Winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate achievement in team sports. Throughout the season, well over 60 players and dozens of coaches collaborate in attempts to be the last team standing. I've been lucky to witness the New England Patriots reach the mountain top six times. Whether it's fair or not, the starting quarterback usually gets all the glory/blame.
Of course, that's an oversimplification, but most fans would agree that the most conventional way to score in the NFL is on offense. Since the QB is responsible for leading the offense, it's all on his shoulders. However, there are countless examples of the other positions and phases of the game carrying the load. In 2006 during the infamous "the Bears are who we thought they were" game, Chicago came back from down 23-3 without scoring an offensive touchdown. QB Rex Grossman had SIX turnovers and still got credited with a win.
I respect advanced stats and understand why the pitcher win has been devalued in baseball, but despite the concept of this blog, the quarterback's performance will likely decide the game's outcome, but it's no sure thing. In 1986, Dan Marino threw for 6 touchdowns and 448 yards in a 51-45 Miami loss. QBs are responsible for leading the offense into scoring drives. Of course, they have more of an effect on the game than a pitcher who isn't responsible for his team's scoring, but look at a Dan Fouts or previously mentioned Dan Marino. More often than not, they were carrying their team but were betrayed down by poor defense (that was clearly not the case for Dan Fouts in the 1979 Divisional Round).
Over the nearly 60-year history of the Super Bowl, more often than not, the starting quarterback of the winning team played well, but there are a few examples of the QB having an off day that still results in his team winning it all. Over time, people may forget the box score and just remember these people as Super Bowl champions. That's where ya boi comes in.
The purpose of this blog is to remind folks that football is a team game, and while Super Bowl wins are an important factor when talking all-time greats, legacies, etc., sometimes teams can win despite poor QB performance.
It's Super Bowl week; let's have some fun and look back at some QBs whose team carried them to a ring and hefty bonus.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Unitas in Super Bowl V
Stat line: 3/9, 88 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; 1 carry, 4 yards
Passer Rating: 68.1
At this point in his career, Johnny U wasn't the same player he was in his "Greatest Game Ever Played" and MVP days, but in his final season as a full-time starter, the 37-year-old went 11-2-1 in the regular season despite a 14-18 TD to INT ratio and completing 51.7% of his passes. I know it was a different game back then, but those numbers aren't pretty in any era.
I have nothing but respect for Johnny U and understand his substantial role in league history, but his performance in Super Bowl V was fitting in what many consider the sloppiest Super Bowl. The Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys combined for 11 turnovers in a 16-13 Baltimore victory. Johnny U was responsible for 3 of them in just under a half of play.
One of Unitas' three completions was a 75-yard touchdown "connection" to Hall of Fame TE John Mackey. However, it was an overthrow broken play that hit like four different people. It still counts as a TD in the boxscore, but this was simply one of the luckier plays in NFL history. If you take away this pass, Johnny U completed two passes for a grand total of 13 yards before leaving the game in the 2nd quarter due to injury.
That's why Johnny U is an honorable mention and not one of the top 5. I think it's unfair to put him in the same class as these other champions since he got injured and missed the entire 2nd half. Who knows how this grizzled vet would've performed in the 2nd half had his ribs held up, but the 3x MVP won his only Super Bowl ring mainly thanks to his teammates and a late Craig Morton interception that set up one-hit wonder Jim O'Brien's shining moment and saved his hair.
Honorable Mention: Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVI
Stat line: 16/27, 145 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; 1 carry for 3 yards
Passer Rating: 86.2
Super Bowl XXXVI is the 2nd Super Bowl I can vividly remember watching and one of the seminal moments in sports fandom. I was in 4th grade, and this playoff run made me fall in love with football, but it was the definition of ugly, grind-it-out, team football. The 2001 Patriots have the record for the fewest points scored by a Super Bowl champion during their playoff run (in the wild-card era) with just 60. The Pats scored only three offensive touchdowns, one each game, in the 2001-02 postseason.
Brady's final drive showed what was to come in his career and was enough to leave him off the list. He left John Madden stunned and goosebumped, but that drive accounted for five of Brady's 16 completions and 53 yards. That means, before this drive, Brady was 11/19 for 92 yards and a TD. I know it was 2002, but that's a high school ass stat line. The Patriots punted on 8/11 drives. At least they didn't turn the ball over.
Brady had some moments in Super Bowl XXXVI despite the feeble numbers. His first pass of the game got the Pats out of the shadow of their own end zone. He threw a touchdown to David Patten (R.I.P.) late in the 1st half (set up by a turnover and short field) that was eerily similar to Drew Bledsoe's TD pass to Patten the week before (no bye week this year because of 9/11) in Pittsburgh and of course, his game-winning drive, but it's not like Brady carried the Patriots to victory. The defense was the story behind this monumental upset. They held the Greatest Show on Turf to 17 points. I think Ty Law should've been MVP.
Brady threw for 505 yards in Super Bowl LII and lost, but won Super Bowl XXXVI passing for less than 29% of that total. That's football.
#5. Bob Griese: Super Bowl VIII
Stat line: 6/7, 73 yards; 2 carries for 7 yards
Passer Rating: 110.1
This blog isn't about the worst performances by Super Bowl-winning QBs; it's about the least impressive ones. There is a difference. I'm a student of the game. I understand that Griese wasn't asked to do much with this rushing attack and defense, but I'm sorry, 6/7 is not a super impressive performance. That's one drive in today's NFL. Griese had ONE (1) completion in the 2nd half.
I know it doesn't make much sense to throw the ball when you're up multiple scores late, but the point remains that Griese didn't have to do much to win his second ring (the year before he didn't do much better...8/11, for 88 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). On the Dolphins' first TD drive, he went 2/2 for 19 yards. On their 2nd TD drive, he went 2/2 for 21 yards. On Miami's 3rd scoring drive of the first half, which resulted in a field goal to go up 17-0, Griese went 1/1 for 6 yards. Miami was up 17-0 at the half despite its QB being just 5/6 for 46 yards.
Larry Csonka rushed for 145 yards and 2 TD. Minnesota didn't score until early in the 4th quarter when the game was all but over. You could've had a mannequin behind center, and the Dolphins still would've won by two scores. Like Brad Pitt to Shania Twain, Bob Griese's performance in Super Bowl VIII don't impress me much. Passer rating can be deceiving and won't keep you warm in the middle of the night. Brock Purdy's was 90.6 in his 4/4 for 23-yard performance in the NFCCG. No hyperbole; probably 250 QBs could've won this game with what Griese's TEAM did.
#4. John Elway: Super Bowl XXXII
Stat line: 12/23, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 5 carries for 17 yards and a touchdown
Passer Rating: 51.9
This one was for John, and Elway's helicopter run is one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, but this win was mainly due to Terrell Davis' 157-yard and three-touchdown MVP performance. Similarly to another Bronco QB later in the countdown, Elway's first ring is sort of ironic, with his team carrying him after he carried them to three Super Bowl appearances in the 80s.
I was only 6 when this game was played, but I've watched it before on Youtube. Elway has a couple of big completions on scoring drives, but 12 completions for a game, even in 1998, is low. This Super Bowl is where Elway finally won his ring, but outside of the helicopter scramble, his performance wasn't anything special.
#3. Trent Dilfer: Super Bowl XXXV
Stat line: 12/25, 153 yard, 1 TD, 0 INT; 1 carry, 0 yards, 1 fumble (not lost)
Passer Rating: 80.9
For over two decades, Trent Dilfe's been the punching bag easy answer for the age old question, "who's the the worst QB to win a Super Bowl?" When you look at his pro-football-reference page or watch the film, it's not hard to argue. Although he may have some company with Nick Foles. To think this dude has the audacity to say he doesn't find what Tom Brady does impressive!
Dilfer is the only Super Bowl-winning QB (who didn't retire) that was replaced by his team the following season. AKA Trent Dilfer is the only Super Bowl-winning QB to lose his job. It's like a band with a #1 album replacing its lead singer for its follow-up.
When you look at his stats, they're not atrocious, but it's more about the passes he missed in Super Bowl XXXV. Dilfer left plenty of completions on the field and really didn't need to do much since his team scored on a pick-6 and kickoff return TD in the third quarter.
The Ravens went three and out FIVE times during this game, and I'll even call it four because the last one was the game's final drive when it was already over, but that sort of output is gross. With this defense, Johnny Manziel or post-injury RGIII could've won a Super Bowl. I would've loved to see what Dilfer would've done against his team's defense. He'd probably end up with more interceptions than completions.
#2. Peyton Manning: Super Bowl 50
Stat line: 13/23, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 1 meaningless 2-point conversion when the game was out of reach
Passer Rating: 56.6
2015 Peyton was a shell of himself. He could barely throw the ball 35 yards. The great irony of Peyton Manning is that he won a Super Bowl playing the worst football of his career after countless gaudy stat-packed seasons with playoff disappointments. His career shows just how much football is a team game. Tom Brady is a different beast though.
Do not get it twisted. Peyton Manning was horrendous in Super Bowl 50. IMO, this was one of the worst games in Super Bowl history (and it pains me to not crown Peyton champion of the lucky champs, but his passer rating was still over double the output of the slime ball at numbero uno). Sure, if you look at the score, 24-10, it doesn't seem that bad. That's a typical score, but this game was so fucking boring and ugly as sin. There were 15 total punts, eight coming from the Broncos. Their 194 yards of total offense is the fewest by a Super Bowl champion.
On the Broncos' opening drive, Peyton Manning went 4/6 for 47 yards, meaning for the remaining 55+ minutes of the game, the Sheriff accounted for a whopping 94 yards.
Nine of Denver's 14 drives resulted in less than 10 yards, including their final TD, where they got the ball on the Carolina 4-yard line after Cam didn't dive on a fumble. Of Denver's 24 points, three came on the opening drive. Seven came from a defensive score. They had a field goal drive in the 2nd quarter where they went three and out for -1 yard, and a 7-play, 54-yard drive in the 3rd that ended with a field goal. Peyton completed two passes for 47 yards on that drive. So if you take away the opening drive and the Broncos' 8th drive of the game, he passed for a meager 47 yards on the other 12 drives. Disgusting. Super Bowl 50 was a snooze fest which is insane considering it was one score game for a while. After Super Bowl XLVIII, it's the worst Super Bowl of the last 15 years. I notice a common factor...
Sure, 2015 Peyton Manning made 2011 Tim Tebow look like prime Russell Wilson, but thanks to Von Miller, and Cam's business decision, he got his 2nd ring and made his postseason career look much better than it truly was. At least he got that two-pointer to make it look like he had any highlights during the game before getting a Papa Johns smooch.
#1. Ben Roethlisberger: Super Bowl XL
Stat line: 9/21, 123 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT; 7 carries for 25 yards and 1 touchdown that didn't break the plain
QB Rating: 22.6
Not only is Super Bowl XL mired in controversy due to some questionable officiating, but Ben Roethlisberger's "winning performance" is amongst the worst quarterbacked games in Super Bowl history. His 22.6 passer rating is the 7th worst in Super Bowl history by QBs with at least 10 pass attempts in a game (I spy John Elway in Super Bowl XXXII too; every other QB on this graphic lost).
Big Ben's two Super Bowl runs are fraudulent as fuck. In 05, Carson got hurt on a dirty tackle, they got lucky against Indy (Ben's shoestring tackle, Vanderchoke), played fucking Jake Plummer in the AFCCG, then won the shadiest Super Bowl of all time.
In 08, Brady was hurt; they beat the 8-8 Chargers in the Divisional Round, squeaked by rookie Joe Flacco in the AFCCG thanks to a Polamalu pick-6, and needed one of the best drives in Super Bowl history to get past the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals. How impressive! Let's not forget one of the Steelers TDs came on the James Harrison pick-6! Larry would've tackled him too if he didn't get blocked by someone on his own bench, smh.
This may be a spicy take, but I don't think Big Ben is a Hall of Famer. His team literally won Super Bowl 40 in spite of him. Randle El threw the TD pass to Hines Ward. All of Ben's stats in the 2010s were empty on underachieving teams. I'd take Phil Rivers over Big Ben any day. Put him on the Steelers, and they win at least three Super Bowls. The Steelers could've won Super Bowl 40 with Heath Shuler, JaMarcus Russell, or Ryan Leaf. Big Ben did nothing. The refs cheated Seattle. Congratulations, you fucking predator, for having the least impressive winning performance by a starting QB in Super Bowl history!
That concludes the list. Mahomes low key stunk in his SB win too, but had a huge 4th quarter to save the day. I love getting to flex my Super Bowl knowledge to my massive audience. Even though I'm not loving this year's matchup, it should be a great game. For entertainment sake, hopefully the winning QB doesn't end up on the next iteration of this list. What Super Bowl winning starting quarterback do YOU think had the least impressive performance? Sound off in the comments! #HireDozo