What makes a great quarterback matchup? Is it the reputation of a name?
Yeah, that has something to do with it.
Is it having two quarterbacks at the top of their game? That has something to do with it too.
Is it having a massive season in the build-up? Even if it's a bit of an outlier in one's career?
Yeah, that will play just fine.
There's no perfect formula for determining a tremendous quarterback matchup in the Super Bowl, but over the past 51 years, we've gotten plenty.
(We've also gotten a surprising amount of duds, but that's not the point.)
We all know this year's showdown of Tom Brady and Matt Ryan is exceptional, but where does it stack up in Super Bowl history?
Super Bowl XXXI: Brett Favre vs. Drew Bledsoe
Favre was at his best in leading Green Bay to victory, but don't forget that Patriots quarterback Bledsoe was pretty strong too — no one threw more than him and he had a career year in 1996.
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Super Bowl XXVII: Troy Aikman vs. Jim Kelly
Aikman was playing his best football when the Cowboys rolled to a win in Pasadena. Buffalo's Kelly had posted better years than 1992, but that's a credit to the success he had — his reputation preceded him.
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Super Bowl XLV: Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger
Both players will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, and for good reason.
Both quarterbacks also had career years (to that point) in 2009.
That's an all-time matchup, and Rodgers was the best QB that day.
Super Bowl XXIV: Joe Montana vs. John Elway
The names alone don't justify this placement?
Well, Montana set career highs in passer rating and completion percentage for the 49ers en route to winning the Super Bowl, and Elway did everything for the Broncos — his stats weren't exceptional, but his impact on the team was immense.
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Super Bowl XXIII: Joe Montana vs. Boomer Esiason
Esiason won MVP in 1988, leading the Bengals to three fourth-quarter comebacks and posting 9.2 yards per attempt that year.
It wasn't a banner year for Montana; he had a QB rating of 87.9, but well... it's Joe Montana. He had a huge postseason and led the Niners to their fourth Super Bowl win.
Super Bowl XI: Ken Stabler vs. Fran Tarkenton
Stabler was a revolutionary and he had his best season for the Raiders in 1976, leading them to the title. The Vikings' Tarkenton might have been 36, but he was wildly effective at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career.
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Super Bowl XXXIX: Tom Brady vs. Donovan McNabb
Brady already had won two Super Bowls for the Patriots, but one could argue that after the season McNabb had in 2004, the Eagles' QB was the stronger of the two. Doesn't that tell you everything you need to know?
Super Bowl X: Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach
Bradshaw and Staubach were at their peaks when the Steelers beat the Cowboys in South Florida in Super Bowl XIII. What's more amazing is that Staubach was at his peak at age 36.
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Super Bowl I: Bart Starr vs. Len Dawson
Two of the best to play the game, their stats might not seem like much to us in the modern era, but both men helped revolutionize the quarterback position. They squared off in the first Super Bowl at the peak of their powers. Dawson, the loser that day, is criminally underrated on the list of all-time best quarterbacks.
Super Bowl LI: Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan
Yep, No. 3.
Where else would you put a game that features the top two candidates for MVP, both of which set all-time records this season — Brady for his touchdown-to-interception ratio and Ryan for his 9.3 yards per attempt in a full season.
Brady certainly carries the clout, but don't sleep on Ryan's credentials — he's not a one-hit wonder. A Super Bowl berth has restarted his Hall of Fame candidacy — a Super Bowl win might just put him in (see: Brees, Drew).
Super Bowl XLIV: Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning
2009 wasn't Manning's best season, but it was still an exceptional one. It might not have been Brees' best season, but he had a 109 quarterback rating, so it certainly wasn't bad.
But these were two of the best quarterbacks in history football squaring off in Pro Bowl years, and everyone knew it was going to come down to which QB blinked first.
It's not too dissimilar to this year's Super Bowl, but context is everything and Ryan's 2016 rebirth can't keep up with Brees' sustained success.
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Super Bowl XIX: Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino
There was only one choice — it had to be Marino vs. Montana.
Montana had a nice year in '84 — 28 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and a 102 quarterback rating. He was a winner, having led the 49ers to a 14-1 record that year.
Marino had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of football — in his second season in the league, he threw for more than 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns.
Those numbers would be incredible today — 30 years ago, they were preposterous.
There's no question Montana's victory over Marino was the best quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history.