NFL football has been one of Kelley's major interests since the 1960s. He's watched every Super Bowl except #XVII in 1983.
There are many statistics used to rate NFL quarterbacks, but perhaps the most comprehensive and prestigious one is the NFL Quarterback Rating, which includes four categories for calculating such a rating: percentage of completions, average yards gained per attempt, percentage of touchdown passes, and interception percentage. Any rating above 100 for a season—or a career—is considered stellar.
For the purpose of this article, quarterback rating, total Rams yardage gained, and postseason success—particularly in NFL championship games or the Super Bowl—are used to compile this list, as well as some subjectivity on the part of the author, which seems necessary.
Please note that total Rams yardage doesn’t include post-season play.
Now let’s begin the countdown!
15. Ron Jaworski
- Years: 1974 to 1976
- College: Youngstown State University
- NFL Draft: 2nd Round, #37 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 801
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 38.3
Playing quarterback for the Youngstown State Penguins, Ron Jaworski honed his offensive skills while earning a selection to the Senior Bowl. During those days he acquired the nicknames “Rifle Ron” and the “Polish Rifle.”
Jaworski joined the Rams in 1973, playing as the third string quarterback behind John Hadl and James Harris, and when injuries struck Hadl and Harris during the 1975 season, Jaworski took over and led the Rams to victory in one playoff game. After the Rams drafted Pat Haden at QB in 1977, Jaworski was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jaworski had his greatest years with the Eagles, helping them win the NFC championship in 1980, but in Super Bowl XV the Eagles lost to the Oakland Raiders 27 to 10.
Jaworski ended his career by playing for the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.
14. Zeke Bratkowski
- Years: 1961 to 1963
- College: University of Georgia
- NFL Draft: 2nd Round, #17 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 3,608
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 58.9
While playing quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Zeke Bratkowski was the SEC passing champion for two seasons. For Bratkowski’s three-year career with Georgia, he tossed 360 passes for 4,863 yards and led the NCAA in punting in 1953, his senior year.
After being the QB of the Chicago Bears for five seasons, Bratkowski joined the Rams in 1961 and showed good QB skills, passing for over 1,500 yards for each of two seasons: 1961 and 1962. Then during the 1963 season he was traded to the Green Bay Packers.
Thereafter, Bratkowski thrived as the backup QB to future Hall of Fame player Bart Starr and the awesome Packers, who won the first two Super Bowls (1967 and 1968) and dominated the NFL throughout the early to middle 1960s.
13. James Harris
- Years: 1973 to 1976
- College: Grambling State
- NFL Draft: 8th Round, #192 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 5,482
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 81.2
Called “Shack,” short for Meshach, a nickname given to him by his Baptist Father, James Harris broke passing records while playing for Grambling State in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
After being traded from the Buffalo Bills to the LA Rams in 1973, James Harris was promoted to starting quarterback during the 1974 season when the Rams offense got off to a sluggish start. Harris led the Rams to victory in seven of the last nine games, helping them secure a playoff game, which they won against the Washington Redskins.
Harris became the first African-American quarterback to start and win an NFL playoff game. Unfortunately, in the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings beat Harris and the Rams 14 to 10.
Then Harris led the Rams to another division title in 1975, but after game 13, when a shoulder injury kept Harris from competing the rest of the season, Ron Jaworski took over at QB but lost in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas 37 to 7. Sadly for Harris in 1976, either Pat Haden or Ron Jaworski had to replace him at QB whenever his balky shoulder kept him from playing effectively.
Before the 1977 season, Harris was traded to the San Diego Chargers, even though his quarterback rating was the highest of three Rams’ quarterbacks - 81.2.
12. Billy Wade
- Years: 1954 to 1960
- College: Vanderbilt University
- NFL Draft: 1st Round, #1 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 9,269
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 70.5
Billy Wade had a tremendous career playing quarterback for the Vanderbilt Commodores, for which he won the Southeastern Conference’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1951.
Playing for seven seasons for the Rams, Wade’s best year was 1958, when threw for 2,875 yards, leading the NFL, and also scored 18 passing touchdowns, but was intercepted 22 times. Nevertheless, he was elected to the Pro-Bowl that year. Then he was traded to the Chicago Bears in 1961.
Of the Rams’ number one draft picks at QB, Wade may have achieved the least of that illustrious bunch.
Be that as it may, Wade may have had his best seasons playing QB for the Chicago Bears; in 1963 he led the Bears to an NFL championship and was elected to the Pro-Bowl for the second time.
11. Tony Banks
- Years: 1996 to 1998
- College: Michigan State University
- NFL Draft: 2nd Round, #42 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 8,887
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 70.4
While playing quarterback at Michigan State University, Tony Banks ranked among the all-time great quarterbacks for Michigan State, including 6th place in passing completion percentage.
When Banks joined the St. Louis Rams in 1996 he quickly became a starter. He gained thousands of yards for the Rams but often fumbled (21 times in 1996) and was intercepted about as many times as he passed for touchdowns.
After three seasons, because of only fair-to-good results and off-field distractions, Banks was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for two draft picks.
10. Pat Haden
- Years: 1976 to 1981
- College: University of Southern California
- NFL Draft: 7th Round, #176 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 9,885
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 69.6
Pat Haden had a stellar career playing QB for the USC Trojans. He led USC to three Rose Bowl games and won two NCAA national football championships. In his last Rose Bowl in 1975, he was selected as co-Most Valuable Player.
Haden joined the Rams in 1976 and, along with QBs James Harris and Ron Jaworski, this would be quite an impressive QB triumvirate for any team! But Haden was short of stature – 5 foot ten and 180 lbs - seemingly too small for an NFL QB. Nevertheless, after Harris and Jaworski were hurt, Haden became the Rams starting QB.
When Harris and Jaworski were traded in 1977, Haden became the first string QB and led the Rams to the NFC playoffs the next two seasons, winning one game, but the Rams couldn’t advance to the Super Bowl. Then a succession of injuries and the rise of QB Vince Ferragamo ended Haden’s career as a Rams QB in 1981, after which he went into broadcasting for CBS.
9. Sam Bradford
- Years: 2010 to 2014
- College: University of Oklahoma
- NFL Draft: 1st Round, #1 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 11,309
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 79.3
In 2008, Sam Bradford, a sophomore, had one of the greatest NCAA seasons ever; he threw passes for 4,464 yards with 48 touchdowns and was intercepted only six times. He led the Oklahoma Sooners to the BCS championship game against the Florida Gators, but the Sooners lost that game 24 to 14. Nevertheless, Bradford won the Heisman Trophy, only the second sophomore ever to do so.
Bradford joined the St. Louis Rams in 2010 and did well from the start, passing for 3,512 yards with 18 touchdowns and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, this would be Bradford’s best year playing QB for the Rams.
In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Bradford battled injuries but still put up good numbers, yet the Rams finished 2 and 14 and 7-8-1 respectively. Then seven weeks into the 2013 season Bradford tore his ACL, and then re-injured it in the 2014 preseason, and couldn’t play again until the 2015 season, by which time he had been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
8. Bob Waterfield
- Years: 1945 to 1952
- College: University of California at Los Angeles
- NFL Draft: 5th Round, #42 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 11,937
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 61.6
In the early 1940s, Bob Waterfield took his Hollywood good looks to football stadiums, where his “triple threat” scoring skills and incredible stamina amazed fans. Remarkably, in 1942 he appeared in nearly every minute of UCLA’s ten games. He threw passes, rushed the football, kicked field goals, extra points and punts - and also received punts. A one-man wrecking crew Waterfield certainly was!
Then in 1945, when the Rams still played in Cleveland, Waterfield had a spectacular rookie season, racking up 1,661 yards of total offense and led the Rams to the NFL Championship, beating the Washington Redskins 15 to 14. He was also named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
In 1951, Waterfield led the Rams to the NFL Championship, where they defeated the Chicago Bears 42 to 17. His quarterback rating was 81.8, the highest of his career. He also made the All-Pro Team.
After Waterfield's playing career, he became an actor and producer and married actress Jane Russell.
7. Vince Ferragamo
- Years: 1977 to 1980 and 1982 to 1984
- College: University of California at Berkeley and Nebraska University
- NFL Draft: 4th Round, #91 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 9,438
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 74.8
Vince Ferragamo played NCAA football for the Cal Bears and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. In 1976, his senior year, he was selected as a member of the All-Big Eight Conference, and the Sporting News selected him as College Football Player of the Year.
Ferragamo’s best year with the Rams was 1979, when the 9-and-7 Rams took their mediocre record into playoffs, where they beat the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road and then played the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV. The Rams led going into the fourth quarter but lost the game 31 to 19.
In 1980, Ferragamo had another excellent year, when he threw 30 TD passes, second most in the NFL. The Rams made the playoffs that year but lost to the Dallas Cowboys 34 to 13. Then in a game against the Chicago Bears in 1982, Ferragamo passed for 509 yards, the second highest passing yardage gained since Norm Van Brocklin’s 554 yards in 1951.
Ferragamo finished his NFL career by playing QB for the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers.
6. Jared Goff
- Years: 2016 to 2020
- College: University of California at Berkeley
- NFL Draft: 1st Round, #1 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 18,171
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 91.5
During the college career of Jared Goff, while playing three seasons for the California Bears, he excelled at breaking passing records—26 to be exact, including the records for 12,220 passing yards, 96 touchdown passes, 977 completions and 1,739 total plays. Only the passing efficiency of Bears' QB Aaron Rodgers (143.95) was higher than Goff’s.
Goff joined the Rams in 2016 and, when Case Keenum faltered at quarterback, Goff took over, starting the final seven games of the season, all of which the Rams lost, finishing with a 4 and 12 record. Nevertheless, experience is often the best teacher!
In 2017, Goff improved dramatically, leading the Rams to a 12 and 4 record and a playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, though losing that contest 26 to 13. Then in 2018 Goff led the Rams to Super Bowl LIII, a low-scoring struggle against the New England Patriots, which the Rams lost 13 to 3. Notably, Goff was elected to the Pro-Bowl in 2017 and 2018.
In 2020, Goff had a good—though not spectacular—year; he passed for 3,952 yards with 20 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Goff led the Rams to the playoffs as a wild card team and helped them beat Seattle 30 to 20—even though Goff had surgery on his right hand only 12 days before the game. But the Green Bay Packers beat the Rams the following week. Tough luck for Goff—and the Rams!
In January 2021, Jared Goff, no longer the “franchise quarterback” for the LA Rams, was traded to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Mathew Stafford, both of whom former #1 first round picks.
5. Jim Everett
- Years: 1986 to 1993
- College: Purdue
- NFL Draft: 1st Round, #3 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 24,268
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 78.1
Jim Everett had an impressive college career while playing quarterback for the Purdue Boilermakers. In 1984, he was the only Purdue quarterback to ever beat Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State in the same season; and in 1985 he led the NCAA in total offense – 3,651 yards with 23 touchdowns.
When Everett joined the Rams in 1986 he was the big QB the Rams wanted - 6 foot five, 212 lbs and, good from the get-go, he led them to the playoffs for three seasons – 1986, 1988 and 1989, though no appearance in the Super Bowl. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1990, although 1989 was his best year statistically with the Rams: 4,310 yards of offense, with 29 touchdowns and a QB rating of 90.6.
Nevertheless, Everett’s production with the Rams diminished considerably in the early 1990s, and he was traded for a seventh round pick after the 1993 season.
Everett ended his NFL career by playing with the New Orleans Saints and the San Diego Chargers.
4. Marc Bulger
- Years: 2000 to 2009
- College: West Virginia University
- NFL Draft: 6th Round, #168 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 23,135
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 84.4
Playing his entire NFL career with the St. Louis Rams, Marc Bulger joined the Rams in 2000 but didn’t play a game until 2002, when he replaced QB Jamie Martin and won the six games he started. Then, in 2003, Bulger replaced injured starting quarterback Kurt Warner and led the team to a 12 and 4 record, making the playoffs, though the Rams lost to the Carolina Panthers in the division round. Notably, Bulger was selected to the Pro-Bowl that year.
In 2004, Bulger became the Rams number one QB and signed a four-year $19.1 million contract. Then during the 2006 season, Bulger achieved one thousand completions, and did it faster than any QB in NFL history; he also threw for 4,301 yards, 24 TDs and a QB rating of 92.9. After the season he signed a six-year contract extension.
Unfortunately, from 2007 to 2009 Bulger suffered from injury trouble and lackluster performance and, to make matters worse, the Rams had a succession of bad seasons, especially 2009 when their record was 1 and 15, a low in franchise history.
3. Norm Van Brocklin
- Years: 1949 to 1957
- College: University of Oregon
- NFL Draft: 4th Round, #37 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 16,149
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 74.7
Van Brocklin joined the Rams in 1949, becoming the backup quarterback to Bob Waterfield. A passer and punter, Van Brocklin acquired the nickname “The Dutchman.” Then in 1950 Van Brocklin and Waterfield were platooned by Coach Joe Stydahar, becoming a kind of dynamic duo, scoring an average of 38.8 points per game, a record that stands today.
Passing to such star receivers as Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears, Van Brocklin and Waterfield led the Rams to the 1951 NFL Championship game, in which they beat the Cleveland Browns 24 to 17.
Notably, in 1951, Van Brocklin passed for 554 yards on September 28th, completing 27 or 41 passes and scored five touchdowns, setting a NFL yardage record that still stands.
Van Brocklin finished his NFL career by playing three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, winning the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1960, and then became a head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and later, the Atlanta Falcons.
2. Roman Gabriel
- Years: 1962 to 1972
- College: North Carolina State University
- NFL Draft: 1st Round, #2 pick
- Total Rams Yardage: 23,364
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 74.3
Roman Gabriel played college football for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, for which he broke just about every passing record. Gabriel was selected as the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1961 and 1962, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
The first NFL quarterback of Filipino-American descent, Roman Gabriel came to the Rams in 1962 and did fairly well but was not designated as the first string QB until 1966, and that year the Rams had their first winning season (8 and 6) since 1958.
Per Gabriel’s exemplary leadership at QB, the Rams were one of the best teams in the NFL for the next four seasons. Gabriel was selected to the Pro-Bowl in 1967, 1968 and 1969. And in 1969, Gabriel won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award; his stats for that season were 2,549 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, as well as a QB rating of 86.8, the best of his career.
Gabriel finished his NFL career by playing five seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles.
1. Kurt Warner
- Years: 1998 to 2003
- College: University of Northern Iowa
- NFL Draft: Undrafted
- Total Rams Yardage: 14,463
- Rams Quarterback Rating: 97.2
This may be the NFL’s best rags to riches tale. While working as a grocery store clerk for $5.50 per hour in 1995, Warner signed with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League (AFL), for which he excelled at passing yardage and touchdowns and was selected to the AFL’s All-Arena team in 1996 and 1997.
Then Kurt Warner signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Rams in 1998, playing as a third-string QB, but the following year he soon found himself second on the depth chart behind Trent Green. But , in 1999, Green tore his ACL in a preseason game and Warner was named the first-string QB.
Warner had a spectacular year in 1999, when he passed for 4,353 yards with 41 touchdowns and a completion rate of 65.1 per cent. Warner led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans, which the Rams won 23 to 16. Warner was named the Super Bowl MVP and also won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award.
In 2001, Warner led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXVI, in which Warner played great but the New England Patriots beat the Rams 20 to 17 by kicking a field goal on the last play of the game. Nevertheless, as a consolation prize, Warner won another NFL MVP Award.
Collecting numerous awards and breaking many QB records for 12 seasons, Warner retired in 2009 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Please leave a comment!
Questions & Answers
Question: What is Kurt Warner’s current job?
Answer: In recent years, Kurt Warner has been a coach at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.
© 2019 Kelley Marks
JT on June 30, 2020:
Great article and I thought it was well written
Devika Primic on March 30, 2020:
I live in Croatia and had no interest in American football until the last few years of watching other sports did I become interested.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 16, 2019:
Thanks for the comment, TT. Van Brocklin was certainly one of the Rams greatest QBs. Maybe I'll move him up a notch or two. It's hard to figure where he belongs in the top five. Later!
TT from Anywhere on July 15, 2019:
Personally I would put Van Brocklin at 2. Hall of Fame career and still holds the single game passing record