Want to Win a Super Bowl – Better have a Hall of Fame Quarterback

Looking back at past Super Bowls, one can easily see that many teams that won a Super Bowl were quarterbacked by a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Now does winning a Super Bowl help that quarterback get considered for the Hall of Fame? Certainly, but in many cases the Super Bowl victory just cemented that quarterback’s selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The article I wrote back in 2013 was originally published at:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1466338-want-to-win-a-super-bowl-better-have-a-hall-of-fame-quarterback

One can make the argument that winning a Super Bowl helps a quarterback’s chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

No one can deny that.

But, conversely, it certainly helps your team’s chances to win a Super Bowl if you have a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback. That’s why the pick here is Denver vs. Green Bay in the Super Bowl. That was my pick at the beginning of the year, and I see no reason not to stick with it.

It’s now a quarterback’s game.

John Elway and Denver Broncos management wanted to go beyond just making the playoffs, realizing that it would take more than a Kyle Orton- or Tim Tebow-caliber quarterback to reach the Super Bowl. Elway knew the value of an elite quarterback, and he went out and got one in Peyton Manning, who has exceeded expectations thus far.

It’s not that complicated—unless you have a dominant defense and a superior running attack, you better have an elite quarterback if you want to win a Super Bowl.

One need only to look at Denver’s history to realize that to win a Super Bowl you better have a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback. In Super Bowl XII the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl on the strength of their Orange Crush defense, but in a matchup of quarterbacks the Cowboys’ Roger Staubach outplayed Denver’s Craig Morton. Staubach’s in the Hall of Fame, Morton is not. Remember recent Bronco quarterbacks Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler? Both were good quarterbacks but not elite quarterbacks and thus had zero Super Bowl appearances between them.

In all their other Super Bowl appearances Denver’s quarterback was Elway, and it wasn’t until he had Terrelle Davis at running back that was he able to win a Super Bowl.

Consider the Green Bay Packers, when they’ve made it to the Super Bowl their quarterbacks were Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. That’s why I’m picking the Packers over the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC. Until Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith or Matt Ryan prove otherwise I’ll take my chances with Rodgers and the Packers.

When the 49ers reached the Super Bowl their quarterbacks were Joe Montana and Steve Young both future Hall of Famers.

Sooner or later they’ll figure this out in Dallas too. When the Cowboys made it to their first Super Bowl it was with Craig Morton at the helm, but their Doomsday Defense actually carried the team. After that, they would get there with Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, future Hall of Famers. Danny White was a good quarterback and Tony Romo is too, but they had zero Super Bowl appearances between them.

See a trend here?

Now I’m going to step out on a small limb and for this article’s statistical purposes, presume that Drew BreesEli Manning, Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Kurt Warner will all make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

How important is it to have a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback in a Super Bowl? In this era of passing, it’s more important than ever. In the past nine Super Bowls a future Hall of Fame quarterback has led his team to victory. That streak began with Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII, followed by Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Brees and Rodgers. Brady, Roethlisberger and Eli each won more than one Super Bowl in that stretch of time.

In fact, 18 of the last 20 Super Bowls have been won by a future Hall of Fame quarterback, with the exceptions being Brad Johnson in Super Bowl XXXVII and Trent Dilfer in Super Bowl XXXV, but their teams had dominant defenses.

Overall, in 35 of the 46 Super Bowls the winning team possessed a Hall of Fame quarterback. Before Brady the list of those quarterbacks consisted of: Starr, Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas, Staubach, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Montana, Aikman, Young, Favre, Elway and Warner.

In fact, in the past five Super Bowls both teams had a future Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm. The losing quarterbacks in those contests were: Brady (twice), Warner, Peyton Manning, and Roethlisberger. So now more than ever, it’s almost imperative you have a Hall of Fame quarterback to even get to the Super Bowl let alone win it.

How much has the game changed? In the first 35 Super Bowls only 12 times did Future Hall of Fame quarterbacks face each other. Back then a running game and a strong defense were emphasized more and often times that was enough for a team with merely a good or serviceable quarterback to reach the Super Bowl.

Only six of all the Super Bowls saw both teams with a starting quarterback who would not make the Hall of Fame. Those quarterbacks and Super Bowls were: Jim Plunkett and Ron Jaworski in Super Bowl XV, Joe Theismann and David Woodley in Super Bowl XVII, Plunkett and Theismann in Super Bowl XVIII, Jim McMahon and Tony Eason in Super Bowl XX, Dilfer and Kerry Collins in Super Bowl XXXV and Johnson and Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Unlike those less-than-illustrious quarterback matchups, the premier Super Bowl duels of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in their prime (or close to it) sequentially were: Bradshaw and Staubach in Super Bowl XIII, Montana and Dan Marino in Super Bowl XIX, Montana and Elway in Super Bowl XXIV, Elway and Favre in Super Bowl XXXII, Eli Manning and Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII, Brees and Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV and Eli Manning and Brady last year.

Unfortunately those marquee quarterback matchups didn’t always live up to the anticipation and pregame hype. I think this year’s duel between Manning and Rodgers will.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall via Visual Hunt /  CC BY-SA

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

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