The 1970s marked a golden era for NFL quarterbacks, with iconic names etching their legacies in the annals of football history.
From Terry Bradshaw’s leadership propelling the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories to Joe Namath’s continued influence, this article dives each of the top 10 NFL quarterbacks from that era.
Top 10 NFL Quarterbacks from the 1970s
The 1970s is often hailed as the golden era of NFL quarterbacks, a time when titans of the game emerged, leaving a significant mark on football history.
In the heart of this era, a remarkable group of signal-callers showcased unparalleled skills, leadership, and resilience.
- Terry Bradshaw
- Roger Staubach
- Bob Griese
- Fran Tarkenton
- Ken Stabler
- Len Dawson
- Dan Fouts
- Jim Plunkett
- Ken Anderson
- Joe Namath
Let’s now get into the fascinating narratives of the top 10 NFL quarterbacks from the 1970s, a decade that witnessed the zenith of quarterback excellence and set the stage for the evolution of the game we cherish today.
1. Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw’s journey into football stardom began in the steel town of Pittsburgh. Drafted as the first overall pick by the Steelers in 1970, Bradshaw faced early challenges adapting to the professional level. However, it was his resilience and determination that marked the turning point in his career. Guided by Coach Chuck Noll, Bradshaw’s raw talent evolved into quarterbacking prowess.
Bradshaw’s legacy is irrevocably tied to the Steelers’ dominance in the 1970s. His leadership played a pivotal role in securing four Super Bowl victories for the franchise, a feat unmatched during that era. The quarterback’s ability to rise to the occasion in high-pressure situations earned him two Super Bowl MVP titles, solidifying his status as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Beyond the statistics and championship rings, Bradshaw left an enduring mark on the Steelers’ legacy. His charismatic leadership and on-field heroics united the team and fan base, creating a lasting culture of excellence in Pittsburgh. Bradshaw’s influence reverberates through the Steelers’ subsequent successes, and his legacy continues to inspire generations of football enthusiasts.
2. Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach, known as “Captain Comeback,” was renowned for his dynamic and resilient playing style. His ability to turn seemingly dire situations into triumphs earned him the admiration of fans and teammates alike. Staubach’s knack for clutch performances and strategic decision-making made him a quarterback icon.
Staubach’s impact transcended regular-season heroics, culminating in two Super Bowl victories for the Dallas Cowboys during the 1970s. His leadership during these championship games showcased a quarterback who thrived under pressure. Staubach’s Super Bowl triumphs contributed significantly to the Cowboys’ legacy as one of the premier franchises in NFL history.
Staubach’s legacy extends far beyond the accolades. His time with the Cowboys is synonymous with the team’s winning culture and competitive spirit. Staubach’s influence on subsequent generations of quarterbacks and his enduring popularity in Dallas make him a central figure in the Cowboys’ storied history.
3. Bob Griese
Bob Griese played a pivotal role in one of the most legendary seasons in NFL history – the perfect 1972 season. As the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, Griese orchestrated an offense that went undefeated throughout the regular season and playoffs, a feat unmatched to this day.
Griese’s leadership extended beyond the perfect season, guiding the Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories during the 1970s. His ability to manage the game effectively and make critical plays in key moments solidified his reputation as a quarterback who delivered when it mattered most.
Bob Griese’s legacy looms large in Miami’s football history. His contributions not only elevated the Dolphins to unprecedented success but also established a winning tradition that resonates with the franchise to this day. Griese’s precision passing and strategic acumen laid the foundation for Miami’s football prominence.
4. Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton’s career in the 1970s was punctuated by nine Pro Bowl selections, a testament to his consistent excellence as a quarterback. His ability to read defenses, improvise plays, and connect with his receivers set him apart as a true maestro on the field.
While Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances without securing a victory, his impact on those big stages cannot be understated. His ability to navigate the pressures of championship games showcased Tarkenton’s resilience and competitiveness.
Beyond the immediate accolades, Fran Tarkenton set numerous passing records during the 1970s, solidifying his place in NFL history. His legacy extends beyond the numbers, as Tarkenton’s influence on the Vikings and the league as a whole is a testament to his enduring impact.
5. Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler’s defining moment came in Super Bowl XI when he led the Oakland Raiders to victory. Stabler’s poise under center and ability to execute critical plays marked him as a quarterback who thrived in championship scenarios.
In 1974, Stabler was recognized as the league MVP, a testament to his outstanding contributions to the Raiders’ success. His ability to read defenses, make precise throws, and lead the offense earned him this prestigious individual honor.
Ken Stabler’s tenure with the Raiders left an indelible mark on the franchise. His leadership and on-field exploits contributed significantly to the Raiders’ identity as a formidable and championship-caliber team. Stabler’s legacy continues to resonate with the Silver and Black faithful.
6. Len Dawson
Len Dawson’s impact on the Kansas City Chiefs reached its pinnacle with a victory in Super Bowl IV. Dawson’s leadership and precision passing played a crucial role in the Chiefs’ triumph over the Minnesota Vikings, solidifying their status as champions. The Super Bowl victory remains a defining moment in Dawson’s illustrious career.
Beyond his on-field achievements, Len Dawson played a pivotal role in the historic AFL-NFL merger. As one of the league’s premier quarterbacks, Dawson’s influence helped bridge the gap between the two leagues, shaping the future landscape of professional football.
Len Dawson’s legacy in Kansas City extends beyond his Super Bowl heroics. His enduring impact on the Chiefs’ franchise, both as a player and a symbol of stability, cements his place as one of the most revered figures in Chiefs history.
7. Dan Fouts
Dan Fouts’ prowess as a passer was consistently on display, earning him six Pro Bowl selections during the 1970s. His ability to orchestrate high-powered offenses and deliver precise passes made him a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback, garnering recognition for his exceptional skills.
Dan Fouts’ time with the San Diego Chargers marked an era of offensive brilliance. His prolific passing not only elevated the Chargers but also revolutionized the quarterback position. Fouts’ impact on the Chargers’ offensive identity during the ’70s remains a cornerstone of the franchise’s history.
Fouts’ legacy is intertwined with his exceptional passing ability. Setting numerous passing records during the 1970s, Fouts showcased the artistry of quarterbacking. His precision and vision laid the foundation for a passing legacy that continues to influence the modern game.
8. Jim Plunkett
Jim Plunkett’s journey to becoming a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was fraught with early challenges. Facing adversity and doubts, Plunkett’s resilience and determination were evident as he overcame obstacles to secure his place in NFL history.
Plunkett’s redemption story reached its zenith with the Oakland Raiders. Taking the reins as the starting quarterback, he led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories in the early ’80s. Plunkett’s ability to overcome setbacks and achieve success is a testament to his character and skill.
Jim Plunkett’s enduring legacy extends beyond the championship wins. His story serves as an inspiration for perseverance, illustrating that setbacks can be the prelude to ultimate triumph. Plunkett’s impact on the Raiders and the broader NFL narrative remains a compelling chapter in football history.
9. Ken Anderson
Ken Anderson’s standout season came in 1981 when he earned the NFL MVP award. His exceptional performance as the leader of the Cincinnati Bengals showcased a quarterback at the peak of his powers, orchestrating an offense with precision and flair.
In 1981, Anderson guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl, leaving an indelible mark on the franchise. His leadership and on-field acumen were instrumental in Cincinnati’s journey to the championship game, reflecting Anderson’s significance in Bengals’ history.
Ken Anderson’s impact on Cincinnati transcends individual accolades. His role in elevating the Bengals to championship contention solidified his place as one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Anderson’s legacy in Cincinnati remains synonymous with excellence and leadership.
10. Joe Namath
Joe Namath’s iconic guarantee in Super Bowl III remains a pivotal moment in NFL history. His bold prediction and subsequent victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts not only secured the New York Jets’ first Super Bowl title but also solidified Namath’s status as a cultural icon.
While Namath’s peak may have been in the late 1960s, his influence continued into the ’70s. Namath’s charisma and style made him a larger-than-life personality both on and off the field, shaping the image of the modern quarterback as a cultural phenomenon.
Joe Namath’s legacy extends beyond statistics and championships. His impact on popularizing the AFL-NFL merger and shaping the image of the quarterback as a celebrity figure transcends the game, leaving an enduring mark on football culture. Namath’s influence resonates through generations of football enthusiasts.
As we reflect on the 1970s, it’s evident that these quarterbacks transcended the game. Each brought a unique flair, leaving an enduring legacy that echoes in the cheers of football fans.
The top 10 quarterbacks from this era not only defined a decade but shaped the NFL’s trajectory.