When the Miami Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft, the league got something it was missing for many years, a left-handed quarterback. Southpaws leading NFL teams have been rare over the years, but there have been some good ones. In honor of Tagovailoa bringing lefties back to the league, it seems fitting to take a look back at the best left-handed quarterbacks in NFL history.
We remember Vick so much as a runner that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he was also a southpaw. Of course, it’s easy to remember that Vick had incredible arm strength, perhaps more than any other left-handed quarterback in NFL history. In the end, it’s hard to overlook Vick’s off-field problems or his ability as a runner that made him an important trailblazer for mobile quarterbacks. But his left arm is also responsible for over 22,000 passing yards and 133 touchdowns during his NFL career, which is a big reason why he was a four-time Pro Bowler.
Brunell had an interesting career, as he was primarily a backup both early and late and ended up playing for five different teams. But the lefty found a longtime home in Jacksonville, where he was the starter for nearly a decade. He took the reins for the expansion Jaguars, ultimately leading them to two division titles and two trips to the AFC Championship Game in the franchise’s first five seasons. He’s not a Hall of Famer, but from 1996 to 1999, Brunell’s left arm and mobility made him a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Before he was an analyst and TV personality, Esiason was an elite NFL quarterback for close to a decade. He won league MVP in 1988 when he helped the Bengals reach the Super Bowl, falling just short against Joe Montana and the 49ers. Esiason had a strong left arm that helped him rack up close to 38,000 passing yards and 247 touchdown passes during his career. He also remains the NFL’s all-time leader in those categories among left-handed quarterbacks.
Stabler is one of the few left-handed quarterbacks to make it to the Hall of Fame. He was the starter in Oakland for most of the 1980s when John Madden’s Raiders were the team to beat in the AFC virtually every year. Stabler was a four-time Pro Bowler and took home MVP honors in 1974. A couple of years later, he led the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI.
Whether he holds all of the southpaw records or not, there’s little doubt that Young is the best left-handed quarterback in NFL history. He spent far too many years backing up Joe Montana before finally getting his chance. Young took home MVP honors in his first full season as a starter in 1992. He did so again two years later when he led San Francisco to a Super Bowl win. The Hall of Famer went to the Pro Bowl in seven straight seasons. He also led the NFL in quarterback rating six times and touchdown passes four times. Young was the first left-handed quarterback to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, period.