The pinnacle of each and every NFL season for the fans is the Super Bowl, which has millions and millions of people watching throughout the world. Many who have not watched a football game all year attend parties to watch the most important game of the NFL season. The Super Bowl often pits the two best teams in football against each other, and it is not an easy road to get to the big game. Teams have great players to make it this far and there is different ways a team can be constructed to make a Super Bowl run.
The starters on offense and defense are usually key players for a Super Bowl champion, and can make the difference between winning and losing the game. Not every team is complete on both sides of the ball. Some teams have a high powered offense and a defense that is average, and some have a dominant defense and a poor offense. Even the winner of the Super Bowl is not always complete. Teams always have a small flaw or two, and these flaws can be covered up by great play from the rest of the team.
Here are the Best and Worst starters on the last 10 NFL Super Bowl Champions:
20 2006 Indianapolis Colts - Best: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, and his Super Bowl victory in 2006 was a burden off of his shoulders. For years Manning was known for leading the Colts to successful runs in the regular season. The playoffs presented a more challenging task for Manning, and the Colts often times would under perform when the games meant the most. Manning faced his toughest test yet when he ran into the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
After only scoring six points in the first half, the Colts came back in the second half, scoring 32 points and winning a trip to the Super Bowl. Manning played great in the Super Bowl throwing for 247 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears' number one rated defense.
19 2006 Indianapolis Colts - Worst: Gilbert Gardner
Gilbert Gardner had a great collegiate career at Purdue University, and was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were known as a team that had an incredible offense but a lackluster defense during their years with Peyton Manning as quarterback.
Gardner was a backup his first two years, but moved up to a starting linebacker in 2006. The Colts struggled with Gardner in the lineup. Despite winning the Super Bowl the Colts had the league’s worst ranked run defense, and Gardner was the one who was given the most blame for this. He played no part in the Super Bowl victory, and Gardner was let go of by the Colts after they won the big game.
18 2007 New York Giants - Best: Osi Umenioyra
The New York Giants were seen as 12 point underdogs to a Patriots team that had not lost a game all season. The Giants ended up defeating the Patriots, and it was due in large part because of the impact of Osi Umeniorya and the Giants disruptive pass rush. Umenioyra had 13 sacks on the year and it seemed that the Giants' only chance at winning the Super Bowl was to shut down the dominant Patriots offense. New York was able to turn the game into a defensive battle, and although Eli Manning had won the MVP of the game the defense was the real deciding factor in the Giants' shocking Super Bowl victory. Umenioyra recorded four tackles during the game and three of those four tackles were solo tackles.
17 2007 New York Giants - Worst: Reggie Torbor
Reggie Torber was not the opening day starter for the Giants at linebacker, but when Mathias Kiwanuka broke his fibula Torber was needed to start alongside All Pro Antonio Pierce for the remainder of the season and Super Bowl run. The Giants had plenty of great players on the defense to pick up the slack for Torbor's poor play. During the Giants' entire playoff run Torbor only registered 10 tackles and one sack, and on the biggest stage of his career against the Patriots he was only able to get two tackles throughout the entirety of the game.
The New York Giants were still able to win the big game. Torbor was not brought back by the Giants due to Mathias Kiwanuka returning from his season ending injury.
16 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers - Best: Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger was not named the MVP of the game, but it was obvious he was the leader of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers had been up most of their Super Bowl matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but then the Cardinals mounted a comeback and took the lead with a little under three minutes remaining. Roethlisberger had to get his team 88 yards down the field to score the game winning touchdown. It was not going to be easy against a pretty good Cardinals defense, but Big Ben drove them down the field and managed to hook up with Santonio Holmes for the game winning touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. Roethlisberger finished the game by completing 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
15 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers - Worst: Darnell Stapleton
Darnell Stapleton did not have a lot of promise coming out of Rutgers which has failed to produce a lot of great football players. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to give the young lineman a chance when they signed the undrafted free agent to a contract, and he unexpectedly was thrust into a starting role during the Steelers' Super Bowl run. He was made the starting guard four games into the 2008 NFL season due to injuries suffered on the Pittsburgh o-line. The o-line of the Steelers allowed three sacks for -22 yards which was not too bad for having someone like Stapleton manning a starting spot.
After the Super Bowl, Stapleton would never play another down in the NFL, and this fact alone tells people a lot of how well he performed for the Steelers during a championship year.
14 2009 New Orleans Saints - Best: Drew Brees
There is no doubting the significant impact that Drew Brees has played for the New Orleans Saints franchise. Since coming to the Saints in 2006 he has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and in 2009 he was able to lift his team to a Super Bowl championship despite his Saints being a five point underdog to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Brees was the MVP of the Super Bowl after throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns. The most impressive feat of Brees performance was his 32-of-39 completion total on the biggest stage, and the Colts defense was unable to stop the Saints' efficiency on offense. The New Orleans Saints went from a joke of a franchise to a Super Bowl champion thanks in large part to Drew Brees.
13 2009 New Orleans Saints - Worst: Malcolm Jenkins
To be fair Malcolm Jenkins was a rookie when the Saints won the Super Bowl, but he proved that he was not a fit at the corner back position. In the big game Jenkins managed to have an decent outing by finishing the game with five tackles. The season after the Super Bowl Jenkins was converted to the safety position, and was not thought of as starting material by the Saints. The Eagles have since signed Jenkins and he has played at a high level at the safety position for his new team. The Saints unfortunately were unable to get the best out of Jenkins when he came into the league as a cornerback, and the defense would have benefited greatly from better play from Jenkins.
12 2010 Green Bay Packers - Best: Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is widely considered as arguably the best quarterback in football, and he made his first leap into greatness when he led the 2010 Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl championship. The Packers and Rodgers had struggled at times throughout the course of the year due to a 3-3 start and injuries, but they squeaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed in the NFC. The Pittsburgh Steelers stood in Rodgers' way of finally winning the biggest game of his life. Rodgers duelled against fellow elite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and was able to outplay the Steelers starting signal caller to win his lone Super Bowl championship. Aaron Rodgers was named the Super Bowl MVP after throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, despite losing his top receiver Greg Jennings to injury in that game.
11 2010 Green Bay Packers - Worst: Quinn Johnson
Quinn Johnson had to fill in as the starting fullback when starter Korey Hall hurt himself after starting 12 games during the season. He was a fifth round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers back in 2009, and there weren't high expectations placed on him. During his time in Green Bay, Johnson was not even capable of receiving any carries. He also played a very minimal role in the passing game when with the Packers, and he only had three receptions for 26 yards with the team that drafted him.
When thinking about fullbacks, Packers fans always have fond memories of a player such as John Kuhn. They quickly forget about the marginal impact of a player such as Quinn Johnson, particularly in that Super Bowl year.
10 2011 New York Giants - Best: Eli Manning
Eli Manning has been proclaimed one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, but despite the criticism that he often receives he has been able to win two Super Bowls as a member of the New York Giants. The Giants were two and a half point underdogs against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, and had not even won 10 games during the regular season. Manning threw for over 4,900 yards during the regular season. The Giants defense was ranked 27th, and the Giants rushing attack was ranked last in the NFL. This forced Manning to single handedly win games for his team. In the Super Bowl, Manning threw for 296 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and was named the MVP of the game.
9 2011 New York Giants - Worst: Jake Ballard
Jake Ballard did not have such a good Super Bowl. He was fortunate to be in the league after being undrafted in 2010, but the Giants signed him and he worked his way up to become a starter for the team. Against the Patriots in the biggest game of his career he was only able to catch two balls for 10 yards. To make matters worse Ballard tore his ACL in the second half of that game. Ballard attempted to get back on the field, but he collapsed when he tried running and cutting on the sideline.
This didn’t deter the Giants passing attack as Mario Manningham made an incredible catch near the sideline to keep the game winning drive going. Ballard would never be the same player after hurting himself in the biggest moment of his career.
8 2012 Baltimore Ravens - Best: Joe Flacco
Many questioned whether Joe Flacco was a top 10 quarterback or not before he led the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl. Flacco had been considered an average at best quarterback amongst fellow quarterbacks in the league, but his 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Ravens playoffs run would shed the label of 'average' from Flacco. The Ravens struggled towards the end of the season. Not many thought they were capable of winning the Super Bowl after firing their offensive coordinator, but they made it all the way to the big game by pulling off some upsets along the way.
Flacco was named the Super Bowl MVP for throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a game where his team was the underdog once again.
7 2012 Baltimore Ravens Worst: Ma'ake Kemoeatu
Ma'ake Kemoeatu was attempting to resurrect his career with the Baltimore Ravens after a one year absence from football. He put in a lot of work to get back in shape, and ultimately lost nearly 80 pounds which helped him not only make the Ravens team but start at nose tackle for an already great defense. The Ravens defense was the strength of the team featuring dominant players such as Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Kemoeatu had started his career with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of Utah in 2002, and 2012 would ultimately be his final season in the league. Kemoeatu was not much of a contributor at the nose tackle position, and for the season he only was able to rack up 29 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.
6 2013 Seattle Seahawks - Best: Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch may not have had his best game in the Super Bowl, but he was certainly the best player on the Seahawks during their Super Bowl run. The man known as Beast Mode ran for over 1,200 yards during the regular season to go along with his 12 rushing touchdowns. The Seahawks were not favored to win against what was considered the best offense in NFL history, but the Seahawks were able to thrash the Broncos by a final score of 43-8.
Lynch was able to contribute a touchdown in the win. Lynch could not really get much going on the ground, and Lynch was only able gain 39 yards against the Broncos defense that had not shown signs of dominance in the game. Still though, Lynch was the driving force behind the Seahawks' emergence prior to that Super Bowl season.
5 2013 Seattle Seahawks - Worst: Byron Maxwell
Byron Maxwell was a member of the vaunted Seahawks secondary known as the Legion of Boom. The secondary included All Pros in Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman, and Maxwell was by far the weakest link. Maxwell did not have to cover a team’s top wide receiver on most occasions due to Richard Sherman being the team’s best corner back. Maxwell was able to force a fumble and get four tackles in the Super Bowl, which cemented his place as the team’s starting cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman.
After 2014 Maxwell was the most sought after free agent cornerback. He landed a six year $63 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he proved with his play on the field that he was more of a product of the players he was lined up with in Seattle.
4 2014 New England Patriots - Best: Tom Brady
This comes as no surprise to anyone that remotely knows anything about the New England Patriots that Tom Brady was the best player on the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl run in 2014. Although Brady did not make the play of the game which Malcolm Butler was able to do when he intercepted Russell Wilson with minimal time left in the game, Brady was able to set the record for most completed passes in a Super Bowl by completing 37 passes against a stout Seattle defense. He threw two interceptions in the game which is almost unthinkable.
The four touchdown passes that he was able to complete in the game more than made up for his turnovers, and Brady was named the MVP of the Super Bowl after his impressive performance.
3 2014 New England Patriots - Worst: Patrick Chung
Patrick Chung was a second round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2009, and he has spent all but one year of his career with the Patriots so far. That one year was with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. Chung struggled with the Eagles, and after his terrible performances with the Eagles he re-signed with the Patriots in 2014. Chung was put in the starting line up in a secondary that featured Darelle Revis and Devin McCourty, and with these two All-Pros surrounding him he did not have to worry much about making mistakes.
In the Super Bowl, Chung was seemingly a ghost. In what may have been the biggest game of his career Chung was only able to record one tackle throughout the entire game, but the Patriots were still able to pull through with a win.
2 2015 Denver Broncos - Best: Von Miller
Let’s be honest with ourselves, Von Miller quite literally stole the show in the biggest game of the year, and he caused the league MVP Cam Newton to have his worst game of the season/playoffs at the most inopportune time. Miller was the leader of a Denver Broncos defense that was widely recognized as the best in the NFL and one of the best of all time. The Carolina Panthers had one of the NFL’s best offenses, and were favored to win the game. It has often been said that the best offense is a strong defense and Miller and the rest of the Broncos proved that theory to be true in the Super Bowl. Miller recorded six tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two quarterback hurries, and was named Super Bowl MVP.
1 2015 Denver Broncos - Worst: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is one of the most well decorated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, and was playing at a high level with the Broncos in 2013, when he led the Broncos to perhaps one of the best offensive seasons as a team in NFL history. The 2015 season saw Manning have to deal with injury for seemingly the first time since he had joined the Broncos. Brock Osweiler assumed the role of starter for six regular season games, but Manning was named the top dog for the postseason.
In the postseason Manning was only able to complete 55 percent of his passes. The Broncos won the Super Bowl despite Manning only being able to throw for 141 yards during the course of the entire game.