The Super Bowl is the highlight of the NFL season and the year for some fans. When it’s Super Bowl Sunday, the country pretty much shuts down for a day. People petition to make it a national holiday, and not just the Super Bowl, but the Monday after. Watching that game is so important to people and we as fans use it as a tool to figure out who is worth anointing as the “best.”
Who is the best? And how much does it relate to the Super Bowl. Well it does matter, but it isn’t fair to judge solely on who won a ring and how many times. Dan Marino is one of the best ever, and he never played in a Super Bowl. Charles Haley won 5 rings, but was he really the best Defensive End ever? The Super Bowl is a nice way to try and figure out how good a player is as rarely do we see a bad player win multiple rings. Here we have ranked the 20 quarterbacks who have started multiple Super Bowls.
20 Russell Wilson
It’s a bit too early to really judge a guy like Russell Wilson. He was absolutely an important part in Seattle’s rise to becoming a powerhouse in the NFL, but if he were to retire tomorrow the Seahawks would fall on their feet. Wilson is currently a QB on the rise, he just happened to play with the best secondary the NFL had ever seen. His team put a beat down on the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, and his repeat trip to Super Bowl XLIX was no coincidence. Wilson has the brightest future in the league and will be playing for years to come, and will continue to climb this list as he goes, but as of right now he belongs at the bottom.
19 Craig Morton
Craig Morton will never be looked at as one of the greatest of all time, on any list. That’s not to say he wasn’t a fantastic player, he was, but he just played in a different era before the game evolved to what we see today. Morton is one of very few people who can say that they led 2 different franchises to the Super Bowl (the others being Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning), but he never won so he is often forgotten. Morton played for 18 seasons and only threw for over 3000 yards once. He threw for more interceptions in his career than he did touchdowns, and was constantly in QB battles with the likes of Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, and the end of his career seemed to be him just waiting for John Elway to take his place. Morton isn’t a Hall of Famer, despite having a stong career.
18 Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner has one of the strangest careers of anyone in NFL history. There is no other time (in any sport) when a guy went from bagging groceries to winning MVP. Perhaps the greatest find in NFL history, Kurt Warner led the Rams to 2 Super Bowl appearances and even won Super Bowl XXXIV. However even though he had some stellar years in St. Louis, and then in Arizona almost a decade later, Warner looked like a flash in the pan after the 2001 season. A string of injuries and lack of production led Warner’s career on a significant down turn and most of his career post MVP was as a backup. He only played 12 seasons, and in 6 of them he was meant to be riding the bench, or (at best) coaching up a rookie. If Matt Leinart was just a little better, Warner would have never started in Arizona and would have never had the miracle run he had in 2008 that ended in the Super Bowl.
17 Jim Plunkett
He is the only eligible quarterback to start (and win) two Super Bowls without being inducted into the Hall of Fame. There isn’t much more you have to say about Plunkett. His career amounts to 72 wins and 72 losses, 164 touchdowns and 198 interceptions, and he never made it to a Pro-Bowl. He just was on the right teams at the right time. His Raiders featured arguably the best linebacking corp ever, and had Marcus Allen as his running back. He didn’t have to do much to win either Super Bowl with his opponents turning the ball over 7 times combined. Don’t get us wrong, he was a great player, just compared to the rest of the list his numbers don’t hold up.
16 Eli Manning
Can the rumor that Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning finally stop? Eli is a fantastic quarterback who played on a team led by a great coach (Tom Coughlin) and had extremely talented players on both sides of the ball. Eli has had a fantastic career that borders on Hall-of-Fame worthy, but without those two miracle wins he wouldn’t even be considered. In 2007 and 2011 he had remarkable playoff runs, but he was never considered one of the better players in the league. He’s a damn fine competitor and has the talent to win a few games, but compared to other players with 2 plus Super Bowl wins, he’s a run-of-the-mill player. His numbers normally are middle of the pack, and he rarely puts up more than 10 wins in a season.
15 Joe Theismann
Theismann had one of the most miserable Super Bowl performances ever, but he also had a decent one. He was able to take his team to back-to-back Super Bowls, but had control issues in both games, getting picked off twice. Theismann’s numbers were very good, and he was on the rise when a missed block ended his career. While Theismann may be best known for the injury that ended his career, he was a Hall-of-fame worthy Quarterback who threw for 160 touchdowns and more than 25,000 yards. He was known as a great teammate and a fantastic leader, arguably the greatest player in the history of the Redskins. If Lawrence Taylor didn’t destroy his career, Theismann would have done even more and possibly could have made more Super Bowl appearances.
14 Fran Tarkenton
Fran played in 3 Super Bowls and didn’t win a single one. It’s a shame that he didn’t because his legacy would be much stronger if he had at least a single ring. At the time of his retirement he held every major record a QB could hold, though they since have been shattered multiple times over. He has thrown for 47,000 yards, 342 touchdowns, and held a record of 124-109-6. Tarkenton had a strange relationship with his Minnesota Vikings as he forced them to trade him in 1967 (even after they fired their coach for him) and then demanded a trade back to the team five years later. Then he went on a Brett Favre like indecision process on whether he should retire or not for the final 7 years of his career.
13 Len Dawson
Len Dawson played in the first ever Super Bowl, losing famously to the Green Bay Packers, but then he came back and won Super Bowl IV taking home MVP honors. Dawson played in the NFL before the game changed into what we know now. He threw for 28,000 yards, and 239 touchdowns while only tossing 183 interceptions never getting more than 19 in a season. He not only took his team to 2 Super Bowls, but also won three AFL championships, taking home an MVP in the 1966 season. Much of his career took place during the pre-Super Bowl era so he often gets ignored, but he really put together a special career and deserves more respect. Dawson is still working in football, as a color commentator for the Kansas City Chiefs, at the age of 80.
12 Jim Kelly
Poor, poor Jim Kelly. There are few people in the world who have suffered the sheer disappointment that Kelly has, losing in four straight Super Bowls. Four years in a row! Most QBs don’t get the honor of playing in even one. Kelly sadly lost every Super Bowl that he went to; Super Bowl XXV featured the famous “wide right” field goal attempt by Scott Norwood, Kelly tried to put together a come from behind victory in XXVI but was too far behind, the Cowboys embarrassed them in Super Bowl XXVII, and repeated their performance the next year in Super Bowl XXVIII. It’s a shame that Kelly couldn’t add a Super Bowl to his impressive resume as he was a great QB who put together a fantastic career. His life post football has been tragic. Jim lost his son when he was only 8-years-old, he later contracted cancer in his jaw, and was diagnosed with MRSA in his bones. He is currently healthy and we wish him nothing but the best with his health.
11 Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger is arguably the best quarterback to never win an MVP or even a Super Bowl MVP. He hasn’t retired yet, but his numbers already push him to being a sure Hall-of-Famer, and his chances of getting another Super Bowl seems better every year. Whether you like or hate Big Ben (and there are plenty of reasons to hate him), you can’t deny that the dude knows how to play the quarterback position. Last year he only played in 12 games and still threw for nearly 4000 yards, and with 328 average yards per game it seems like he would have crossed the 5000 yard mark had he just stayed healthy. That was at the age of 33 and without his starting running back Le’Veon Bell. It would not be hard to imagine a healthy Ben Roethlisberger earning an MVP trophy or taking his team to the big game any time in the next 5 years.
10 Bob Griese
Bob Griese was just a tremendous athlete. He was a highly touted prospect in both Basketball and Baseball when he chose to play football professionally. He played a stellar career with the Miami Dolphins where he threw for 25,092 yards and 192 touchdowns. During his tenure starting, the Miami Dolphins had the highest winning percentage in all professional sports, including putting together the only undeafeated season in NFL history (going 16-0 in 1972). Griese had a broken ankle and sat out most of the season but was able to return for Super Bowl VII, where the Dolphins were somehow the underdogs in that game. Griese has been inducted in the Hall of Fame and currently is retired living in Florida. His son went on to be an NFL QB too, though he did not have near the same career as his dad.
9 Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw has almost become more famous since retiring from the game. He’s written 5 books, tried his hand at being a singer (putting out 6 albums), had a short lived sitcom (Home Team with Terry Bradshaw), and even was a supporting character in a number of movies. This all stems from Bradshaw starting in and winning 4 Super Bowls. Bradshaw was a fantastic player and a well deserving Hall of Fame inductee, but he is a level down from the other guys who have 4 rings (Tom Brady and Joe Montana). In his 13 seasons, Bradshaw threw for more than 2000 yards only 7 times, and threw for more than 20 touchdowns 4 times (he threw for more than 20 interceptions 5 times). His team consisted of some of the best players to ever play the game with Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, and Joe Greene playing with him, and that’s not noting that he had Chuck Noll as his coach. Terry’s teams were some of the best to ever take the field, and he was in the right place at the right time.
8 Troy Aikman
Want to talk about best teams ever assembled? Take a look at Aikman’s Cowboy teams from the 90s. This was America’s team for a reason. Michael Irvin was at Receiver, and Emmit Smith was at running back… All Aikman had to do was give the ball to someone else and watch as they burned defenses. Troy Aikman was as consistent as they come, rarely throwing less than 2,700 yards and consistently getting over 15 touchdowns. Aikman barely gets an edge over Bradshaw because of having to play for the insane goblin known as Jerry Jones. The ridiculous coaching change from Jimmy Johnson to Barry Spitzer possibly cost the Cowboys a Super Bowl as Johnson was a genius, Spitzer was a fool. Also Aikman may have had the best offense to ever play, but the defense just wasn’t up to par with the Steeler’s Iron Curtain. Aikman was a fantastic QB who deserves his 3 rings, but he still finds him self out of the top level players.
7 Bart Starr
Yea Bart Starr only won 2 Super Bowls, but he also won 5 NFL championships. Nobody has dominated a league quite like Starr did in his early years before the Super Bowl was a thing. To be fair Starr also had something that most other player didn’t have, which was instrumental in his achievements as a player. That something was coach Vince Lombardi. Lombardi never had a losing season and had a 90% playoff win percentage. Just saying, there is a reason that the trophy was named after the man. Without Lombardi it’s hard to say if Starr would have been so dominant as he wasn’t some physical freak of nature, or in possession of a cannon like arm that are seen often in the NFL today. The 7 total championships are enough for Starr to find himself this high on the list.
6 Brett Favre
Before Peyton Manning broke them, Favre held almost every major QB record that one can have. Favre won 186 games (tied for first all time), has 508 touchdown passes (second all time), and threw for 71,838 yards (second all time). However much of Favre’s numbers should be taken with a grain of salt because of his crazy high interception total, he threw for 336 total interceptions (59 more than anyone else). To put it in perspective, the closest active player to his interception record is Drew Brees, and he needs 131 more picks to tie. Favre put together one of the most prolific careers of any one, but his lack of poise is always going to be something held against the gunslinger. Then there was the annoying retirement situation where Favre refused to make up his mind about what he should do, and ended up flipping between retirement and playing for close to half a decade.
5 Roger Staubach
Staubach only played Football for 11 years, partly because he had to join the US Navy for 4 years before he was allowed to pick up a ball. In those 11 years, Staubach helped lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl 5 times but only started in 4 of them, so he started in the Super Bowl 36% of his NFL career (keep that number in mind). His .746 career win percentage is second all time and is the only player to have won a Heisman, an NFL MVP, and a Super Bowl MVP. He was an All-NFC choice five times and selected to play in six Pro Bowls. Overall, Staubach finished his 11 NFL seasons with 1,685 completions for 22,700 yards and 153 touchdowns.
4 John Elway
John Elway was a better quarterback than he is a GM, and he seems like a fantastic GM. Since he began serving as Executive VP/GM of the Broncos in 2011, the team has won four division titles, two AFC Championships, and Super Bowl 50. Adding that ring gives Elway 3 Super Bowls, 2 as a player. The Hall-of-Famer has done some special things in his career, including being selected to 9 Pro-Bowls, throwing for 220 yards per game, and taking the Broncos to the playoffs 10 times. For a long time Elway was known as the QB who couldn’t finish, who couldn’t win the big games, and then he shut everyone up by winning two straight Super Bowls in ‘97 and ’98 and then rode off into the Sunset with a Super Bowl MVP trophy tucked under his arm. Elway may take home even more rings as a GM, but only time will tell.
3 Peyton Manning
Much like Elway, Peyton was always thought of as a guy who just couldn’t win the big games. It took him a few years to win his first ring, when the Colts steamrolled Rex Grossman and the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. He got beat by Sean Payton and the Saints, Eli won 2 rings, and then the talk started back up about the 5-time MVP not being worth his salt when the game really mattered. This inaccurate concept is the biggest insult in sports history. Manning is one of the greatest players to play the game. He own the record for most touchdowns thrown, most yards thrown for, most wins, and has the largest career Touchdown to interception ratio. Getting his second ring with the Bronco in Super Bowl 50 should shut up those people who still doubted Peyton and his greatness.
2 Joe Montana
This is where the list begins splitting hairs. How do you decide between these last two QBs. Well we put Joe Montana here for one specific reason, he retired already. We all know how Montana’s career turned out; 40,000 yards thrown, 273 touchdowns, and never a full season where he threw for less than 16 touchdowns. Montana is arguably the best QB to have ever played the game. Even after the 49ers, the team he is synonymous with, thought he was done, he shut them up with a deep playoff run with the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana also always showed up when it mattered most. In his four Super Bowls, Montana completed 83 of 122 passes for 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions, earning him a passer rating of 127.8. He did have the best wide receiver of all time in Jerry Rice to play with, but that should not detract from how good Joe Cool was.
1 Tom Brady
Who you put at number 1 on this list really depends on when you were born. The writer of this piece was born in the ‘90s, so Tom Brady is number 1. You can make whatever case you want to choose Montana, but Brady started in the Super Bowl 6 times and it almost didn’t matter who was on his team when he did it. The only two things that stayed consistent for Brady during each Super Bowl run was that he had Bill Belichick as his head coach, and that he played for the Patriots. That’s it! From his most recent win in Super Bowl XLIX there were 0 players who played with Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Brady is truly a miracle worker, able to lead his team to the championship whether it’s Randy Moss catching passes or Julian Edelman. And hey, 6 starts with 4 rings doesn’t lie. Brady has a .771 career win percentage, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, and since he took over as the Patriots QB in 2001 he has been to the Super Bowl in 40% of his seasons a number that has not been equaled by anyone who has played more than 4 seasons.