On Super Bowl Sunday, Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco will become the 55th and 56th quarterbacks to start at the ultimate position in sports on the ultimate stage in all of American sports.
History will tell on Sunday, and in years to come, the place Kaepernick and Flacco will have in history. Super Bowl 47 may prove to be the lone shot at glory or the springboard to a legendary career that ultimately winds up in Canton.
But how do the previous 54 rank? Well, here is my list. As a starting point in compiling the rankings, I award one point for a Super Bowl start and three points per Super Bowl win – although I do make exceptions in the course of determining this rank.
54. Tony Eason (0-1)
I ranked the Bears first in my recent rankings of all 46 Super Bowl winners, so it would seem unfair to put the opposing starting quarterback in the massacre dead last.
But let’s just say Super Bowl 20 was not Eason’s day.
Few remember that the Bears actually fumbled on the very first play from scrimmage, giving New England a golden opportunity to jump out to a 7-0 lead on a short field.
Eason’s first pass was out to the flat to tight end Lin Dawson (now the AD at Grambling State University), who blew out his knee before he could make a play. Five more incompletions,a fumble, and three sacks later, Eason was replaced by veteran Steve Grogan, who was respectable (17-30, 177 yards) under the circumstances.
And if Eason had gotten the Pats in the end zone on that first drive?? They probably would have lost 46-14.
53. Craig Morton (0-2)
Has a unique place in history as one of two QBs to start Super Bowls for two different teams – the Cowboys in Super Bowl V and then with the Broncos against the Cowboys seven years later.
Both were forgettable. Morton was 12-26 for 127 yards and three INTs in Dallas’ loss to the Colts in Miami. Super Bowl XII wound up being even worse, as Morton would suffer as much of a beating as Tony Eason did eight years later and finished 4-15 for 39 yards and four INT’s before yielding to backup Norris Weese, who did not fare much better.
It would be left for a later QB to make No. 7 legendary in Denver.
52. Kerry Collins (0-1)
Have a good friend of mine who is a huge Kerry Collins fan, so I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see him near the bottom of this list! Collins had equally as impossible assignment as Tony Eason did against the Bears.
Going against Ray Lewis and the Ravens in SB 35, Collins went 15-39 for 112 yards and four INTs.
51. Rich Gannon (0-1)
One one-time Raiders QB deserves another. Gannon had a fantastic career that spanned 18 seasons, and his best years were towards the end with the Raiders, leading the league in passing yards in Oakland’s Super Bowl year of 2002.
Against the Tampa Bay Bucs Gannon had his hands full however, throwing five interceptions, including three pick-six’s.
50. David Woodley (0-1)
It started fabulous for Woodley in Super Bowl 17, with a 76-yard TD pass to Jimmy Cefalo to start SB 17. The rest of the day was a far cry from that, 4-13 for only 21 yards after that.
Woodley is one of three former starting Super Bowl QBs now deceased (Steve McNair, Johnny Unitas), which is actually an amazingly low number considering some of the early QBs are starting to get way up in years. Less than ten years after his Super Bowl appearance Woodley underwent a liver transplant and would eventually pass away at age 44.
49. Billy Kilmer (0-1)
Hitting on another Miami v. Washington Super Bowl played in the Los Angeles area, the veteran Kilmer could only muster 104 passing yards and three INTs as the Redskins did not score on offense against the undefeated Dolphins in Super Bowl 7.
48. Chris Chandler (0-1)
Chris Chandler was the ultimate journeyman, playing for seven team (Colts/Bucs/Cards/Oilers/Falcons/Bears/two stints with Rams). By far his best years were in 1997-98 with the A-T-L and averaged 9.65 yards per completion in the ’98 season that culminated with the Falcons lone Super Bowl appearance, losing to the Broncos.
47. Boomer Esiason (0-1)
Did not do much against the 49ers in Super Bowl 23, passing for 144 yards and a 46.1 passer rating. The Bengals lone TD came on Stanford Jennings third-quarter kickoff return, which kept the Bengals in the game until the end.
One of the biggest what-ifs in Super Bowl history remains what if Stanley Wilson had not gone on a cocaine binge the night before.
46. Joe Kapp (0-1)
To this day, he still has one of the more unique career paths in football history, starting the 1959 Rose Bowl and the 1963 CFL Grey Cup before leading the Vikings to their Super Bowl IV appearance and later returning to the University of California as head coach.
Despite all of that Kapp may go down being best remembered for his brawl with Angleo Mosca at a luncheon leading up to the 2011 Grey Cup, over a play that occurred in the 1963 game.
That tussle earned Kapp and Mosca a number one ranking on a TruTV episode of ‘World’s Dumbest.’
45. Ron Jaworski (0-1)
Over three decades removed from Super Bowl XV, don’t you think Jaws is STILL having nightmares about Rob Martin??
44. Neil O’Donnell (0-1)
Meanwhile it’s ‘Larry Brown’ from SB XXX that O’Donnell keeps muttering in his sleep. Interesting stat on McDonnell, he was never intercepted more than nine times in a season in his career.
43. Stan Humphries (0-1)
Most astonishing Super Bowl fact ever: the Niners were 20-point favorites against the Chargers in SB 29 and wound up covering. Humphries racked up some yards in a worthless cause but was picked three times.
42. Rex Grossman (0-1)
Amazing that I went through a dozen QBs before getting to Rex. He wasn’t that bad against the Colts, going 20-28 – but it was a fourth quarter pick-six at the hands of Kelvin Hayden that doomed Chicago’s chances.
41. Matt Hasselback (0-1)
Held up his own (26-49, 273) against the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but his team only scored 10 points.
40. Drew Bledsoe (0-1)
The No. 1 overall pick of the 1993 Draft had a solid career, but he was picked off four times by the Packers in his lone Super Bowl appearance.
39. Daryle Lamonica (0-1)
The original ‘Mad Bomber’ and one of the faces of the old AFL, Daryle started for the Raiders against Green Bay in Super Bowl II. His career completion percentage was less than 50 percent.
38. Earl Morrall (1-1)
Yes, he does have a win on his ledger, as the only QB to lead his team to victory in a relief role as the Colts won Super Bowl V, which somewhat made up for his awful performance v. the Jets (6-17, 71 yards, 3 picks) two years earlier.
37. Johnny Unitas (0-0)
In the later days of his career, Unitas neither made much impact in a relief role v. the Jets or starting against the Cowboys. Out of sheer respect Johnny U can’t be ranked too low.
36. Vince Ferragamo (0-1)
Heading into Super Bowl 47, only two QBs started the big game with less seat time as a starting quarterback than Colin Kaepernick – one of them was Ferragamo who had a decent game as the 9-7 (regular season) Rams through a scare into the mighty Steelers in SB 14.
35. Ken Anderson (0-1)
The pride of perennial Division III power Augustana, Ken Anderson became one of the more prolific QBs of the 1970s after coming to the Bengals on the advice of a quarterback coach named Bill Walsh. In 1981 Anderson led the Bengals to the AFC Championship and threw for 300 yards in a losing cause against Bill Walsh’s 49ers in SB 16.
34. Donovan McNabb (0-1)
McNabb will probably be in Canton one day, but the waning moments of Super Bowl 39 seemed like Donovan’s career in a nutshell. Was he sick or just shaken up?? Did he throw up?? McNabb did throw for 357 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, but was also picked off three times.
33. Dan Marino (0-1)
Came up short against Joe Montana in Palo Alto in SB 19, but after the most prolific touchdown season in league history at the time, it was figured that Marino would get more chances in the big game.
A perfect example on how the Super Bowl and the NFL cannot be taken for granted.
32. Steve McNair (0-1)
It was in a loss, but McNair’s courageous performance in Super Bowl 34 remains vividly remembered, even if it ended one yard short. McNair was definitely a warrior who left it all on the field.
31. Fran Tarkenton (0-3)
He had a sense of humor about it, even hosting Saturday Night Live after absorbing his third Super Bowl loss and spoofing himself on a faux ‘That Was a Great Moment in My Career’ (spoofing United Way spots the league aired in that era) during Weekend Update.
Needless to say, facing the ’73 Dolphins/’74 Steelers/’76 Raiders was a very tall order. Fran does have the distinction of throwing a completed pass to himself, although he was penalized on the play for throwing the ball a second time after it was batted back to him.
30. Jake Delhomme (0-1)
Jake gets the award for best performance ever by a losing QB in a Super Bowl, throwing for 323 yards/3 TD (0 INT’s) in the Panthers 32-29 loss to New England.
29. Jim Kelly (0-4)
Don’t knock Kelly too much, it’s a lot better to be 0-4 than 0-0 and not even be on this silly list. But Kelly only threw two TDs in those four games v. seven interceptions. Kelly did not complete one of his appearances, as he was knocked out of Super Bowl 27.
Continue reading to see how the winners rank.