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Top 10 Quarterbacks That Never Reached a Super Bowl

Thaddeus YeiserCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2011

Top 10 Quarterbacks That Never Reached a Super Bowl

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    Now that Aaron Rodgers has won a Super Bowl everyone is talking about how he has entered the pantheon. He is being called an "elite" quarterback and being compared to Manning and Brady.

    But what makes a quarterback elite?

    Winning a Super Bowl?

    Well, of course that helps. 29 quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl as a starter, and of that number, 11 are in the hall of fame, and 4 will be when they're eligible. In stark contrast, there are only 3 quarterbacks who didn't reach the Super Bowl era and still were inducted into the Hall of Fame—Warren Moon, Sonny Jurgensen and Dan Fouts. 

    So apparently an elite quarterback is measured by hardware more than anything else. Unfortunately, that narrow qualification makes us forget a lot of great passers and field generals.

    Without further delay, here are the ten best quarterbacks who never actually got to hear their name called in the Super Bowl.

10. Jim Hart

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    Hart was drafted by the Cardinals in 1966 and played with them until 1983. Hart struggled early in his career, but turned his misfortune around with the arrival of Don Coryell.

    He began putting up good stats in Coryell's college style offense and even led the Cardinals to back-to-back division titles in 1974 and 1975. He eventually lost his starting job to Neil Lomax, but Hart was a solid starter for the Cardinals for well over a decade. 

    Career Highlights: 4 Pro Bowls

    Deepest Playoff run: Never won a playoff game

    Playoff Record: 0-2

9. John Brodie

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    The 1970 NFL MVP was drafted in 1957 by the 49ers and stayed with them until he retired in 1973. He was mainly the bright spot on mostly mediocre teams until late in his career when they went to the playoffs three years in a row (70-72). He was able to win a pair of playoff games, but in all three years they lost to the Cowboys. The last one hurt the most as the 49ers blew a 28-13 4th quarter lead.

    Career Highlights: 2 Pro Bowls, 1970 NFL MVP

    Deepest Playoff Run: 1970 and 1971 NFC Championship Games

    Playoff Record: 2-3

8. Philip Rivers

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    Rivers' story has not been fully written yet, and he could still get himself off this list, but for now he comes in at number 8.

    He was drafted in 2004 by the Chargers and became the starter in 2006. He led the Chargers to 4 consecutive playoff berths, from 06-09. He is known for his brashness, but is also one of the best quarterbacks playing today.

    Career Highlights: 3 Pro Bowls

    Deepest Playoff Run: 2007 AFC Championship 

    Playoff Record: 3-4

7. Dave Krieg

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    Krieg had to relieve team favorite Jim Zorn, but upon his arrival the Seahawks became an immediate playoff team and won his first 2 playoff games in his first year starting.

    His playoff record after that was only 1-6.

    Ultimately, Krieg led the Seahawks, Chiefs and Lions to the playoffs six times. He was one of the better passers of his generation and retired in the top 10 in passing touchdowns.

    Career Highlights: 3 Pro Bowls

    Deepest Playoff Run: 1983 AFC Championship 

    Playoff Record: 3-6

6. Mark Brunell

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    Brunell became the expansion Jaguars starting quarterback in 1995, and from 1996 to 1999 he led the Jags to the playoffs 4 consecutive years.

    He was also one of the better quarterbacks of the 90's.

    He was as good a scrambler as a passer, but was let go in favor of Byron Leftwich. He went on to lead the Redskins to the playoffs and eventually became a roaming back up around the league. Some people will note that he was on the roster of the Super Bowl champion 2009 Saints, but it doesn't count in my criteria because he was the back up.

    Career Highlights: 3 Pro Bowls

    Deepest Playoff Runs: 1996 and 1999 AFC Championship Games

    Playoff Record: 5-5

5. Bernie Kosar

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    Of all the quarterbacks on this list, Kosar came the closest to reaching the Super Bowl.

    In the 1986 AFC Championship, his Browns led the Broncos 20-13 late in the 4th quarter. The Broncos needed to travel 98 yards just to tie the game, but ever conservative Marty Schottenheimer decided to run the prevent defense against Elway, and the Broncos began an epic drive that tied the game, ultimately resulting in an overtime win.

    The next year his Browns returned to the AFC Championship game, once again against the Broncos, and after a huge comeback were looking to score the winning touchdown. Trailing by 5 with about a minute to go in the game, Kosar handed the ball off to Earnest Byner, but Byner fumbled on the one yard line and the Browns lost the game.

    Kosar was a very accurate quarterback that had a good team around him but never could quite get over his rival John Elway.

    He was eventually replaced by Vinny Testaverde.

    Career Highlights: 1 Pro Bowl

    Deepest Playoff Run: 1986, 1987 and 1989 AFC Championship games (all losses to the Broncos)

    Playoff Record: 3-5

4. Randall Cunningham

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    During his career, Randall Cunningham was literally a human highlight reel.

    He was able to lead the Eagles to the playoffs 4 times, and along with Reggie White was one of the Eagles 2 best players.

    He was an electrifying passer and an even better runner. Despite his on field success, injuries—and his antics—eventually got him booted out of Philly. He was able to resurrect his career with the Vikings and had his best season in 1998.

    With a 27-20 lead in the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings were attempting a 38 yard field goal that would have put them in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1976. 

    Gary Anderson, who was kicking perfect on the year, missed for the first time in almost 2 years. The Falcons eventually tied the game and won in overtime. Cunningham's career was never the same after that game and he eventually retired after the 2001 season. 

    He remains one of the most entertaining—if incomplete—players ever.

    Career Highlights: 4 Pro Bowls, 1992 Comeback Player of the Year

    Deepest Playoff Run: 1998 NFC Championship

    Playoff Record: 3-6

3. Sonny Jurgensen

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    Despite the fact that Jurgensen was possibly the best pure passer of his generation, he never actually led any of his teams to the playoffs.

    But don't let that take away from how good a quarterback he was.

    Considering the era he played in, his 255 touchdowns to 189 interceptions was remarkable. He was Norm Van Brocklin's backup in Philly and had to watch him beat the Packers in the 1960 NFL Championship. He went to Washington in 1964 and was their longtime starter.

    Eventually in 1971 he was replaced by a less talented, but more careful Billy Kilmer. Jurgensen had to ride the bench as Kilmer led the team to the playoffs 5 times, including their first Super Bowl in 1972. Through it all, Jurgensen mentored the young quarterback and never held a grudge.

    Jurgensen remains one of only 3 Hall of Fame quarterbacks to have never been to a Super Bowl and the only one never to start a playoff game.

    Career Highlights: 5 Pro Bowls, 1960's All Decade Team, NFL Hall of Fame

    Deepest Playoff Run: Never started a playoff game

    Playoff Record: See above

2. Warren Moon

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    Statistically he is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history with almost 300 touchdowns and almost 50,000 yards. With those numbers you expect championship hardware with it. 

    That's not the case with Moon.

    Considering how good his stats are, his playoff record is apalling. He got his teams to the playoffs a total of 8 times, but never managed to get past the second round. 

    One could say that Moon's numbers were heavily inflated by the run and shoot offenses he ran. They allowed him to carve up defenses, but without a good running game they could not grind out games against playoff opponents. This was never more evident than in the 1992 playoff collapse against the Bills, a game in which they blew a 35-3 halftime lead.

    Still one cannot deny that despite his teams failings in the postseason, he is still one of the best throwers of the football, and his delivery was one of the best of his time. 

    Career highlights: 9 Pro Bowls, NFL Hall of Fame

    Deepest Playoff Run: 1987, 1988, 1991, and 1993 Divisional Round 

    Playoff Record: 3-8

Be Patient...Honorable Mention

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    Vinny Testaverde: If you take away his days in hopeless Tampa Bay, and his days as a wondering ancient back up, his win loss record evens out at .500. He also nearly got the Jets to the Super Bowl in 1998.

    Steve Bartkowski: Very gifted quarterback who was one of the best players early in the Falcons history.

    Bobby Hebert: First quarterback to take the Aints and make them into the Saints. Never won a playoff game, but he didn't exactly have much talent around him on offense.

    Dan Pastorini: Led the Oilers to back-to-back AFC Championship games in the late 70's, but they just couldn't get over the Steelers dynasty.

    Jake Plummer: I don't care what anyone says—he was great at times. Also one of only 2 quarterbacks not named John Elway to win a playoff game for the Broncos. Even more impressive—he is one of only 2 Super Bowl era quarterbacks to win a playoff game for the Cardinals.

1. Dan Fouts

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    Last but not least, the greatest quarterback to have never reached a Super Bowl.

    Fouts led the San Diego version of "Air Coryell" to perfection. His offenses in the late 70's and early 80's were some of the best ever. He used weapons like Kellen Winslow, John Jefferson and Charlie Joiner to the best of their ability. 

    He was able to take the Chargers to back-to-back AFC Championship games, but each time the weather and a very poor defense came back to bite them. Fouts should take some blame for his performace in the 1981 Freezer Bowl, in which he simply couldn't handle the cold and throw spirals, but if their defense had stepped up in the regular season that game probably would have been at home.

    Dan Fouts was not mobile but could throw the ball as well as almost anyone of his time.

    Career highlights: 6 Pro Bowls, NFL Hall of Fame

    Deepest Playoff run: 1980 and 1981 AFC Championship Games

    Playoff Record: 3-4

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