Editor’s note: As part of NFL’s Greatest Quarterback, fans will decide the best quarterback in team, division, conference and league history.
We’re one step closer to determining the NFL’s greatest quarterback now that we have the results for the best signal callers in Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers history. Now, we’ll determine who’s the best among those choices.
The race couldn’t have been closer for the Bengals as it came down to just one vote. Boomer Esiason and Carson Palmer each finished with 33 percent, but Esiason emerged. Ken Anderson was close as well, finishing with 31 percent of the vote.
Browns legend Otto Graham ran away with the lead against his Cleveland competition, finishing with 71 percent. Bernie Kosar finished second at 20 percent. For the Ravens, there wasn’t much competition for Joe Flacco, who finished with 73 percent, though Super Bowl winner Trent Dilfer came in second at 18 percent.
It was a two-man race for the Steelers, but four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw beat out two-time champion Ben Roethlisberger 75 to 23. “Slash” Kordell Stewart and Neil O’Donnell each finished with one percent each.
So between Esiason, Graham, Flacco and Bradshaw, who will win out as the greatest in AFC North history? We brought in some experts to make their case for their team’s player.
There’s only one Super Bowl winning quarterback in this division in Terry Bradshaw. That might end the discussion for many right there. He was the signal caller as the Steelers became the powerhouse in the NFL.
Boomer Esiason didn’t bring the Bengals from the depths of irrelevancy, like other quarterbacks on this list because he took over for Ken Anderson. Esiason picked up pretty much where Anderson left off and ran the hurry up, west coast offense to perfection. He won league MVP and brought the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl in the same season. He had the chance to do what Anderson’s team failed to do, beat Joe Montana and the 49ers.
Boomer and the Bengals had a chance, but failed to beat the greatest team, coach and quarterback of that generation. A definitive failure, but nothing to hang your head about 25 years later.
— Joe Goodberry, Cincy Jungle
When asked to name the best quarterbacks of all time, former Browns quarterback Otto Graham might not be on the tip of the tongue for most modern day NFL fans. But it’s hard to argue with what Graham was able to accomplish playing in Cleveland under legendary coach Paul Brown from the team’s inception in 1946 to Graham’s retirement in 1955.
During that span, in the pre-Super Bowl era, Graham led the Browns to the league championship game nine times, winning seven. From 1946-1949, the Browns won the All-American Football Conference Championship every year. His 112.1 passer rating in 1946 set a pro football record that stood until Joe Montana broke it in 1989.
In 1950, the Browns made the controversial move to the “more dominant” NFL. They won the NFL Championship that year and also in 1954 and 1955. Graham never missed a single game as the starting quarterback of the Browns and finished his career in Cleveland with a 114-20-4 record. He went 9-3 all time in the playoffs, was voted to the Pro Bowl five times and was named an All-Pro nine times over his career. In an era when the NFL was still largely a running league, Graham threw for 23,584 yards, 174 touchdowns and compiled an 86.6 career passer rating. Graham was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. His jersey No. 14 has been retired.
— Ryan Alton, DraftBrowns.com
Joe Flacco had one of the most impressive rookie seasons in NFL history, starting out of the gate in 2008 and leading his team to an 11-5 record while throwing nearly 3,000 yards. Flacco’s Ravens have made the playoffs in all five seasons of his NFL career.
The Ravens’ current quarterback is 8-4 in the postseason. Flacco has started every Ravens game for five years straight now, and has led the team to a 52-26 record. Flacco will lead the Ravens to his first Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
Of all the AFC North quarterbacks in the running for the top passer in NFL history, Terry Bradshaw has to be at the top. Boomer Esiason? Yes, he was league MVP and led the Bengals to a Super Bowl, but they didn’t win. As of this writing, Joe Flacco has yet to earn a Super Bowl ring. And Otto Graham? He’s the only one to rival Bradshaw when it comes to postseason success, but it’s hard to say that a pre-merger quarterback is better than one to lead his team to four Super Bowl wins in the modern era.
There was nothing all that pretty about Bradshaw’s game, but pretty doesn’t matter — results do. And the four Lombardi Trophies Bradshaw help bring to Pittsburgh is all the argument he needs.
— Andrea Hangst, Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer