No. 2 – Sonny Jurgensen (1964-1974)
Aaron Rodgers, Dan Marino, Sonny Jurgensen. Those are the three best pure throwers of the football that I have ever seen in my 50+ years of watching.
Sonny came to Washington as a bit of a reclamation project in 1964. He was already 30, and his years in Philadelphia had been marked by success and controversy. Everyone could see the talent. But the suspicion was that he was a little too reckless to ever achieve his potential.
Sonny arrived at a turning point. George Preston Marshall, the only owner the team had known, was being phased out. Washington had finally integrated its roster. Bobby Mitchell had arrived a few years earlier and Charley Taylor was about to join. The defense was still a disaster, but that offense, with Sonny at the helm … wow. Washington crept back up toward respectability. And they became exciting to watch.
The fact that Sonny managed a winning record as a starter (52-51-5) is remarkable given that this was the worst team in the league at the start of the decade. By the time Washington got to the pinnacle, injury and age had forced Sonny to play a supporting role to Billy Kilmer. But the magic was still evident whenever he got on the field.
In the end, Sonny was the one to surpass Sammy Baugh’s total yardage record. He still has the second highest touchdown total in team history. In his years with Washington, he posted an 83.9 passer rating, exceptional for his era. That rating is higher than contemporary Hall of Fame quarterbacks Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and Len Dawson. The accomplishments go on and on.
Sonny would become a beloved member of Washington’s broadcasting team for several decades after his retirement. Well into his 70s, Sonny could still tell you exactly what was likely to happen on any given play. He had talent and he had knowledge. Had he been on better teams, Sonny Jurgensen might be in the conversation about the greatest to ever play.