Greatest left-handed quarterbacks in NFL history, ranked
Even though most of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time are right-handed, there have been some excellent left-handed quarterbacks in the league as well. To celebrate International Left-Handers Day, here are some of the best lefty quarterbacks in NFL history (honorable mention to Jim Zorn).
10. Bobby Douglass
One of the first left-handed dual threats to play the game, Bobby Douglass was a man who could throw and run at a solid level. Drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1969, he was a starter for the team for multiple years in the NFL. He wasn’t a great QB, due to his below-average completion percentage and turnovers.
However, one of his best years came in 1972, when he passed for 1,276 yards and 17 total touchdowns while rushing for 968 yards. The 968 rushing yards were an NFL record until 2006, with Michael Vick (more on him later) breaking that mark. While Douglass was no star QB in the NFL, he still managed to find ways to produce and continue the path for left-handed quarterbacks.
9. Frankie Albert
Frankie Albert has the honor of being the first quarterback to play in NFL history as a left-hander. When he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1942 (they sure do love their left-handed QBs), he was projected to be the starter for the team. However, he was pulled out of the league because of WWII.
After he completed his duties, Albert went back to the NFL and played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1946. On top of that, besides being the first left-handed QB, he would also be the very first 49ers QB to start for the team. His best season would come in 1948, when he tossed for 1,990 yards, accumulated 37 total touchdowns, ran for 349 yards and had an excellent (at the time) 58.3% pass completion percentage. While he wasn’t the best left-handed QB in San Francisco (more on that later), Albert paved the way for lefties to play in the NFL.
8. Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow’s time in the NFL was pretty wild. While a historically dominant player in college, he was one of the most polarizing NFL QB prospects. In 2007, he won the Heisman Trophy by throwing for 3,286 yards, rushing for 895 yards and racking up a whopping 55 total touchdowns. He followed that up with two more big seasons at Florida, but while some were intrigued by his NFL potential, others thought he should play another position.
After being taken by the Denver Broncos in 2010, Tebow would reach the peak of his NFL career in 2011. As a Bronco, he amassed a total of 1,729 passing yards, ran for 660 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns. In that same year, Tebow would take the team to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, and they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 with an amazing overtime touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
However, Tebow Mania would come to an end after only three seasons. Even though he has returned to the NFL (as a tight end), the former Florida Gator will still go down as one of the most hyped up and best QBs to be left-handed.
7. Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa was one of the most interesting prospects to come out of the 2020 NFL Draft. In 2018, Tua was at the top of his game. As a starter for Alabama, he racked up almost 4,000 passing yards and 43 passing touchdowns.
However, in 2019, he suffered a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State. In the draft, everyone knew the kind of potential the former college star had coming into the league, but there were injury concerns.
Nonetheless, Tua was taken by the Miami Dolphins fifth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Even though he didn’t get to start immediately for the team, the current Dolphins starter managed to produce. Last year, he threw for 1,814 yards, 11 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions. If he was able to start in all 16 games, he could have had a great rookie season.
While he doesn’t have starting experience like the other passers below him on this list, Tua’s potential makes him one of the best lefties to play the game. If he can limit his injuries and continue to grow in the league, he could creep up and be a top left-handed QB in NFL history.
6. Scott Mitchell
Scott Mitchell was no elite starting QB. However, he was the perfect journeyman who had himself a few nice seasons as a starter.
Originally taken by the Miami Dolphins in 1991, he would go to play for four different NFL teams. One of his best seasons of his 11-year career was when he played for the Detroit Lions in 1995. In 16 games, he tossed for 4,338 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.
In total, he accumulated 15,692 passing yards and 106 total touchdowns in his NFL career. While he wasn’t a star quarterback, he had a few solid seasons in Detroit.
5. Mark Brunell
Mark Brunell made a name for himself with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars after being originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1993. Throughout the eight-plus years he spent with the Jaguars, he threw for over 25,000 yards and 144 touchdowns. He took the Jaguars to the playoffs from 1996 through 1999 and made the AFC Championship Game twice.
While Brunell wasn’t able to replicate his numbers with other teams in the NFL, he still was able to have a solid career in the league, especially as a left-handed passer. His time with the Jaguars makes him a top-five left-handed quarterback in NFL history.
4. Michael Vick
Michael Vick is one of the best mobile quarterbacks to ever play the game. The fact that he’s a lefty made him even more special in the NFL, and who can forget just how dominant he was in Madden?
Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, Vick made the Pro Bowl in just his second season thanks to his exciting style of play and impressive rushing exploits. He made two more Pro Bowls in 2004 and 2005 before breaking Bobby Douglass’ quarterback rushing record with 1,039 yards on the ground in 2006.
However, Vick’s issues off the field led to him missing two seasons. He ultimately returned with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 and made it to one more Pro Bowl in the 2010 season.
Overall, Vick had a stellar career, posting a total of 22,464 passing yards, 133 passing touchdowns, 6,109 rushing yards and 36 scores on the ground. Vick was the talk of the town in the early 2000s as a left-handed passer, and he wound up overcoming his off-the-field issues during his return.
3. Boomer Esiason
Boomer Esiason is a top-three quarterback in terms of his left-handed peers. In his 14 years in the NFL, he was at his finest with the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 1988, he had the best year of his extensive career. An MVP winner, he tossed for 3,572 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Even though he was bested by the 49ers in the Super Bowl, Esiason deserves credit for his incredible campaign.
In all, the four-time Pro Bowler finished his career with almost 38,000 passing yards and 247 passing touchdowns. Esiason goes down as one of the greatest left-handed passers in NFL history, and his contributions to the game of football only help his case in the top three.
2. Ken Stabler
Ken “The Snake” Stabler made his case to be in the top two in terms of left-handed passers. As a Hall of Famer, Stabler played for 15 years but is most remembered for his 10 years with the Oakland Raiders. He made the Raiders a household name in the NFL, taking them to the playoffs throughout the ’70s. He even led them to multiple AFC Championship Games.
As one of the most clutch quarterbacks to play the game, he had arguably his best season in 1974. Stabler won MVP that year with 2,469 passing yards and 12 interceptions as he led the Raiders to the AFC Championship Game.
I say arguably because he was even better statistically in the 1976 season, and it was that season that got capped off by a Super Bowl victory. Whichever season you prefer (gettin the ring is always the cherry on top), Stabler established himself as an all-time great throughout his career, but he’s just short of the No. 1 guy on this list.
1. Steve Young
Who did you expect at No. 1?
The greatest left-handed quarterback in NFL history will be Steve Young for the foreseeable future. As a three-time Super Bowl champion, he also was First-Team All-Pro team in three consecutive seasons, won MVP twice and was a Pro Bowler seven times in a row.
From 1992-1994, Young was the best quarterback in the NFL. In those years, he threw for 11,457 yards and 89 passing touchdowns. He rushed for 1,237 yards and 13 touchdowns. The lefty won the third of his three Super Bowls to cap off that 1994 season (he won MVP that year), and he also won Super Bowl MVP with his big performance against the San Diego Chargers.
Being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the icing on this incredible cake. Steve Young is the definition of greatness and is the definition of the greatest left-handed quarterback in NFL history. It will take a truly special talent to unseat Young from this perch.