Several future Hall of Fame quarterbacks were products of the 1980’s. The 1983 NFL draft class consisted of talented quarterbacks such as Dan Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly. They were not the only quarterbacks lighting it up throughout the decade. Below is the list of the top NFL quarterbacks of the 1980’s.
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers
Drafted in the third round, very few expected Montana to emerge into the legend he became. He was the ultimate winner throughout the 1980’s, leading the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories in 1981, 1984, 1988, and 1989. He won the NFL MVP award in 1989 with a quarterback rating of 112.4. In fact, he completed three seasons with a quarterback rating of higher than 100. He threw for more than 3,000 yards in six seasons. He led the 49ers to the post-season in eight seasons, leading them to 13 wins and 4 losses.
Throughout the 1980’s, Montana passed for 30,958 yards, threw 215 touchdown passes, and only 107 interceptions.
Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins selected Marino 27th overall in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft, and that turned out to be a bargain. Marino developed into a quarterback sensation nearly instantaneously after he became the starter in Miami. In only his second season, he set the statistical standard. He became the first quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards, 5,084 to be exact. He also threw 48 touchdown passes while leading the Dolphins to the Super Bowl. That record stood for 20 years. Of course, they were defeated by Montana’s 49ers in Super Bowl XIX. That was the only Super Bowl appearance for Marino. Statistically, he had superior numbers compared to Montana, but the lack of Super Bowl rings puts him second on the list. He led the NFL in passing yards in four seasons in the 1980’s.
Over the course of the decade, Marino passed for 27,853 yards, 220 touchdown passes, and 125 interceptions.
John Elway, Denver Broncos
The Baltimore Colts selected Elway as the first overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft. The Broncos acquired him in a trade, and the rest is history. Elway led the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances in 1986, 1987, and 1989. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost all three Super Bowl attempts. Elway threw for more than 3,000 yards from 1985 to 1989. Perhaps his most memorable moment occurred in the final drive of the 1986 AFC championship game against the Cleveland Browns. With just over five minutes remaining the game, Elway led the Broncos in a game-tying drive. They won the game in overtime, and earned a trip to the Super Bowl. He was the 1987 NFL MVP.
In the 1980’s, Elway passed for 21,195 yards, 120 touchdown passes, and 144 interceptions.
Honorable mentions include Phil Simms (New York Giants); Dan Fouts (San Diego Chargers); Boomer Esiason (Cincinnati Bengals)
Resource: Pro Football Reference