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NFL: Top 5 AFC North QBs of all time

Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens
Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens
ANALYST
Modified 11 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Over the years, the four franchises in the AFC North have featured some truly impressive quarterbacks: the likes of three-time Pro Bowler Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals) and fan-favorite Kordell Stewart (Pittsburgh Steelers) are just two names that come to mind.

The current crop of talent in the AFC North also looks quite promising: 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) and the electric Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) were both considered for this list .

But neither signal-caller made it, as a few legends deserved to be recognized more than these young players. Of course, that begs the question: who are the top five quarterbacks who have played in the AFC North?

5. Bernie Kosar, Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins

Before Mayfield's arrival, Bernie Kosar was the last great quarterback who took the field for the Cleveland Browns.

After a turbulent 1985 NFL Draft, Kosar, a native Ohioan, eventually signed with Cleveland. The Browns initially intended for their young QB to play backup, but Kosar quickly won a starting spot in time for the 1986 season.

With Kosar under center, the Browns earned a 12-4 record and very nearly made it to the Super Bowl after a famous 23-20 come-from-behind win against the New York Jets. Unfortunately for Browns fans, the team came up short against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Conference Championship Game.

After two injury-ravaged seasons, Kosar and the Browns made it back to the AFC Championship Championship Game, but they were again eliminated by the Broncos. The Kosar era brought the Browns painfully close to the Lombardi Trophy, but they never made it to the Super Bowl.

By the time he retired, Kosar had completed 1,994 passes out of 3,365 attempts. His career passer rating was the best in Browns' history (81.6) until Mayfield arrived. While Kosar's numbers don't match the truly elite QBs in NFL history, he is fondly remembered in Cleveland and beyond.

In later years, Kosar struggled with the effects of concussions he sustained during hard-hitting games. He has spoken out against the NFL for ignoring the dangers of repetitive head injuries in the game, making Kosar an AFC North legend both on and off the field.

4. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals

Ken Anderson represented the Cincinnati Bengals from 1971 - 1986, and he owned practically every franchise passing record until Andy Dalton became the Bengals' leading passer a few years ago.

During his time in the AFC North, Dalton (204) broke Anderson's record (197) of most TDs thrown for the Bengals. But Anderson still holds the franchise record for most passing yards, with 32,838 yards to his name.

He may never have guided the Bengals to Super Bowl glory, but Anderson was one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Anderson is a four-time Pro Bowler, and he won the NFL MVP award in 1981.

Anderson played his entire 16-year career with Cincinnati, so he is one of the most iconic players in the history of the AFC North.

3. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots - Wild Card Round
Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots - Wild Card Round

Joe Flacco spent an incredible 10 years with the Baltimore Ravens, and his accurate passing ability was a crucial component of the great Ravens teams of the early 2010s. Flacco led the Ravens to greatness in an era where the team had legendary players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense.

Flacco and the Ravens were a perennial contender in the AFC North, and their rivalry with the Steelers was one of the most memorable feuds in NFL history.

Assuming he stays fit, Lamar Jackson looks set to break practically all of Flacco's passing records. But for now, Flacco is the Ravens' leading passer, and his remarkable run to the Super Bowl in 2012 (11 TDs and 0 interceptions) cemented his spot as one of the AFC North's unforgettable legends.

Flacco brought the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore, so there's no way that he could be left off this list.

2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars

Ben Roethlisberger has been at the helm of the Steelers' dominance for nearly 20 years.

With Roethlisberger in the pocket, the Steelers have won eight AFC North Divison titles, three AFC Conference Championships, and two Super Bowls. Together, The Steelers and Roethlisbergerhave ruled over the AFC North for most of Big Ben's time with the team.

As an individual, Roethlisberger is ranked seventh on the list for all-time passing yards, with 60,348. The former Miami University star has also appeared in six Pro Bowls, and he'll surely be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Roethlisberger is expected to return for another season, so he can continue to add to his legendary career. He'd already be considered the best quarterback in AFC North history if not for the next name on this list.

1. Terry Bradshaw is the best QB in AFC North history

The phenomenal Steelers teams of the 1970s/early 80s remain a crucial part of NFL history, and Terry Bradshaw was the quarterback who led Pittsburgh to greatness.

A name now synonymous with football, Bradshaw led the franchise to four Super Bowl championships in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980. No other QB in the history of the AFC North can claim the same, and that's why the former Steeler has to be number one on the list.

Published 10 Mar 2021
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