Super Bowl XLV: Power Ranking the Worst QB Performances in Super Bowl History

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Power Ranking the Worst QB Performances in Super Bowl History

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    Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers during Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on February 5, 2006. (Photo by Allen Kee/Getty Images)
    Allen Kee/Getty Images

    Super Bowl XLV is only a week away and the hype machine is already up and running, especially this year with two premier quarterbacks facing off.

    Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisbeger can both light up the scoreboard (heck, they did it when the two teams faced each other last season), and in the past few years, we've had some phenomenal performances by quarterbacks in Super Bowls. 

    But we've also seen others that have made us cringe, some who have struggled so badly it was almost painful to watch. A good chunk of those was just the result of facing a great defense. Others were just unable to step up on the national stage. Others just weren't good.

    Whatever the reason, they made this list: the 20 worst Super Bowl performances by a quarterback.

20. Fran Tarkenton, Super Bowl VIII

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    18/28, 182 yards, INT

    Not an awful performance by Tarkenton (as this list will show, he's had worse in Super Bowls), but this kind of summed up Tarkenton's career: He was masterful at times and one of the best of all-time, but never able to win the big game and he always struggled in Super Bowls. Although, he always seemed to play good defenses as well.

19. Johnny Unitas, Super Bowl V

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    3/9, 88 yards, TD, two interceptions 

    It was called the "Blunder Bowl" for a reason—perhaps one of the worst Super Bowls of all-time. And in what turned out to be the great Johnny U's last Super Bowl appearance, he was responsible for two of the game's 11 turnovers before giving way to Earl Morrall, who wasn't much better.

18. Neil O'Donnell, Super Bowl XXX

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    28 Jan 1996:   Quarterback Neil O''Donnell of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass during Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  The Cowboys won the game 27 - 17. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    28/49, 239 yards, TD, three interceptions

    O'Donnell did complete more than half of his passes in the Steelers lone Super Bowl appearance of the 1990s. But one has to wonder what would've happened if O'Donnell hadn't thrown to Cowboys defensive back Larry Brown in the second half with the game still within reach.

17. Jim Kelly, Super Bowl XXVI

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    26 Jan 1992:  Quarterback Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills is helped off the field during Super Bowl XXVI against the Washington Redskins at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Redskins won the game, 37-24. Mandatory Credit: Ric
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    28/58, 275 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions

    Perhaps all the Bills fans knew how this game would end when Thurman Thomas couldn't find his helmet on the first series of the game. Either way, it was another disappointment in which the star-studded Bills couldn't get over the hump, and the four interceptions Kelly threw didn't help.

16. Drew Bledsoe, Super Bowl XXXI

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    26 Jan 1997: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots looks to pass the ball during Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Packers won the game, 35-21.
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    25/48, 253 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions

    Bledsoe was a gunslinger in the new age of gunslingers during the 1990s. But the overmatched Patriots and Bledsoe wilted underneath the pressure of the Packers defense, led by Reggie White. Bledsoe threw four interceptions in his only Super Bowl start and the Packers won their first world championship since Super Bowl II.

15. Johnny Unitas, Super Bowl III

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    11/24, 110 yards, INT

    Unitas was an injury replacement for starter Earl Morrall (who we'll see later on in this list), and while he was trying to stop the bleeding, it wasn't enough to help the sinking Colts from suffering one of the greatest upsets and seminal moments in NFL history. 

14. Boomer Esiason, Super Bowl XXIII

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    17 Dec 1988: Quarterback Boomer Esiason of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on during a game against the Washington Redskins at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won the game, 20-17.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    11/25, 144 yards, INT

    Super Bowl XXIII will always be remembered for Joe Montana leading the 49ers down the field and throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor. But Esiason didn't make a name for himself with his performance during his only Super Bowl. His one interception came inside the Cincinnati 25 and could've changed the game completely.

13. John Elway, Super Bowl XXXII

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    25 Jan 1998:  John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos runs into the end zone for the touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl  XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24. Manda
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    12/22, 123 yards, INT

    For all the gaudy numbers he put up during his Hall-of-Fame career, Elway never put up great numbers in the Super Bowl. Maybe it was because he was always on the losing end for most of his career. But even in his first ever win, that memorable Super Bowl against Brett Favre in which Elway spun around like a helicopter at one point, it wasn't with Elway-esque numbers. I'm guessing no one remembers that, though.

12. John Elway, Super Bowl XXII

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 31:  Dexter Manley #72 of the Washington Redskins assists in tackling quarterback John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos during Superbowl XXII on January 31, 1988 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Redskins de
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    14/38, 257 yards, TD, three interceptions

    There was a point when it looked like Elway would win Super Bowl XXII. But that was before Doug WIlliams and the Redskins went off in that fateful and infamous second quarter. By halftime, the outcome was no longer in doubt, and Elway's efforts went for naught as he once again struggled on the biggest stage of his career.

11. Rich Gannon, Super Bowl XXXVII

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 26:  Quarterback Rich Gannon #12 of the Oakland Raiders fumbles the ball after being hit and sacked for a nine yard loss by Warren Sapp #99 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the Oakland 29 yard line at 2:00 of the fourth quarter of Super
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    24/44, 272 yards, two touchdowns, five interceptions

    The most interceptions in Super Bowl history, this was an absolute mess for the Raiders and Gannon. Gannon eventually retired a couple of years later, and the Raiders haven't had a winning season since they were bested by former coach Jon Gruden.

10. Ben Roethlisberger, Super Bowl XL

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    Steelers Ben Roethlisberger during Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on February 5, 2006. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    9/21, 153 yards, two interceptions

    Roethlisberger had been so good during the Steelers run to Super Bowl XL that few expected he would struggle as much as he did. But considering he scored a touchdown (albeit a controversial one), and the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl, he won't mind the stat line. Roethlisberger didn't even throw his team's touchdown pass; that was Antwaan Randle El connecting with Hines Ward on a trick play.

9. Billy Kilmer, Super Bowl VII

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    14/28, 104 yards, three interceptions

    Kilmer had the pleasure of facing one of the better defenses in NFL history and a team going for the perfect season, and that definitely had a role in Kilmer's performance. But he still struggled as he was beat up by the Miami front line in a game that was only close because Garo Yepremian threw the ball worse than Kilmer did. 

8. Craig Morton, Super Bowl V

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    12/26, 104 yards, TD, three interceptions

    Morton was almost worse than the quarterbacks the Colts threw out there. Again, it was called the "Blunder Bowl" for a reason. The Colts won the battle of attrition because someone had to, more than someone actually winning it.

7. David Woodley, Super Bowl XVII

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    4/14, 97 yards, TD, INT

    Woodley was an enigma during his entire career, but perhaps this sums up his performance best. In the first quarter, he threw a 76-yard touchdown to Jimmy Cefalo. Woodley had three completions and 21 yards passing the rest of the game against the stout Washington defense.

6. Fran Tarkenton, Super Bowl IX

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    11/26, 102 yards, three interceptions

    Tarkenton was a victim of playing in the wrong Super Bowls against the wrong teams. For the second straight year, he and his team were snakebitten by a phenomenal defense. This time, it was the Steelers putting up one of the best defensive performances of all-time, including a famous tipped interception that could've changed the game.

5. John Elway, Super Bowl XXIV

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 28:  Defensive end Daniel Stubbs #96 of the San Francisco 49ers pursues Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway #7 in Super Bowl XXIV at Louisiana Superdome on January 28, 1990 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The 49ers won 55-10.  (Photo b
    George Rose/Getty Images

    10/26, 108 yards, two interceptions

    The worst and perhaps most humiliating of Elway's Super Bowl defeats was the one he took at the hands of the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. By comparison, Elway's backup, Gary Kubiak, had a higher passing rating on the day. 

    Kubiak had one completion.

4. Earl Morrall, Super Bowl III

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    6/17, 71 yards, three interceptions

    Morrall was the starter instead of Johnny Unitas on that fateful day in the Orange Bowl. And while Joe Namath was backing up his guarantee, Morrall was giving the world championship away for the Colts. This was the worst of his two Super Bowl appearances, although his appearance in Super Bowl V wasn't much better.

3. Kerry Collins, Super Bowl XXXV

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    28 Jan 2001:  Quarterback Kerry Collins #5 of the New York Giants gets ready to pass the ball as teammate Ron Dayne #27 tries to hold back Bob Burnett #90 of the Baltimore Ravens during the Super Bowl XXXV Game at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Flori
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    15/39, 112 yards, four interceptions

    Two weeks prior, Collins had one of the greatest days a Giant quarterback had ever had in the 41-0 thrashing of the Vikings in the NFC Championship. But he was victim to the crowning of one of the NFL's most dominant defenses, and Super Bowl XXXV was the Ravens' masterpiece from the defensive line to the secondary.

2. Craig Morton, Super Bowl XII

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    4/15, 39 yards, four interceptions

    Morton makes another appearance on this list, and if you thought it couldn't get any worse than Super Bowl V for him, it did. This time it was in Super Bowl XII against his old team, as Morton was completely dominated in the Cowboys' second Super Bowl victory. It was also the first of a few Bronco losses in the Super Bowl, although it was the only one not to feature John Elway.

1. Tony Eason, Super Bowl XX

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    LOS ANGELES - 1986:  Quarterback Tony Eason #11 of the New England Patriots rolls out under pressure during a 1986 NFL game against the Los Angeles Rams at LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The Pats defeated the Rams 30-28.  (Photo by Tony
    Tony Duffy/Getty Images

    0/6, 0 yards

    That's right, no yards. Nothing. It's not an eye-popping statistic.

    Until you find out Eason started Super Bowl XX. Yes, I said he started.

    He was the only starter in Super Bowl history not to complete a pass. And when that happens, you're pretty much a lock for No.1. Steve Grogan eventually came in but wasn't much better, and the Bears rolled to their only Super Bowl victory.