When Giants fans watch Super Bowl XLIX this weekend, they’re going to be treated to a matchup between Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. While Brady is already one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Wilson is about to appear in his second straight Super Bowl and could get to that level eventually. Giants fans shouldn’t get too jealous, though. The franchise has had its share of legendary signal callers. Today, we’ll review the top five in team history.
Although Conerly’s passing numbers don’t measure up to the rest of the players on this list, he was playing in the 1950s, when it wasn’t typical for quarterbacks to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season. Conerly still made his presence felt, however, by going to two Pro Bowls and leading the Giants to three NFL Championship games. During his 14-year career spanning from 1948 to 1961, Conerly played all his games for New York and threw 173 touchdown passes.
Known more for his time with the Vikings than with the Giants, Tarkenton was traded to New York following the 1966 season and got off to a great start with 29 touchdown passes during his first season in blue. “The Scrambler” spent five years with the Giants, going to the Pro Bowl in each of the first four before struggling with just 11 touchdown passes during the 1971 campaign. New York traded Tarkenton back to Minnesota after that and watched him win four conference titles with the Vikings. Even though his best work may have come in his post-Giants career, Tarkenton did great work to make a poor Giants team somewhat competitive in the late 1960s.
Not many were high on Simms when the Giants drafted him out of Morehead State with the seventh overall pick in the 1981 draft, but he would go on to prove a lot of doubters wrong during his 15-year career. After struggling through his first three season and then missing all but two games of his next two years due to injury, Simms was looking like a bust. However, he began to turn his career around in 1984, when he led the Giants to the playoffs while throwing for 4,044 yards and 22 touchdowns. That season would pave the way for Simms’ remarkable 22-for-25 showing in the Super Bowl XXI win over Denver. Even after that, however, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Simms. An injury in 1990 led to Jeff Hostetler taking the reins until 1993, when Simms returned to the starting job for one last great season in the Meadowlands.
One of two players on this list who didn’t play his entire career with the Giants, Tittle didn’t come to New York until he was traded by San Francisco as a 34-year-old prior to the 1961 season. Although the Giants were a mediocre 6-4-2 in 1960, the arrival of Tittle sparked a three-year run in which the team lost just five regular season games and won three consecutive Eastern Division titles. 1962 and 1963 were particularly remarkable, with Tittle throwing over 30 touchdown and being named First-Team All-Pro in each campaign. The veteran finally started showing his age in 1964, with the Giants tumbling to the bottom of the standings as a result. By then, however, the trade to bring in Tittle was already well worth it.
Like Conerly, Manning was drafted out of Ole Miss by a team other than the Giants but played his entire career (so far) with New York. Unlike Conerly, who was picked in the 13th round by Washington, Manning went first overall and came attached with massive expectations. Although he hasn’t developed into an All-Pro like his brother Peyton, Eli has lived up to expectations by bringing a pair of Vince Lombardi Trophies back to the Big Blue faithful. Although Manning has seen up and down seasons with the Giants (he has three 20-interception campaigns, but only two with 30 touchdowns), in the end he will be the franchise leader in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. Maybe he’s never put together an outstanding three-year run the way Tittle has, but Manning’s career Giants numbers combined with his two Super Bowl MVP awards make him the top quarterback in Giants history.