First a quick trivia question: What quarterback has the highest career completion percentage in NFL history? The answer is at the end of the article, and it will surprise you.
There is no more important job in all of sports than NFL quarterback. It’s the glory position demonstrated from the salaries they earn, to the highlight reels on ESPN, to the dreams of almost every young NFL fan growing up.
And every fan knows what a franchise quarterback looks like – your team either has one now or is trying to find one. But what traits does it take to make a successful franchise NFL quarterback, and who has best exemplified those traits? In this six part series, we’ll break down the top six most critical traits for the success of a franchise quarterback in today’s NFL. Along the way, we’ll illustrate them by example – who is the best in the game in that particular trait today, and who else has best exemplified that in NFL history.
Part II – Accuracy
The first installment of our series focused on reading the opposing defense. After knowing where and when to throw the ball, delivering it accurately is the next most important trait for a quarterback to have. The windows in the NFL are very small, and it takes an accurate throw and split second timing to hit those windows.
In this case, there is a simple statistic that correlates very well with accuracy – completion percentage. Completion percentage doesn’t tell the whole story (other factors matter – hitting a player in stride so they can run after the catch, not throwing interceptions, etc.), but it is an excellent indicator.
Completion percentage also correlates very well with our idea of who the best quarterbacks of all time are. Which brings us back to our trivia question, and and a sure way to win a drink from your friends in a bar – who has the best career completion percentage of all time? The answer is at the end of the article, but below is a list of numbers 2 through 11 on all time completion percentage, which includes some of the best quarterbacks of all time, and one or two surprises.
2. Drew Brees
3. Kurt Warner
4. Aaron Rodgers
5. Peyton Manning
6. Tony Romo
7/8. Steve Young, Matt Schaub
9. Tom Brady
10. Philip Rivers
11. Joe Montana
Drew Brees is clearly the best in the game today. He has the second best career completion percentage of all time at 65.9 (behind only the answer to our trivia question), and he holds the top two single seasons in NFL history, including last season when he broke his own record by completing 71.2 percent of his passes. In fact, there have been five seasons in NFL history when a quarterback completed 70 percent or more of his passes, and Brees owns two of those. For the record, the other three to reach that milestone are Joe Montana, Steve Young and Ken Anderson, so he has some pretty good company up near the top.
Below is a video of Drew Brees facing an accuracy challenge. When they can’t face you off against another quarterback and need to turn to an Olympic archer, you know you are doing pretty well. And incidentally, Brees outperformed the archer handily. Of course, Brees is used to throwing into coverage with 11 guys trying to stop him, so a standing test against a target must seem pretty easy by comparison. According to the Sports Science team, he even has the ideal level of wobble…
Best in the Game Today – Drew Brees
Other All Time Greats – Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers
TRIVIA QUESTION: The answer to our trivia question is… the best career completion percentage of all time belongs to former Jet and Dolphin Chad Pennington. If anyone knew the answer to that… you are either lying or a member of the Pennington family.