Any ESPN talking head will tell you what an NFL quarterback needs: accuracy, field awareness, leadership, and boring things like that.
But what we really need to discuss are quarterback names. I’m a firm believer that a cool name is essential to success. There’s a reason Joe Montana is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. And why Mitchell Trubisky and Paxton Lynch never had a shot.
So here it is: my definitive ranking of every starting quarterback in the NFL.
1. Tyrod Taylor. So great for so many reasons. “Tyrod” is simultaneously strong and lyrical. “Taylor” makes me think of something specifically designed for style. It’s a great name to announce over a stadium’s loud speaker: “TY-ROOOOOD TAYLOR!.” And when you add the alliteration? *Chef’s kiss.*
2. Jimmy Garoppolo. “Jimmy” is the greatest quarterback name in existence. Its only real competitor is “Johnny.” And when you pair it up with a name that is pleasantly Italian, flows from the tongue, and sounds like sheer music on the lips? Well, pass the prosciutto and fettuccine, and let’s play some football.
3. Matt Ryan. Yeah, I’ll admit to some bias. But “Matt” is actually a nice quarterback name. And it pairs really well with “Ryan.” Say it a few times, and try not thinking of a quarterback. Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan. MATT. RYAN.
4. Lamar Jackson. “Lamar” is a good first name: strong, yet easy to say with style. Same thing with “Jackson.” It’s the sort of name a screen writer would come up with if he wanted a believable name for a quarterback.
5. Tom Brady. There’s a chance I ranked him this high not because of the name, but because of the success. But “Tom” is a solid quarterback name. And when you consider that “Brady” has been a synonym for quarterback excellence since 2001? Yeah, it was inevitable.
6. Teddy Bridgewater. “Teddy” is an unexpectedly good name: fun, friendly, and surprising. And “Bridgewater” sounds like the name of a PBS Masterpiece about an English manor house navigating a changing society.
7. Tua Tagovailoa. Although a challenge for us non-Hawaiians, this name has hidden appeal. “Tua” is a great name: distinctive, easy to say, and a strong pairing of long u and soft a. And once you master “Tagovailoa,” you can feel camaraderie with your fellow fans, and disdain for all the philistines who can’t pronounce it correctly.
8. Joe Burrow. “Joe” is an all-time great quarterback name. It makes you think of Joe Cool, Joe Camel, and other artifacts of 80’s coolness. “Burrow,” however, weighs it down. It makes me think of a bunny rabbit burrowing underground to escape a puppy.
9. Matt Stafford. Again, I don’t care if you say I’m biased about “Matt.” And Stafford is a solid last name on its own: both strong and sophisticated. But this name loses points because “Matt” and “Stafford” don’t flow particularly well.
10. Zach Wilson. “Wilson” is just a placeholder, but I have to give credit to “Zach.” It’s a cool quarterback name. Makes me think of power rangers and rad teenagers from the 90’s.
11. Aaron Rodgers. Probably put this half a dozen spots too high. It’s just so hard not to connect the syllables of “Aa-ron Rod-gers” with quarterbacking greatness.
12. Sam Darnold. “Sam” is a good first name. And I wasn’t a fan of “Darnold” at first, but it’s been growing on me. My one suggestion: make the spelling more French. “Sam D’Arnauld” has top tier potential.
13. Kyler Murray. Objectively, this should be higher. “Murray” pairs well with pretty much any first name. And honestly, “Kyler” is a good first name. It’s a near rhyme with things like “higher” and “flyer”—both good quarterback concepts. But I can’t escape the conviction that “Kyler” is the name of a kindergartener, not an NFL quarterback.
14. Dak Prescott. Of all the names on this list, this is the biggest waste of potential. Dak is a bad quarterback name. It makes me think of that Gak stuff that we millennials played with in the 90’s for some reason. But do you know what Dak is short for? Dakota. “Dakota Prescott” sounds like the law man in a Louis L’Amour novel. And he plays for the friggin Cowboys! What a waste…
15. Baker Mayfield. I don’t like last names as first names because I’m a grumpy old man. Also, this sounds more like a lacrosse player at Columbia than a football player. But the individual parts actually work pretty well. “Mayfield” sounds vaguely elegant and stately. And “Baker” has great pun potential: “Let Baker cook” and such.
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick. On its own, this sounds more like a lumberjack or a member of the Irish mafia. But once you hear the nickname “Fitz-Magic,” you can’t look back.
17. Jalen Hurts. “Jalen” is a perfectly adequate first name. “Hurts,” though, has puns that can cut both ways. If he’s doing well, you can say “Jalen’s putting the Hurt on the defense.” But if he’s doing bad, it’s “Dang. Jalen really Hurts.”
18. Ryan Tannehill. “Ryan” is a no-go. I really can’t imagine a dude named “Ryan” doing anything athletic. But “Tannehill” has potential. Sounds like the name of an Anglo-Saxon battle: “And then Arthur and his knights made their last stand at the Siege of Tannehill.”
19. Jamies Winston. Solid first name, especially when you consider the nickname “Famous Jameis.” But “Winston” sends it down the tubes. It’s a name for a basset hound, but not a quarterback.
20. Josh Allen. The essence of a name that is neither bad nor good. The rice cake of quarterback names. He may as well be John Doe.
21. Daniel Jones. Same problem as Josh Allen, only more so.
22. Derek Carr: “Carr” has little impact on its own: it’s linguistic tofu. But “Derek” drags it down. It’s the name of a rich bully in a Disney Channel movie.
23. Justin Fields. “Justin” is a strong first name, with good pun potential: “Justin Time,” “Justin Case,” and such. And “Fields” is a decent enough last name. The problem is they don’t flow together. When I say the name, the syllables just tumble over in my mouth.
24. Trevor Lawrence. I’ll admit this is the first time I’ve really thought about his name. I’m usually distracted by his shimmering hair and stunning cheek bones. But it’s a bad quarterback name. It’s two nerdy first names smooshed together. It’s a good thing he’s beautiful…
25. Russell Wilson. Same problem as Trevor Lawrence, but slightly worse. In addition to being nerdy, both names sound posh and pretentious. Also, it’s hard to say. Notice how the L’s in “Russell” and “Wilson” get tangled up on each other.
26. Justin Herbert. “Herbert” is a bad quarterback name. But if he changed the pronunciation to “Her-bair,” he’d shoot up at least 15 spots.
27. Mac Jones. I tried to get “Mac” to work. I really did. But a quarterback just can’t be named “Mac.” It’s a great name for a curler or a bush pilot. But not a quarterback.
28. Pat Mahomes. When I hear “Pat Mahomes,” I think of a suburban dad mispronouncing rap lyrics.
29. Kirk Cousins. I usually like alliteration, but here it’s just wrong. When you pair “Kirk” with “Cousins,” it almost sounds gross. “Kissin’ Kirk Cousins” practically writes itself. Overall, it sounds like the alter ego of a failed Marvel superhero from the 60’s.
30. Ben Roethlisberger. “Ben” is fine. Quite good actually. But “Roethlisberger” sounds like something you’d buy at a dive bar. A burger patty slathered and chili then deep friend in butter. Sounds gross: like something you’d buy at a dive bar. A burger patty slathered in butter then deep-fried in chili.
31. Jared Goff. “Jared” is the name of somebody who is perpetually in 8th grade. “Goff” sounds like you tried to say the word “gaff,” but had a gaff in the process.
32. Carson Wentz. “Carson” is a kid whose parents are both architects and who goes to a school where they give animal stickers instead of grades. “Wentz” sounds like a goofball ice fisherman from northern Minnesota. Together, it’s a train wreck.