Ranking the Most Mediocre Quarterbacks to Win a Super Bowl

Brad KurtzbergContributor IJanuary 21, 2014

Ranking the Most Mediocre Quarterbacks to Win a Super Bowl

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    Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl without being a super quarterback.
    Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl without being a super quarterback.BOB GALBRAITH/Associated Press

    Today's NFL is considered a quarterback-driven league. Most football "experts" argue that a team can't win a Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback.

    While that may often be the case, history proves that it is possible to win an NFL title without having an elite quarterback.

    Here is a look at seven non-franchise quarterbacks that were able to lead their team to a Super Bowl victory.

    In most cases, the teams that won without franchise quarterbacks had great running backs and/or a dominant defense. But at times, these non-elite QBs played well enough over the course of a game or even a season, to lead their team to victory.

    While these quarterbacks had their moments, none of them will be getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame without purchasing a ticket.

    Feel free to comment on any quarterbacks on this list or on any additional signal callers you feel belong on this list but were omitted. As always, state why you feel the way you do.

     

7. Brad Johnson

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    The Bucs won their only title behind Johnson's leadership.
    The Bucs won their only title behind Johnson's leadership.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Brad Johnson was a pretty good starter over the course of his 15-year NFL career, although nobody would confuse him with a Hall of Famer.

    In 2002, Johnson led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history. It was a great year for the former Florida State star, who threw for 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions while finishing the regular season with a 10-3 record. Johnson also made the Pro Bowl for the second and final time in his NFL career. 

    In Super Bowl XXXVII, Johnson completed 18-of-34 for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Bucs cruised to a 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders.

    That Tampa Bay team won primarily on the strength of their outstanding defense, but Johnson was a good leader who kept the Buccaneers offense moving throughout the season.

    After leaving Tampa Bay, finished his career with the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys.

    Over his career, Johnson had four seasons with more than 20 touchdown passes although he also threw 21 interceptions in 2003. His final career stats include 166 touchdown passes and 122 interceptions.

    Johnson was a solid starter for most of his NFL career, but during his prime, he was able to help a strong defensive team win the Super Bowl.

     

     

6. Doug Williams

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    Doug Williams was the first African-American QB to win a Super Bowl.
    Doug Williams was the first African-American QB to win a Super Bowl.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Doug Williams made history in Super Bowl XXII when he became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

    Williams was outstanding in the Super Bowl, completing 18-of-29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns as he led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos. He was named the MVP of the game.

    What most people don't remember is that Williams was a very inconsistent quarterback. He was the first-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978, and he led them to the NFC title game in his second season.

    After five up and down seasons in Tampa Bay, Williams signed with the USFL where he played for two seasons. He signed with the Redskins in 1986 but mostly served as the backup to Jay Schroeder.

    During the 1987 season, Williams started only two games and the Redskins lost them both. But when the playoffs started, coach Joe Gibbs turned to Williams as his starter and the Grambling alum came through.

    Williams only started 12 more regular season games after his big Super Bowl win. His career completion percentage was 49.5. He finished his NFL career with 100 touchdown passes and 93 interceptions.

    After retiring, Williams became the head coach at Grambling, a position he held until 2013.

    Williams may not have had a Hall of Fame career, but he had a magic moment in Super Bowl XXII and made history in the process.

5. Jim McMahon

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    Jim McMahon won a Super Bowl with the Bears despite being a very average QB.
    Jim McMahon won a Super Bowl with the Bears despite being a very average QB.John Swart/Associated Press

    The 1985 Chicago Bears were one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. They finished the season with a 15-1 record, relying mostly on the strength of their outstanding defense and a running game led by the incomparable Walter Payton.

    The quarterback of that Bears club was Jim McMahon. The former BYU star was outspoken and full of personality, but was a very average passer. The Bears benefited from McMahon's leadership and intangibles, but he will never earn a spot in Canton for his on the field performance.

    McMahon made one Pro Bowl during his NFL career, and that came during the Bears Super Bowl season. He was 11-0 as a starter in 1985, but his statistics were hardly overwhelming: 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. By the way, the 15 touchdown passes were McMahon's career high.

    McMahon played for five other teams after leaving Chicago, but he was often injured and never returned to the Super Bowl as a starter.

    In his final NFL season, McMahon signed with the Green Bay Packers to back up Brett Favre. The Packers won the Super Bowl that year, but McMahon threw only four passes all season.

    For his career, McMahon threw 100 touchdown passes and 90 interceptions. He completed 58 percent of his passes, rather average for the era he played in.

    While known for his brash personality, McMahon was a winner as an NFL quarterback. His career record as a starter was 67-30.

4. Mark Rypien

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    Mark Rypien was the third Redskins QB to lead the team to a SB win.
    Mark Rypien was the third Redskins QB to lead the team to a SB win.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Mark Rypien became the third different quarterback to lead the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory when he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI.

    Rypien was an afterthought when the Redskins selected him in the 6th round of the 1986 NFL draft. Injuries kept him from taking a regular-season snap until 1988.

    The strongest aspect of Rypien's game was his ability to throw the ball deep. His completion percentages tended to be average, but his yards-per-completion was usually among the league leaders.

    Rypien was the starter in Washington for the better part of five seasons, but he never established himself as an elite quarterback. His best season was 1991: The year he led the Redskins to a championship. That year he threw 28 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.

    The following season, however, Rypien's production fell off to 13 touchdown passes and 17 picks and the Redskins fell from 14-2 to 9-7.

    Rypien left Washington after the 1993 season and played for parts of five more seasons for four different teams. He was never started more than three games in a season after that.

    While Rypien won a Super Bowl, he was never a consistent performer as a quarterback. Still, he had a few very good seasons and one brief moment in the sun.

     

     

3. Jeff Hostetler

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    Hostetler came off the bench to lead the Giants to victory.
    Hostetler came off the bench to lead the Giants to victory.Mike Powell/Getty Images

    When starter Phil Simms went down with a broken foot in December 1990, unheralded backup Jeff Hostetler stepped up and led the New York Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XXV.

    The Giants had a strategy to control the clock and keep the high-powered offense of the Buffalo Bills off the field as much as possible. Hostetler did what was asked of him. He played mistake-free football, completing 20-of-32 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception in the game which the Giants won 20-19.

    After winning the Super Bowl, Hostetler won the starting job in New York, but injuries slowed him down over the next two seasons. He then signed with the Los Angeles Raiders and made his only Pro Bowl appearance after the 1994 season.

    Over the course of his career, Hostetler completed 58 percent of his passes. He threw 94 touchdowns and 71 interceptions.

    Hostetler was a journeyman quarterback throughout his career. He was a good, but not great, starter and a quality backup. When he had his big moment on the Super Bowl stage, he came through and led his team to victory.

2. Earl Morrall

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    Earl Morrall lead the Colts to a Super Bowl win and helped the Dolphins to a perfect season.
    Earl Morrall lead the Colts to a Super Bowl win and helped the Dolphins to a perfect season.USA TODAY Sports

    Earl Morrall was a journeyman quarterback who spent more time as a backup during his lengthy NFL career than as a starter.

    Still, Morrall was a favorite of Don Shula's and played an important role in helping two teams reach the Super Bowl.

    In 1968, Morrall replaced an injured John Unitas and led the Baltimore Colts to a 13-1 regular season and a berth in Super Bowl III.

    Once there, however, Morrall had a poor game, throwing three interceptions as the New York Jets upset the Colts 16-7.

    In Super Bowl V, Morrall didn't start but came off the bench when Unitas was injured during the game. The former Michigan State star passed for 147 yards and helped lead Baltimore to a 16-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

    Morrall played a role in one more Super Bowl team, although he didn't throw a pass in the actual game. In 1972, Morrall took over as quarterback of the Miami Dolphins when starter Bob Griese was injured in week 5. Morrall helped the Dolphins complete a perfect 14-0 regular season and started Miami's two playoff games.

    A healthy Griese replaced Morrall during the AFC Championship Game that year and it was Griese, not Morrall, who led Miami to a win in Super Bowl VII.

    Morrall was far from a Hall of Famer or a franchise quarterback, but he was a quality backup who earned a reputation for coming through in the clutch. He also led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory.

1. Trent Dilfer

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    A strong defense made it easy for Trent Dilfer to win a Super Bowl.
    A strong defense made it easy for Trent Dilfer to win a Super Bowl.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Trent Dilfer was never a great NFL starting quarterback, but he was in the right place at the right time: He helped lead the Baltimore Ravens to a win in Super Bowl XXXV.

    Dilfer didn't start the season as the Ravens' starting quarterback, but took over midseason when Tony Banks struggled. Dilfer started the final eight games of the season, and the Ravens went 7-1.

    The 2000 Ravens had one of the best defenses in NFL history, and Dilfer was considered a "game manager" by most football experts. He finished the season with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and a rather pedestrian 76.6 quarterback rating.

    In the Super Bowl, Dilfer completed only 12-of-25 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens cruised past the overmatched New York Giants 34-7. He did not throw an interception.

    Despite helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl, Baltimore opted not to re-sign Dilfer. He joined the Seattle Seahawks to serve as Matt Hasselbeck's backup. Dilfer ended up starting four games that season when Hasselbeck was injured and spent four full seasons in Seattle, starting a total of 12 games.

    Later stints with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers closed out Dilfer's career. After he retired, he became a successful broadcaster.

    For his career, Dilfer threw more interceptions (129) then touchdown passes (113) and completed only 55.5 percent of his passes.

    While he failed to distinguish himself as an elite NFL quarterback, he did something greats like Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Dan Fouts never did when he won a Super Bowl.