Top 10 QB Rivalries Of All Time
Kenny Stabler vs. Terry Bradshaw
Stabler first made an impact as a pro when he replaced Daryle Lamonica in a 1972 AFC playoff game against Pittsburgh. Stabler threw the go-ahead touchdown, but the Steelers won in the final moment when a Terry Bradshaw pass landed in Franco Harris' hands -- the Immaculate Reception. The two teams met in the playoffs the next four years and combined to win three of the next four Super Bowls. The charismatic and talented quarterbacks were the faces of their franchises and made sure every meeting was interesting.
Johnny Unitas vs. Joe Namath
Ironically, Namath idolized Unitas growing up in western Pennsylvania. The two would go on to meet in two of the greatest games in NFL history. The first, Super Bowl III, wasn't a fair battle necessarily, because Unitas didn't play the whole game, which the Colts famously dropped to the Jets. Then in 1972, Unitas and Namath combined for 872 passing games in a regular-season epic. Thanks to Namath's 496 yards passing and six touchdowns, New York won 44-34. Symbolically, both QBs represented their own eras. Unitas, with his flat-top haircut, was the embodiment of old-school NFL, while Namath and his shaggy hair ushered in a new era in the NFL. Though they may not have met often, there was a deep historic rivalry between this Hall of Famers.
Dan Marino vs. Joe Montana
When Joe Montana and Dan Marino met in Super Bowl XIX, most assumed the showdown would be the first of many matchups on the nation's biggest stage. But Marino, then a rookie, never got back to the big game. Nevertheless, Montana and Marino are strongly linked in history since they were the premier quarterbacks of their generation. Marino was known for racking up huge numbers, while Montana simply knew how to win. Although they didn't battle often on the same field, they fought their entire careers for the title of the best QB in the NFL.
John Elway vs. Bernie Kosar
While Kosar had nowhere near the career Elway did, there was a period in the late 1980s when the Browns and the Broncos had a vicious postseason rivalry going and the two quarterbacks were the focal point. Cleveland and Denver met in the AFC Championship Games three times and the Broncos won each one. The first contest, during the 1986 season, ended on "The Drive," an incredible last-minute rescue by Elway. The 1987 game was decided by Browns RB Earnest Byner's late fumble. And in 1989 the Broncos won easily. Unfortunately for Denver fans, the Broncos lost each of the ensuing Super Bowls.
Steve Young vs. Troy Aikman
Along with Brett Favre, Aikman and Young were the dominant quarterbacks of the 1990s, and usually when they faced each other, the stakes were very high. Aikman's Cowboys beat Young's 49ers in the 1992 and 1993 NFC Championship Games, while Young got revenge in the 1994 NFC Championship Game. Both had outstanding talent around them, but it was their leadership and calm under pressure that made their teams regular Super Bowl contenders.
Otto Graham vs. Bobby Layne
The Lions and Browns met in the NFL Championship Game three straight times from 1952 to 1954 and were for a time the premier rivalry in the league. Layne, the inspiring leader of the Lions, won the battle in 1952 and 1953. But Graham, the consummate champion, led the Browns to a 56-10 victory in 1954. Graham is considered the better passer, but Layne was a fierce competitor who excelled with the game on the line.
Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino
Marino and Kelly's careers could not have been more intertwined. They're both from western Pennsylvania, both were in the vaunted quarterback class of 1983 and both played in the AFC East. Marino generally put up better numbers throughout their rivalry, but Kelly's Bills won more often throughout the late '80s and early `90s.
Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas
Unitas and Starr were very close friends, but they battled for dominance in the NFL throughout the 1960s. The tide turned in 1960 during a regular-season game in which the Packers intercepted Unitas, the QB for the two-time defending champion Colts, four times in a victory. Green Bay went on to dominate the decade, although Unitas' Colts were consistently near the top of the league.
Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning
The Manning-Brady rivalry fascinates people because of the contrast between the two. Manning was the No. 1 overall pick in 1998, who is on course to break every NFL passing record but can't win the big one. Brady was a sixth-round pick in 2000, who is just starting to have Manning-like statistical success. The two have had great games over the past several years and will likely have many more in the future as the Patriots and Colts dominate the AFC.
Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach
Staubach, the Cowboys great, and Bradshaw, the leader of the Steelers, were two iconic figures of the 1970s. While they both enjoyed tremendous success, their images were quite different. Staubach was the clean cut Navy grad, while Bradshaw was the brash Louisiana Tech product with the big arm. They faced each other in two of the hardest-fought Super Bowls of all time -- both of which Bradshaw's Steelers won -- and will ever be linked together in NFL history.