The only thing that might be more difficult than settling on the best NFL quarterback of all-time is choosing the best quarterback of the 21st century. It’s no secret that the NFL has become a pass-happy, high-scoring league, and it’s because more quarterbacks than ever are capable of slinging the ball all over the field and leading their team to wins. This has also created a lot of debate surrounding who is the best quarterback of the modern era. By no means was this easy, but here is the list we put together of the five best quarterbacks since the year 2000.
5. Russell Wilson
Wilson is by no means a traditional pocket passer, but he found immediate success in the NFL and has played an important role in ushering in a new era of more athletic mobile quarterbacks. He’s listed at under 6-feet tall, which had traditionally been a hindrance for NFL quarterbacks. However, Wilson is by no means slight of build, so he can absorb hits and is usually smart enough to avoid them. The former minor league baseball player is an incredible athlete who just so happens to have NFL-caliber arm talent.
Despite being an unheralded rookie coming out of Wisconsin, Wilson won the starting job in Seattle as a rookie and has been playing at an elite level ever since. He won a Super Bowl in his second pro season and has been elected to the Pro Bowl in all but one of his NFL seasons, and the season he wasn’t a Pro Bowler, Wilson played through injuries. After making a strong push for MVP honors in 2019, there’s little doubt that Wilson deserves to be recognized as one of the top quarterbacks of the century.
4. Drew Brees
Like Wilson, Brees is another short quarterback who has found a way to play at a high level despite lacking the ideal size for the position. His intelligence, anticipation, and surprising arm strength have helped him to overcome any issues caused by his lack of height. Perhaps the most impressive part of Brees’ career is that some of his best seasons came late in his career. He seemed to get better with age, allowing him to set several NFL all-time records.
Unfortunately for Brees, he has just one Super Bowl ring on his hand, which is more of a reflection of him playing in an era with quarterbacks named Brady and Manning. Despite falling a little short in terms of team success, Brees set more than a few individual records, including most career passing yards, most completions, highest career completion percentage, and most career touchdown passes in the regular season. With all of those records to his name, there’s no denying that Brees is one of the best all-time and among the best of his generation.
3. Aaron Rodgers
After having to wait a few years to get his chance, it didn’t take Rodgers long to play like an elite quarterback once he became the starter in Green Bay. From the start, the accuracy and precision of his passes was unreal, especially for a quarterback who would often throw on the run. It’s almost unimaginable to think that Rodgers nearly gave up football altogether because he was so overlooked in high school and college. Once he finally got a chance, Rodgers proved himself to be one of the most productive and efficient quarterbacks the game has ever seen.
Despite playing in a golden era for quarterbacks, Rodgers has garnered two MVP awards and a Pro Bowl invitation nearly every season since becoming a starter. He’s also the owner of over a dozen NFL records, including the lowest interception percentage, the best touchdown to interception ratio, and the highest career passing rating of any quarterback in NFL history. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but that number makes it indisputable that Rodgers is one of the best of all-time.
2. Peyton Manning
As a quarterback, Manning was nothing short of a savant. All of the physical gifts were there, but intellectually, Manning was a level above anyone who has ever played the game. Future generations of fans who didn’t get to see him play on a weekly basis will miss out on seeing a guy who could take one look at a defense and audible to the right play. As far as the mental aspect of football is concerned, there might be no quarterback in NFL history who could process information better or faster than Manning.
Fortunately for Manning, he got his rough years out of the way before the year 2000. From that point forward, he played at an elite level, taking home MVP honors five times. Even after missing an entire season and undergoing multiple neck surgeries, Manning was able to come back and play at a high level, setting the NFL record for passing yards and touchdowns in a single season in his third-to-last year. He also had enough left in the tank to win a Super Bowl in his final season and ride off into the sunset as one of the best of all-time.
1. Tom Brady
Brady entered the NFL as the 199th overall pick in the 2000 Draft and proceed to dominate the game like no other for the first two decades of the 21st century. Somehow, the teams responsible for the first 198 picks in that draft missed a quarterback with the perfect combination of arm talent and intelligence mixed with just enough mobility. Perhaps more than anything, Brady’s longevity is what stands out the most. For 20-plus seasons, Brady kept his body in tip-top shape, allowing him to play and excel into his 40’s, something few quarterbacks have been able to accomplish.
Needless to say, the numbers Brady has compiled are nothing short of staggering. He won three MVP awards, including one at the age of 40. More importantly, Brady led the Patriots to six Super Bowl wins, helping turn New England into a dynasty that was both despised by opposing fans and revered in the history books for an almost unprecedented level of sustained dominance. As Herm Edwards said, “You play to win the game,” and because he’s won more than any other quarterback in the 21st century, Brady is the best quarterback since 2000.