Earlier this month, we were treated to that one night a year when women actually want to watch football. The fiftieth Super Bowl in the history of the NFL was really nothing special. It was a defensive battle, and wasn't one sided like the 2014 game, but number fifty didn't stack up against last year's final minute end zone interception.
The Carolina Panthers and victorious Denver Broncos put on a half decent show and four-time All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller took the MVP award for his 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Peyton Manning, widely considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game, was below average in the game.
For the most part, if you're getting into the Super Bowl, you're playing for a top tier team. Additionally, as the quarterback is (at least in modern football), the most important player on the field, only teams who have invested in solid field generals are making it to the big game, with some notable exceptions.
Plenty of quarterbacks such as Kerry Collins (XXXV), Craig Morton (XII) and Rich Gannon (XXXVII) rank among the most notorious quarterbacks to make the Super Bowl and absolutely abort the game, but what about those who make it, win it, but end up thanking their entire teams for covering their butts while they almost blow it? Here are the fifteen worst Super Bowl performances of quarterbacks who won.
15 15. Terry Bradshaw - Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl IX
An absolute legend, Terry Bradshaw is the first quarterback to have won three, and then four Super Bowls and did so with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is some speculation regarding whether he can be called one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, because any blunders on his part were offset by a punishing rush offense and the Steel Curtain; one of the most notorious defensive lines in the history of the game.
Bradshaw always threw plenty of picks, but ended up with more touchdown throws than interceptions in his career. In Super Bowl IX, against the Minnesota Vikings, Bradshaw threw no picks, but completed just 9 of 14 passes for under 100 yards. He threw a touchdown, but running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier combined for 51 carries for a total of 223 yards, carrying most of the offensive load. The defense also managed three forced fumbles, two of which were recovered by the Steelers and three interceptions. The game ended 16-6 for the Steelers.
14 14. Bob Greise - Miami, Super Bowl VII
13 13. Len Dawson - Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl IV
For those under fifty years old and not versed in the history of NFL football, Len Dawson may not be a familiar name. He is a Hall of Fame quarterback who played from 1957 until 1975, earning a Super Bowl win at number IV back in 1970. Playing for the Kansas City Chiefs at the time, Dawson and his team were the underdogs but were able to defensively overwhelm the Minnesota Vikings, coming away with a final score of 23-7.
12 12. Joe Namath - New York Jets, Super Bowl III
Broadway Joe is the only quarterback to have been named Super Bowl MVP without throwing a touchdown pass. That isn't to say that his 1969 performance in the third big game in history was absolutely dreadful. It was, like a few others early in this list, just nothing incredible or special. This was, of course, the infamous game with Namath's guarantee, in which he said that his underdog team would win the game, despite most people predicting a decisive win for the opposing Baltimore Colts. "The guarantee" did make the victory something special and remains a major part of Namath's legacy. Despite not putting up flashy numbers throughout his career, he is remembered today as much for his play on the field as his antics on the field.
Ultimately, however, Namath's MVP performance was a defensive victory, as the Jets made four interceptions and stonewalled a struggling Baltimore offense throughout the game. Neither Johnny Unitas or Earl Morrall could get anything going, combining for a measly 17 completions on 41 passes.
11 11. Bob Griese - Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl VIII
Remember what we said about Bob Griese earlier in this same article? Repeat it for this one. So to recap, it wasn't by any means a bad performance, but he was vastly overshadowed by his running backs and the Dolphins defense. Running backs Csonka, Morris and Kiick combined for 51 carries and 189 yards. Griese threw no picks or touchdowns, but he did go 6 for 7 with seven yards on the ground. The game ended 24-7 victory for the Dolphins.
10 10. Troy Aikman - Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVIII
This was the last of those pesky four Super Bowls that the Buffalo Bills lost in the early 1990s. It was 1994 and Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and the Bills took on the same Dallas Cowboys team that trounced them in the previous Super Bowl to the tune of 52-17.
9 9. John Elway - Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXII
8 8. Joe Theismann - Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XVII
In 1983, Pasadena, California hosted the big game and it saw the Miami Dolphins lose to the Washington Redskins. Joe Theismann, whose career would end just two years later with one of the gnarliest injuries the football world has ever seen, was under center for the Skins at the time and had achieved a Pro Bowl season in that year.
7 7. Jim Plunkett - Los Angeles Raiders. Super Bowl XVIII
Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowls with the Oakland and L.A. Raiders in the 80s, is a contentious topic in the pro football community. His record and stats are nothing special, but many people consider his two Super Bowl victories (one of which brought an MVP trophy) to be more than enough to warrant a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
6 6. Brad Johnson - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII
Remember when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl? For his two interceptions, safety Dexter Jackson was named MVP, but the real hero for the Bucs was Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon who threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions. The Tampa Bay defense was on fire, and for their offense it was another day at the office. Mike Alstott put his head down a few times and scored a short touchdown, Michael Pittman rushed 29 times for just over 120 yards, and Brad Johnson showed up and did not suck.
5 5. Ken Stabler - Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XI
To all you Raiders fans out there, I am ready and more than willing to accept your hate tweets for this. My Twitter handle is listed somewhere on this page and I eagerly await any name calling and death threats. Here goes: Ken Stabler wasn't anything special in Super Bowl XI. Like a few other names on this list, he pretty much showed up and didn't lose his team the game. But remember, back in 1977, he was playing the Vikings, so the win barely even counts. Losing in the Super Bowl is a cherished tradition in Minnesota.
4 4. Trent Dilfer - Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XXXV
There's no nice way to say this, but Trent Dilfer is one of the most explosively mediocre quarterbacks to ever win the Super Bowl. Such a debate could rage on for days, hence why I said "one of." As is an obvious theme of this list, Dilfer was successful in this game because he was able to rely on a solid defense, which involved a young Ray Lewis. That defensive unit was able to force five takeaways throughout the game, with four taking the form of Kerry Collins interceptions, and ultimately limit the New York Giants to 152 total offensive yards throughout the contest.
3 3. Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos, Super Bowl 50
This one was mentioned in the intro and there is obviously some debate over where this game should sit on lists like these. Manning's performance was, by no means, dreadful. It was just sub-par, particularly looking at a player like Peyton Manning, who ranks among the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. We all noticed his struggles over the course of the year. His arm strength was diminished in part due to nagging injuries. But ultimately, he was able to rely on some incredible defense on the part of his own squad and a poor offensive showing by the Carolina Panthers to take home his second ring.
2 2. Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XL
In the first of his two Super Bowl victories, a 23 year old Big Ben had one of the poorest passing performances of any quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl. Granted, the big fella was able to pound the ball in from the one for a touchdown, but he went 9 for 21 and tossed two interceptions. Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis combined for 136 yards on 24 carries, and Hines Ward (MVP) caught five passes for 123 and a score. The final score was 21-10.
1 1. Johnny Unitas/Earl Morral - Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl V
This game was an absolute mess and neither team really deserved to win. Between the two, there were eleven turnovers: six interceptions and five lost fumbles. Back in 1971, the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Colts came together in Miami for a lovely game of football, and despite not a drop of rain hitting the field, they mishandled the ball as though they were in the middle of a hurricane.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas, played part of the first half before leaving the game due to injury. During that time he went 3 for 9 with two interceptions and a miraculous 75 yard touchdown pass, which comprised most of his 88 passing yards on the day. Earl Morrall took over for the rest of the game and threw 7 for 15 completions with a lone pick.
The MVP of this game was Chuck Howley, a Cowboys' linebacker who had two interceptions. This is the only time a losing player received that award.
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