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All-Time NFL QBs: Super Bowl Champions

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 26, 2008

When people say someone is the best, or worst, Super Bowl champion of all time, you rarely know what they mean. Such a statement could mean that someone was the best QB for the course of his career, and he happened to win a Super Bowl. Think Peyton Manning. Or, it could ask who was the best QB in the season his team happened to win the Super Bowl? Think Mark Rypien or Kurt Warner. Still, it might refer to who had the best post-season run, en route to his team winning the Super Bowl. Someone like Jim Plunkett comes to mind. Finally,the statement might be incredibly literal, meaning he's the best QB to win a Super Bowl, based on his Super Bowl performance. Maybe Doug Williams or Phil Simms.

You'd be surprised how many examples we have of QBs ranking all over the map based on which metric we use. But let's start with a ranking of the regular season performances by all 43 Super Bowl winning QBs. I say 43 and not 42 because I'm going to count Unitas and Morrall as both winning SB V, mostly to avoid an unnecessary sidetrack as to who really deserves the credit. I think it's Morrall, but who cares.

The following is the list of the career values of each QB that has won a Super Bowl, along with the year in which he got his ring. The list is sorted by the regular career value standard, measured against the league average. But I also added in the QB's career value if you measure the guy's career against three-fourths of the league average, as often that better comports with our general feelings about a guy.

 Car	3/4Val	 Year
 7946	13229	 2006	Peyton Manning
 7739	11712	 1994	Steve Young
 7006	11836	 1989	Joe Montana
 7006	11836	 1984	Joe Montana
 7006	11836	 1981	Joe Montana
 7006	11836	 1988	Joe Montana
 6211	10616	 1970	Johnny Unitas
 5680	 8169	 1971	Roger Staubach
 5680	 8169	 1977	Roger Staubach
 5604	 8554	 1969	Len Dawson
 5107	12029	 1996	Brett Favre
 4123	10064	 1997	John Elway
 4123	10064	 1998	John Elway
 4101	 7080	 1967	Bart Starr 
 4101	 7080	 1966	Bart Starr
 4004	 7278	 1999	Kurt Warner
 3845	 7917	 2004	Tom Brady
 3845	 7917	 2003	Tom Brady
 3845	 7917	 2001	Tom Brady
 3339	 6478	 1968	Joe Namath
 2919	 7299	 1993	Troy Aikman
 2919	 7299	 1995	Troy Aikman
 2919	 7299	 1992	Troy Aikman
 2799	 5924	 1978	Terry Bradshaw 
 2799	 5924	 1979	Terry Bradshaw 
 2799	 5924	 1975	Terry Bradshaw
 2799	 5924	 1974	Terry Bradshaw
 2785	 5338	 1973	Bob Griese
 2785	 5338	 1972	Bob Griese
 2723	 5059	 1970	Earl Morrall
 2294	 5098	 1976	Ken Stabler
 2285	 4954	 1991	Mark Rypien
 1992	 5409	 1982	Joe Theismann
 1892	 4439	 1987	Doug Williams
 1840	 5969	 2002	Brad Johnson
 1810	 6071	 1986	Phil Simms
 1359	 3849	 1985	Jim McMahon
 1184	 3739	 1990	Jeff Hostetler
 1153	 2992  	 2005	Ben Roethlisberger
  273	 3251 	 1983	Jim Plunkett
  273	 3251	 1980	Jim Plunkett
- 875	 1382	 2007	Eli Manning
-1275	 1684	 2000	Trent Dilfer

So yes, you can say with some solid backing that Trent Dilfer was the worst QB to ever win a Super Bowl (and Eli will pass Dilfer very soon on the 3/4 list; he just doesn't have enough attempts yet). But a couple of number one picks -- Manning and Plunkett -- aren't that far behind him. Eli's a pretty polarizing figure, especially after the Super Bowl, so I'll avoid discussing his career for now. But Jim Plunkett's a guy who had an entirely mediocre career but happened to be the first pick in the draft and win two Super Bowls. Now he happened to play very well in those post-seasons, but as far as regular season QBs go, Plunkett was your definition of average, statistically.

Still, some might argue that we really care about how the quarterbacks performed just in the single year in which they won it all. After all, Tom Brady-2001 certainly isn't the same person as Tom Brady-2007, but this list would treat them the same way. And while Kurt Warner wasn't as good of a quarterback as John Elway, he was probably better than Elway in 1999 than Elway ever was when he won a Super Bowl. In fact, Warner '99 might have been as good as it gets.

Sea Val	Year
1490	1999	Kurt Warner
1407	1994	Steve Young
1396	2006	Peyton Manning
1277	1989	Joe Montana
1267	1984	Joe Montana
1257	1991	Mark Rypien
1158	1966	Bart Starr
1144	1971	Roger Staubach
1031	1977	Roger Staubach
 985	1976	Ken Stabler
 852	1993	Troy Aikman
 844	1968	Joe Namath
 833	1995	Troy Aikman
 713	1992	Troy Aikman
 707	1996	Brett Favre
 693	1981	Joe Montana
 687	1997	John Elway
 669	1978	Terry Bradshaw
 617	1998	John Elway
 596	1979	Terry Bradshaw
 583	2004	Tom Brady
 583	2005	Ben Roethlisberger
 545	2002	Brad Johnson
 536	1975	Terry Bradshaw
 504	1985	Jim McMahon
 503	1988	Joe Montana
 419	1982	Joe Theismann
 404	2003	Tom Brady
 391	1973	Bob Griese
 305	1987	Doug Williams
 183	1970	Earl Morrall
 152	1967	Bart Starr
 146	1990	Jeff Hostetler
 120	1970	Johnny Unitas
  79	2001	Tom Brady
  71	1969	Len Dawson
  66	1972	Bob Griese
  37	1983	Jim Plunkett
-  3	1986	Phil Simms
- 65	1974	Terry Bradshaw
- 66	1980	Jim Plunkett
-218	2000	Trent Dilfer
-405	2007	Eli Manning

Okay, I guess we have to talk about Eli. He flat out was a below average QB last year, by just about any statistical method. While you'd be correct in saying 'Who cares, Chase, Eli won the Super Bowl" -- well, so did everyone else on this list. Dilfer was actually worse than Manning on a per-attempt basis, but Eli had more than enough attempts to steal that bottom slot from him.

On the positive side, there aren't too many surprises in that top five. Warner, Young, Manning, Montana, Montana. Troy Aikman shows up with three terrific regular seasons that coincided with his SB rings. And Staubach had a couple of monster years when he won his titles. Bart Starr's 1966 is very impressive, too.

But still, the Jim Plunkett and Phil Simms fans can't be happy. They say who cares what they did in the regular season, they were dynamite in the post-season. And they'd be right. Here's a list of the top playoff performances by the QBs.

 Post 	Year
 436	1989	Joe Montana
 402	1992	Troy Aikman
 364	1988	Joe Montana
 334	1985	Jim McMahon
 325	1978	Terry Bradshaw
 294	1967	Bart Starr
 281	1994	Steve Young
 280	1999	Kurt Warner
 274	1986	Phil Simms
 269	1980	Jim Plunkett
 249	1995	Troy Aikman
 234	1996	Brett Favre
 233	1979	Terry Bradshaw
 222	1976	Ken Stabler
 217	2005	Ben Roethlisberger
 205	1982	Joe Theismann
 201	1984	Joe Montana
 197	1974	Terry Bradshaw
 192	1991	Mark Rypien
 186	1998	John Elway
 175	2007	Eli Manning
 174	1987	Doug Williams
 169	1970	Johnny Unitas
 168	1977	Roger Staubach
 166	1993	Troy Aikman
 161	2000	Trent Dilfer
 157	1981	Joe Montana
 145	2004	Tom Brady
 144	1971	Roger Staubach
 139	1969	Len Dawson
 126	1997	John Elway
 126	1990	Jeff Hostetler
  99	1975	Terry Bradshaw
  96	1983	Jim Plunkett
  87	1968	Joe Namath
  81	1973	Bob Griese
  55	2003	Tom Brady
  45	1972	Bob Griese
  30	1970	Earl Morrall
  29	2002	Brad Johnson
-  5	2001	Tom Brady
-140	2006	Peyton Manning

Manning's 2006 playoffs cemented his status as one of the greatest QBs of all time because he finally got his ring -- but it certainly wasn't because of his awe inspiring stats. Manning had the least impressive post-season stat line of any Super Bowl winning QB, ever. (Small note: I excluded Bart Starr's 1966 post-season, since I only have his SB performance data handy.)

Of course, some might argue that while Big Ben had a great playoff run, he needs to be knocked down because of his awful SB performance. Well, here's that list:

Year	SB
1984	210	Joe Montana
1994	207	Steve Young
1989	186	Joe Montana
1999	180	Kurt Warner
1980	178	Jim Plunkett
1988	177	Joe Montana
2007	175	Eli Manning
1978	172	Terry Bradshaw
1987	172	Doug Williams
1986	171	Phil Simms
1992	164	Troy Aikman
1985	158	Jim McMahon
1975	140	Terry Bradshaw
1998	133	John Elway
1996	122	Brett Favre
1966	111	Bart Starr
1967	110	Bart Starr
1976	 98	Ken Stabler
1995	 86	Troy Aikman
1977	 85	Roger Staubach
1979	 85	Terry Bradshaw
1991	 80	Mark Rypien
2003	 76	Tom Brady
1968	 68	Joe Namath
1974	 56	Terry Bradshaw
2004	 56	Tom Brady
1971	 53	Roger Staubach
1981	 50	Joe Montana
1990	 45	Jeff Hostetler
1983	 41	Jim Plunkett
1973	 41	Bob Griese
1970	 30	Earl Morrall
1969	 21	Len Dawson
2000	 21	Trent Dilfer
1993	 11	Troy Aikman
2001	  2	Tom Brady
2002	  1	Brad Johnson
1972	  0	Bob Griese
2006	- 9	Peyton Manning
1970	-35	Johnny Unitas
1997	-41	John Elway
1982	-45	Joe Theismann
2005	-82	Ben Roethlisberger

Some interesting results here, as it's pretty tough to defend the Super Bowls of any of the bottom QBs on that list. On the other hand, for all the Eli fans out there, his Super Bowl performance ranked as the 7th best one by any Super Bowl champion.

Finally, here's a table combining all the stats. This might be a good reference for you next time someone wants to argue about the worst QB to ever win a Super Bowl.

 Car 	Sea     Post     SB     Year
- 875	-405	 175	 31	2007	Eli Manning
 7946	1396	-140	- 9	2006	Peyton Manning
 1153	 583	 217	-82	2005	Ben Roethlisberger
 3845	 583	 145	 56	2004	Tom Brady
 3845	 404	  55	 76	2003	Tom Brady
 1840	 545	  29	  1	2002	Brad Johnson
 3845	  79	-  5	  2	2001	Tom Brady
-1275	-218	 161	 21	2000	Trent Dilfer
 4004	1490	 280	180	1999	Kurt Warner
 4123	 617	 186	133	1998	John Elway
 4123	 687	 126	-41	1997	John Elway
 5107	 707	 234	122	1996	Brett Favre
 2919	 833	 249	 86	1995	Troy Aikman
 7739	1407	 281	207	1994	Steve Young
 2919	 852	 166	 11	1993	Troy Aikman
 2919	 713	 402	164	1992	Troy Aikman
 2285	1257	 192	 80	1991	Mark Rypien
 1184	 146	 126	 45	1990	Jeff Hostetler
 7006	1277	 436	186	1989	Joe Montana
 7006	 503	 364	177	1988	Joe Montana
 1892	 305	 174	172	1987	Doug Williams
 1810	-  3	 274	171	1986	Phil Simms
 1359	 504 	 334	158	1985	Jim McMahon
 7006	1267	 201	210	1984	Joe Montana
  273	  37	  96	 41	1983	Jim Plunkett
 1992	 419	 205	-45	1982	Joe Theismann
 7006	 693	 157	 50	1981	Joe Montana
  273	- 66	 269	178	1980	Jim Plunkett
 2799	 596	 233	 85	1979	Terry Bradshaw
 2799	 669	 325	172	1978	Terry Bradshaw
 5680	1031	 168	 85	1977	Roger Staubach
 2294	 985	 222	 98	1976	Ken Stabler
 2799	 536	  99	140	1975	Terry Bradshaw
 2799	- 65	 197	 56	1974	Terry Bradshaw
 2785	 391	  81	 41	1973	Bob Griese
 2785	  66	  45	  0	1972	Bob Griese
 5680	1144	 144	 53	1971	Roger Staubach
 2723	 183	  30	 30	1970	Earl Morrall
 6211	 120	 169	-35	1970	Johnny Unitas
 5604	  71	 139	 21	1969	Len Dawson
 3339	 844	  87	 68	1968	Joe Namath
 4101	 152	 294	110	1967	Bart Starr
 4101	1158	 ---	111	1966	Bart Starr

In some ways, Trent Dilfer or Eli Manning were the worst QBs to ever win a Super Bowl. You could make some type of argument that Big Ben was the least deserving SB winning QB of all time. And, believe it or not, you might argue that Peyton Manning did the least to guide his team to post-season success. It all depends on how you word the question.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008 at 6:31 am and is filed under History, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.