The quarterback position is the most important role in football, and the best ones are capable of carrying the weight of an entire roster on their backs. An influx of talent at the position has proven to be in the NFL’s good hands moving forward, and there are a few rivalries brewing among the league’s elite young stars.
It should come as no surprise that countless significant quarterback rivalries feature players in the same division for most of their careers, as they become well-accustomed to seeing each other opposing sidelines. However, this list is not limited to those instances, as feuds can in many ways.
10 Matt Ryan & Drew Brees
No quarterbacks in NFL history have gone head-to-head as many times as Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, as the two NFC South stalwarts have faced off 23 times. The rivalry between the Saints and the Falcons has intensified over the years with their respective franchises at the helm, and they certainly lost no love between their fanbases.
The aspect of this rivalry that made it special was that neither team had a major advantage over the other, as Drew Brees held only a slight edge in the all-time series with 14 wins (to Ryan’s nine), but one could argue that Ryan played better when going head-to-head. The Few signal-callers took their offense as good as these two, and they were equally capable of taking over the game at a moment’s notice. The only thing preventing them from being higher on this list is that they have never met in the playoffs, as each franchise went through their tenures during the rebuilding phase.
9 Tony Romo & Eli Manning
It seems inconceivable that a quarterback rivalry between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys could fly under the radar, but that’s the case with Tony Romo and Eli Manning. The two signal-callers faced off 17 times during their incredible careers, and Romo came out in the top 10 of those games. They were held in similar stands during their time in the league, which was reflected in their matchups against one another, as they had relatively similar numbers.
While the pride of the CBS commentary booth may have won more games, it was Manning who came out victorious in important clashes, as the G-Men defeated Dallas in crucial matchups both years before they went on to win the Super Bowl. Romo may have had more individual success during his career, but there may not be a more clutch quarterback with a big game than Manning on the line.
8 Troy Aikman & Steve Young
The Cowboys and 49ers were two of the league’s top teams throughout the ’90s, which led them to face off in some important contests, including three straight meetings in the NFC Championship from 1992 to 1994. It should come as no surprise that they developed. During a deep-rooted rivalry this time, and their quarterbacks, Steve Young and Troy Aikman, were front and center for it.
Aikman led Dallas to two Super Bowl victories after defeating the 49ers in the first two title games, and Young finally got his monkey off in his third matchup. The Cowboys signal-caller could lead the all-time series 4-3, but Young proved to be a more dynamic player and prolific quarterback, as he was a perfect fit for San Francisco’s West Coast offense and led the league in passer rating in the NFL. record six times
7 Bart Starr & Johnny Unitas
Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas, who both started their careers in 1956, were in a league of their own when it came to the quarterbacks of the ’60s, and they combined for eight NFL Championships from 1958 to 1968. The legendary signal-callers might never Has faced off in the playoffs (the NFL initiated the playoff format in ’67), but he still met a whopping 16 times, with each quarterback coming out in the top eight matchups.
While Unitas put up better numbers throughout his career, both passers were remarkably similar in their ability to manage the game, which was a factor in their sustained dominance during the period. There was (and still is) a raging debate over which quarterback was superior, and each side has a valid argument. Starr played lights out in the postseason later in his career, while the Unitas’ passing proficiency changed the way quarterback’s played the position.
6 Sammy Baugh & Sid Luckman
Speaking of reinventing the quarterback position, Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman were well ahead of their time, as they were both passing game pioneers who helped it become what it is. The legendary signal-callers were two of the most prolific passers in the game, and they led their respective franchises (Washington and Chicago, respectively) to multiple NFL Championship victories during their careers.
Baugh may have been a better all-around player (he also played on defense as a safety and was one of the best punters in the league), but Luckman had Washington’s number when they went head-to-head. He had the edge in their all-time series 7-4 and notably beat Baugh’s squad down 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship. Luckman is still considered the best quarterback in the Bears franchise in history, the only franchise without a 4,000-yard passer.
5 Bobby Layne & Otto Graham
The Lions and Browns were two of the NFL’s top powerhouses throughout the 1950s, and they met in three-straight NFL Championship matchups from 1952 to 1954. It should come as no surprise that they featured two of the best quarterbacks in the league over that span. in Otto Graham (who played for Cleveland) and Bobby Layne (who played for Detroit .. until he didn’t).
Layne’s Lions came out on top in the first two championship matchups, and he was Graham’s number two both during his regular-season clashes during his career. Nevertheless, the Browns signal-caller was a more prolific and talented quarterback, and he solidified the rivalry with a 56-10 beatdown in Detroit in the ’54 Championship Game.
4 Tom Brady & Eli Manning
Tom Brady may be the greatest quarterback to lace up his cleats, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he still wished Giselle up in the middle of the night after having a nightmare of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants legend dashed the hearts of Patriots fans when they killed their perfect season with an upset win in Super Bowl 42, and it followed up with another victory in the big game four years later.
It’s ironic Manning came out victorious in both of their Super Bowl matchups despite giving the G-Men a chance in either contest, as Brady, a former sixth-round selection, had one of the most improbable underdog stories in NFL history. General Chat Chat Lounge They also played three times in the regular season, and Brady got the better of these matchups in New York (the Patriots won two of them), but Manning is one of the few quarterbacks who has never been more than Brady’s number.
3 Jim Kelly & Dan Marino
Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were always going to get compared to landing in the AFC East (with the Bills and Dolphins, respectively) during the famous 1983 NFL Draft. However, no one could expect them to achieve as much success as they did, as they became two of the league’s best quarterbacks once Kelly joined the Bills after spending two years in the USFL.
Notably, neither quarterback could get over the hump and win a ring, and they are two of the best players who have ever achieved the feat. Kelly had the edge in their all-time series 14-8 and had much more playoff success than Marino (who beat him three times in the postseason), but the Dolphins signal-caller was widely considered the most talented player.
2 Terry Bradshaw & Ken Stabler
The Steelers and Raiders may not be in the same division, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from their hatred for each other throughout the 70s when they were due as two of the AFC’s best teams during the decade. While their matchup in the Divisional Round of the 1972 playoffs was their most memorable clash (due to the way it ended), it was just the beginning of their fierce rivalry, as it marked the first five-straight season they met in the playoffs. General Chat Chat Lounge
With their high-stakes nature of their meetings, it was only natural that their franchise quarterbacks, Ken Stabler and Terry Bradshaw, who both started their careers in 1970, also got drawn into the feud. While Pittsburgh’s incredible “Steel Curtain” defensive front gave Stabler and the Raiders fits in their early contests, he settled into the score later in his career and has a 6-4 edge in the all-time series between the legendary signal-callers.
1 Peyton Manning & Tom Brady
Could a list about quarterback rivalries be complete without the two greatest players playing at the position? The league’s premier signal-caller feud featured two players who set the gold standard for quarterback play and rewrote the record books during their legendary carers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. While Brady held a deciding 11-6 lead in their all-time series, it always seemed like two giants were vying for position when they went head-to-head.
Brady had Manning’s number early in his rivalry (he won the first six matchups), but the Sherriff wouldn’t go down without a fight, as he came out victorious in his final three playoff matchups, including a victory in the 2015-16 AFC Championship. game. While each contest featured a winner and loser, the fans were undefeated every time they went off, as we were lucky to witness their greatness on the field at the same time.