Stairway to Heaven: the Top 5 Quarterbacks of the 1970s

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Even if you weren’t around in the 70s, there’s no denying how much they altered our world. They gave us Zeppelin, Scorcese, and, well, a whole lot of marijuana. But something else the 70s can lay claim to is being a decade of legendary NFL quarterbacks.

Statistically speaking, the QB’s of the 70s weren’t exactly lighting up the stat sheets the way today’s field generals are, but it was a different game back then, and what they lacked in passing touchdowns they made up for in efficiency and sideburns. So here they are, the top five NFL quarterbacks of the 1970s.

5 Terry Bradshaw

The first overall pick in the 1970 draft (yes, this man went to college), Bradshaw was voted into three Pro Bowls and won an MVP in the 70s. You may be wondering how a guy with an 14-5 postseason record, four Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVPs is only number 5 on this list, but Bradshaw also threw more interceptions than touchdowns (163-147) for the decade. Plus, we can’t help but drop a guy a few spots for getting naked in ‘Failure to Launch.’

4 Bob Griese

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Bob Griese may have looked like your real estate agent, but the man played a hell of a quarterback. A six-time Pro Bowler, Griese made three trips to the Super Bowl with Miami in the 70s, winning two, including the legendary ’72 undefeated season (which he missed most of with a broken leg, but returned for the AFC title game and Super Bowl). While the Dolphins were certainly at their best early in the decade, Griese enjoyed a late-career resurgence in ’77, when he started wearing eyeglasses during the game. Though, he wasn’t exactly ecstatic about it.

3 Ken Stabler

Drafted in 1968, Ken Stabler didn’t become a starter until ‘73, but once he did the Raiders took off. Stabler led the league in passing touchdowns twice, went to four Pro Bowls and won an MVP. Under the unstoppable ramblings of John Madden, Stabler also turned the Raiders into perennial contenders, taking them to five AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl in ’76. By the way, it’s eerily fitting that a man who looks like this and is nicknamed “The Snake,” holds such a special place in the hearts of fans who look like this. It’s a match made in Heaven, or somewhere.

2 Fran Tarkenton

After starting with the Vikings in ’61 and butting heads with coach Norm Van Brocklin, Tarkenton was traded to the Giants in ’67 and eventually traded back to the Vikings in ’72. Despite his bouncing around (in the league and in the pocket), Tarkenton racked up yards by the boatload, going to four Pro Bowls, making three Super Bowl appearances (but losing all of them), leading the league in completions three straight seasons and winning one MVP in the 70s. Known as the “Mad Scrambler,” Tarkenton was running all over defenses when quarterback mobility was still taboo, laying the foundation for the mobile quarterbacks of the future, though he maintains he has nothing to do with them electrocuting dogs in their spare time.

1 Roger Staubach

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Staubach dominated the 1970s, going to six Pro Bowls, owning the league’s top passer rating four times and leading the Dallas Cowboys to an 11-6 postseason mark over the ten-year span. He made four Super Bowl appearances, winning twice, and took home one game MVP, becoming the first player in history to win the Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP. His stellar statistics were undoubtedly helped along by the fact that he was always able to get the time he wanted in the pocket, since intimidated defenses weren’t sure that Staubach wasn’t Sonny Corleone.

Honorable Mentions:

Archie Manning – Playing for the dismal Saints from ’71-’79, Manning managed some solid stats and two Pro Bowl appearances in spite of his team never eclipsing .500. And make no mistake; if this were a list of whose sperm makes the best quarterbacks, Archie would sit comfortably at the top.

Joe Namath – Though his best days lay behind him in the 60s, Broadway Joe led the league in yards and TDs in ’72, and went to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, he also led the league in interceptions in ’74 and ’75, and would go on to excel in drunken sideline sexual harassment.

There they are, the quarterbacks who helped just as much as black light posters and disco did in making the 1970s magical. Did we leave anyone off? Perhaps, but going back that many years already took way more research than we’d prefer to do, so it is what it is. And if you can’t accept that, try throwing together a list of your own and see how you fare, hotshot.

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