At the end of the Super Bowl, as the confetti rains down and the champions celebrate. And for two men the moment means very different things. One player knows tht all the money, all the work and all the fame have finally come to result in something, a Championship ring. For the other, fate is unknown. With the news that Sexy Rexy Grossman has signed with the Houston Texans as their third string quarterback we may have seen one of the hardest falls for a Super Bowl starting quarterback in the history of the NFL (and certainly within the last decade). From Conference Crown to obscurity, the fate of many a starting Super Bowl Quarterback has been less than steller.
There are four tiers of Super Bowl losing Quarterbacks in my mind: The Over-The-Hillers, the Repeat Offenders, the Winners and the Losers. Each category has some famous names and no doubt each group has its own range of success and failure. Starting with the loser of Super Bowl I (Len Dawson) to the loser of Super Bowl XLIII (and Super Bowl XXXVI) Kurt Warner, I have ranked the history of the NFL from those who fell from grace.
* Represents an active player
Obviously any list of Super Bowl Losers as to start with the Super Bowl winners. Players like Brett Favre, Roger Staubach, and most famously John Elway all lost Super Bowls, some of them lost as many (or more) than they won. But one day each player got over the hump, and for that they get to top our list.
1. Roger Staubach- Captain Comeback lost Super Bowl 10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he already had one ring on his finger, and would win a second one only two years later. Staubach became the symbol of the Dallas Cowboys, and took a pretty mediocre franchise and turned it into a Power House, and in the process created the aura of America’s Team.
2. Tom Brady*- As winner of Super Bowls 36, 38 and 39, Tom Brady became one of the all time great winning quarterbacks. But unlike Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Troy Aikman or Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady has a loss on his record. After leading the ho-hum offenses of the New England Patriots to breathtaking wins over the Rams, Panthers and Eagles, Brady managed a measly 14 points as the Spy-Gate-less Patriots lost to the New York Giants.
3. John Elway- After the drama of the Drive, and the excitement of the Fumble, came the failurs of Super Bowls 21 and 22. In Super Bowl 21, Elway led his team in Rushing (27 yards) and Passing (304 yards). But against Bil Parcells, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms (who played the greatest game of his life), he had no chance. Two Super Bowl losses later, John Elway finally reached the mountain top, winning two Super Bowls.
4. Brett Favre- New York and (maybe) Minnesota aside, Brett Favre will always be remembered as one of the greatest Quarterbacks to ever play the game. And unlike the man who owned all the great records that Favre broke, Brett won a Super Bowl (#31). With a great defense and superb special teams, Brett piloted the Green Bay Packers and head coach Mike Holmgren to a Super Bowl win. And while Favre played a superb game in the very next year, he was unable to beat TD, Sharpe and Elway in Super Bowl 32.
5. Bob Griese- Another two time winner, and the Quarterback of the Undefeated Miami Dolphins, Bob Griese overcame a loss in Super Bowl VI only to go on and win two back to back Super Bowls, three trips and two wins in a row for the Dolphins as Bob Griese helped establish Don Shula as one of the all time great coaches.
6. Len Dawson- The Greatest Quarterback you never remeber, Len Dawson was the very first man to quarterback a losing team in the Super Bowl. Dawson had the unfortunate luck of running into Bart Starr and the Lombardi-led Packers dynasty which brought us Title Town, USA. 3 years later however, Dawson would win his own Super Bowl over the Minnesota Vikings and land up in the Hall of Fame as the greatest Quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs ever had (not counting those on rent from San Fran).
7. Kurt Warner*- Bag-Boy made good, Kurt Warner filled in for the injured Trent Green and took the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl over the Tennesee Titans (by one inch). And he followed it up with a back to back MVP performance, taking the Rams to the Super Bowl again only to lose #36 to the above mentioned Tom Brady. Warner now has a shot at the Hall of Fame, despite having lost twice in the biggest game of his life. Warner took the Arizona Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl 8 years later, only to watch his defense let him down when it mattered most.
6. Joe Theisman- Before his infamous injury, Joe Theisman was a back-to-back Super Bowl Quarterback as well as a league MVP. Leading the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XVII, and then to a loss in XVIII, Theisman joins Favre as a Quarterback who only went to two big games, and split them down the middle (Until 2008 Warner was also on this list), who knows what could have been for Theisman, whose career was cut short by the gruesome injury on Monday Night Football.
The Repeat Offenders
The second group of Quarterbacks on our list were the guys who never won a Super Bowl but made a darn good showing of it in their careers. From Dan Marino’s record breaking numbers to Fran Tarkenton’s back breaking interception, the following QB’s could never be called losers, despite never winning.
7. Dan Marino- The greatest Quarterback to never win one, poor Dan Marino is constantly reminded by his on-air cohosts of his lack of a ring. Dan Marino was, and still remains the greatest Quarterback I’ve ever seen play. Despite never having the great teams of the 49′ers or Cowboys, Marino put up unheard of numbers. He was the youngest QB to reach 100, 200 and 300 touchdowns, and was involved in the two highest passing yardage games in history. Despite all of this, he only reached the Super Bowl once, and lost it to Brett Favre.
8. Jim Kelly- Jim Kelly and the K-Gun Bills of Thomas and Reed went to an unheard of 4 Super Bowls in a row. Unfortunately for fans of the Great White North, the Bills lost all four. Never has a great QB come so close to being one of the all time greats only to fall 4 games short. Unfortunately for Kelly, he had some pretty bad games in the Super Bowl (Against Washington for example) and perhaps if he had upped his game just a bit, he’d be in the top bracket.
9. Fran Tarkenton- Another repeat performer who made 3 trips to the Super Bowl and won an MVP award in the process. Fran was the Quarterback for the Purple People Eaters, the great Minnesota Vikings teams who couldn’t get over the hump and in the end, despite being a 9 time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer, never won a ring. Super Bowls 9, 10 and 12 will forever haunt Minnesota fans, as will a fate sealing interception thrown to the Oakland Raiders.
10. Daryle Lamonica- The Mad Bomber of Oakland led his upstart Raiders to an AFL title and was one of the great gunslingers of all time. Later overshadowed by Ken Stabler, Lamonica can certainly make a case for the 2nd greatest QB in Oakland history. Lamonica went to two Pro Bowls and holds the 2nd greatest winning percentage amoung Quarterbacks (behind Otto Graam), but forever he will be associated with coming up just a little short in Super Bowl 2.
11. Craig Morton- Before Kurt Warner, Craig Morton was the only QB to start in the Super Bowl for two different teams, but unfortunately for Morton, he never won one. Morton lost Super Bowl 5 with the Cowboys, and then Super Bowl 12 against his old team (and replacement Roger Staubach). Morton started for the Cowboys and Broncos for well over a Decade and was one of the great players of his era, overshadowed however by even better field generals. Unfortunately Morton had a tendancy to turn the ball over too much and that contributed to his place on this list.
12. Donovan McNabb*- In my opinion, McNabb has secured his place as the greatest Quarterback in Philadelphia’s history. Sinc his arrival in Phily, the Eagles have been to the playoffs 7 times, and reached 5 conference title games and a Super Bowl. All that is keeping him from the all time great status (and likely a ticket to Canton) is that ellusive ring. But imagine, McNabb has been to all these title games and won all these matches without ever having a franchise WR to stretch the field (except for the T.O. experiment, which got the Eagles to the Big Game). And with another 3-5 years left, McNabb could move his way up this list in no time.
13/14. Ken Anderson/Boomer Esiason- Another set of players who took their teams to unprecedented heights before falling in the face of one of the all time greats, Anderson and Esiason took the Cincinnati Bengles away from the days of the Bungles and into the limelight. Anderson did it in 1981, and Esiason in 88, and while both put up a fight neither could overcome the Montana led 49′ers and their two teams lost the Super Bowl by a score each. But beyond their one trip to the Big Game, neither quarterback was ever able to win big and have become lost in the era of the Quarterback.
15. Steve McNair- Steve McNar and the Tennessee Titans came 1 yard short of taking theSuper Bowl into overtime, and spent years with the Oilers/Titans making plays with almost no one around him. With McNair and running back Eddie George, the Titans went 96-80 and had two 13 win seasons. But unfortunately the Titans were only able to climb to the top once, and there they met one of the greatest offenses the NFL has ever seen in the Greatest Show on Turf. McNair went on to pilot the Ravens to the playoffs before injuries brought his physical career to an early end.
The Over the Hillers
These guys never really had a chance to prove what they could do after losing the big one.
16. Rich Gannon- Injuries struk Gannon at the end of his career which ended with statistical success despite the woeful nature of the post-Super Bowl Raiders.
17. David Woodley- Not a great quarterback, but solid enough to take his team to the Super Bowl before being benched in favor of the young stud from Pitt, Dan Marino. Woodley would play in Pittsburgh, but by the time of his Super Bowl his career was on its last legs.
18. Billy Kilmer- Continued to head the Redskins after their loss, but his career climaxed in the Super Bowl and peetered away shortly afterwords.
Although some of these guys still have years left, its clear that their best is behind them, and with only a Super Bow loss on their records, many of these players will be forgotten heroes of flash in the pan teams who never made it past the door at the Super Bowl.
19. Jake Delhomme*- Delhomme has had an up and down caree to match his up and down franchise. While he has had moments of amazing play, he has also had terrible and inexcusable moments in his career. And unfortunately for Delhomme, Tommy John Surgery does little to help rebuild your career. Still, with Steve Smith and a two headed running back comittee on the field, its entirely possible that Delhomme will break into the “Repeat Offender” categories, despte his kicker’s best attempts at ruining his big game.
20. Matt Hasselbeck*- Matt Hasselbeck has long been one of the best and most fun guys to watch on the field, and a fiery competitor who brought his all whenever he could. But because of the teams he faced in the division, his Seahawks will always be looked at as an unexciting and sub-par Super Bowl losing squad. Yes, Hasselbeck did what no other Seahawks QB had done before, but with injuries and age piling up, its unlikely that he will continue to produce at a high level, especially with 5th string receivers starting.
21. Chris Chandler- Best kown for who relaced him, Chandler was a very good quarterback for a few years in Atlana, but was unfortunately never going to be given the chance to be a franchise defining figure. He helped pull an overachieving Falcons team into the Super Bowl, but just two seasons later he saw himself taded in favor of the playmaker Michael Vick, and the rest as they say is history.
22. Stan Humphries- Stan Humphries did something Dan Fouts never could, he started a Super Bowl. And while he was a very good quarterback for a few years, he was never anything more than good. He put together numerous resectable seasons following his loss in Super Bowl 29, but he never really broke out again, and the Chargers have never been back to the big dance.
23. Ron Jaworski- Jaws, like Humpries, Hasselbeck and Delhomme took a good career and had one great season that took him to the Super Bowl where he lost to a superior team. He like many on this list will be remembered as one of the good ones, but never as one of the great ones.
24/25. Kerry Collins*/Tony Eisen- When ok Quarterbacks meet all-time defense (85 Bears, 00 Ravens), bad things happen.
26. Vincent Ferragamo- Vince took a promosing career to Canada for money, and ended up washing out in only a matter of years (and was terrible in the Canadian football league). All of his failuers came following his dash to gold after the loss by the Raiders in Super Bowl 14.
27. Drew Bledsoe- Another good Quarterback who will be overshadowed forever by his successor, Bledsoe benefited from great coaching and solid teammates and managed to bring the Patriots within a game of a World Championship before Tom Brady and Bill Belichick took them over the top. Despite all his other games, he will always be remembered for his injury.
28. Earl Morrell- Morrell was never supposed to start for the Colts in Super Bowl 3, and he never really started after it either. He followed Don Shula to Miami but never performed to the level of his lead, Johnny Unitas.
29. Neil O’Donnell- A pretty good QB who played his worst game on the biggest stage and tore the heart out of thousands of Steelers fans who curse his name to this day.
30. Rex Grossman*- Piloted a surprise team to the playoffs and into the Super Bowl (on the brain of Brian Urlacher and the speed of Devin Hester), and was named the Bears starting quarterback a year later. But injuries and poor play left him on the bench and now he’s battling for a back up role against a quarterback who ran out of the endzone for a safety without being pressured last season.
27. Joe Kapp- After his loss in Super Bowl 4, Joe Kapp went to the Boston Patriots and had 3 touchdowns to 17 interceptions and ended his career. And that performance ends out list of infamy.