Editor’s note: As part of NFL’s Greatest Quarterback, fans will decide the best quarterback in team, division, conference and league history.
The results are in the AFC East and we expect a close race for the best quarterback in division history.
For the Patriots, Tom Brady came in first with 94 percent of the votes. Drew Bledsoe and Steve Grogan tied for second with two percent. Jim Kelly won in a landslide for the Bills, finishing with 76 percent of the vote. In a shocker, Doug Flutie finished second with 13 percent over Jack Kemp and Joe Ferguson.
Joe Namath finished first for the Jets with 82 percent of the vote. Chad Pennington received nine percent of the vote to finish second. The Dolphins had the closest race of the AFC East. Dan Marino won with 60 percent of the vote, but Bob Griese was close behind with 38 percent. Jay Fiedler and David Woodley finished with just 16 votes combined, each taking one percent.
So the race is on between Brady, Kelly, Namath and Marino — four of the most iconic quarterbacks in football history. So who is the best?
We had experts from the Jets and Dolphins chime in to make a case for Namath and Marino.
When people talk about Jim Kelly they often forget just how good a quarterback he was and what he meant to the Buffalo Bills and the NFL as a whole. Many people want to talk about his failure to win a Super Bowl and how that makes him and the Bills one of the world’s biggest lovable losers. However, what you really need to think about is how he’s the only quarterback who has ever taken his team to four straight Super Bowls.
People want to throw the word dynasty around especially about the Patriots and Brady, but I have yet to see Brady assert the dominance that Kelly and the Bills showed from 1990 to 1993. Kelly also pioneered the offense that has given birth to the hurry up and spread-them-out style that many NFL teams currently run.
Kelly versus Marino will always go down as one of the NFL’s best rivalries and its made even better since Kelly owned Marino. Namath is a nice name but he never showed the dominance any of the other three did. So when I’m asked who the best quarterback from the AFC East ever was the answer is simple, it was, is, and shall remain Jim Kelly.
— Matt Elder, BuffaloBillsDraft.com
Sure, Joe Namath does not have the exuberant passing stats that players like Dan Marino and Tom Brady have. But he was tough, having played for over a decade in an era in which there were virtually no rules to protect the quarterback. He threw for over 4,000 yards in 1967, which was almost unheard of in that era.
Simply put, the NFL would not be the league it is today if it were not for Namath. Namath and the Jets’ win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III (in which he infamously guaranteed a win) sparked a union with the AFL and NFL to eventually create the juggernaut league the NFL has evolved into.
But Namath’s legend does not end with one game. He was the first player to add glamour to the quarterback position by the way he acted off the field. “Broadway Joe” paved the way for other quarterbacks to be, well, superstars. Whenever Brady slips on his Uggs to go out with his supermodel girlfriend, he has Namath to thank for that.
Stats may not tell the whole story in evaluating quarterbacks, but the gaudy numbers Dan Marino was able to put up should not be overlooked. He averaged over 250 yards per game, and over 4,057 yards per season, averaging nearly 28 touchdown passes a year. And as for his ability to play in “big games?” Try 51 game-winning drives in his career, eight playoff wins, and eight games of 250+ passing yards in the playoffs.
He only had one real Super Bowl run, but he was one of the most impressive quarterbacks to watch in NFL history. Quarterbacks still get compared to his quick release and deep touch — two of the most important skill sets for the current NFL quarterback. Marino didn’t get the hardware, but as a true passer, he’s not only in the argument for the best quarterback of all time but one of the few leading the charge.
The clear answer here is Tom Brady. He’s the only member of this group to have taken his team to five Super Bowls, and he’s the only one with three Super Bowl victories. It’s not just the win category that Brady dominates either.
He’s an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro, two-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP. His 2007 season was one of the greatest of all time, and his 2010 season wasn’t too far behind when he had just four interceptions all season two years removed from knee surgery.
Brady has also evolved as the game has done the same. He started his career as a game manager, pushing the Patriots along with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to win the Super Bowl in 2001. Today he’s one of the most prolific passers of the passing era regularly eclipsing 4,000 yards with 30-plus touchdowns.
Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Joe Namath were great, but they didn’t have the same overall presence that Brady possesses with statistics and team achievements.