The NFL’s Best Short Quarterbacks of All Time

The list of great short quarterbacks is, well, a short one. I defined “short” as 6-0 or shorter. I did not include quarterbacks who played before the 1960s because the game has changed so much since then. There were many great short quarterbacks pre-1960, including Hall of Famers Dutch Clark, Paddy Driscoll, Benny Friedman, Arnie Herber, Sid Luckman and Ace Parker. With that being said, here are my best short quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era. Who would you add to the list?

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1. Fran Tarkenton, 6-0. This Hall of Famer was voted to nine Pro Bowls, played in three Super Bowls and is a former MVP. When he retired, he had every significant passing record. He won 124 games, which is tied for fifth most in NFL history even though he played the bulk of his career when the season was shorter than it is today. With his mobility, “The Mad Scrambler” probably would have fit in well in today’s game.

2. Sonny Jurgensen, 5-11. This great former Eagle and Redskin won three passing titles on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including one at the age of 40. Some thought he was the best passer of his era.

3. Drew Brees, 6-0. A six-time Pro Bowler, an offensive player of the year, a Super Bowl MVP and a comeback player of the year, Brees will likely be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he hangs up his cleats. His lack of height in the era of massive lineman means he needs to have a great idea of where the receivers and defensive backs are, even with obscured vision.

4. Russell Wilson, 5-11. The Seahawks signal caller has helped change the idea of what it means to be a quarterback in the NFL. He’s good from the pocket but his best strength comes from his elusiveness and making throws on the run. He was named to the Pro Bowl in four of his six seasons and led Seattle to one of the most lopsided Super Bowl victories when the Seahawks topped the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII (48).

5. Len Dawson, 6-0. The MVP of Super Bowl IV and a Hall of Famer, Dawson was known for his accuracy and poise. He struggled early in his career with the Steelers and Browns before his career took off with the Dallas Texans, and then the Chiefs.

6. Joe Theismann, 6-0. He was NFL MVP in 1983, made it to two Pro Bowls and helped Joe Gibbs win a Super Bowl. He went 77-47 as a starter. Theismann was an athletic quarterback who could avoid pressure, but he wasn’t athletic enough to avoid Lawrence Taylor on the play that ended his career. (I’m not linking the play because everyone who has seen it has it permanently scarred in their memory.)

7. Michael Vick, 6-0. We think of Michael Vick as many things, but rarely do we think of him as a short quarterback. But he is. Vick gets away with being short because he is the greatest running quarterback ever. He has been invited to four Pro Bowls and won the NFL comeback player of the year award in 2010.

8. Eddie LeBaron, 5-7. The Little General is in the Redskins ring of fame and made it to four Pro Bowls. The Redskins listed him at 5-9, but LaBaron has fessed up to being 5-7. He was unprotected by the Redskins in the expansion draft in 1960, and the Cowboys claimed him, making him their first ever quarterback. The veteran of the Korean War never had a winning season, and he threw 37 more interceptions than touchdowns in his career.

9. Billy Kilmer, 6-0. He backed up both Jurgesen and Theisman at different points, but started 124 games himself and made it to the Pro Bowl in 1972. He is in the Redskins ring of honor.

10. Doug Flutie, 5-10. Flutie was a great college player, a great Canadian player, but an uneven NFL player. He had his moments over 12 NFL seasons for four teams (five if you count the Patriots twice), winning comeback player of the year and making the Pro Bowl in 1998, and winning 70 percent of his starts for the Bills over three years. His record as an NFL starter was 37-28, but he was 0-2 in the postseason. Flutie had exceptional movement skills, and ran for 1,634 yards in his career.