All 54 (Soon To Be 56) Starting Super Bowl Quarterbacks Ranked

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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.

Kerry-Collins-super-bowl-quarterback

Kerry Collins (Photo by Ray Montgomery via CC BY 2.0)

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.

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About Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.

Comments

  1. I have no idea how you rank Peyton Manning 4 spots ahead of Drew Brees; especially sinse Brees’ one SB win was against Manning, AND you said it was Manning’s best SB performance, AND Brees was the MVP of that SB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Trent Dilfer, the thing he is worst than being an NFL player at, is being an NFL commentator, Baltimore wan in-spite of him not because he was the quarterback, so he should be rated towards the bottom if not the bottom.

  3. Wassup to all my fellow Ravens fam and (UD alumni!!!) ! I found chance to win FREE framed Ravens photo from the Super Bowl – $225 value. The photos on there look tight!!! Check it out at http://www.theRavensPhotos.com
    Go Ravens!!!

  4. I have always been a cheese head hater, but putting Favre that far down the list is a crime. Steve young was by far a much better quarterback than the Manning brothers. Staubach was the better quarterback of top Dallas representatives on this list. He had to play against the nastiest defensive line in that era. If they would have gone against any other team than the dreaded Steelers, it would have been Staubach with the four rings. Jerry Rice should almost have his name next to Montana. Those two thought with one brain. Most of the rest of these quarterbacks threw good passes that would have led to touch downs if their receivers were where they were supposed to be.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. I can’t watch ESPN when that idiot starts rambling on and on. I was expecting him to be at the bottom of this poll. Looks almost like they just went off record than actual ability because he was by far the worst quarterback to play in the big game!!!!!!!!!!

  6. bygremlin says:

    i totally agree!

  7. bygremlin says:

    this writer doesn’t seem to be able to make his mind up. it’s either how many you won, it’s how you played or if you won at all.. clearly elway had 3 bad s.b. starts, while dilfner and other who did nothing in s.b. wins shouldn’t get credit for the win.

  8. sheila bradley says:

    I agree with the writer 100% haven’t you ever watched joe montana play?apparentley not even with the kansas cit chiefs he almost made it to the super bowl and i didn’t see rice in sight. that is why montana was voted the quarterback of the century. there will never be anyone like him and he was fun to watch I also agree with where the mannings are because it also counts how many superbowls they were in which is a feat in its own.

  9. The No.1 QB was a no brainer for the modern NFL (1967 an on). However, I can think of a few QB prior who should be considered. Otto Graham, Y.A Tittle, Frank Ryan, Charle Johnson and Roman Gabriel for a few. These older QB really set the Standard for excitement in the NFL.

  10. Losing QB’s in SB shouldn’t be rank in top 5! Member Aikman had to go through SF to get to the big dance… you memeberrrrr
    Its going to be great when the whinners lose today tired of the so called experts saying how great CK and he even hasn’t taken a hit in the big show but today he will and we’re see after how great he is. The kid is going to be great but not today!

  11. And by the way SAPP a Hall of Famer??
    You kidding me right but i know its today America!
    We have a idiot as a leader
    Little Johnny hit .054 sucks in LL but he gets a trophy for participating
    And Sapp’s a Hall of Famer??
    Continue the trend AMERICA & we’re all SUCK!

  12. Darryl Taylor says:

    You stated,”As Williams was announced as Most Valuable Player, the Washington radio announcers said that they hoped Williams’ day would finally end some of the myths about African-American QBs. A quarter-century later?? Unfortunately some of the stereotypes remain.” I noticed you confirmed this statement by the order of your quarterback ranting. By the way, Jay Schroeder was in for one play. And about the ‘knee scare’, that was real. His performance was heroic. After the game, Doug Williams was placed in a cast from his ankel to knee. My question is how could quarterbacks with one win with lower quarterback rating, less yards and less touchdowns come before Doug Williams. For example, one win quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rogers, Brett Farve, Len Dawson please understand I like and enjoy watching forementioned quarterbacks especially Farve, however you did say Super Bowl performance not career performances. Again, you have made your poorly worded statement true by the order of your Super Bowl quarterback ranting.

    Jay Schroeder

  13. John Elway – overrated as usual.

  14. huemeister says:

    I would suggest you go back and learn some grammar if you pretend to write well, Mr. Allen.

  15. It’s about time someone recognizes that Terry Bradshaw has FOUR (4) Rings and ZERO losses. It USED to be that sports figures were graded on WINS not STATS.
    If you win you are better than a guy that loses. When did that change in AMERICA??? Montana is #1 and Bradshaw #2. Then Aikman is 3-0…he is third. Real simple. And if you are 2-3 in SB’s, you cannot be ahead of guys with better SB records. Winning is what counts….thats why we keep score. BTW….I applaud you for ranking Marino where he SHOULD BE……way down the list. He NEVER won anything….in HS, College or the Pro’s….why is he such a legend when he won NOTHING????

  16. Great list. And yes the top 2 are correct. Joe Montana was unbelievable in his performances and Bradhaw led his team to victories doing what was necessary to win. Winning it is all that matters and they both knew how to do it!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Now I AM NOT a Cowboy fan…at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CANNOT stand them…however, where is Troy Aikman?

  18. The author seems ignorant of the fact that rules were changed drastically over the years to pump up passing stats. In the early Super Bowls corners could bump the receivers until the ball was thrown, offensive linemen could not extend their arms (or they would be called for holding), hashmarks were wider, leading to a lopsided field, kickoffs were from the 40, goalposts were at the goal line (leading to more field goal attempts rather than end-zone passes). Also fumbles were called even if the player hit the ground, spearing with the helmet was pretty common and the QB had no special protection from the rules.

    As a result of these rule changes passer rating have gone much higher. Add in the evolution of the game (like standard 3 receiver sets, short timing patterns) brought about by these rule changes and you can see the league got what it wanted, more passing yards, more touchdown passes and higher scoring. So why would anyone compare Joe Namath or Len Dawson’s stats to
    those of quarterbacks who played in the offense-first era? This is typical of the non-thinking we get from the media today.

  19. No way Peyton Manning is that high. Nice way to not put his pathetic Super Bowl numbers up there. Not to mention his pass directly cost the Colts the game against the Saints!!!

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