The image of a Super Bowl champion is usually some kind of legend placed on a pedestal and rightfully so. They have won the biggest game on the biggest stage and played one of the toughest sports to ever exist. The nature of football is to literally destroy the opposition, mainly the man carrying the ball. Some NFL players will make it a down and others will play 20 years, the game is too unpredictable. With the average career length sitting just over three years long, the window for a Super Bowl is extremely slim so that you have to win where you can and while you can. Nothing can be taken for granted as each player knows that any single play can be their last.
Now with that being said, Super Bowl winners come in many different forms. Sometimes these guys are legends looking for a home to win late in their career before hanging up their pads. Some get lucky and win early on in their career to make sure that they will go down in history. Some have to wait for teams to build and others are beneficiaries of trades. Some players deserve every second of glory and others leave you wondering how they took home the hardware. Here are the 10 best and the 10 worst players to win a Super Bowl since 2000, analyzed case by case.
20 Best - Ed Reed
Still playing football for the Hurricanes in Miami at the time, Ed Reed missed the first Ravens Super Bowl in 2000-01. He was drafted in 2002 to a team that was established on defense but needed a compliment to Ray Lewis to lead the defensive backfield. Ed Reed was the perfect fit. Tough, physical, fast and extremely smart, Reed made opposing QBs absolutely miserable and proved his worth by taking home the Defensive Player of the Year in only his third season.
For over a decade, this defensive core was menacing. Terrell Suggs and Lewis were possibly the best linebacker duo during the time period and Ed Reed could just sit back and wait to do what he did best. This included laying big hits and picking off anything thrown his way. He led the league in interceptions three different years and was finally able to add what Ray and Terrell did 12 years before, win a Super Bowl. This would be his last year with the Ravens and he would play only one more season before retirement.
19 Worst - Reggie Bush
Now Reggie Bush wasn’t so much the worst Super Bowl winner as much as he has been an NFL disappointment. During his time at USC in which he took home two of three National Championship opportunities and a Heisman trophy his junior year, Reggie Bush was literally revolutionizing the way college football was played. He was electric in every way and with the pairing of a power run game in LenDale White, it made each of them that much more lethal. Not many people can be running full speed and stop on a dime to watch a defender fly by or hurdle a man while gliding 4 yards in the air to score a touchdown. Bush was a rare and special talent.
The New Orleans Saints had thought they were getting this Bush when they selected him with the 2nd overall pick in 2006. Now don’t get me wrong, Bush has had a few solid years in the NFL, however he has never been able to fully reach the potential that was expected of him coming into the league as he has never really been given a full starters workload. He may have disappointed, but an injury stricken Bush was able to squeeze out a Super Bowl win on a bum knee in the emotional post-Katrina Saints SB run led by the Brees/Payton tandem. As viewers and fans of the game, we just wish Bush would have more consistency as well as those “oohhhh” and “ahhh” moments that we remember so vividly in what seems like his previous life.
18 Best - Jerome Bettis
There aren’t many guys in the NFL that could completely run through a person and still be liked. Jerome “The Bus” Bettis was an extremely likeable guy with a contagious smile. He did just about as much off of the field as he did on it, and the man was phenomenal on a football field. His influence showed so much so that it earned him the Walter Payton Man of the Year honors in 2001.
Originally drafted by the Rams out of Notre Dame, The Bus played three seasons with the Rams before the Pittsburgh Steelers made a move for the big fella. They saw the greatness inside of the hard rusher, which led to him being ranked 6th in all-time rushing yardage and 11th in rushing TDs. Known as a man who never stopped moving his legs, The Bus had a Hall of Fame Career in his hands before contemplating retirement in 2004. The Bus decided to come back for one last season with hopes of riding off into the sunset with a Super Bowl ring as the game was set to be in his hometown of Detroit. The Bus returned, the Steelers were victorious and the rest is history.
17 Worst - Tommy Maddox
Tommy Maddox is the definition of a journeyman. The dude has played in three different professional leagues. From the NFL to XFL and Arena league, Maddox has been a part of it all. Tommy started his NFL career in '92 and jumped to three different teams in four years, never registering himself as a starter or player of the future.
He was out of the league in five years only to come back to play a year of Arena Ball, and then go on to win the only XFL Championship in history as the starter. The Steelers and Rooney family saw the fight in Maddox and brought him on to serve as Kordell Stewart's back up plan. Once Stewart was benched, Maddox took over and even signed an extension with the Steelers to be answer for the near future. He ran the show for about two years and was extremely mediocre until his injury that brought the young Ben Roethlisberger to life. Needless to say, Maddox lost his job and only started two more games the rest of his career, losing both. He did however stay around as Ben’s insurance policy just long enough to see himself add a Super Bowl to his XFL Championship.
16 Best - Marvin Harrison
Although Isaac Bruce puts up quite an argument for SB winning receivers in the 2000s, it is impossible to deny Marvin Harrison's productivity during his tenure in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning. At Syracuse where he was a three year starter, Harrison quickly climbed among the receiving ranks at the University. Historically a school with more success in the running game, Harrison changed the scouting report with Donavan McNabb under center.
From Syracuse to his lone NFL team of Indianapolis, Harrison balled out. It wasn’t his size or speed that made him torturing to a secondary, but his route-running and game IQ that made him a standout. Not to mention, he had the most prolific passer in NFL history as his QB. Harrison ranks 8th in yards, and sits in the top 5 in both receptions and touchdowns. He also holds a record of 143 receptions in a single season, one of which Antonio Brown continues to challenge.
15 Worst - Michael Pittman
Super Bowl XXXVII champ Michael Pittman is just bad enough to make the list. Overall, Pittman had a rather lengthy NFL career at a position that can cycle through players quickly. Pittman was a standout during his time at Fresno State, but he wasn’t close to putting up the same numbers in the league. Rushing for 3,000 total yards in his collegiate career, Pittman wasn’t able to double the yardage in the NFL with over twice as many carries in an 11 year career.
He is needed for this list because he just wasn’t productive at his position. As the starter for the Bucs during their Super Bowl year under Jon Gruden, he was brought into the smash mouth football game. Most smash mouth football teams can run the ball and play good physical defense. He was only averaging 3.5 yards per carry, and rushed for a total of 718 yards that year. To say Pittman benefited from the defense is an understatement. The defense and the somehow magical play of a middle of the pack QB in Brad Johnson, but that’s another story.
14 Best - Michael Strahan
The 45-year-old media personality and co-host of shows like Good morning America and Live with Kelly and Michael, was worth more than just mid-day hour long entertainment and swooning of middle age women. Over 15 seasons Strahan more than cemented himself as a superstar. With a career where he led the league in sacks twice, Strahan dominated opposing offensive lines. He was big, strong, and unbelievably quick for a man of his stature.
Strahan put himself into the history books midway through his career. In 2001, he put up the NFL record 22.5 sacks as he trampled his way to Defensive Player of the Year. Strahan had the individual victory, but no SB ring. He mulled retirement after 2006, but thankfully for the G-Men, he decided to return for one final season where, surprise surprise, the legend found himself beating down a near perfect Tom Brady and the Patriots for his lone Super Bowl ring. Strahan was an easy pick for the top 10 SB Champs in the 2000s.
13 Worst - David Givens
David Givens name was remembered more than his stats would merit as his playing career only lasted five seasons. His four year tenure with New England couldn’t have come at a better time for his sake. Tom Brady was establishing himself as an assassin at the QB position and many benefited including Givens as he was a two time champ in 2003 and 2004.
He was a running back with limited work as a receiver at Notre Dame. New England drafted the talent needing to establish himself as a player with one position. Receiver was ultimately the choice but it would only last him a short period of time. He was never really able to assert himself as anything more than a role guy. His total yardage averaged out through his brief career would come to 464 yards per year, nothing impressive. This was a man who joined a team who would begin to ride Tom Brady’s dominance for years to come, no matter who was in their system leaving our man Givens, easily replaceable.
12 Best - Marshall Faulk
Soft spoken Marshall Faulk started his career with a damaged Indianapolis Colts team. After a few rough seasons, the rebuilding process began with Peyton Manning and a young and promising Marshall Faulk. After a monster year from Faulk alongside his new QB, the team needed more help. Thus, Faulk was shipped to St. Louis for a pair of draft picks.
St. Louis was almost a dream scenario for Faulk, with extremely talented skill players on the offensive side of the ball. With this move, the “Greatest Show on Turf” was born. Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and the 11th all time rushing leader Marshall Faulk took the league by storm. Ranking #1 in total offense for three straight seasons, the team had the perfect mix of a quick running and passing game. Faulk was at the center of it all and it showed as he earned himself an MVP award during his Ram tenure.
11 Worst - Jacoby Jones
Listed as a wide receiver, Jones is primarily used a return man similar to a lesser Devin Hester. Both as a kick and punt returner, Jacoby’s speed will make undisciplined special teams pay the ultimate price. The good side is that he has taken nine total returns to the house in his career, however the bad is that he is extremely fumble prone. Starting in Houston, his role was meant to be bigger as a receiver but during his tenure, the legendary Andre Johnson was just about the only source of aerial movement for the Texans. Jones also proved time and time again that he was not a dependable pass-catcher.
After Houston, Jacoby bounced to a few different teams and is currently out of the league. The reason he resides on this list is because he continually drops easy balls and cannot run a single route except for a go route. The guy just so happened to finally catch a ball during a colossal Denver secondary mistake in the AFC Divisional Round and without said catch, it would not have been possible for the Ravens to win their second franchise Super Bowl. It was a play that should not have been made, he just so happened to be in the right place at the right time.
10 Best - John Ogden
Standing at 6-9 and weighing in at 345 pounds, the Baltimore Ravens' 4th overall pick in 1996 was an absolute beast. Through Jonathan Ogden’s 12 seasons which were all in a Ravens uniform, he was a mammoth that exuded durability. In his 12 year career, his fewest played games in a season was 11 in his rookie year, and for seven of his 12 years, he started all 16 games.
Although he started his Hall of Fame career at left guard, it took only one season for Ogden’s talents to be utilized at the most important blocking position in the NFL, left tackle. Once that move was made, the rest is history. For 11 seasons starting at left tackle, he made 11 consecutive Pro Bowls until he hung it up in 2007. He and the offensive line helped to provide a running game to the phenomenal Ravens defense that led the Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV victory. A few seasons later, Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards behind Ogden and the Ravens O-line, one of seven total running backs to hit 2,000 yards. Quite the career for an offensive lineman.
9 Worst - Brandon Browner
When a guy starts and wins two consecutive Super Bowls for two different teams, it is going to be extremely difficult to argue the point that a player isn’t very good. Brandon Browner is that guy. Built more like a tight end than a corner back, Browner stands at 6-foot-4 weighing 220 pounds. He is a physical specimen but he wasn’t made to play the cornerback position.
Over the past 10 seasons, Browner has been one of the most heavily penalized and suspended players in the league. He led the league in penalties in 2015 with seven more than any other player! He is phenomenal if a team is looking to give the opposition better field position or if you need someone to lay a big hit, but when it comes to being a cover corner, Browner isn’t a great option. He was fortunate to be in two phenomenal defensive systems at the time of their peak. But he makes the list because he isn’t reliable to a team in every sense of the word.
8 Best - Rod Woodson
Although the majority of his career was spent hawking opposing quarterbacks from the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, Rod Woodson won his lone Super Bowl on the Ray Lewis led Ravens defense. One of the most versatile players to date, Rod played all over the field in college at Purdue. On offense he spent time at running back and wide receiver while on defense was a safety and corner with explosive return capabilities.
When looking at statistics, Rod may be the best defensive back in history. The man is 3rd in picks, 1st in interception touchdowns, a one-time defensive player of the year and was selected to more Pro Bowls than any other defensive back in history. He may not have won a ring with the team where he made his name or spent his prime, but his talent and hard work were rewarded in 2001 as the Ravens were smart enough to add a key component to a defensive led Super Bowl run.
7 Worst - Byron Maxwell
Before Byron Maxwell inherited the 2nd cornerback position in the “Legion of Boom,” he was a 3rd string corner with Sherman and Browner ahead on the totem pole. This isn’t so much about how well or how poorly Maxwell played during the Seahawks Super Bowl winning year, because his opportunities were less than others. This is about the fact that he did win a Super Bowl, was paid big money because of it two years later, and then was exposed.
Since his payday compliments of the Eagles under Chip Kelly, it seems as if Maxwell was found everywhere you do not want to be on the football field. Getting burnt, blowing an assignment or drawing a penalty had become deadly issues for Maxwell. The Eagles deal only lasted one year and Maxwell was shipped to Miami where he has played the entire 2016 season. It can make all of the difference when you start your career playing with guys like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Luckily for Maxwell, he is only 28 and should have several years left in the NFL barring any injuries to move opinions in the opposite direction.
6 Best - Peyton Manning
The Book of Manning! Although both Eli and Peyton Manning were fortunate enough to each acquire two Super Bowl rings since the start of the millennium, Peyton is locked in near the top of our list. The beginning of this former #1 overall pick's career was no premonition of what was to come. Taking a recently losing franchise in the Indianapolis Colts to a 3-13 record while posting a league high 28 interceptions was not what Manning had envisioned. The situation looked similar to one that his father Archie had faced in New Orleans.
Fortunately for Peyton, that was far from the case. Fast forward 20 years, Peyton is #2 in wins for a starting QB and #1 in all time pass yards as well as TDs, all while taking home five MVP Awards. The problem with Manning is that while he put up video game numbers during the regular season, it seemed like he was a completely different person when the playoffs started. He has two Super Bowl victories yes, but without one of the best defenses in our modern era in Denver, Peyton could easily have just one.
5 Worst - David Tyree
In a career that last only seven seasons, David Tyree may be the most memorable name of all backup wide receivers. The most catches that Tyree had eclipsed over the course of a season was 19… 19! Tyree and his locker room talent waited until the biggest stage to prove that his extremely minor role could make a major impact during his six year stint in New York.
The Giants were a 5th seed wild card team in 2007-08 that on paper, did not stand a chance against the Patriots and the perfect season they had strung together at that point. The G-Men had clawed their way into the Super Bowl against Brady/Belichick who had just won three of the past six Super Bowls. Unleash David Tyree. He grabbed a touchdown early in the 4th quarter and then followed it up by reeling in the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. If you missed it somehow, it was the play in which he caught a sailing pass one handed against his helmet as Rodney Harrison pulled him down in disbelief to set up the go ahead TD later in the drive. The play won the team a Super Bowl and Tyree won the ESPY for best play.
4 Best - Ray Lewis
Behind the ferocious L.T, Ray Lewis established himself as the next greatest to ever dominate the linebacker position. The 13 time Pro Bowler and two-time Defensive Player of the year was a standout from the time he arrived on campus at the University of Miami until he called it a career in the NFL.
Having won his first SB rather early in his 17 years, Ray started suffering issues like many who play the game for as long as he did. He decided he was going to retire after one final season in 2012. With a little help from the lackadaisical secondary of the Denver Broncos and the speed of Jacoby Jones, the Ravens were able to pull off a miraculous comeback in the AFC Divisional round and go on to win their two Super Bowl. One hell of a sendoff.
3 Worst - Brad Johnson
Yes, both Brad Johnson and Michael Pittman have made the list. The man who seemed like a prototypical back-up QB started at least two games in 12 of his 17 total seasons hanging around the league. It is tough to knock that kind of durability, however when you are inconsistent, that makes the bashing process simpler. He reminds me of a 'play it safe' version of Jon Kitna. He did have his best year for the Bucs, but his job was easy; don’t throw picks and we will win ugly!
In 2002-03, the Buccaneers' #1 overall defense was simply nasty. The defense was phenomenal against the run, and somehow even better facing the pass. They were supposed to have their hands full with Rich Gannon and a pair of HOF’ers known as Tim Brown and Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Bucs defense wasn’t having any of it. They dismantled the passing game as they had done all season ending the game with 5 picks, three of which were returned for TDs. Johnson hardly even had to score, his job was being done for him. The defense was the reason the Bucs took home the hardware and Johnson was the lucky fill-in at QB to be a part of the ride.
2 Best- Tom Brady
Why not Peyton Manning at no.1?! Despite the fact that Sir Peyton owns the majority of records for quarterbacks of this era and all prior, Peyton does not have the same playoff and Super Bowl swagger that Touchdown Tommy has had since he came in for an injured Drew Bledsoe. The best 6th round draft pick ever, Tom has proven to be a winner in every aspect of life. Having a face that makes women weak and a wife who is not only beautiful but is also worth twice as much, the four time Super Bowl Champ “lives the dream.”
To this date, Tom is the winningest starting QB in NFL History, 4th in passer rating, passing TDs, passing yards and completions. Brady is the most competitive football player I have ever seen and has the stats and record to show he is a proven great. This is Brady’s 15th year as the starter, not including 2008 in which he was put on IR the first game of the year. In 14 full seasons, he has made it to the big game six times. He is the best to do it at that position because he wins when it counts.
1 Worst - Trent Dilfer
Dilfer and Brad Johnson were all too similar in the way that they won the big game, except Dilfer was far worse. Having Jamal Lewis in his backfield as opposed to a Michael Pittman, the weight was taken completely off of Dilfer. He threw for a total of 12 TDs and 11 interceptions in the 2000-01 season. It isn’t uncommon for some guys in the league to throw 12 TDs in three or four games, but Dilfer did it in eight-plus games as he was originally the backup. The slow and boring play from Dilfer wasn’t enough for the Ravens to lose more than one game while he was under center.
The defense ranked top 5 in virtually every category with Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson basically being player-coaches on the field. Jamal Lewis was on his way to a 1,300 yard rushing season and Dilfer was in the perfect spot. Hand the ball off and limit the turnovers! That was good enough for the current analyst to win a Super Bowl. Career wise, I think Dilfer is a good analyst, I really do. But he is a guy with career numbers of 113 TDs and 129 picks, and a win-loss record of 58-5. On 99% of teams with Dilfer as a starter, he never wins a ring. This was literally the only possibility as he was cut the season following the Super Bowl.