In looking back at quarterback play among the National Football League teams in the 1980s, it was a period of transition. Quarterbacks that held the fort down during the 1970s were still active into the 1980s. For some of them, their tenures would end and give way to other signal-callers.
Mind you, there were some really solid quarterbacks during the 1980s. Yet we’re going to look at five of them, ones that we believe represent some of the best quarterback play in the decade.
Joe Montana: The Quarterback of the 80s
Let’s start out with the standout from Notre Dame. Joe Montana just put the San Francisco 49ers on his back and led them forward. Oh, he had help, of course, with the likes of Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark, to name a couple. Montana recorded four Super Bowl victories, all in the 1980s. The 49ers beat Cincinnati twice, Miami, and Denver. He passed for more than 40,000 yards and 273 touchdowns in his career. “Joe Cool,” as he was known, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
After playing his college ball at Stanford, John Elway eventually found his way to the Denver Broncos. He remained their quarterback for his entire 16-season career. He passed for 51,000 yards and 300 touchdowns for his time. Throughout the 1980s, Elway did his best to keep the Broncos competitive. He’s a two-time Super Bowl winner and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
While he did not lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl, Dan Fouts proved himself to be one of the decade’s stellar players at quarterback. His numbers are pretty incredible, ones that led him to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. In his career, he passed for 43,000 yards and 254 touchdowns. Fouts had a starring role in the “Epic in Miami,” pitting the Chargers against the Miami Dolphins in an AFC divisional playoff game in 1982. San Diego won 41-38.
In the 1980s, Randall Cunningham was The Man with the Philadelphia Eagles. He had a rocket arm when in the pocket. But give him a little room to use his legs and he was equally dangerous. Cunningham played in the NFL for 16 seasons, most of those with the Eagles. He also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens. In 1988, he was elected as the NFC starter in the Pro Bowl. Cunningham was the first black quarterback to earn that honor. He finished his career with nearly 30,000 passing yards and 207 touchdowns.
Out of Morehead State, Phil Simms pretty much anchored the New York Giants’ offense throughout his entire 15-year career. All of them spent with the Giants. But Simms did have some injuries that kept him from maybe reaching even more of his potential. Still, Simms led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories in 1987 and 1991. He finished his career with 33,000-plus yards passing and 199 touchdowns.
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