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Football season may be over, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their second Super Bowl this past season while quarterback and MVP Tom Brady won his seventh. The Kansas City Chiefs became the sixth reigning champion to lose the Super Bowl.
As fans and teams start planning for next season, we start a 2-part series by reflecting. Here’s a look at the starting quarterback the last time each AFC team reached the Super Bowl:
Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly (1993)
The Buffalo Bills fell one game shy of its first Super Bowl trip in 27 years this past season. Each of Buffalo’s four Super Bowl appearances came in consecutive seasons. With Jim Kelly under center, the Bills capped the season with a Super Bowl loss each year from 1990-93.
Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino (1984)
The Miami Dolphins represented the AFC in five of the first 19 Super Bowls, but haven’t been back since. During his MVP season of 1984, Dan Marino led the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and an AFC title, but fell to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, 38-16. Miami hasn’t advanced past the Divisional round of the playoffs since 1992.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady (2018)
In 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady led his team to the Super Bowl nine times, winning six. Brady was a 4-time MVP. New England’s last Super Bowl appearance — a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII — was the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history.
New York Jets: Joe Namath (1968)
The first AFL team to win the Super Bowl, New York Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath made good on his guarantee. The Jets’ 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III remains the biggest upset in the history of the Super Bowl. Namath was named MVP.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco (2012)
There’s a pretty good chance that Super Bowls are in Lamar Jackson’s future, but the Baltimore Ravens’ last two Super Bowl appearances came with largely unheralded quarterbacks. In Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns to earn MVP honors as the Ravens held off the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. That Super Bowl featured a match-up of brothers as head coaches as John Harbaugh bested brother Jim Harbaugh.
Cincinnati Bengals: Boomer Esiason (1988)
The Cincinnati Bengals have gone longer than any NFL franchise without a playoff victory. The last Super Bowl appearance for the Bengals came in 1988 with Boomer Esiason behind center. Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown, the Bengals held a late 16-13 lead over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII. With the game on the line, Joe Montana drove San Francisco 92 yards, capped with the winning touchdown pass to John Taylor.
Cleveland Browns: N/A
The Cleveland Browns are one of just four teams never to reach the Super Bowl. The Browns’ last championship came in 1964. Things however, are looking up. This past season, Cleveland ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought and got its first playoff win since 1994.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger (2010)
Outside of Tom Brady, Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the only active quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls. After leading the Steelers to victories in Super Bowl XL and XLIII, Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh fell short against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25.
Houston Texans: N/A
The NFL’s youngest franchise, the Houston Texans have yet to reach the Super Bowl. In fact, Houston has never advanced past the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning (2009)
For the last two decades, the Indianapolis Colts have been pretty good under center. Andrew Luck had a solid career before an early retirement and this past season, veteran Philip Rivers played well in his only year with the Colts. The last Super Bowl appearance however, came with Peyton Manning under center. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, Manning’s late interception was returned for a touchdown to seal the New Orleans Saints’ 31-17 win in Super Bowl XLIV.
Jacksonville Jaguars: N/A
Another young franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to reach the Super Bowl. Jacksonville has reached the AFC Championship three times, but lost on each occasion. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will likely be tasked with taking Jacksonville to the promised land.
Tennessee Titans: Steve McNair (1999)
The Tennessee Titans were a game away from the Super Bowl in 2019, but their only appearance came two decades prior. With Steve McNair behind center, the Titans rallied from 16 points down to tie the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, but they ultimately fell 23-16 when wide receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled a yard short of the end zone on the game’s final play.
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning (2015)
One of just two quarterbacks to win Super Bowls for two different franchises, Peyton Manning was largely a game manager on the Denver Broncos’ way to a championship in Super Bowl 50. Manning threw for just 141 yards in Denver’s 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes (2020)
The MVP of Super Bowl LIV, Patrick Mahomes was unable to become the first quarterback to win back-to-back Super Bowls in more than a decade this past season. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a second straight Super Bowl, but they were no match for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 31-9 loss.
Las Vegas Raiders: Rich Gannon (2002)
The Las Vegas Raiders have won the Super Bowl in two cities and soon hope to make it three. The last appearance however, did not go so well. During the 2002 season, Oakland Raiders’ quarterback Rich Gannon was NFL MVP, but threw five interceptions in a 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. Three were returned for touchdowns.
Los Angeles Chargers: Stan Humphries (1994)
The Los Angeles Chargers were still in San Diego when they made their only Super Bowl appearance. In 1994, Stan Humphries engineered two fourth-quarter comebacks in the playoffs, but the Chargers were no match for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. They fell, 49-26.