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Best 12 quarterback battles of all time

The assignment came over email on Wednesday. Could I write a post on the best quarterback battles of all time, to be used on Thursday's edition NFL Network's "Total Access" show?

There is nothing I love more than a meaningless list, so I accepted the challenge. It's up to you to decide if I failed.

12. Bart Starr vs. Babe Parilli and Lamar McHan, Green Bay Packers

It's strange to imagine in retrospect, but Starr toiled as a backup or a part-time player for five solid seasons before putting together his Hall of Fame career. He split time with Parilli in 1957-58, including a 1-10-1 Packers season. Starr battled and largely backed up McHan before finally taking over as a starter for good midway through the 1960 season. That worked out pretty well for Vince Lombardi.

11. Philip Rivers vs. Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers

A lengthy holdout by Rivers prevented him from trying to take Brees' job as a rookie. Brees was coming off a miserable 2003 season, but he played too well the next season to let Rivers truly have a chance to pass him. A shoulder injury to Brees in the final game of 2005 before his free-agent year helped Chargers general manager A.J. Smith make his decision, and led to a Super Bowl title for Brees in New Orleans.

10. Earl Morrall vs. Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins

When Bob Griese went down with a broken leg in Week 5 of the 1972 season, the Dolphins looked cooked. Instead, Don Shula’s trusty backup Morrall helped the Dolphins stay undefeated into the playoffs. Don Shula didn't go back to Griese until halftime of the AFC championship. The rest is history.

9. Tim Tebow vs. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos

Kyle Orton won the battle in training camp. Tim Tebow won the war during the regular season. Tebow's victory was short-lived.

8. Don Majkowski vs. Brett Favre vs. Ty Detmer, Green Bay Packers

The "Magic Man" went into the 1992 season as a starter, but he knew he was on borrowed time. Some folks thought Detmer would replace Majokowski as the "quarterback of the future." When Majkowski got hurt that September, some guy named Favre took over instead.

7. Jeff Hostetler vs. Phil Simms, New York Giants

This wasn't a battle until Hostetler won a Super Bowl as Simms' injury replacement in the 1990 season. Hostetler beat out Simms for the job the following training camp, although both players failed to recapture their former magic.

6. Kurt Warner vs. Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals

Leinart actually started for most of his rookie season over Warner. When coach Dennis Green was fired and Ken Whisenhunt arrived, Whiz wisely opened up the job to competition. It's hard to believe this was viewed as an upset when Warner got the gig.

5. Vinny Testaverde vs. Bernie Kosar, Cleveland Browns

This was an in-season battle after Kosar was benched during the 1993 season. Bill Belichick eventually cut Kosar and Browns fans never forgave him. It’s worth noting Belichick was right in this QB call –- as usual.

4. Rob Johnson vs. Doug Flutie, Buffalo Bills

Rob Johnson had the big contract and the hype. Doug Flutie was the better football player. Buffalo was a town torn in two by this never-ending battle. Ultimately, the Bills chose wrong.

3. Troy Aikman vs. Steve Walsh, Dallas Cowboys

This was a battle more in Jimmy Johnson's mind than it ever was on the field. Johnson took Walsh in the first round of the supplemental draft, but the signal-caller never looked like he belonged as a pro.

2. Craig Morton vs. Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys

Tom Landry was known for his cool demeanor, but his indecision regarding the quarterback position plagued him. Landry seemed to change his mind season to season, quarter to quarter, and eventually play to play. Staubach improvised more than Landry liked but he finally stuck with Staubach in the season the Cowboys won Super Bowl VI. The two men eventually faced off in the Super Bowl when Morton was with the Broncos. The Cowboys won that one, too.

1. Steve Young vs. Joe Montana, with Steve Bono on the side, San Francisco 49ers

Montana had to battle Young a few times. The first battle came in 1988 after a disappointing playoff loss by the 49ers the year before. Yes, Bill Walsh made Montana fight for a job after a first-team All-Pro season.

It would be like Bill Belichick allowing Brian Hoyer to battle Tom Brady this year. We’d love to see the reaction to that.

Montana won in 1988, but he couldn’t stay healthy enough to win a three-way battle with Young and Steve Bono in 1992. The weirdest part: Bono was seen as a serious contender.

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