Denver Broncos superstar quarterback Peyton Manning made history on the night of October 19, 2014 when he tossed National Football League career touchdowns 509 and 510. Manning, who will likely be regarded as the greatest regular season QB in NFL history, now has more passing TDs than anybody else, and his form over the past couple of years suggests that his reign over that category will greatly increase before the 38-year-old calls time on his playing days.
Not too surprising is that the list featured in this piece is filled with quarterbacks who are either in or guaranteed future spots in the Hall of Fame. Things kick off with a man who does not, however, meet that criteria. He never won Most Valuable Player, a Super Bowl or even a conference championship.
That quarterback was better than you may think.
Here are the 10 quarterbacks with the most career passing touchdowns in NFL history.
10. Vinny Testaverde: 275 Touchdown Passes
Would you, if building an all-time offense, take Testaverde over Joe Montana? Over two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning or two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger? How about over Terry Bradshaw, Kurt Warner, Steve Young, Jim Kelly or Aaron Rodgers?
Testaverde tossed more touchdown passes than all of those guys.
Vinny T. will never get into the Hall of Fame for a variety of reasons, most notably for the fact that he played on a lot of bad football teams. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback played in the NFL from 1987 through 2007, and his longevity in the league speaks to his ability to play on Sundays for two decades.
9. Johnny Unitas: 290 Touchdown Passes
Johnny U was a modern NFL quarterback who also happened to be decades ahead of his time. Unitas held the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass until New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees broke that mark in 2012.
Unitas last played pro football in 1973.
Unitas earned multiple MVP honors during his career. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has him in its All-1960s team. Unitas was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
8. Warren Moon: 291 Touchdown Passes
Moon first made his name in professional football up north in the Canadian Football League. He played for the Edmonton Eskimos from 1978 through 1983, and Moon went on to join the Houston Oilers before the start of the 1984 season.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Moon was the featured star of Houston’s famed run-and-shoot offense, and he won the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award for 1990. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns that season with 33. Moon was named to nine Pro Bowl squads throughout his career, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
7. John Elway: 300 Touchdown Passes
Elway is seen as one of the most clutch quarterbacks to ever play the position. His name would have forever lived on in NFL history had he never won a Super Bowl due to “The Drive,” the 98-yard game-tying touchdown drive in the AFC Championship against the Cleveland Browns. Elway and Denver did not go on to win a title that winter.
His moments on football’s biggest stage would come the subsequent decade.
Elway was a consistent thrower of touchdowns despite the fact that he never led the NFL in TDs for any season during his career. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection was named Super Bowl XXXIII MVP for his play in that game. Elway, third all-time in game-winning drives, was a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame.
6. Fran Tarkenton: 342 Touchdown Passes
Before there was Drew Brees and Johnny Manziel, there was Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton earned plenty of personal honors during his professional career. He was named to nine Pro Bowl teams. Tarkenton was the AP Offensive Player of the Year for 1975. He led the NFL in completions and in passing yards in 1978.
Unfortunately for him, Tarkenton is also one of the best quarterbacks to have never won a Super Bowl.
Tarkenton guided the Minnesota Vikings to Super Bowl trips on three times in the 1970s. Minnesota lost all of those contests. Only one other player above Tarkenton on this list does not possess a pro football championship ring.
5. Tom Brady: 372 TD Passes And Counting
Brady‘s rise to fame will be an all-time legendary story so long as pro football exists. Taken with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, long after casual viewers had stopped watching, Brady evolved into arguably the best overall quarterback of his generation. The future Hall-of-Famer is a three-time Super Bowl Champion, and Brady has dropped hints that he would like to play into his 40s.
He turned 37 years old this past August.
Any conversations about the greatest quarterbacks ever has to include Brady. The two-time Super Bowl MVP is in the top-five in career touchdown passes and career passes completed. No active quarterback has started more playoff games than Brady.
4. Drew Brees: 374 TD Passes And Counting
Brees was never supposed to be so high in such categories. Listed, maybe generously, at 6 feet, the product of Purdue University was supposedly too small to be a superstar NFL quarterback. Brees didn’t do well enough to evade defensive players, his mechanics needed work, and some were concerned about the strength of his arm.
The New Orleans Saints sure are glad the San Diego Chargers gave up on Brees.
Brees has won two NFC MVP Awards since joining the Saints in 2006. He helped guide the club to Super Bowl XLIV glory. The 35-year-old still slinging it on Sundays will be in the Hall of Fame soon after he calls time on his playing days.
3. Dan Marino: 420 Touchdown Passes.
Marino showed the football world just how special he was going to be in 1984, his second season with the Miami Dolphins. He led the NFL in completed passes, passing yards and passing touchdowns that year. Marino netted Associated Press and Pro Football Writers of America MVP Awards for his play that year.
Marino’s onslaughts on football record books would only continue from there. Along with being third in career touchdown passes, Marino is also third in passing yards and completed passes. Marino is at least the greatest quarterback to have never won a Super Bowl, and some knowledgeable individuals would tell you that Marino is the best of the best.
2. Brett Favre: 508 Touchdown Passes
The final years of Favre‘s career will, for some, always overshadow all that he accomplished. There was that forgettable stint with the New York Jets. Favre threw costly interceptions in NFC Championship Games that cost two different franchises real chances to win titles. No quarterback has thrown more career interceptions than “The Gunslinger.”
Favre’s greatness nevertheless remains undeniable. Favre has the most starts among quarterbacks in history. He is atop the completed passes and passing yards categories. Favre’s best moments on football fields far outweigh his worst, and the Hall of Fame will soon come calling for him.
1. Peyton Manning: 510 TD Passes And Counting
Manning is somehow getting better with age. Since joining the Denver Broncos in 2012, the 38-year-old has tossed 111 touchdowns, he has thrown for nearly 12,000 yards, and Manning and the Broncos have made a Super Bowl appearance. Manning is averaging over three touchdown passes a game for the 2014 regular season, and Denver is again a favorite to play a meaningful football game in February.
Manning won’t retire as the greatest playoff quarterback of all time. Who cares? Manning has been a player for the ages, and he isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.