As any average Joe sports fan will tell you, the quarterback is the most important position in all professional sports. A good quarterback can make a team a contender, while a bad one will have your team staring at the wrong side of Mount .500. However, the Super Bowl is where even good quarterbacks have to prove themselves.
For some men, they rise to the challenge, putting on performances for the history books. For others, they crack under the pressure and weight of expectations. In this article, we’ve taken a look at some of the best and worst performances in Super Bowl history. It’s an incredible list of the best and worst we’ve ever seen.
It’s likely you’ll remember the best, but some of the names and performances on the worst list will surprise you. Flip through the slides and take a look for yourself.
15. Nick Foles: Super Bowl LII
Nick Foles has had a fine career as a quarterback in the NFL, but it was the 2017 postseason run he had that made him incredibly rich and installed him in Super Bowl lore forever. Foles outdueled the GOAT, Tom Brady, to lead the Eagles to a stunning upset victory.
Along the way, Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. However, he will be best remembered for the touchdown he didn’t throw but caught. “Philly, Philly” was the call and Foles’ touchdown catch made him the first player in Super Bowl history to throw and receive a touchdown in the game.
14. Troy Aikman: Super Bowl XXVII
Super Bowl XXVII was a walk in the park for Troy Aikman and the Cowboys. Aikman was his typical gunslinging self, throwing for 273 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Cowboys scored the second-highest amount of points in a Super Bowl.
Their 52-17 victory was never in doubt, and with Aikman completing 73 percent of his passes in the game there was no way for the Bills to keep up. Aikman picked up MVP honors at the end of the game.
13. Phil Simms: Super Bowl XXI
Phil Simms made history two times in one Super Bowl performance. In completing 22/25 passes, Simms set the record for the highest single-game completion percentage in a postseason game. Put simply, Phil Simms was throwing bullseyes all night.
He totaled 268 yards and 3 touchdowns as he led the Giants to Super Bowl glory 39-20. Simms’ other bit of history was made when he became the first Super Bowl MVP to proclaim, “I’m going to Disney World!” in his post-game interview.
12. Drew Brees: Super Bowl XLIV
Super Bowl XLIV should have been an incredible matchup between two of the greatest quarterbacks of a generation. Instead, Drew Brees put on a show like few else have ever done and wiped the floor with the Indianapolis Colts.
Brees threw for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Saints won 31-17. His yardage total may not be eye-popping, but his 32 completions on 39 attempts sure are. He was efficient, accurate, and made the throw every time the Saints needed him to.
11. Kurt Warner: Super Bowl XXXIV
The question that lingers with Kurt Warner’s selection to this list is if Kevin Dyson would have stretched just a little bit further, would Warner have still made this list in defeat. It’s a testament to how incredible Warner was that he probably would have.
Quarterbacking the “Greatest Show on Turf”, Warner threw for a then Super Bowl record 414 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the first time a quarterback had ever thrown for over 400 yards in a Super Bowl, and yet the Rams came inches from losing the game to the Titans.
10. John Elway: Super Bowl XXXIII
Having finally gotten the Super Bowl monkey off his back the season prior, John Elway looked to make history on his way out the door. Elway threw for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns, including an 80-yard TD to Rod Smith on the game’s opening drive.
Elway made sure that the Broncos made it two in a row with an impressive touchdown run to seal the game. In Elway’s final game ever, he put in one of his most clutch performances. A fitting conclusion to an outstanding career.
9. Doug Williams: Super Bowl XXII
Doug Williams made history in more ways than one in Super Bowl XXII. First of all, Williams was the first African-American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. That in itself was a historic event. But the way Williams made this show all about him was even more incredible.
After John Elway and the Broncos took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter, Williams exploded with 4 touchdown passes in the second quarter. That was a Super Bowl record for most TD’s in one quarter and the Redskins never looked back. They won the game 42-10.
8. Joe Montana: Super Bowl XXIII
Montana makes his first, but not only, appearance on our list with his performance in Super Bowl XXIII. Unlike some of his more prolific performances, Montana had to produce a bit of magic in the clutch in order to secure this victory, which gets him on the list.
Montana threw for a respectable 257 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it was his game-winning touchdown drive that is remembered the most. The 11-play, 92-yard drive was incredible and highlighted by a 27-yard connection with Jerry Rice that nearly won the game.
7. Aaron Rodgers: Super Bowl XLV
Rodgers made his only Super Bowl trip (so far) count. Not only was Rodgers excellent, but he did it against an incredible opponent. The Steelers defense led the league in sacks, points per game allowed and were anchored by the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Troy Polamalu.
Yet, Rodgers was undeterred, throwing for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. Just as importantly, Rodgers didn’t turn it over to the Steelers turnover happy defense. The Packers would win the game 31-25 and Rodgers would be named MVP.
6. Eli Manning: Super Bowl XLII
Eli Manning makes it on to this list because he got the job done in one of the biggest upset Super Bowls of all-time. The Giants faced off against the 18-0 Patriots. Down 14-10, with 2:42 left in the game, Manning got the ball on his own 14 yard-line.
In this miraculous drive was the third-down catch David Tyree made pinning the ball against his helmet. Four plays later, Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. Manning finished the night with 255 yards and 2 touchdowns, but more importantly, he became a legend in New York sports history.
5. Tom Brady: Super Bowl XXXVIII
Super Bowl XXXVIII featured a gunslingers duel between Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme, with both men throwing for well over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, Brady gets the nod here because with 1:48 left on the clock he completed four passes on a game-winning drive that ended with an Adam Vinatieri game-winning field goal.
Brady finished with 354 yards and 3 touchdowns in his second Super Bowl victory. He completed 32 passes, which was at the time a game record.
4. Terry Bradshaw: Super Bowl XIII
Terry Bradshaw is a Hall of Fame quarterback, but it took him until this game, his third Super Bowl, to top 300 passing yards in a single game. Bradshaw threw for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns and picked up the MVP award as the Steelers held off Roger Staubach and the Cowboys.
The win was Bradshaw’s 3rd of an eventual 4 Super Bowl victories. He was only 17-30 on the day, but he made those 17 completions count. Those 4 touchdowns were a then Super Bowl record.
3. Tom Brady: Super Bowl LI
Let’s be clear here, Brady’s performance makes this list for half of the game. Midway through the third quarter, the Falcons had a 28-3 lead and it looked like Brady and the Pats would lose another Super Bowl. They would not.
Brady caught fire, erased the 25-point deficit, and won the game 34-28 in the greatest comeback performance of all-time. Bray finished with a Super Bowl record 43 completions, 466 yards passing, and two touchdowns. Historic.
2. Steve Young: Super Bowl XXIX
Steve Young put on a performance for the record book in Super Bowl XXIX when he threw for 325 yards and a Super Bowl record-tying 6 touchdowns. It was the franchise’s first Super Bowl since Young took over for Joe Montana, and boy did they make it count.
The Young got off to a hot start and the Niners never looked back, defeating the Chargers 49-26. It was the perfect culmination to Young’s 1994 NFL MVP campaign.
1. Joe Montana: Super Bowl XXIV
Joe Montana’s performance in Super Bowl XXIV is untouchable. The man threw for 357 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was 22-29 on the day. It was his fourth Super Bowl championship and his third Super Bowl MVP award.
Montana’s dominance helped the 49ers to a 55-10 victory, the most lopsided scoreline in the history of the game. By the way, Montana won all four Super Bowl’s he played in and threw a grand total of zero interceptions.
15. John Elway: Super Bowl XXII
Incredibly, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, John Elway, features on this list twice. Before his back-to-back triumphs at the end of his career, Elway was the great quarterback who couldn’t get it done.
Super Bowl XXII was a prime example. The Broncos were stomped by the Redskins 42-10 and Elway was awful. He managed 257 yards but was only 14-38 and threw three interceptions. He did throw a touchdown pass in the first quarter, but it was all Redskins after the first.
14. Ben Roethlisberger: Super Bowl XL
Ben Roethlisberger is the luckiest of all the men on this list. Despite making it here for his poor performance in Super Bowl XL, the Steelers still managed to pull out the win over the Seahawks 21-10.
Roethlisberger was just 9-21 for 123 yards and 2 interceptions. Roethlisberger’s best contribution to the offense was a rushing touchdown that probably should have been overturned. The only Steelers passing touchdown came from Antwaan Randle-El, a wide receiver.
13. Jim Kelly: Super Bowl XXVI
Jim Kelly and Super Bowl disappointment go hand in hand. Yes, that’s a low blow but he had four cracks at it in a row and couldn’t get it done. Super Bowl XXVI was his worst performance of the bunch though. The Redskins jumped ahead early, forcing Kelly to throw all game long.
Given the opportunity to keep his team in it, he failed. Kelly was just 28 of 58 for 275 and 2 touchdowns. Those are pretty good numbers until you find out he threw four interceptions. That will handicap any team, especially one suffering psychologically from their previous Super Bowl defeats.
12. Fran Tarkenton: Super Bowl IX
Fran Tarkenton is yet another Hall of Fame quarterback to find his way onto this list. Despite his amazing career, Tarkenton stunk it up on his biggest stage. Tarkenton retired as the league’s most prolific passer, but in Super Bowl IX he managed just 11 completions for 102 yards.
To make matters worse, Tarkenton threw 3 interceptions. The Steelers would go on to win the game 16-6, the first of their 4 titles that decade. Meanwhile, Tarkenton was handed his second of three Super Bowl losses.
11. Cam Newton: Super Bowl 50
Sometimes you come up against a defense that is truly excellent and there’s nothing you can do about it. That was the situation for Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50 when he went up against the Denver Broncos defense led by Von Miller.
With that said, Newton didn’t help his cause. He finished the game 18-41 for 265 yards with one interception and two fumbles. He was also sacked 6 times. The Panthers were still in the game late, down just one score, but a poorly timed Newton fumbled cost the Panthers their shot and Denver won 24-10.
10. Joe Theisman: Super Bowl XVIII
Joe Theisman may have been the league’s MVP heading into Super Bowl XVIII, but he was awful against the Raiders. Theisman finished the game 16-45 for 253 yards with two interceptions and a fumble.
One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown as time expired in the first half. Talk about a momentum swing. Washington would lose the game 38-9 and fail to defend their Super Bowl title. Theisman would never make another Super Bowl.
9. Chris Chandler: Super Bowl XXXIII
In a head-to-head quarterback competition against John Elway, Chris Chandler was always going to come up second. But the Falcons knew that. The “Dirty Bird” Falcons weren’t a gunslinging team anyway. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a typically average performance from Chandler.
Chandler was bad, throwing for 219 yards and three interceptions. When you’re playing from behind all game and forced to throw, you need your quarterback to be better than Chandler was that night. The Broncos won 34-19.
8. Drew Bledsoe: Super Bowl XXXI
The Pats don’t have a great postseason history when they aren’t quarterbacked by Tom Brady. Super Bowl XXXI is a prime example. Drew Bledsoe spent the entire night being hurried, pushed, and sacked by Reggie White and as a result threw four interceptions.
Outside of the turnovers, Bledsoe did alright. He threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns but in any game turning the ball over that many times will doom your team. Even more so when the other team is led by Brett Favre. The Packers won 35-21.
7. John Elway: Super Bowl XXIV
Super Bowl 29 was worse for Elway than two years previously against the Redskins. To be fair to Elway, it wasn’t all his fault. The 49ers dominated the Broncos defense and handed Denver the most lopsided defeat in Super Bowl History 55-10.
However, Elway was horrendous. He completed just 10 passes for 108 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. This is a Hall of Fame quarterback, one of the greatest of all-time, putting up JV numbers in a Super Bowl. Unbelievable.
6. Kerry Collins: Super Bowl XXXV
We can say with confidence that Kerry Collins was not solely to blame for his awful performance in Super Bowl XXXV. Pretty much every quarterback who came up against Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and co. that season struggled.
However, Collins struggled on the biggest stage. Collins completed just 15 passes for 112 yards and four interceptions. The Giants didn’t stand a chance as the Ravens won the game 34-7 and cemented their defense as one of the best all-time.
5. Craig Morton: Super Bowl XII
Craig Morton made sure John Elway wasn’t the only Broncos quarterback on this list, but at least Elway actually won a Super Bowl eventually. Craig Morton historically stunk up the joint in Super Bowl XII and never won the big one.
The Broncos gunslinger threw as many interceptions as he did complete passes; four. You know you had a bad day when those two stats match. Morton’s four completions managed to gain 39 yards for his offense and zero touchdowns. The Broncos lost the game to the Cowboys 27-10.
4. Billy Kilmer: Super Bowl VII
Fortunately for Billy Kilmer, no one remembers his performance in Super Bowl VII. All that is remembered is the Dolphins’ victory secured the only perfect season in NFL history. Unfortunately for Billy, we have to bring his performance up here.
Kilmer threw three interceptions in the game, two of which allowed the Dolphins to jump out to an early 14-0 lead. They never looked back. Kilmer threw for 104 yards and no touchdowns. The Redskins lost 14-7.
3. Rich Gannon: Super Bowl XXXVII
Rich Gannon rolled into Super Bowl XXXVII as the league’s reigning MVP and left the game in infamy. Gannon’s performance would have been bad enough if he had simply thrown 5 interceptions, which he did. But three of his 5 interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
There was no way for the Raiders to keep up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with their quarterback giving their opponent 21 free points. In fact, the Bucs won the game by 27. If Gannon doesn’t throw those picks we’ve got a whole different ball game.
2. David Woodley: Super Bowl XVII
When you see Woodley’s stat line you won’t believe that Woodley’s Dolphins actually held a 17-13 lead over the Redskins at the half. David Woodley threw for 97 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He completed just 4-14 passes.
The kicker here? If you take out his 76-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Woodley would have thrown for just 21 yards. Despite this, the Dolphins only lost by 10 as running back Jim Riggins led the Redskins to the title.
1. Tony Eason: Super Bowl XX
Eason did a great job leading the Patriots to Super Bowl XX, as they became the first team to win 3 straight road games to make the Super Bowl. However, Eason should have just stayed home. Seriously, Eason was so bad he made history.
Tony Eason went 0-6, becoming the first quarterback in Super Bowl history not to complete a pass. He was sacked 3 times by the vaunted ’85 Bears defense and was removed from the game part of the way through. In addition to his awful passing, Eason lost a fumble.