- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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Bill Barnwell embarked on an interesting project his week over at Grantland.com: Tracing the rise and fall of the NFL's top quarterback of the moment. In other words: Who was the best quarterback in the league at any given time, and how long did he hold that title?
Three players with NFC North connections made the list, which begins roughly around 1960 and thus wouldn't include the Detroit Lions' Bobby Layne. The Green Bay Packers' Bart Starr was certainly eligible here, but being a multi-year champion as well as a Hall of Fame quarterback doesn't necessarily mean he was ever the best in the league at the moment.
Let's take a closer look:
Quarterback: Fran Tarkenton
Team: Minnesota Vikings
Barnwell: "… [A] veteran player who was always very good saw everything coalesce into a great stretch toward the very end of his career. Tarkenton won his first MVP award and made his first All-Pro team this year at the age of 35."
Seifert comment: Tarkenton had a Hall of Fame career, but also played in an era with many others, from Joe Namath to Johnny Unitas to Ken Stabler. In 1975, he accounted for 27 touchdowns in 14 games in leading the Vikings to a 12-2 record.
Quarterback: Brett Favre
Barnwell: "Favre … [had] a four-year run with three league MVP trophies, three first-team All-Pro appearances, four Pro Bowls, two passing titles, and three passing touchdown leaderships."
Seifert comment: Some of us probably forgot that incredible run when putting his successor's current play in franchise context. Favre might only have won one Super Bowl, but he was the league's top performer in many other seasons.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers
Barnwell: "You can make a very fair case for [Tom] Brady in 2010, when he threw nine touchdowns for every interception, but Rodgers was just about as good on a per-play basis and produced one of the best playoff runs in league history, entirely on the road. He was unquestionably the league's best player in 2011 … and [in 2012] Rodgers was every bit as good as Peyton Manning, who was otherwise regarded as the best quarterback in football last year."
Comment: Based on this reckoning, the Packers have had the NFL's top quarterback in seven of the past 18 seasons. It's worth noting that Favre's run started when he was 26 and ended when he was 29. Rodgers' began when he was 27.