The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 included one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning. During his acceptance speech Sunday night, Manning joked about the future enshrinement of a fellow all-timer in Tom Brady, who happened to be in the audience. But it got us thinking: Which of today's QBs are actually destined for a gold jacket?
Brady could've retired years ago and been fitted for one (more on him below), but who else among current signal-callers stands above the pack? And not only that, but deserves a place among the game's all-time legends? Here are the QBs we foresee cracking the Hall of Fame once they've hung up the cleats, as well as some who've flashed early glimpses of Hall of Fame talent, some who should make the Hall with another good season or two, and some who are just a bit unworthy:
What needs to be said other than seven rings? Even if you discount his Patriots dynasty because of New England's history of, shall we say, extra competitive advantages, you simply do not do what Brady has done -- well into his 40s, by the way -- without being a Hall of Fame QB. Besides the seven championships, five Super Bowl MVPs, three NFL MVPs, 14 Pro Bowl nods and four All-Pro honors, Brady ranks first in all-time passing touchdowns, second in passing yards and first in career QB wins. This one's etched in stone.
Rodgers literally has six fewer titles than Brady, but he's been every bit, if not more, star-caliber than his Hall of Fame Packers predecessor in Brett Favre. With plenty of football seemingly still in the tank at 37, A-Rod should have more jewelry but doesn't need it to prove his place as a generational field general. A three-time MVP, four-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler, his career passer rating (No. 3 all-time), passing TD total (No. 7) and win total (No. 9) confirm his robotic arm has delivered at a historic rate.
Roethlisberger hasn't necessarily aged as gracefully as Brady and Rodgers (though 2021 could tell a different story), and he's been far more prone to both injuries and turnovers. But the Steelers have done little else but win when he's under center; they've never posted a losing record during his career, and his 156 wins rank fifth among all QBs in NFL history. He's never won MVP but has led the league in passing yards twice, while pairing seven Pro Bowls with two Super Bowl wins and a third Super Bowl appearance.
Like Rodgers, the Seahawks star should probably have more than one ring by now; multiple titles would confirm him as more of a legend than contemporary great. He's also still just 32, with a remarkably durable history (zero missed games) considering his tendency to extend plays with his legs. Another couple years of his standard production should do the trick, while another ring would seal the deal instantly. The guy just does everything well, and like Roethlisberger, he's never allowed a losing season.
In almost any other scenario, it would be insane to safely predict a Hall of Fame induction after just four seasons, one of which included just one game appearance. Mahomes, however, is otherworldly. Not only because of his backyard style and rocket arm but historic early-career deliverance. At 25, he's already won NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP, led the league with 50 TD passes and appeared in a second Super Bowl. He's already set a new standard for modern-day passing, and he might just be getting started.
He has plenty to prove as a passer, especially in big games, but if you can't see the path here, you're not looking. Skeptics will cite Michael Vick and say Lamar is more electrifying than reliable, but Vick never posted 10+ wins more than once; Jackson's already done it twice, with significantly more success through the air. If he can stay healthy, he's bound to contend for years to come.
Any discussion of Watson comes with a blatant asterisk, considering the QB is still facing 22 lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual assault or misconduct. It's unclear when, or if, the former first-rounder will suit up again. But aside from a so-so win-loss record weighed down by the Texans' dysfunction, he's had an all-star trajectory, with 104 TDs and just 36 picks in 3.5 years.
Things can change a lot in a year or two, so Allen still has to prove his 2020 MVP candidacy (45 total TDs) wasn't an anomaly; he looked like a stronger-armed version of 2017 Carson Wentz during his breakout, but that name already rings much differently. Allen has the tools of a dual-threat powerhouse, but he's still got to stay healthy, avoid relying too much on his athleticism and win big.
We said premature, remember! No one's crowning Herbert a Hall of Famer, but he couldn't have had a much better start to his career. Most QBs who posted his numbers as a rookie have ended up on legends lists. And unlike recent MVP-caliber flameouts like Wentz and Jared Goff, Herbert also possesses one of the NFL's most lively arms. Growing pains are inevitable, but he looks the part.
On the outside looking in
The statistics say Ryan deserves to be in the conversation: All-time, he's ninth in passing yards, ninth in completions, 10th in passing TDs, 13th in passer rating and 14th in career wins. He also has an NFL MVP and five Pro Bowls under his belt. But he's captained five losing seasons and gone 4-6 in the playoffs, including an infamous Super Bowl loss. He hasn't done enough when it counts.
At his peak, Newton was one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons -- not so unlike Lamar Jackson, except with bulldozing power rather than lightning speed. His 2015 NFL MVP season (45 total TDs), in which he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, teased his upside. But while his career running resume is second only to Vick, he's largely been a mediocre passer on mediocre teams.
It's easy to pin blame for Stafford's lackluster record (74-90-1) on his longtime Lions supporting cast/staff, but still, an 0-3 playoff record means he needs a legit title run (or two) in Los Angeles to even warrant consideration. He was a record-breaking passer before historic aerial numbers became commonplace, and yet he's got just one Pro Bowl and few other honors or big wins to his name.