Super Bowl Pregame Talk: State of the Quarterback

We’ve had four major storylines these past two weeks. One involves a linebacker in purple. The second involves two brothers. The final two seem a little tacked on. They are about the quarterbacks.

A popular meme in the NFL is that you must have an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and by elite we’re talking John Elway/Joe Montana elite. The two quarterbacks in this year’s Super Bowl aren’t exactly what we’ve grown used to in the past ten matchups. Here are the QB matchups for the past ten Super Bowls:

Super Bowl 37: Brad Johnson versus Rich Gannon

This has to be the oldest QB duo that’s been in a Super Bowl in a while. Gannon was 34 when the Raiders signed him as a free agent. He had never thrown for 3,000 yards in a season before coming to Oakland and had four straight such seasons as a Raider, including winning the league MVP in 2002. He might have been in two Super Bowls during that run had it not been for the famous Tuck Rule play in New England the season before. Brad Johnson wasn’t much different, signing with the Bucs at the ripe young age of 33. He had four career 3,000-yard passing seasons (that used to be impressive), three of which with the Bucs. Both of these guys were resurrected by one Jon Gruden. Both quarterbacks finished with playoff records of 4-4, and Johnson got three of those wins in the 2002 postseason.

Super Bowl 38: Tom Brady versus Jake Delhomme

Delhomme was a very good QB for a stretch, and had John Fox not gone for two and failed twice early in the 4th quarter, that Vinatieri field goal would have been for the tie, not the win. This was Delhomme’s first year as a starter, and he would notch three of his five career playoff wins in this season. Four of those playoff wins were on the road. The Super Bowl would be Tom Brady’s sixth straight playoff win to start his career.

Super Bowl 39: Tom Brady versus Donovan McNabb

I’ll wait a second while Eagles fans puke up their breakfast. McNabb had a career a tick better than Steve McNair, which means he was really good but not quite Hall of Fame worthy. He played in 16 playoff games in his career with a total record of 9-7. A winning record in the playoffs is pretty darn good. Tom Brady was at the end of his glorious playoff run, about to win his ninth straight playoff game.

Super Bowl 40: Ben Roethlisberger versus Matt Hasselbeck

With the team win, Ben Roethlisberger was a second-year Super Bowl champ. His Super Bowl stats were pretty shabby and he hasn’t fared well in three big games. He’s been in three big games and will hold every Steeler passing record by the time he retires. Until the past ten years, a four-game playoff run was a rare thing. Hasselbeck had one shot in the big game and is most remembered for getting an illegal block call on an interception return. He finished a respectable 5-6 in the playoffs.

Super Bowl 41: Peyton Manning versus Rex Grossman

Rex Grossman is the clear outlier in this exercise. He started 16 games for the Bears in 2006 and didn’t start more than 10 games in a season again until he was with the Redskins in 2011. It’s doubtful that he will be in the NFL next season. His playoff record was 2-2. Every other QB who won his first playoff game in the same year that he made a Super Bowl in the past decade made it back. Peyton struggled in his early playoff career but pulled off the 4-0 streak after the 2006 season. Before that season, he had two playoff wins.

Super Bowl 42: Eli Manning versus Tom Brady

Entering the game, Tom Brady had three Super Bowl wins. Eli Manning had three playoff wins. Thanks to one incredible game-winning drive, Eli was victorious. Eli has one of the strangest playoff records in recent history, with three first-round playoff losses and two seasons of four wins. He was 4-2 as a playoff QB after this win. At this point in his career, Brady was 14-3 as a playoff QB.

Super Bowl 43: Ben Roethlisberger versus Kurt Warner

Roethlisberger may not have the best Super Bowl stats, but he was elite when he needed it, driving his team to the game-winning touchdown in the final minute. He moved to 8-2 as a playoff QB with this win. Kurt Warner had the three highest passing totals in Super Bowl history in his three trips to the big game. He lost two in the final minute. He finished 9-4 as a playoff quarterback.

Super Bowl 44: Drew Brees versus Peyton Manning

Peyton has been in the playoffs 12 out of his 13 seasons. His 9-11 playoff record is the worst of any Super Bowl QB from the past ten seasons. Brees has been a passing machine in New Orleans. His only season with more than one playoff win was the Super Bowl season. Considering that the Saints had one playoff win before he came to town, I think New Orleans has been fine with this arrangement.

Super Bowl 45: Aaron Rodgers versus Ben Roethlisberger

Just like in Roethlisberger’s first Super Bowl, Rodgers led his sixth-seed Packers on an impressive Super Bowl run. Roethlisberger won his 10th playoff game as a starter at age 28, and he’s 10-4 overall. Rodgers wasn’t the Packers’ starting QB until his fourth season with the team and in his third year as a starter, he won the big game. Rodgers had three three-TD games in that postseason and won the MVP. Rodgers won four playoff games that year and has one playoff win since that season, a 5-3 record overall.

Super Bowl 46: Eli Manning versus Tom Brady

Not this one again. Eli Manning had his second four-win postseason that finished in a comeback TD drive to beat the Patriots in the final minute. Eli has an 8-3 playoff record, and that’s one win behind his brother. His two Super Bowl MVPs are slightly more impressive. This was Brady’s fifth Super Bowl and only Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger have been in as many as three in the same time period. He’s all right. That 17-7 playoff record isn’t shabby.

Super Bowl 47: Joe Flacco versus Colin Kaepernick

It has been six years since we’ve had two first-year Super Bowl starters. This will be Flacco’s 13th playoff start, with an 8-4 overall record. To win playoff games in each of his first five seasons means that he’s good and more importantly, he has great teammates, coaching, and all that jazz. On the other side, this will be Colin Kaepernick’s 10th career start. That’s the third-fewest for a starting QB in the Super Bowl, and he’s the favorite. It’s a nice way to finish his first season as a starter.

I know that wins being attached to quarterbacks is lazy. It’s what I have to work with and it’s interesting, not necessarily giving any insight as to how Sunday’s game is going to play out. I found it fun to look back and see how many quarterbacks from the last ten years of Super Bowls leading into this one are going to have Hall of Fame consideration. That bodes well for the rest of the careers of the two guys starting tomorrow.

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