in 1967. Tarkenton finished with 342 scoring passes in all while playing for the Vikings, the Giants, and then the Vikings again. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986.
5. Dan Marino – 420
Dan Marino threw 420 scoring passes during his 17-year career, all of them for the Miami Dolphins. Marino was a star from the get-go, leading the league in passing touchdowns in his second, third, and fourth campaigns (48, 30, and 44 touchdowns, respectively). He never threw more than 30 in a year again. Marino was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
4. Tom Brady – 428
One of just two active quarterbacks among the top five all time touchdown leaders, Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady has thrown for 428 touchdown passes (and counting, now that he’s officially back from his suspension). The four-time champion has won 77% of his regular-season starts, has started all 16 games in 11 of the Pats’ last 12 full seasons, and has guided New England to a winning season in each of those years. He threw 50 scoring strikes in the 2007 campaign, when the Patriots didn’t lose a regular sesason game.
3. Drew Brees – 438
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has thrown 438 touchdown passes during his 17-year career, first with the Chargers and now with the Saints. Brees seems to be getting better with age, racking up three straight years with at least 39 touchdowns after never having topped 34 in a season before that. Brees, who led the Saints to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV, will likely end his illustrious career even higher on this list.
2. Brett Favre – 508
The ex-Packers/Jets/Vikings gunslinger now only sits atop the league record books for most interceptions ever, but, until very recently, had also thrown the most touchdowns of any NFL player ever, with 508. Sadly for Favre, he’ll be keeping one record quite a bit longer than the other,. Favre threw 112 scores in a three-year span from 1995-1997, with those seasons representing the best touchdown totals of his career. The Super Bowl XXXI champion was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, but he would have been in a lot sooner if not for his penchant for un-retiring (which merely delayed the inevitable).
1. Peyton Manning – 539
Like we mentioned earlier, The aforementioned Peyton Manning entered 2014 at No. 2 on this list with 503 touchdown passes, a number he easily obliterated that season. Manning threw nearly 400 touchdowns with the Colts from 1998-2010, and managed to throw for another 140 with his second new franchise. Manning was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLI with Indianapolis, and racked up scores of accolades during his four seasons in the Mile High City. He also became the first starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl for two different clubs with a Broncos victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, 17 seasons after he made his NFL debut.
Statistics Courtesy of Pro Football Reference.