Football is the ultimate team sport. It takes 46 players on any given Sunday to win a game, and the victory often goes to the team with the best roster and coaching staff, not necessarily to the best singular player. However, as team-centric as the NFL is, quarterbacks get the most attention and the most praise. They also get the most blame of any player, which proves just how important signal-callers are.
That being said, the best quarterbacks in NFL history aren’t always the best ones in the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning is the perfect example of that, as is John Elway. The top guys in the biggest game often get the rings, which is what separates them from the rest of the pack. We did that for you with this list of the 10 best quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.
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Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson has been in the league for only five years, but it’s already time to start talking about him as one of the best quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. He’s not quite at the top of the list, but he’s quickly rising in that direction after two great performances in the big game. Outside of his game-sealing interception against the Patriots from the 1-yard line, Wilson was nearly perfect in his two appearances. He already has the third-best passer rating, ninth-most touchdown passes and the sixth-best completion percentage, so his numbers were there. Going 2-0 would have helped, but Wilson is already among the best.
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Jim Plunkett, Raiders
Plunkett went 2-0 in the Super Bowl, and neither of the wins were particularly close. The Raiders won 27-10 in his first appearance and 38-9 in his second as he threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions with an outstanding 122.8 passer rating. He was efficient and avoided turnovers, which is exactly what the Raiders needed in those games.
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Brett Favre, Packers
Favre was never one to complete a high percentage of his passes, and the Super Bowl was no different for the gunslinger. He completed 56.5 percent but finished with a passer rating of 97.6 and five touchdowns with just one interception in two games. Favre was tremendous in the Packers’ win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, but he struggled a bit more against the Broncos the following year.
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Eli Manning, Giants
It’s true: Eli Manning is one of the best Super Bowl quarterbacks in league history. Despite receiving harsh criticism for being an overrated regular-season QB, Manning is terrific in the Super Bowl. In his two trips, Manning had a passer rating of 96.2 with 551 career yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. He protected the football much better when he needed to most, an issue he’s had in regular-season games. Oh, and he beat the dominant Patriots in both of his trips to the big game with one of the most clutch throws ever to Mario Manningham down the sideline.
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Roger Staubach, Cowboys
Despite going 2-2, Staubach really had only one bad game in the Super Bowl. In his other three appearances, he had a passer rating above 100 in each with six touchdowns and just one interception. His yardage numbers weren’t as prolific as those of some of today’s quarterbacks, but Staubach was a key player in Dallas’ two championships with him at the helm. Playing the Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense twice didn’t help Staubach, either.
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Kurt Warner, Rams/Cardinals
Kurt Warner was the centerpiece of the “Greatest Show on Turf” with the Rams, and he didn’t disappoint in the Super Bowl. He averaged 389.5 yards per game in his first two trips with the Rams before throwing for 377 in his final appearance with the Cardinals in 2008. Despite playing in only three Super Bowls, Warner is second all-time in yards and owns the three highest outputs in terms of passing yards in the game’s history. Warner was a gunslinger, and it showed in his numbers. The biggest knock on him is that he went 1-2.
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Troy Aikman, Cowboys
Troy Aikman’s three Super Bowl rings speak for themselves as he played an integral part of all three victories despite not putting up gaudy numbers along the way. He has the fifth-best passer rating in Super Bowl history (111.9) as well as the highest completion percentage of any quarterback (70.0 percent). Four of his five touchdown passes came in his first Super Bowl against the Bills, a game in which he completed 22 of 30 passes in Dallas’ 52-13 romping of Buffalo. Aikman had plenty of help around him, but that doesn’t diminish how great and consistent he was in the Super Bowl.
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Terry Bradshaw, Steelers
Like Joe Montana, Bradshaw played in four Super Bowls and won each of them. Also like Montana, Bradshaw never had a passer rating below 100 in any of the four games. He played in a different era than quarterbacks do now, which is part of the reason he completed only 18 total passes in his first two games, but that doesn’t take away from his stellar play. When he did drop back to pass, though, he typically threw it downfield. His passes traveled an average of 13.6 yards past the line of scrimmage, which is better than both Montana's and Brady’s numbers. Bradshaw finished with nine touchdown passes and four interceptions in his Super Bowl career and has the fourth-best passer rating (112.8).
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Tom Brady, Patriots
When it’s all said and done, Brady may very well go down as the best quarterback of all time. He has a chance to make that happen next Sunday in Houston, but it’ll take a historic performance to move him to No. 1 in terms of best Super Bowl quarterbacks. His numbers are obviously remarkable having played in seven games, owning the record for the most pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. With the game on the line, there may not be a quarterback you’d rather have, and it’s a big reason he’s won four of his six Super Bowl appearances. A fifth ring might just put him over the top.
Joe Montana, 49ers
There have been a number of great quarterbacks to play in the Super Bowl, but of them all, Joe Montana is the best. He played in the big game four times, going a perfect 4-0 with some absolutely unbelievable stats. In his four trips, Montana never had a passer rating below 100.0. He never threw an interception, had 11 touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns, finishing with a career passer rating of 127.8 in the Super Bowl – the highest of any quarterback.
He may not have the volume of records that Brady holds from his six trips (completions, attempts, yards), but Montana’s numbers are far better, particularly in an era that wasn’t as pass-heavy as it is now. If Brady beats the Falcons, it’s possible he’ll surpass Montana as the best ever, but not without a strong debate for Joe.