Skip to content

Who are the NFL’s Gritty Quarterbacks?

June 3, 2009

I asked this question because as I watched NFL’s Total Access the other night “gritty quarterback” and Tom Brady were used in the same sentence.  I have to ask Rich Eisen what his definition of “gritty” is because according to the dictionary, gritty means: harsh, coarse, rough and unrefined.  In my mind, that says Big Ben – and Big Ben and Tom Brady couldn’t be two different quarterbacks.

Tom Brady is an outstanding QB, but everything about his game says pretty and smooth and simple.  He gets about an hour in the pocket while his outstanding OL (and he should be thanking them, really) protect him for an unprecedented amount of time while his receivers make it way down the field.  It’s pretty. It’s beautiful. It’s outstanding, but it ain’t gritty.

Fueled by this media hype to project the “New Improved Brady” as Mr. Tough Guy – I asked the sports minded folks who follow me on twitter to weigh in on who really does make a “gritty quarterback” and these are the results in order of least to most votes:

5. Ben Roethlisberger – THE Pittsburgh Steelers

I’m a Steeler fan, so I am not going to waste a lot of time justifying Ben’s pick with anything other than “He’s definitely gritty.” 

We win, but it damn sure is not pretty. All  Steeler Nation will agree. And probably Mike Tomlin too…

4. Donovan McNabb – Philadelphia Eagles

Donovan has had a long career with the Eagles and one not without controversy, from TO to his bum knee, he’s overcome a lot of adversity and still played tough. He’s got a QB rating of 86.4  and thrown for 29,320 yards. I’m not an Eagles fan necessarily, but you have to give him credit – he’s had a host of issues in Philly and even been boo’d by fans. McNabb was the 2nd overall draft pick in 1999 and has led the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance – 2004 – which was the first time the Eagles had been in the Super Bowl since 1980.  The Eagles, with McNabb at their helm have been to four NFC championship games.  It takes a special person to play in Philly, fans are absolutely tough and McNabb has lived it through – even brought the Eagles back last year after being benched halfway through the season. He’s gritty.

3. Joe Montana – San Francisco 49ers

Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl Championships in four appearances. Yes, everytime they went, they won. His quarterback rating was 127.8 which according to every other QB rating I have ever seen is out of control high (how is this computed anyway?!?).  Montana was a born leader, someone who could scramble out of the pocket but lead in style, grace and calm. In 1986, he had back surgery only to be on the field a few months later throwing TDs – it takes passion and commitment not to give it up after such a tough injury.  Montana retired at age 38. I’m not sure I characterize Montana as “gritty” or “pretty.” I think he was a fantastic QB, but I’m leaning more towards pretty, despite what my twitter respondents said. (Feel free to comment!)

2.  Terry Bradshaw – THE Pittsburgh Steelers

Being a Steeler fan is in my blood. I have shared on this blog before that my Dad taught me everything I know about football and it was this Terry Bradshaw led team that gave me my daughter-dad bonding time.  I have a special place in my heart for this team.  His career stats look something like 2025 completions for 3901 attempts, 27,989 yards and 212 touchdowns. Not to mention that Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles over a six-year span and was MVP for both Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV.  There was definitely a grit to Bradshaw’s game.  I’d agree with gritty but sometimes pretty here.

1. Brett Favre – with Greenbay Packers NOT New York Jets

I don’t know how you can say a guy with a scraggly beard and Wranglers is NOT gritty, but I will agree that Brett Favre is gritty.  Despite all the recent “retirement” drama overshadowing Favre’s successes in Green Bay, he was a great quarterback.  He holds virtually every significant NFL passing record – including TD passes (464). He threw over his career 9,280 times for 5,720 completions for an outstanding 65,127 yards. Farve played 17 NFL seasons, 16 with the Packers.  He led the team to a Super Bowl win in 1997.  I hope that all the drama we have seen from him recently does not at all overshadow his great history. However, he does need to just let it go…

He’s still got my vote – and a lot of others – for “gritty” not “pretty.”

Let me know if you agree or disagree on the gritty NFL quarterbacks.

And for the record, there was only one vote for Tom Brady and that came from a delusional Pats fan.  The least you can do is be honest about your teams strengths. Tom Brady is far from gritty – and gritty does not equal successful. Brady is successful being pretty – let him be pretty. But don’t buy into this PR campaign to make him rugged – it’s a total disingenuous turn off.

Let the comments begin.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2009 4:19 pm

    Hmm…I can’t agree with one Mr. Donovan McNabb. Puking on the field during the super bowl? Plus every other one of the QB’s on your list have at least one Super Bowl victory, which to me would be a pre-req. Other than that I’m not sure who I would replace with McNabb, possibly the person I mentioned to you earlier, Chad Pennington, who has won two comeback player of the year awards and consistently wins games. Although I would contradict my statement about winning a superbowl earlier.

    Some older QB’s that should at least get a mention are John Elway, and possibly Fran Tarkenton.

  2. June 3, 2009 4:21 pm

    Nice list, though it does beg the question: “Gritty or pretty, which is best?”

    The McNabb post-season victories thing isn’t true BTW. The record was Bart Starr’s, but is now held by Tom Brady 😉

  3. June 3, 2009 4:24 pm

    I love this list.
    You’re absolutely correct about Tom Brady not being gritty. I would even consider Peyton Manning to be more gritty. At least he gets hit, Brady…not so much. We saw what happened when he was actually getting hit (Super Bowl).

  4. June 3, 2009 4:33 pm

    Nice post. Montana and Brady are definitely not gritty. Not any more than the average QB. Favre is probably the first person that comes to mind (and based on the results, everyone else’s mind as well). Recent QB’s I would throw someone like a Steve McNair on the list. A tough guy that played hurt, all of the time, but still put up numbers.

  5. steelergurl permalink*
    June 3, 2009 4:38 pm

    @kennethlim – I took it out because 1) I don’t have enough time today to go and confirm (since this ain’t my day job lol) and 2) it was on the Eagles website…so maybe it was out of Eagles history and I quoted wrong. Good catch though either way. (man I need a proofreader)

    It does beg the question, what’s better, gritty or pretty?
    Hmmm….sounds like a season analysis.
    I need to see Brady work it out this year before I comment on it.
    But GREAT story idea.

    @DYMS – I will allow you to scoop that story idea if you like…but only you 😀

  6. Ian permalink
    June 3, 2009 4:40 pm

    As a future quarterback of the Steelers, it must have been daunting to have to follow Bradshaw, whomever he was. In the future, can you imagine how intimidating it is going to be for a Steelers prospect to have to follow both Ben AND Bradshaw?

    After watching the Hated Patriots and the Giants play the Super Bowl, and then watching the Steelers play the Super Bowl, hands down, Rothlisberger is a better quarterback than Brady. The Gurl is right, Brady had his chance to show his grit and folded under a heavy rush. I mean, some of his passes were way off the mark when the reciever was open because he was worried about the rush. Ben on the other hand, some say, gets better after contact. Let’s say the rest of the Hated Patriots digress this year, who do you want, Tom or Ben?

  7. June 3, 2009 5:28 pm

    No Johnny U??? He rubbed mud on his cuts and played a semi-pro season on a dirt field while working in construction.

    Found this from Bubba Smith:
    ‘A guy broke through the line, hit him, pushed his head in the ground. He called the same play, let the guy come through and broke his nose with the football. I said, ‘That’s my hero.’ ”

  8. mantho permalink
    June 4, 2009 1:54 am

    Johnny U absolutely belongs on the list. And he’s a Pittsburgh kid. Who could ask for more?

    I would put Elway up there, too. Not sure if he would make the list, though. Remember his first year in the league, when he had that snotty, priviledged, pretty-boy tag? Every defense in the league made a point to lay extra lick on him but he kept coming back. I gained a lot of respect for him after that.

    I love Montana. It’s a toss up between him and the Slow, White Bronco (sorry for the bad OJ reference.) In the end, I guess neither would make the top five.

    McNabb is tough but I would not say he is tough enough to make this list. Good point about McNair. He wouldn’t even practice during the week due to injuries, then come out and win games.

    As tough as Bradshaw was, Ben came back from a wreck, an appendectomy and crappy coaching to almost save the season. We have to give him a bump.

    I am not a big Farve fan but he DOES have that record and that buys a lot of respect.

    I would rank them 5-B; 4-Ben; 3-McNair; 2-Unitas; 1-Farve

  9. mantho permalink
    June 4, 2009 1:56 am

    Sorry. #5 was supposed to be Bradshaw. Typing is my life.

  10. steelergurl permalink*
    June 4, 2009 10:30 am

    Thanks @Mantho for commenting…I actually didn’t order them, the order rep’s the number of votes they got from twitterverse and a few random emails. The questions I asked was, when you hear the term “gritty quarterback” who do you think about.
    This is what they told me…there were a ton of random answers – even Jay Cutler!!
    John Elway also deserves honorable mention because he “almost” made this list.

    But just to be clear, I didn’t choose the answers and I didn’t rank them other than to tally the number of times someone said their name.

    But I like your list and order if I were to choose it myself.

  11. June 4, 2009 1:35 pm

    No love for my boo Rivers??? He tore a ligament in his knee in 2007 and still played. And was back in no time for the 2008 season… He should be on here over McNabb.

  12. June 6, 2009 9:31 pm

    Joe Montana is about as Gritty as Michelle Obama. Perhaps the GOAT, but not the GRIT.

    Anyone questioning Donovan McNabb’s grit clearly didn’t watch the game where he got his ankle broken and THEN threw four TDs to win the game.

    That Steve McNair wasn’t mentioned until the comments was inexcusable.

    Tom Brady will NEVER be gritty. ever.

  13. June 8, 2009 3:40 am

    If Big Ben can play the 2009 AFC Championship Game with broken ribs and the Super Bowl with the same injury, Then Ben Roethlisburger is by far the grittiest QB of all time. The only other performance that comes close is Donavan McNabb puking his guts out at Lincoln Financilal Field.Therfore the push goes to Ben becuase broken ribs is a harder injury to overcome than blowing chunks all over the football field. Hey son pass the Salsa and Chips while we watch Donovan take his team down the field.(LMAO)


  1. Pigskin Loving Lady’s Links~ « Pigskinlovinglady - First & Then: Football From A Woman’s Point Of View

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: