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Joe Montana, Steve Young on ESPN ranking of 10 best QBs since 1978

Joe Montana and Steve Young make an appearance.

The discussion about the best quarterbacks of all time is never going to end, even with Tom Brady’s latest Super Bowl victory ending the discussion for a lot of people.

Recently, MMQB had an all-time draft in which 12 quarterbacks were selected in a 25-round draft. The most surprising result among quarterbacks, at least in my mind, was Steve Young not getting selected. The quarterbacks drafted all had great success in their careers, but it’s tough to say Young didn’t deserve more consideration.

In a good bit of timing, ESPN’s Mike Sando offered up a cool thought exercise on Wednesday. He spoke with ten current and former NFL coaches and executives to rank out the top ten quarterbacks dating back to 1978. Sando chose that year because it marked a big change in blocking and coverage rules that helped to open up the passing game. His voters included Pete Carroll, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, Howard Mudd, Wade Phillips, Mike Reinfeldt, Ray Rhodes, Mike Shanahan, Al Saunders, and Norv Turner.

It is not surprising that Tom Brady showed up at No. 1. Peyton Manning came in second, just edging out Joe Montana. According to Sando, they considered two mathematical approaches, and with one result, Montana would have ranked ahead of Manning. Montana’s highest ranking was No. 1, and his lowest ranking was No. 9.

Montana was followed by John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, Dan Marino, and Brett Favre. Steve Young showed up next. His highest ranking was No. 2, and his lowest was not showing up on the ballot.

The best part of Sando’s article is reading what the various voters had to say about each player. For Montana, the big consistent positive was his efficiency in the west coast offense and his performances on the biggest stage. The most mentioned negative seemed to be the question of how his performance would translate to another system. One counter that some raised to the system idea is that he was the first to really take the system to a whole new level, compared to what Ken Anderson did in Cincinnati when Walsh was an assistant.

For Young, his combination of athleticism and quarterback skill gave him a boost. He was dinged by some for having followed Montana. There were multiple comments wondering how much more he might have done if he had the kind of time Montana had in the offense during the 1980s. Of course, his development likely was drastically influenced by how he was taken along in the 80s. Hypotheticals are interesting to discuss, but Young and his time in San Francisco in the 80s is a unique one.