The 1980s was the first decade in which NFL rules favoring offense were more prominent, leading to statistics comparable to today's league.
Fouts fell short in two critical games during this decade: losing in both of the AFC Championship games in 1980 and 1981. He did lead the NFL in passing yards for three consecutive years at the beginning of it all.
Randall Cunningham revolutionized NFL Quarterbacking! Boasting an incredible arm and speed rivaled only by Michael Vick himself, Cunningham became an outstanding passer, throwing over 3,400 yards annually from 1988-90 and helping set the trend towards a more spread approach within his tenure.
Esiason became the starter full-time in 1985, and his first three years saw some solid numbers, though Esiason could often be streaky. By 1988 however, during regular season play, Esiason produced numbers that would ultimately earn him NFL MVP recognition. Yet, due to his inconsistent play, he would never win a Super Bowl.
Anderson would likely rank higher, but his days as a starter ended in 1984. In 1981 he led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI and won NFL MVP honors; two years later, he matched those feats with another outstanding campaign in 1982.
Simms' career began slowly but quickly became clear by 1984 when he emerged as the undisputed starter on the Giants team and led them to a Super Bowl Championship victory, earning MVP honors during that year's match-up against Baltimore.
Theismann made this list due to his success with the Redskins during 1982-84 when they won two Super Bowls under him, though even losing this year may be considered as his finest year as their team scoring records lasted well past 10 years. Unfortunately, his career was cut short in a Monday Night Football game in 1985 when Lawrence Taylor hit him hard enough that his leg broke.
Plunkett led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories yet received scant respect. He joined them after being judged a bust, trading Ken Stabler for Dan Pastorini before 1980 season started and it seemed that Plunkett would serve as his career backup; however, when Pastorini got injured early in season Plunkett took over. They made playoffs as Wild Card team but won Super Bowl which would go down as first time ever QB wining Super Bowl (he also led Raiders team back then too). Additionally he led Raiders team to another victory (also in 1983), warranting consideration by Hall of Fame membership.
Dan Marino led the Miami Dolphins to their inaugural Super Bowl appearance in 1984 after passing for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdown passes during just his second season as quarterback, before ultimately losing 38-16 against San Francisco 49ers. Many assumed this defeat would simply be temporary as Marino went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks to never win one - yet another testament to his legacy! Marino will go down as perhaps one of the greatest QBs to never capture one!
Elway led the Broncos to two Super Bowl victories during his time with them - 1986 and 1987 - while passing for over 3,300 yards (albeit more interceptions than touchdown passes) that season. Elway was honored with an MVP Award that year for his efforts, particularly his late game heroics; perhaps most notably in 1986 AFC Title Game when Elway drove his Broncos 98 yards as time ran out to tie and force overtime (a game they eventually won). I chose Elway over Marino because Elway was better in clutch situations and took three different teams through to Super Bowl that few could have reached.
Joe Montana reigned supreme during the 1980s as quarterback, leading his 49ers to four Super Bowl titles while just missing out on more. Montana was legendary, producing iconic moments such as "Catch," 1988's 92-yard drive against Bengals in Super Bowl, and in 1989 being flawless in every way possible.
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