Some of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League won at least one Super Bowl ring during their legendary careers. Peyton Manning is not yet in the Hall of Fame, but he will, soon, be enshrined in Canton as a two-time Super Bowl champion. Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, is the greatest QB in the history of the New York Giants, and he also has a pair of Super Bowl rings in his personal trophy case. Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, John Elway and Tom Brady all hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy over the years. Truth be told, probably the biggest reason some people rate Brady over Peyton Manning in their lists of the greatest to ever play the position has to do with the fact that Brady has more rings. Were he to retire today and not play another down of meaningful football, Brady would step away with five championships on his resume, and many would refer to him as the best postseason QB to ever do it. Even though football and basketball are team sports, fans and critics often view championship rings as the most important thing as it pertains to debates over who, between two athletes, is the greater player.
For all of the tremendous QBs who have been part of championship parades, there are those who probably shouldn’t have Super Bowl rings but do for one reason or another. In some cases, quarterbacks were carried to titles by history-making defenses that dominated opponents. Other not-so-great QBs landed roles as backups to better starters who earned Most Valuable Player honors. Remember, though, that not all backup QBs are created equal. Nick Foles was not originally intended to guide the Philadelphia Eagles on a deep playoff run and to the Super Bowl, but he was inserted into the lineup after Carson Wentz, who performed like an MVP candidate throughout the fall, was lost to a season-ending injury. Foles will eventually be paid like an All-Pro, even if he never again plays as well as he did leading up to the Eagles winning it all, and the man who was his backup in February is one of the QBs who, as of the summer of 2018, shouldn’t have a ring but does. Maybe he will follow in Foles’ footsteps, show that he can win a title and remove himself from these types of discussions. So much can, and often does, change in the NFL in the blink of an eye.
15 Trent Dilfer
Trent Dilfer is a name that often pops up whenever fans mention QBs who were taken to Super Bowl victories rather than those who lifted teams on their shoulders, and not just because some have not always enjoyed his work as an analyst and a broadcaster. The Baltimore Ravens featured a dominant defense heading into their Super Bowl XXXV showdown versus a New York Giants team that routed the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, and that defense proved to be too much for Big Blue. Most notably, the Ravens forced New York QB Kerry Collins into multiple mistakes and, ultimately, four interceptions, and the Giants only found the end zone thanks to a successful kickoff return in the third quarter of the contest.
The Ravens elected to not retain Dilfer’s services following that championship victory, an indication of what those running the franchise at that time felt about what he could offer the team moving forward.
Dilfer defenders, and maybe even the QB himself, would argue that his job was to not lose games, to limit mistakes and allow the Baltimore defense to do what it did best.
Be that the case or not, he should feel grateful that he earned a Super Bowl ring during his career.
14 Jacoby Brissett
Being the backup to New England Patriots legend Tom Brady is a sweet gig if you can get it. When New England selected Jacoby Brissett in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Brissett probably understood that his role was going to be to hold the figurative clipboard and sit behind Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo unless suspensions and/or injuries sidelined both of those players. That is exactly what happened in September 2016, and Brissett did well to answer the bell until a thumb injury landed him on injured reserve that October.
Because nobody, not even football guru Bill Belichick, can have too many cooks in the kitchen, the Patriots traded Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts in September 2017 when the Colts needed somebody to start in place of the injured Andrew Luck. Brissett was not a complete disaster during his first year with the Colts, but nobody even pretends that he is at the same level as Luck when Luck is healthy, something that may never again occur considering his recent history. Luck’s status remains up in the air ahead of mandatory workouts and the start of training camp, but Brissett will probably be a backup for either Luck or somebody else by the end of 2018.
13 Joe Flacco
We go back to the Baltimore Ravens, this time focusing on a QB who has not lived up to expectations and who could find himself playing for his job during the 2018 season. It was roughly five years from the posting of this piece that Joe Flacco was a beloved figure among the Baltimore faithful following the team’s 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl XLVII. Unfortunately for Flacco, who earned Super Bowl MVP honors for his performance on that night, it appears that game will be remembered more for the bizarre power outage that stopped play for over a half-hour than for what he achieved. Flacco has never become, to steal from the cliche joke, a truly elite QB in the NFL, and it was suggested on several occasions that he was the worst starting QB in the league during the 2017 campaign.
According to Spotrac, the Ravens could save some cash by moving on from Flacco ahead of the 2019 season. At 33 years old, Flacco should still be in his physical prime as a pocket passer. Instead, he could be preparing to start for a different team next summer if things go horribly wrong for a Baltimore side that could struggle against the better teams in the AFC.
12 David Carr
If you take away the millions upon millions of dollars that David Carr earned during his NFL career (Spotrac lists that he made roughly $40 million off NFL salaries), one could feel a little sorry for the man drafted first overall by the Houston Texans back in 2002. Then an expansion team, the Texans failed to adequately protect Carr with talented offensive lines, and the signal-caller routinely suffered beatings on the field. After Houston deemed him to be a failed experiment, Carr eventually made his way to the New York Giants, where he first replaced another QB spotlighted in this piece (more on him later) as a backup to Eli Manning.
That stint ended unremarkably, but Carr rejoined Big Blue ahead of the 2011 season. For the second time in four seasons, the Giants defeated the New England Patriots in a title game, this time Super Bowl XLVI.
Carr did not play much part in the Giants winning that contest, but he still earned a ring as a member of the team.
The Giants retained his services as a backup for one more season before he and the franchise parted ways. Some may always view him as a bust, but he’s a bust who has a Super Bowl ring.
11 Nate Sudfeld
One has to assume Nate Sudfeld could not have imagined he would be on a championship roster after he was cut by the Washington Redskins in September 2017. That decision surprised some around the league at the time, and the Philadelphia Eagles pounced and quickly signed Sudfeld once he became available. That move between NFC East rivals was, to date, the best thing to ever happen to Sudfeld’s career. Philadelphia rose up the overall NFC standings, thanks largely to QB Carson Wentz emerging as a superstar and an MVP candidate.
Once Wentz suffered the knee injury that ended his campaign in the middle of December, Nick Foles became the team’s new starter.
The Eagles then promoted Sudfeld to second on the depth chart, and he played well in the regular season finale versus the Dallas Cowboys, when he completed 19 of 23 attempts.
Sudfeld was not needed for any serious duty in the postseason, as Foles enjoyed the best run of his career and won Super Bowl MVP following the team’s 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots. Sudfeld is still only 24 years old, meaning he has time to enjoy a great career all on his own and show that he deserves his Super Bowl ring.
10 Charlie Batch
When the Detroit Lions grabbed Eastern Michigan product Charlie Batch in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft, some viewed him as a local favorite and a hybrid weapon who could, following hours of action and game study, possibly evolve into a franchise quarterback. That didn’t happen. Detroit replaced him with Joey Harrington, a future draft bust, and Batch signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers a few years before that franchise drafted Ben Roethlisberger.
When Big Ben became the chosen one and the starter, Batch located as much career stability as he would find in the NFL as a backup to a guy who will be in the Hall of Fame five years after he retires.
Batch was Roethlisberger’s backup when the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks to win Super Bowl XL in controversial fashion due to some questionable calls made by the officials, and he remained with the club up through the team’s Super Bowl XLIII win over the Arizona Cardinals.
In March 2011, multiple outlets, including Forbes, wrote about Batch’s financial problems and bankruptcy. That story aside, Batch is well respected and admired in the Pittsburgh area for his charity work. He is also a QB who is fortunate to have been handed two Super Bowl rings during his career.
9 Jared Lorenzen
Jared Lorenzen became a sensation among fans because he was the “Hefty Lefty,” a quarterback who looked more like an offensive lineman than a signal-caller but who found success at the position in college and was ultimately signed by the New York Giants after he went undrafted. The Giants, of course, never had any intentions of starting Lorenzen, as the franchise had already drafted Eli Manning. It worked out well for all involved in the end. Manning became the NFL Ironman, a cornerstone of an offense capable of winning a championship and one of the most clutch QBs of his time who engineered a pair of title-winning drives.
Lorenzen never received a chance to start for a franchise, but he did win a Super Bowl ring for being on the New York team that defeated the 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
In April 2018, Lorenzen gave us a look into his life and at how he managed to lose 100 pounds in a year. As much as fans around the NFL would make jokes about Lorenzen being “The Pillsbury Throwboy,” all should be rooting for him as he attempts to continue to drop excess weight and get healthy. Maybe one day, we’ll see Lorenzen in the booth calling a game.
8 Brad Johnson
Whenever people discuss the Super Bowl XXXVII showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, they refer to it as the “Jon Gruden Bowl” because it featured Gruden’s former employer, the Raiders, playing against the Bucs side he was coaching on that evening. Others may mention the play of Tampa Bay safety Dexter Jackson, who had a pair of interceptions en route to earning MVP honors for his efforts in his team’s 48-21 victory.
You probably won’t read or hear much about Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson, which is about par for his career.
Johnson completed 18 of 34 attempts for 215 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, fine stats but nothing that jumps off a box score. Meanwhile, the Bucs intercepted Oakland starting QB Rich Gannon five times.
In January 2015, Johnson admitted that he paid $7,500 to “some guys” to scuff footballs so they would be easier to grip during Super Bowl XXXVI. That probably didn’t matter all that much, as the Bucs were clearly the better team on the field throughout the championship game. That revelation, nevertheless, does not help the legacy of a QB some would say is lucky to have a Super Bowl ring. At least this non-scandal doesn’t have a name like “Deflategate.”
7 Mark Rypien
How you feel about or remember former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien may depend on your favorite team or your age. Rypien could throw a beautiful deep ball, so much so that he may have flourished in the modern NFL and at a time when the league seemingly goes out of the way to protect QBs and create rules to bolster passing attacks.
As was explained in a Washington Times piece from 2006, however, Rypien struggled with aspects of his short game; “Mark Rypien’s sideline throws would wobble and didn’t look all that pretty. But that man could throw the deep stuff,” former coach Joe Gibbs once said. Rypien was a backup when the Redskins routed the Denver Broncos in Surer Bowl XXII, but he was named MVP for his performance in Super Bowl XXVI after the Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24. He was hardly an unstoppable offensive weapon during that outing, as he completed 18 of 33 attempts for 292 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Washington defense smothered the Buffalo offense up until the outcome of the game was already decided. The Redskins held a 24-point advantage early in the fourth quarter, and Buffalo’s final two scores merely made the deficit look a little better on paper.
6 Matt Flynn
Matt Flynn will always be a cautionary tale about why teams, the league, fans and analysts should not overreact when backup quarterbacks have a few good outings playing in place of a starter. Flynn looked like the real deal during multiple games while under center with the Green Bay Packers, including a contest in January 2012 that saw him break two franchise records. Flynn dropped back to second on the depth chart behind Aaron Rodgers once the playoffs began that year, and he was on the roster when the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Impressed by all that he had achieved and learned while with Green Bay, the Seattle Seahawks signed Flynn as a free agent ahead of the 2012 NFL Draft. Later that year, the team took a flier on a guy named Russell Wilson. You probably know where the tale goes from here. Wilson won the starting job from Flynn, and Flynn was traded to the Oakland Raiders in the spring of 2013. Try as he might, Flynn never caught on as a starter or franchise QB with any other team, and he went back to the Packers during the 2013 campaign. Some guys are just destined to be career backups.
5 Jim Sorgi
Not only is there nothing wrong with being a career backup QB who finds a long-time home in the NFL and is able to earn a small fortune over the better part of a decade. It can be a pretty easy job in many instances. Take Jim Sorgi as an example.
The Indianapolis Colts selected Sorgi late in the 2004 NFL Draft, and he sat behind Peyton Manning for the majority of his time with the club.
Per Pro-Football-Reference, Sorgi played in a total of 16 games from 2004 up through the end of the 2009 campaign, and he earned a Super Bowl ring as Manning’s backup after the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
For what was, as it pertains to appearances, one full season of work, Sorgi made over $5 million according to Spotrac. He did, however, miss out on serving as Eli Manning’s backup when a shoulder injury ended his 2010 season in September of that year. Had Sorgi not experienced that particular setback, it is possible he could have been Manning’s backup when the Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. That would have made him the answer to an interesting and unique trivia question.
4 Jim McMahon
We within the NFL community remember Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon so fondly because of his attitude, the “Super Bowl Shuffle” and the fact that he was part of a 15-1 team that destroyed the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX and is seen as one of the greatest squads in the history of the NFL.
While McMahon was a proven leader who worked to get better as an NFL QB, his status as a player has been inflated, over time.
In fact, Alex Gelhar of the official NFL website listed McMahon as one of the most overrated players in franchise history:
“The fact of the matter remains that 1985 was his peak,” Gelhar wrote. “He had career highs in yards and touchdowns, and because of injuries and other mitigating factors was never able to reclaim that magic he had when he played lights out during the Bears' Super Bowl run.”
In 1996, McMahon was with the Green Bay Packers and a backup for Brett Favre when that franchise won a Super Bowl and gifted the “Punky” QB with a second ring. Since retiring, McMahon has made headlines for his battles with issues stemming with concussions and for urging the NFL to change the league policy regarding the use of cannabis.
3 Trevor Siemian
After Peyton Manning retired in early 2016, Trevor Siemian, who was on the roster of the Denver Broncos when Denver defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, had an opportunity to cement himself as the team’s next starting QB.
Siemian flashed promise during some noteworthy games, but one did not have to be a league insider to understand the Broncos were probably going to move on to somebody else after the 2017 season.
Denver acquired Case Keenum via free agency in March 2018, and the team then shipped Siemian to the Minnesota Vikings. Barring unexpected happenings or unforeseen injuries, Siemian will be a backup for Kirk Cousins, who signed with the Vikings in March. Minnesota, a side that came close to playing in the Super Bowl in early 2018, hopes Cousins can be the guy to lead the Vikings to a championship, meaning Siemian could have another Super Bowl ring in his future while sitting on the sideline. Then again, the 2017 season taught us that a backup who is forgotten by many casual fans can make the transition to a starter who wins for a good team that is capable of getting the best out of that player. Maybe Siemian’s best days in the NFL are in his future.
2 Joe Namath
This is probably the hottest take you will find in the piece. Joe Namath is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he will forever be remembered for guaranteeing that the New York Jets would shock the world and upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III ahead of New York’s win. With that said, the legend of Broadway Joe does not accurately depict what he was on the field throughout his career. Per Pro-Football-Reference, Namath tossed more interceptions (220) than touchdowns (173), and he didn’t throw a single touchdown in that famous Super Bowl.
We’ll never know what could have been on that fateful day had the Colts started Johnny Unitas ahead of Earl Morrall, but we know Unitas provided a spark for the Colts in relief. Had Unitas managed to find the end zone even a single time during the first half, it’s possible Namath would have needed to be more of a factor in his team’s victory. Would Namath have won a back-and-forth shootout in Super Bowl III? The roller-coaster ride that was his issues with accuracy leads one to believe it is just as likely he would have thrown a backbreaking interception in the final two minutes of the encounter if the Jets needed him to be a hero with the title potentially on the line.
1 Jeff Hostetler
Some forget that New York Giants QB Jeff Hostetler earned a pair of Super Bowl rings during his tenure with the club. His first championship celebration occurred while he was a backup for Phil Simms, but the man affectionately known as “Hoss” was no spectator late in the 1990 season. Hostetler was called into action after Simms suffered an injury, and he started Super Bowl XXV versus the Buffalo Bills. In defense of Hostetler, he was the right QB for the right time when the Giants needed an offensive leader who was able to maintain his composure, limit errors and keep the dynamic Buffalo offense off the field. Most notably, Hostetler played well during a third-quarter drive that is still regarded as one of the best in Super Bowl history. The Giants won the game after Buffalo placekicker Scott Norwood missed a potential game-winning field goal (wide right), and New York running back OJ Anderson was named MVP.
For Hostetler, his performances during the playoffs and in the Super Bowl would be the best few weeks of his career. What some fail to recall is that Simms was having a career-defining season at the time of his injury, and he may be in the Hall of Fame today had he remained healthy up through the Super Bowl.