It’s no secret that Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl on the back of his defense, going up against a team that was ill-prepared. He had a terrible year in what turned out to be his last, but he’s far from the worst player, or even the worst quarterback, to win a Super Bowl.
Despite being the crowning achievement for any NFL team, the most coveted victory for any American football player in the world, a lot of terrible players have themselves a Super Bowl ring. Trent Dilfer probably still bows down to a picture of Ray Lewis every morning. But there are even terrible players that lay claim to multiple Super Bowl rings.
Whether it be through a great defense or offense to hold them up, keeping that bench warm, or sheer luck, there’s at least 15 players in the history of the NFL that maybe probably shouldn’t have as many Super Bowl victories as they do. We could easily load this list up with backups and special teams players, but that’s be too easy. Instead, we’re going to look mostly at starters and second stringers that saw a lot of action. Guys whose teams won those Super Bowls in spite of their service.
15 Eli Manning
What do you say we start this off with a bang? Eli Manning is an average quarterback at best, aided by a good receiving core around him and a modern day rule set that favors quarterbacks putting up big numbers. And he indeed does put up big numbers, consistently throwing for 4,000 yards and 30 or more touchdowns for the last couple of years.
But he also throws a ton of interceptions. When the Giants won it all in 2007, Eli threw 20 interceptions in the regular season, and 16 in 2011. Worse still, he threw 25 picks in 2010 and 27 in 2013. He seems to always over or under throw open receivers, that is when he even sees them and is a statue in the pocket.
14 Bob Griese
How can the quarterback that led the only undefeated team in NFL history be on this list? Easily, because he only played five games that year, coming back just in time for the Super Bowl. In the Super Bowl, he went 8/11 for 88 yards, one touchdown and an interception. In the following Super Bowl, he was even worse, going 6/7 for 73 yards and no touchdowns.
In a lot of ways, Griese was the Trent Dilfer of his time: A game managing quarterback there just to fill up one of the 11 spots on the field. He never passed for more than 2,500 yards, only getting close to that marker during his second season in the league, and never threw for more than 22 touchdowns.
13 Larry Brown
Former Cowboys Cornerback Larry Brown is the ultimate one hit wonder. His one hit came in Super Bowl XXX when he had two interceptions in a win over the Steelers. Because of this, he got a fat contract with the Raiders. Unfortunately, the back-up corner showed why he was always a backup, playing just 12 games with the team before being let go two years later.
He finished his career re-signing with the Cowboys, but played one season there before he was out of the NFL. In eight years, he compiled 14 interceptions.
He must have written his own Wikipedia page, which is even more sad.
“Brown was a pivotal member of 3 Super Bowl championship teams and although he was considered the weak link of the defense, he more than held his own against some of the best wide receivers in NFL history, like Jerry Rice, Art Monk, Cris Carter and Sterling Sharpe. Rice had some terrible games playing against him.”
12 Earl Morrall
Earl Morrall is an odd one. He had three great seasons in ’63, ’65, and ’68, throwing for over 20 touchdowns and even making it to the Pro Bowl in 1968. But 84 of the rest of his 161 touchdowns come over the course of the rest of his 21 year career.
He was a career backup more or less, playing in Super Bowl V only because Johnny Unitas suffered a rib injury. As you may expected, he accounted for 0 touchdowns and a pick. A few years later, he found himself in Miami where he was backing up a guy named Bob Griese, if you’ve ever heard of him.
Morrall is actually the guy who replaced Griese when he got injured in 1972. He attempted only 150 passes in nine games, which amounts to only 17 passes per game. Still, he managed to throw seven interceptions.
11 Mark Rypien
A legend in Washington DC, quarterback Mark Rypien wasn’t actually very good. He had a magical season in 1991, but other than that he had a mediocre career. By the time he left Washington after 1992, he was a journeymen backup playing for the Browns, Rams, Eagles, and Colts. He even played one game for the Rochester Raiders in 2006, mostly for charity.
He got his first Super Bowl in his second season, where he was aided by a great defense and running game. Haha, just kidding. He got his first Super Bowl ring while standing on the sidelines, behind Doug Williams. He took the team over by the time he got his second ring in 1991. But it was a one hit wonder kind of season. Excluding 1991, he threw for 87 touchdowns compared to 77 touchdowns.
10 Matt Millen
Before he was molding the Detroit Lions into the worst team in NFL history, Matt Millen was stinking up the league as an average linebacker who happened to play on a great team. Okay, maybe saying he sunk up the league is a little unfair, but Millen is exactly the kind of player who got lucky playing on several great teams.
He spent most of his career with the Raiders, where he won two of his rings, then won two more with the 49ers and Washington. What makes him so bad, despite most former players and analysts seeming to think he was pretty good? Well, in 12 seasons he has 11 sacks to his name and 9 interceptions. He got a lot of tackles sure, but that’s because he played on such a great defense.
9 Ricky Proehl
Ricky Proehl spent 17 years in the NFL, never sticking with one team for more than five seasons. He played for the Cardinals, Rams, Panthers, Colts, Bears and Seahawks. In all of those seasons, the best he could do was 877 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Being on all those teams is really how he got two Super Bowl rings. He won his first in 1999 with the Rams, went to two more with the Rams and Panthers, then won his second in his final year. That’s right, Proehl was on Peyton Manning’s Colts team the year they won the Super Bowl. He had zero catches in that game and only three all year. But it was enough.
He’s currently the wide receivers coach for the Panthers, where he went to yet another Super Bowl with the team last year. This guy can’t stop tripping over Super Bowls it seems.
8 Bubba Paris
You have to admit, the combination of words “Bubba” and “Paris” don’t really go together well in your head. Still, it worked out for the former 49er offensive lineman. It’s hard to justify how good or bad an offensive lineman is after they’ve been retired for over a decade, but not so here.
He won three Super Bowls with the 49ers during their magical run in the 80s. Yet somehow he was never voted to the Pro Bowl, never won any awards or made it to an All-Star team, and has no chance of going to the Hall of Fame. Conversely, just about every other lineman with the 49ers in that stretch went to multiple Pro Bowls and won multiple awards.
The fact is, Paris was always the weak spot on the offensive line, but the rest of the line was so good (as was the offense in general) that it never really mattered.
7 Brandon Browner
The tale of Brandon Browner is an interesting and sad one. A career journeyman, Browner could never stick with one team. The Broncos, Seahawks, Patriots, Saints, and even the CFL’s Calgary Stampede all played host to this troubled corner.
Yet it was one magical run in one great season with the Seahawks that made everyone think he was the next best thing. Playing opposite Richard Sherman, and on a great defense, Browner won his first Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2013. After that, he chased big money with the Patriots where he was made an integral part of the defense.
That’s when his problems were fully revealed. He had trouble covering just about anybody and always needed help from a safety. He caused a lot of penalties and always lost his temper. Still, he won his second Super Bowl with the Patriots.
He then went on to the Saints, where he became the most penalized player in NFL history in a single season. He briefly resigned with the Seahawks during this offseason, but they left him go in the preseason.
6 Patrick Pass
No offense to Patrick Pass, but he had to be in the ultimate “guy in the right place at the right time” situation. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, but chances are you’ve never even heard of him. That’s because he’s a fullback and over the course of his entire eight year career, he had just 128 carries. In fact, he had more receiving yards than rushing, at 570 versus 526.
In this day and age, you could put just about any fullback on this list, but Pass is different. When he left the Patriots after the 2006 season, he couldn’t find a team. He spent a couple of weeks with the Texans in 2007 before being cut and played just one game that year with the Giants before being cut again. He sat out the entire 2008 season before signing with the Patriots again in 2009 before being cut after all of one week.
It’s true the fullback position isn’t the most coveted anymore, but you have to be pretty bad to be consistently cut from teams that quickly.
5 Deion Branch
Speaking of the Patriots, they really did carry a lot of mediocre players to several Super Bowls. Deion Branch is a lot worse of a receiver than his stats suggest. He got all of his rings with the Patriots, but played many years with the Seahawks where we discovered how bad he really was.
Branch never crossed the 1,000 receiving mark in a single season and never caught more than five touchdown passes in a season. In five of his 11 years, he never even got 500 yards. Keep in mind, this is a guy who played with Tom Brady who makes everyone around him look like Jerry Rice.
When he didn’t have Brady, he had two more 400 yard seasons and one with only 100 or so before they traded him back to the Patriots. Again, Tom Brady is able to make a former quarterback from Kent State (Julian Edelman) look like a great receiver, but not Deion Branch. Think about that.
4 Derek Loville
Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Loville’s greatest season came in 1995 when he had just 723 yards rushing and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Other than that season, he never ran for more than 229 yards.
But that was enough for him to get not two, but three Super Bowl rings. He won it in 1994 with the 49ers, in which he had 99 yards rushing. Then he won again in ’97 and ’98 with the Broncos in which he piled up all of 285 yards and 3 touchdowns.
It’s weird for a one hit wonder (however small the wonder is) with multiple rings to have his best season in a year he didn’t win the Super Bowl. Maybe if another team gave him another chance he could have been something, but his career only lasted eight seasons with three teams.
3 Roman Phifer
Roman Phifer is an odd one. He played in the league for 15 seasons on four different teams and made 177 starts over that span. But despite that, he only has 29 sacks and 11 interceptions. It’s not like he was a tackling machine either, getting 100 solo tackles only twice in his entire career. It’s almost as if Phifer was there just to fill up space on the playing field or something, because he never had much of an impact.
As you would expect, all three of his Super Bowls came with the Patriots at the tail end of his career in 2001, 2003, and 2004. By that point in his career, he was even slower, playing more of a bit part on the Patriots defense.
He ended his career in 2005 with the Giants, but never saw the field and it’s no great question why.
2 Damon Huard
It’s unfathomable that Damon Huard has more Super Bowl rings than Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and Warren Moon combined. Maybe if he were some backup that never saw the field, but no. Huard played several seasons for multiple teams and that’s the confusing part.
He started with the Dolphins, swinging back and forth between starter and backup. He wasn’t spectacular and eventually made his way to the Patriots in 2002 and 2003 where he won his rings. But as you’d expect, he didn’t play much, only ever attempting one pass there.
The bulk of his NFL action came later with the Chiefs years later, where he started for several seasons. He put together an excellent 2006 season by throwing 11 touchdowns to just one interception, but after that he went back to his usual self. The next two years he threw 17 interceptions to 13 touchdowns.
1 Marc Wilson
While we’re on the subject of terrible quarterbacks you probably never heard of, it’s time to talk about Marc Wilson. Another guy who regularly switched between starter and backup, Wilson won two Super Bowls with the Raiders. Unlike Damon Huard though, Wilson never even had a halfway decent season.
His best effort came in 1983 where he managed to not ruin the Raiders Super Bowl run that year, throwing eight touchdowns to six picks.
But nine of his 60 starts over his career came in his second season, the year after he got his first Super Bowl. He pretty much cost the team another chance at the championship, throwing 14 touchdowns to 19 interceptions, going 5-4 as a starter. He made his only postseason start in 1985 and threw three interceptions in a loss.
He finished his career with 86 touchdown passes and 102 interceptions. For some reason, the Raiders kept hold of him as their backup for years behind Jim Plunkett and he cost them every time.