On Monday, SB Nation New York's Ed Valentine declared unequivocally that Eli Manning is the greatest quarterback in New York Giants history. While many may agree with that sentiment, the Giants have featured numerous top-notch quarterbacks spanning the decades. And the New York Jets have had a few great ones as well. So now the question is: Who is the greatest quarterback in New York history?
First of all, we have to weed out the candidates. Mark Sanchez? He hasn't been around long enough yet, and though he's had many fine moments, the Jets are still waiting for him to reach his potential. Richard Todd? Probably not. Norm Snead? Craig Morton? Two no's. Boomer Esiason? Jeff Hostetler? Kerry Collins? Al Dorow? They had some quality years, but we have to draw the line somewhere. We won't even mention Joe Pisarcik or Browning Nagle, or Dave Brown or Brett Favre (ok, we mentioned them). And we'll skip the 1920s, '30s and World War II years, because, quite frankly, nobody probably even remembers those guys, and the game was immensely different back then.
In the end, nine candidates have been chosen, including three Hall of Famers. So now it's up to you to pick the greatest quarterback New York (and New Jersey) has ever had. Here are the nominees:
Charlie Conerly: He was a World War II veteran, and like a certain present Giant he attended Ole Miss. Conerly spent all 14 years of his NFL career with the Giants (1948 to '61), and was the QB on the 1956 championship team (going 7-for-10, with 195 yards, two touchdowns and a 152.1 rating in the 47-7 win over the Bears in the title game). He led his team to two other championship games (including the Greatest Game Ever Played), made two Pro Bowls, was the Rookie of the Year and won the Newspaper Enterprise Association MVP in '59. And he portrayed the Marlboro Man in commercials after he retired to boot.
Career stats with the Giants: 173 touchdowns; 167 interceptions; 50.1 completion percentage; 19,488 yards; 68.2 passer rating
Y.A. Tittle: The Hall of Famer only played four seasons with the Giants (1961 to '64), but he led Big Blue to three consecutive championship games (and unfortunately lost all three). While playing in New York, he made three Pro Bowls, twice was a First-Team All-Pro and won an assortment of MVP awards (Newspaper Enterprise Association MVP in '61 and '63, UPI MVP in '62, AP MVP '63). An iconic photo of him, blood dripping down his face while on his knees, is one of the great pictures in sports history.
Career stats with the Giants: 96 touchdowns; 68 interceptions; 55.9 completion percentage; 10,439 yards; 84.7 passer rating
Joe Namath: Broadway Joe's stats may not be eye-popping, but he was more than numbers, as he brought legitimacy to the AFL, helping to force the merger, and transcended football, as he was the game's biggest star in the late-'60s/early-'70s, and became a full-fledged pop culture icon. But on the field, he was a brainy student of the game, and played with bum knees his whole career. He was a two-time league MVP, won the Super Bowl MVP, was the AFL Rookie of the Year, won the 1974 Comeback Player of the Year, made five Pro Bowls, one First-Team All-Pro, was inducted into the Hall of Fame and led the league in passing yards three times (and interceptions four times).
Career stats with the Jets: 170 touchdowns; 215 interceptions; 50.2 completion percentage; 27,057 yards; 65.8 passer rating
Fran Tarkenton: The scrambling QB spent five years with the Giants (1967 to '71), and though his not-very-talented teams never qualified for the postseason, Tarkenton made four Pro Bowl teams while playing in New York. The Hall of Famer was one of the lone bright spots in the down years for the Giants.
Career stats with the Giants: 103 touchdowns; 72 interceptions; 55.4 completion percentage; 13,905 yards; 81.0 passer rating
Phil Simms: The No. 7 overall draft pick in 1979, Simms was named to the All-Rookie team but had a rocky first five years to his 14-year career, all spent with the Giants. He hit his stride in 1984, and peaked in the most important game of his career, Super Bowl XXI, when he not only won the MVP, but he set Super Bowl records for the highest completion percentage (88 percent, 22-for-25), consecutive completions (10) and passer rating (150.9). Simms led his team to another Super Bowl (but was injured and didn't play in the game), made two Pro Bowls (winning the MVP in the '85 game), threw for over 4,000 yards once and 3,000 yards five times, threw for over 500 yards in a game once and had a 6-4 postseason record.
Career stats with the Giants: 199 touchdowns; 157 interceptions; 55.4 completion percentage; 33,462 yards; 78.5 passer rating
Ken O'Brien: One of the most underrated quarterbacks there was, O'Brien was a two-time Pro Bowler in his nine seasons with the Jets. He led the league in passer rating in 1985 (95.2) and was the only quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in a game while having a perfect 158.3 passer rating. In 1986, he and rival Dan Marino set a single-game record (which was broken this season), when they combined to throw for 927 yards, in the Jets' 51-45 win over the Dolphins (and O'Brien threw four touchdown passes, all to Wesley Walker). Don Shula famously asked, "Who's he?" when the Jets drafted O'Brien. No one has to ask that anymore, as he was one of the great quarterbacks of the 1980s.
Career stats with the Jets: 124 touchdowns; 95 interceptions; 58.8 completion percentage; 24,386 yards; 81.0 passer rating
Vinny Testaverde: The Long Island native burst onto the New York scene in 1998, when he led the Jets all the way to the AFC Championship Game. He also authored the Monday Night Miracle in 2000, when Gang Green came back from a 30-7 deficit to beat the Dolphins 40-37, with Testaverde tossing five touchdowns in the game. He made the Pro Bowl in '98 (throwing 29 touchdown passes with only seven picks that year), and played parts of seven seasons for the Jets.
Career stats with the Jets: 77 touchdowns; 58 interceptions; 59.0 completion percentage; 12,497 yards; 80.2 passer rating
Chad Pennington: His arm was not strong (though it was accurate, leading the league in completion percentage in 2002), but his heart was big (he was named the Comeback Player of the Year twice, once while with the Jets). Pennington played eight seasons with the Jets and led his team to the playoffs three times, posting a 2-3 record, which included a 41-0 romp over the Colts in 2002. That same year he set a franchise record with his 104.2 quarterback rating. He threw for over 3,000 yards three times and threw more TDs than interceptions every year he was with the Jets except for his abbreviated 2005 season.
Career stats with the Jets: 82 touchdowns; 55 interceptions; 65.6 completion percentage; 13,738 yards; 88.9 passer rating
Eli Manning: Like Simms, Manning struggled in the early going, and also like Simms he thrived when it counted most. His shining moment came in the 2007 playoffs, when he led his team to three consecutive road wins, against the Buccaneers, Cowboys and in below-zero, frozen Green Bay. He capped off his fourth season with a Super Bowl MVP, going 19-for-34, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns (with one pick). Manning's only the second quarterback ever to author two fourth-quarter come-from-behind drives in Super Bowl play (Joe Montana being the other). And he'll forever be remembered for his Houdini-act scramble and ensuing completion to David Tyree's helmet. Now in his eighth season, Manning has thrown for over 4,000 yards three times (including this season), and 3,000 yards in every other season, besides his truncated rookie year. He's tossed over 20 touchdown passes every full season (though he's led the league in interceptions twice), and he made the Pro Bowl in 2008.
Career stats with the Giants: 181 touchdowns; 125 interceptions; 58.5 completion percentage; 26,751 yards; 82.2 passer rating