Nearly all sports, when played at the highest level, are pursuits for the young. Professional careers align with athletic peaks, and the aging process will eventually force everyone, even Hall of Fame locks such as Peyton Manning, to retire. Careers in the NFL are notoriously short, so playing past age 30 is an accomplishment. The oldest NFL quarterbacks of all time put most athletes to shame by playing into their 40s.
Speaking of Manning, you won’t see him on this list. Even though he played for a long time, he would have needed to play another 10 years to be No. 1 on our list. In the event of players who retired at the same age, we’ll list the most recent player first (keep an eye open for an all-time great at No. 7).
15. Matt Hasselbeck
Final season: 2015
The man who led the Seattle Seahawks to their first Super Bowl appearance, in 2006, was only about halfway through his career at that point. The Green Bay Packers drafted Boston College product in 1999, and in addition to Seattle, he stopped in Tennessee before finishing his career in Indianapolis as one of the oldest NFL quarterbacks to ever put on the pads.
Next: He played for two of the most storied franchises.
14. Vince Evans
Final season: 1995
We don’t blame you if you don’t remember the highlights from Vince Evans’ career; there weren’t many. His best season was 1980 with the Chicago Bears, when he completed 53% of his passed for 2,039 yards and 11 touchdowns. After leaving one storied franchise (Chicago) after the 1983 season, he landed with another (the Raiders) in 1987 after spending time in the USFL.
Next: He wasn’t a star, but he was good enough to stick around.
13. Joe Ferguson
Final season: 1990
No one will ever confuse Joe Ferguson for Peyton Manning, but he was good enough to stick around from 1973 all the way until 1990. He spent most of his career with the Buffalo Bills, where he had five winning seasons in 12 years, but he spent time with Detroit, Tampa, and Indianapolis before he walked away from the game.
Next: A shoutout to loyalty.
12. Jim Hart
Final season: 1984
After playing at Southern Illinois, Jim Hart went to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1966 and he played for the team until 1983 before wrapping up his career with the Washington Redskins. We applaud Hart’s loyalty and his longevity. His playing career coincided with five presidential administrations,
Next: An all-time great.
11. Len Dawson
Final season: 1975
By 21st-century standards, Len Dawson’s stats don’t jump out at you, but he’s one of the all-time greats to step under center. He guided the Kansas City Chiefs to an appearance in the first Super Bowl, in 1967, and helped them win their first NFL title in 1970. One of the oldest NFL quarterbacks of all time was still effective in his final season, passing for 1,095 yards and five touchdowns in five games.
Next: A name you might not know.
10. Charlie Conerly
Final season: 1961
A Washington Redskins draft pick, Charlie Conerly played for the New York Giants for the entirety of his 14-year career. A two-time pro-bowl player, he won a championship in 1956. Since he served in World War Two, Conerly’s career didn’t start until he was 27 years old, in 1948.
Next: He gets a category all his own.
9. Tom Brady
Final season: N/A
We should probably put Tom Brady in a category all his own. We know he has to leave the NFL at some point, we just have no idea when he will finally retire. Unless something drastic happens prior to the 2018 season opener, Brady will be 41 at the start of the season, firmly in the top 10 on the list of oldest NFL quarterbacks of all time.
Next: He led the NFL in one dubious category two times.
8. Mark Brunell
Final season: 2011
Playing from 1994 all the way until 2007, Brunell originally got his start with the Green Bay Packers, being taken in the fifth round of the 1993 draft. Despite that, he would spend the longest stint of his 17-season career with Jacksonville, holding down the G spot with the Jags from ’95 all the way to 2004, when he decamped to join the Redskins. Last playing for the Jets in 2011, the three-time Pro Bowler wound up leading the league in passing once, in 1996, and managed to lead the league in sacks twice, in ’96 and 2001.
Next: He’s one of the best we’ve ever seen.
7. Brett Favre
Final season: 2010
This is a name you expected to see, right. Brett Favre racked up a ton of superlatives over the course of his 20-year career: Gunslinger, Super Bowl champion, wealthy QB, and one of the oldest NFL quarterbacks to ever suit up. His final season in Minnesota wasn’t anything to write home about, but the year before that he passed for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Next: He joined a historic team at a time when most players hang ‘em up.
6. Earl Morrall
Final season: 1976
When he became a member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins — the only team to ever go undefeated from start to finish over a regular season and an entire playoff in NFL history — quarterback Earl Morrall had already been a professional football player for 17 seasons. Earl was drafted at 22, and he was 38 when the Dolphins went on their historic run. He played all the way through 1976 and promptly landed a gig at the University of Miami when he stopped playing.
Next: A winding career saw this QB play well into his 40s.
5. Doug Flutie
Final season: 2005
One of the greatest college quarterbacks in history traveled a winding path on his way to becoming one of the oldest NFL quarterbacks of all time.
Prowling pro football sidelines from 1986 to 2005, Flutie spent the early part of his quarterbacking career bouncing from franchise to franchise before finally getting a starting shot with the New England Patriots — whereupon he promptly disappeared into the icy wilderness of the Canadian football league for a decade, returning to the NFL in 1998 to head up the signal calling for the Buffalo Bills and finally retiring with the same Patriots that first gave him the starting job.
Next: Longevity is his resume highlight.
4. Vinny Testaverde
Final season: 2007
Everyone figured that Vinny Testaverde was going to have some kind of noteworthy NFL career after winning the Heisman and being drafted first overall in 1987. We don’t know how many people would have bet on either his underwhelming CV for his time in the NFL, or the length of his career. In spite of his apparent mediocrity, Vinny Testaverde wound up spending 21 years in the NFL and was a professional football player well into his 40s.
Next: He lit up the NFL when he finally got there.
3. Warren Moon
Final season: 2000
A onetime record holder for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history, Warren Moon was able to parlay his physical gifts and throwing acumen into a career that spanned from 1983 to 2000. Just what imagine what might have been.
Coming out of college in 1978, Moon saw zero interest coming from the NFL and spent the first five years of his post-collegiate career in the Canadian Football League. Imagine what could have happened if Moon, who retired at 44, was able to spend those seasons in the NFL.
Next: He’s one of the oldest NFL quarterbacks ever, but he’s not even close to No. 1.
2. Steve DeBerg
Final season: 1998
So good that Peyton Manning allegedly studied his film, Steve DeBerg played in the NFL for two decades but only accumulated 140 starts, which is why he’s known as a career backup. Still, he passed for a respectable 34,241 yards and 196 touchdowns over 17 seasons that included a four-year hiatus from 1994 through 1997. Picked up by Dallas in the 10th round, DeBerg spent time with the 49ers, the Chiefs, and Tampa Bay before ending his career in Atlanta.
Next: The benchmark by which the oldest NFL quarterbacks are judged.
1. George Blanda
Final season: 1975
When it comes to quarterbacks in the NFL, there’s young, there’s Peyton Manning old, there’s Brett Favre old, and then there’s George Blanda. He first played a professional football game in 1949 and didn’t retire until 1975 as the league’s leading scorer. He is also the only quarterback on this list to also kick field goals in professional NFL games, even if most of his numbers are pre-merger.
Additional reporting by Matt Reevy.