Validation and Victory: The 10 QBs Who Overcame the Most To Win It All
Winning the Super Bowl is hard work. Guys named Montana, Bradshaw, and Brady might not believe that, but it’s true.
For most all QBs, a championship doesn't come easily…if ever.
And let’s face it: Winning a Super Bowl gives a QB credibility that no other accomplishment can match.
Drew Brees is the most recent QB to make it to the NFL’s mountaintop. Yet, Brees is not one of the top 10 QBs in NFL history who overcame the most to win a Super Bowl. Actually, he just missed the cut.
Just know that guys who won the Super Bowl very early in their NFL careers, like Kurt Warner, are not on this list even if their road to becoming a champion was pretty challenging.
So cheer up Romo, Rivers, and McNabb: 2010 just might be the year that one of you guys gets it done. If these 10 QBs could finally win it all, then you three can too…eventually.
Thanks for viewing and hope you enjoy!
No. 10: Bob Griese: Super Bowl VII (1972)
The Dolphins went just 10-20-2 in Griese’s first three years as a starter, but Miami’s fortunes turned when Don Shula became head coach in 1970.
Miami sprung to 10-4 in ’70. Griese was named NFL MVP in ’71, but he and the Dolphins lost to the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Bob guided Miami to a 5-0 start in 1972 before breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle.
Griese returned to the Dolphins in December as Earl Morrall’s backup but came off the bench in the AFC Championship Game to help Miami come from behind to beat the Steelers.
Shula named Griese his starting QB for the Super Bowl, where Bob quarterbacked Miami over Washington, 14-7, in achieving the undefeated season.
Griese led the Dolphins to another title the following year.
No. 9: Jeff Hostetler: Super Bowl XXV (1990)
Hostetler was Phil Simms’ backup for the first four years of his career and by age 29 had started just two games. Two. However, he finally got his chance to start when Simms broke his foot in mid-December 1990.
Jeff helped New York win all five of its games after Simms’ injury as the underdog Giants won both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl at the buzzer: 15-13 over the Niners on a Giants’ field goal and 20-19 over Buffalo when Scott Norwood kicked the pigskin “Wide Right.”
After years of playing second-fiddle, Hostetler accomplished an improbable rise from obscurity and got to live every backup QB’s greatest fantasy.
No. 8: Joe Theismann: Super Bowl XVII (1982)
Theismann was selected in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft by Miami but ultimately turned to the CFL when contract negotiations with the Dolphins failed.
Miami had hoped Theismann would be Bob Griese’s backup. Ironically, Griese suffered a major injury in ’72, and Theismann probably would have had his chance to start for those great Dolphins had he signed the year before. Too bad for him, right?
Well, Joe did great for a few years in the CFL and eventually signed with the Redskins in 1974.
After years of backup duty, Theismann became Washington’s starter in ’78 and after a few mediocre seasons led the Redskins to the Super Bowl in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
As fate would have it, Theismann and his 'Skins beat those Dolphins in the Super Bowl, 27-17, as Washington’s QB accomplished the ultimate against the team who drafted him a decade earlier.
Theismann had the last laugh….
No. 7: Jim Plunkett: Super Bowl XV (1980)
Plunkett was selected first overall by the Patriots in the 1971 NFL Draft, but his road to victory was anything but easy.
He struggled with New England and San Francisco for years before being picked up by the Raiders in 1978. As a backup, Plunkett went on to throw just 15 total passes in his first two seasons in Oakland.
However, five weeks into the 1980 season, the 33-year-old Plunkett became Oakland’s starter when Dan Pastorini fractured his leg. Plunkett led the Raiders to a 9-2 record and an eventual 27-10 Super Bowl win over Philadelphia (where he was named the game’s MVP).
These days, Plunkett is best known for being probably the worst QB ever to win multiple Super Bowls (he won another in ’83). But who cares? He’s got the rings, and they’re well deserved.
No. 6: Phil Simms: Super Bowl XXI (1986)
The first five years of Simms’ career were heavily mired in injury and inconsistency as he quickly fell out of favor with head coach Bill Parcells and the New York faithful.
A QB with thinner skin and less resiliency probably would have never made it…
But Simms, to his credit, shrugged off his setbacks and elevated his play as the Giants' starting QB, beginning in 1984 (Simms had missed all of ’82 with an injury and was benched for pretty much all of ’83).
In 1986, Simms overcame a poor first-half of the season and led the Giants to 14-2 and their first Super Bowl win.
In the Super Bowl against Denver, Simms put on one of the greatest performances in NFL history, completing 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns as the Giants won, 39-20. He was the obvious choice for Super Bowl MVP.
No. 5: Doug Williams: Super Bowl XXII (1987)
For Williams, being a pioneer in the African American QB industry presented its own set of obstacles.
After being drafted in the first round by the Bucs in 1978, Williams led Tampa to the playoffs in three of his first five seasons but wound up playing for the upstart USFL following a contract dispute in 1982.
However, Williams returned to the NFL in 1986 as the Redskins backup to Jay Schroeder. In 1987, Williams performed so well in his limited playtime during the year that he wound up replacing Schroeder as the 'Skins starter entering the playoffs.
Williams' personal fairytale culminated in Super Bowl XXII against Denver, as he threw for four touchdowns in the second quarter alone in a 42-10 Redskin route. In doing so, Williams silenced his critics and named the game's MVP. He's still the only African American starting QB ever to win a Super Bowl.
No. 4: Ken Stabler: Super Bowl XI (1976)
In a way, Stabler was Peyton Manning before Peyton Manning existed. Despite all Kenny’s regular-season winning, he just couldn’t get it done in the playoffs.
Luckily for Ken, he played decades before the internet, cable TV, and Sports Talk Radio brought about endless public discussion, speculation, and “analysis.” Even with that said, Stabler’s nickname, “The Snake,” had a lot more to do with his activities off the football field than on it.
Kenny and the Raiders had lost the AFC Championship Game three straight years from ’73 to ’75. Actually between 1968 and 1975, the Raiders lost the AFL/AFC Championship Game SIX times.
But in 1976, the Raiders defeated their long-time rival, the Steelers, in the AFC title game and won the Super Bowl over Minnesota, 32-14. Kenny had been awesome the whole season, and he, John Madden, and Al Davis finally got their title.
OK. Time for the Final Three. They should be obvious.
No. 3: Peyton Manning: Super Bowl XLI (2006)
It’s safe to say no professional athlete in the past decade needed a world championship trophy more than Manning.
Despite racking up regular season wins, touchdowns, and passing yards as if the NFL were his personal pinball machine, Peyton took a 3-6 career playoff record into the 2006 postseason.
Peyton and the Colts advanced to Super Bowl XLI by beating their perennial arch-nemesis Patriots in one of the greatest games ever played.
Two weeks later in rain-soaked Miami, Manning took home the title with a 29-17 victory over Chicago and also the game’s MVP award.
Still, Peyton’s victory four seasons ago did little to silence the “Anti-Manning Fan Club” that still practices across the country: Peyton, as good as he’s been for so many years, has still only won the “big one" once.
Countdown Interim: A Tribute to the Reigning Champ
If any QB could lead a dying franchise to a championship, it was Drew Brees.
More importantly, if there was ever a city who needed a man like Drew Brees, it was New Orleans.
This was just a great pairing.
Things didn’t work out for Drew after five seasons in San Diego, but he wasted no time in making the Saints a winner. But it wasn’t until the Saints made a commitment to defense that Brees got his long-awaited Super Bowl trophy at the end of his fourth season in New Orleans.
Sure, the Saints were fantastic on offense in 2009. That was nothing new.
But now they had a proven defensive guru in Gregg Williams calling the shots. They added a star veteran in Darren Sharper. They had a second-year stud in Tracey Porter who showed he had a knack for making the biggest plays in the biggest games.
Defense made the difference for the Saints in 2009 and helped Drew Brees prove that, ultimately, “good guys” do finish first.
No. 2: Steve Young: Super Bowl XXIX (1994)
The USFL in ’84; the NFL scrapheap (Tampa Bay) in ’85 and ’86; stuck behind Joe Montana for years after that.
In 1992 the Niners gave the starting QB job to Young, who put up ridiculous statistics and led San Francisco to a ton of wins in his first two years as starter.
However, Young and the Niners lost the NFC Championship Game each of those years to the Cowboys, who replaced San Fran as the NFL’s premiere franchise.
Finally, it all came together in 1994. Young won his second league MVP and finally beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game. He then threw a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes in overwhelming the Chargers, 49-26.
At long last, Young had escaped the Dallas Cowboys and the ghosts of postseasons past, and even more importantly, the shadow of Joe Montana.
No. 1: John Elway: Super Bowl XXXII (1997)
Hopefully you weren’t expecting someone else. John made it to the top of the mountain after 15 long, hard years of near misses.
Elway’s Broncos had simply been overmatched by better NFC competition during their three Super Bowl losses in the 80’s.
However, Elway got a shot at redemption years later in 1997 after Denver emerged a surprise winner of the AFC and advanced to play the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers. Denver was a 12-point underdog.
In the Bowl, Elway put up modest statistics while the best running back in football, Terrell Davis, paced Denver to a 31-24 upset. John finally won his championship, essentially completing his legacy.
After another Bronco Super Bowl victory the following season, Elway stepped away from the game as a two-time defending world champ. Beautiful.