The 10 Worst Quarterback Performances in Super Bowl History

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIFebruary 2, 2010

The Super Bowl is easily the most important game of a player's career, especially for a quarterback. Performances in the Super Bowl can easily make or break a player. 

Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton would no doubt be considered a top-five quarterback if he had turned in strong performances in his Super Bowl appearances instead of posting three clunkers.

And Steelers great Terry Bradshaw might have struggled to reach the Hall of Fame if he hadn't established himself as the best fourth-quarter quarterback in Super Bowl history.

The Hall of Fame comes calling if you play well in the season's biggest game. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb shredded the Patriots' defense for 357 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXIX, but the three biggest interceptions of his career will likely keep him out of Canton.

And if Eli Manning one day makes the Hall of Fame, he can look back at the greatest drive in NFL history as the reason why.

Below is a list of the 10 worst Super Bowl performances in NFL history. These are quarterbacks who played so poorly on the game's biggest stage that they practically single-handedly cost their teams a shot at victory.

These 10 quarterbacks, plus one honorable mention, played for exactly one winning team in the Super Bowl—and I think Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger owes his entire team a debt of gratitude.

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In their defense, these quarterbacks did face some of the most dominant defenses in NFL history: The 2002 Bucs; the 1985 Bears; and Buddy Ryan's 46 Defense. Dallas' Doomsday Defense, Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain, and Miami's No-Name Defense.

But when you combine to throw five touchdowns and 33 interceptions, there really are no excuses.

Honorable Mention: Super Bowl XL, Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-21, 123 yards, 2 INT

Roethlisberger is the only quarterback on this list to win the Super Bowl. His 22.6 passer rating is the lowest in Super Bowl history by a winning quarterback. He threw two interceptions in the red zone, the second of which was returned for a Super Bowl-record 76 yards by Seattle's Kelly Herndon.

However, Roethlisberger rushed for a touchdown early in the second quarter, giving the Steelers a 7-3 lead they would not relinquish. He also led Pittsburgh on two more scoring drives, sealing a 21-10 Pittsburgh victory.

10. Super Bowl XXXI, Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots: 25-48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Facing the NFL's top-ranked defense, Drew Bledsoe tied a Super Bowl record by throwing four interceptions. He had a fairly decent passing day, minus the interceptions, especially considering he had very little support in the running game. 

The Patriots even led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter, as Bledsoe tied a Super Bowl record by completing a 10-point comeback. But two Bledsoe interceptions in the fourth quarter sealed a Packers' victory.

9. Super Bowl XVII, David Woodley, Miami Dolphins: 4-14, 97 yards, TD, INT

Woodley actually led the Dolphins to a 17-13 halftime lead against the powerful Redskins, but early in the fourth quarter, safety Mark Murphy made an acrobatic, one-handed interception at the Redskins' five-yard line. This led to running back John Riggins' famous game-winning touchdown run on fourth down. 

Woodley threw for just 97 yards, and incredibly, 76 of them came on a touchdown pass early in the first quarter. Take away Woodley's touchdown pass, and he finished just 3-of-13 for 21 yards and an interception. 

8. Super Bowl XXIV, John Elway, Denver Broncos: 10-26, 108 yards, 2 INT

John Elway was the opposing quarterback in the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history.

He led the Broncos to just 10 points, throwing for zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He averaged just more than four yards per pass attempt and dropped his overall record in Super Bowls to an embarrassing 0-3.

Elway's only positive contribution in the game was his rushing touchdown. 

7. Super Bowl XXXVII, Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders: 24-44, 272 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT

Gannon is the last quarterback on this list to lead his team to an offensive touchdown.

He helped the Raiders cut a 34-3 deficit into 34-21 with six minutes remaining by tossing two touchdown passes, but two interceptions returned for touchdowns in a two-minute span sealed a blowout win for Tampa Bay.

Gannon's five interceptions, which were returned for 172 yards and three touchdowns, set a single-game Super Bowl record. He is the second quarterback named MVP during the regular season to appear on this list.

6. Super Bowl VII, Billy Kilmer, Washington Redskins: 14-28, 104 yards, 3 INT

Kilmer led the surprising Washington Redskins against the undefeated Miami Dolphins with a chance to prevent history. He failed miserably.

Kilmer's three interceptions allowed the Dolphins to jump out to a 14-0 lead and coast to an easy victory. The Redskins failed to score an offensive touchdown, as Dolphins safety Jake Scott sealed a Miami victory by returning an interception from the end zone 55 yards early in the fourth quarter. 

5. Super Bowl IX, Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings: 11-26, 102 yards, 3 INT

Fran Tarkenton's only excuse for his horrific performance in Super Bowl IX was the defense he played against. The Steel Curtain intercepted Tarkenton three times and tackled him in the end zone for the first safety in Super Bowl history.

Tarkenton averaged under four yards per pass attempt and failed to lead the Vikings to a single point. He became the first quarterback to lose consecutive Super Bowls.

4. Super Bowl XX, Tony Eason, New England Patriots: 0-6, 0 yards

There's only one number needed to compile the statistics of Patriots quarterback Tony Eason, and that's zero. Eason completed zero passes before he was benched in favor of veteran Steve Grogan.

He remains to this day the only starting quarterback in NFL history to fail to complete a pass in the Super Bowl. The Patriots were thoroughly manhandled 46-10 by the Chicago Bears, which boasted the NFL's No. 1 defense. 

3. Super Bowl XXXV, Kerry Collins, New York Giants: 15-39, 112 yards, 4 INT

Collins faced the greatest single-season defense in NFL history and turned in the single-worst Super Bowl performance in the last 30 years.

He completed just 38 percent of his passes and averaged under three yards per pass attempt. He threw four interceptions, tying a then-Super Bowl record, and his only "touchdown pass" was to cornerback Duane Starks of the Baltimore Ravens.

The Giants' offense failed to score a single point in the game. Only Ron Dixon's kick return touchdown prevented a 34-0 shutout loss.

2. Super Bowl III, Earl Morrall, Baltimore Colts: 6-17, 71 yards, 3 INT

Morrall replaced the injured legend Johnny Unitas at the start of the 1968 season. He performed admirably, earning MVP honors. When Unitas returned from injury, Morrall kept his starting job and led the Colts to the Super Bowl, where they were 18-point favorites against the New York Jets.

Although the game is remembered solely for Joe Namath's guaranteed victory, Morrall played a larger role in the Jets' victory than Namath, completing just six passes and tossing three interceptions. He threw an interception on the final play of the first half, missing uncovered wide receiver Jimmy Orr in the end zone.

Morrall was benched for Unitas late in the third quarter, and although Unitas led the Colts to a scoring drive, the damage had already been done.

1. Super Bowl XII, Craig Morton, Denver Broncos: 4-15, 39 yards, 4 INT

The single-worst performance by a quarterback in Super Bowl history came from Craig Morton against Dallas' Doomsday Defense in January 1978.

Morton became the first quarterback to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl and was desperately trying to erase memories of his clunker back in Super Bowl V, when he threw three interceptions—ironically, as a member of the Cowboys.

It didn't happen. Morton completed just four passes for 39 yards.

Incredibly, he completed the same amount of passes (four) to the defense as he did his own team, and for more yards (47). He was pulled from the game for the little-used Norris Weese early in the second half, completing a Super Bowl career that featured one touchdown pass and seven interceptions. 

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