In order for a player to be considered one of the best in football history, he needs to perform during the playoffs and in pressure situations. This fact is especially important for quarterbacks, as many feel they play the most important role in wins or losses.
Last night's dominating performance had many discussing Tom Brady as the possible best playoff quarterback. Most people remember the most recent, forgetting the unbelievable performances from past quarterbacks.
Brady is definitely on the list of top NFL quarterbacks, but he hasn't done enough to land the No. 1 ranking.
Playoff Record: 8-2
Super Bowl Record: 2-0
Jim Plunkett boasts the second-best playoff winning percentage for quarterbacks with 10-plus games started. The most impressive part of Plunkett's playoff success is the fact that most of the wins came after he started the season as a backup.
The Raiders won two of their three Super Bowls thanks to the play of Plunkett. At the start of both Super Bowl seasons, Plunkett was the backup and not considered for the starting role. However, after injuries to Dan Pastorini and Marc Wilson, the starting job was handed to Plunkett.
Most quarterbacks in this day and age would not have stood for that lack of commitment. However, Plunkett took advantage of every opportunity and goes down as one of the most successful playoff quarterbacks.
Playoff Record: 13-11
Super Bowl Record: 1-1
Brett Favre is known as the old gunslinger, mainly because of his aggressive playing style. That style of play is what allowed Favre to win a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers. His playoff winning percentage isn't as high as others on this list, but he deserves credit for earning so many playoff berths.
He also possesses two Super Bowl appearances, while most players have failed to reach the title game once. Favre's accomplishments get a boost because he led the storied Green Bay Packers to their first Super Bowl victory since 1967.
All players in the Super Bowl feel pressure, but Favre felt the pressure of a hungry Green Bay Packers fanbase. Long Super Bowl droughts always make every Super Bowl appearance an intense situation.
Playoff Record: 11-6
Super Bowl Record: 2-2
Roger Staubach often tops many experts' quarterback rankings, but this ranking is more about playoff success. His four Super Bowl appearances rank him tied for No. 2 overall with quarterbacks like Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Jim Kelly.
Staubach drops a little in this ranking because of his 2-2 record and Super Bowl appearances. Only Jim Kelly, John Elway and Fran Tarkenton have more Super Bowl losses than Staubach. This isn't meant to diminish his accomplishments, only to explain his ranking on this list.
His two recorded Super Bowl wins make him one of 10 quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl victories. One of the most memorable plays in playoff history is Staubach's Hail Mary pass to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in a 1975 playoff matchup.
Playoff Record: 10-4
Super Bowl Record: 2-1
Ben Roethlisberger already has 14 playoff starts in only eight NFL seasons. He finished three of those playoff runs with Super Bowl appearances, winning two of those games. Roethlisberger is regarded as one of the best playoff quarterbacks in NFL history.
However, he drops a little on this list because of the limited role he played in his first Super Bowl win. In that game, Roethlisberger only completed nine passes for less than 150 yards. His 22.6 passer rating remains the lowest of any Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Despite the struggles in his first Super Bowl appearance, Roethlisberger played an important role in the next big game. His game-winning touchdown with 33 seconds left against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XL will go down as one of the more dramatic Super Bowl victories in history.
Playoff Record: 14-7
Super Bowl Record: 2-3
John Elway's five Super Bowl appearances is the most in NFL history. Despite starting with an 0-3 in the big game, Elway finished his career with two Super Bowl victories. His performance in the 1987 AFC Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns is one of the most memorable in sports history.
Elway led the Broncos on a 98-yard, game-tying scoring drive with just over five minutes on the clock. This has become known as The Drive, and one of the most dramatic endings to an NFL playoff game. The Drive might be what most people think of when talking about John Elway, but his entire career was filled with these types of performances.
The former Broncos quarterback ranks below others on this list because of his three Super Bowl losses. He may have the most Super Bowl appearances by any quarterback, but he also has the most losses.
Playoff Record: 9-1
Super Bowl Record: 2-0 (3-1 in NFL Championship Games)
Bart Starr's ranking is skewed a little bit because he played a lot of his career prior to the formation of the modern-day Super Bowl. However, he was the winning quarterback in the first two Super Bowl games. Combining all of his championship game appearances, Starr finished his career with an impressive 5-1 record.
Bart Starr's play has a lot to do with his historic coach's success and why Vince Lombardi's name is on the Super Bowl trophy. It will be almost impossible for another NFL quarterback to end his career with a 9-1 playoff record.
Jim Plunkett is the only other quarterback with fewer than four losses in over 10 playoff appearances; again, this type of success is nearly unattainable in this day and age.
Playoff Record: 11-4
Super Bowl Record: 3-0
Troy Aikman is one of five NFL quarterbacks to make multiple Super Bowl appearances and walk away without a defeat. His three wins in the big game put him behind only Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw in the win column. Aikman's accomplishment is more impressive because the three victories came in a four-year span, showing the Dallas Cowboy's dominance in the mid-90s.
In his three Super Bowl wins, Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys outscored their opponents by an astonishing 109-47 point total. Those Cowboys may go down as one of the most dominating teams in NFL history.
Aikman only played 11 seasons in his career, and if not for the concussions he might have earned another Super Bowl victory.
Playoff Record: 14-5
Super Bowl Record: 4-0
Terry Bradshaw just knew how to win football games, and did so without a lot of flash or high yardage totals. In fact, Bradshaw only threw for over 300 yards seven times in his career. However, two of those performances came in the Super Bowl.
Bradshaw is one of two quarterbacks with four Super Bowl victories, finishing his career undefeated in the big game. His ability to raise his level of play in pressure situations makes him one of the most clutch quarterbacks in NFL history.
The fact that Bradshaw was surrounded by talented offensive players and a strong defense drops him on this list. He was never asked to win the game by himself, which is something the top two guys can boast.
Playoff Record: 15-5
Super Bowl Record: 3-1
Tom Brady has an opportunity to end this season with the most playoff victories in the history of the NFL. He currently sits at 15 wins, only one behind Joe Montana. His play in last night's game against the Denver Broncos set the record for most touchdowns in a playoff game with six.
Brady is also only one Super Bowl victory away from tying Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most in NFL history. One can argue that Brady played a bigger role in the New England Patriots' victories than his competition.
New England's Super Bowl-winning teams all featured good defensive play, but Brady's play is what made the difference in each game. The fact that he has several years left in his career helps him come in at No. 2 on this list.
Playoff Record: 16-7
Super Bowl Record: 4-0
No NFL quarterback has enjoyed more playoff success than the great Joe Montana. He has the most playoff victories and Super Bowl wins of all time. Only he and Terry Bradshaw can say they finish their career with a 4-0 record in the Super Bowl.
Montana not only won football games, but played his best in pressure situations.
Arguably the most memorable play in football history is known simply as The Catch. This play happened at the end of the 1981 NFC Championship Game when Montana completed a pass to Dwight Clark. It is so memorable because of the way Montana led Clark to the back of the end zone; from certain angles Clark is not even in the picture.