Quarterbacks to Win Only Super Bowl Start

Photo courtesy of Washington Football Team

As most know by now, quarterback Tom Brady is headed to his 10th Super Bowl.

Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers advanced to Super Bowl LV on Sunday with a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. While Brady will be appearing in his 10th Super Bowl, he kept a couple others from advancing to their second this postseason.

Both of those future Hall of Famers make this list as we look back on quarterbacks to win their lone Super Bowl start. Omitted from the list is Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Barring something entirely unforeseen, Mahomes will make the start against Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa. He was the MVP of Super Bowl LIV last season, leading the Chiefs past the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20. That leaves 15 pretty impressive names.

Joe Namath, New York Jets (Super Bowl III)

With the most famous “guarantee” in Super Bowl history, New York Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath will long live in NFL lore. In Super Bowl III, Namath and the Jets pulled off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. Namath earned MVP honors, passing for 206 yards in a 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts. The Jets became the first AFL team to beat the NFL in the Super Bowl. Two years later, the two leagues merged.

Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (Super Bowl V)

Johnny Unitas led the Baltimore Colts to a pair of NFL Championship victories in the late-1950’s, but started just one Super Bowl. Unitas came in and played in relief of Earl Morrall in Super Bowl III, but threw his lone Super Bowl touchdown — a 75-yard strike to John Mackey — in Super Bowl V. As a whole, Unitas was just 3-for-9 with two interceptions in Super Bowl V, but Baltimore scored late to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13.

Ken Stabler, Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XI)

Known as “The Snake”, Ken Stabler led the Oakland Raiders to a winning record in each of his seven years as a starter. His lone Super Bowl appearance however, came during the 1976 season. In a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, Stabler passed for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears (Super Bowl XX)

Known for having one of the greatest defenses of all-time, quarterback Jim McMahon won all 14 games he started for the Chicago Bears in 1985. That season, McMahon made his lone Pro Bowl appearance. In a 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, McMahon passed for 256 yards and rushed for two scores.

Phil Simms, New York Giants (Super Bowl XXI)

Phil Simms started 14 games for the 1990 New York Giants’ team that won Super Bowl XXV, but a late-season injury cut his campaign short. Simms’ lone Super Bowl start came four years prior in Super Bowl XXI. In a 39-20 win over the Denver Broncos, Simms put on a show. Simms set a Super Bowl record for completion percentage, going 22-for-25 passing. Simms threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP.

Doug Williams, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XXII)

The first Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, Doug Williams overcame an early injury to put on a show in Super Bowl XXII. Williams passed for 340 yards and four second-quarter touchdowns. The Washington Redskins overcame an early 10-0 deficit with a Super Bowl record 35 points in the second quarter. Williams was named MVP in the 42-10 victory for Washington.

Jeff Hostetler, New York Giants (Super Bowl XXV)

Jeff Hostetler had made just two career starts when he was forced to take over for the injured Phil Simms late in the New York Giants’ 1990 season. Hostetler performed admirably, going 5-0 as a starter, including the playoffs. In a 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, Hostetler passed for a then career-high 222 yards and a touchdown. The Giants survived as Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood missed a late field goal attempt.

Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XXVI)

With a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, the Washington Redskins became the first team to win the Super Bowl with three different starting quarterbacks. In his lone Super Bowl start, Mark Rypien passed for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Rypien was named the game’s MVP.

Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XXIX)

After years of serving as a backup to Joe Montana, Steve Young proved he could win the big one for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. In a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers, Young passed for a Super Bowl record six touchdowns. Three of those scores went to Jerry Rice. Young finished with 325 yards passing to earn MVP honors.

Trent Dilfer, Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl XXXV)

Although he made one Pro Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trent Dilfer never quite lived up to the hype in Tampa. For the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 however, he did just enough. In Super Bowl XXXV back in Tampa, Dilfer passed for 153 yards and a touchdown. Behind a dominant defensive performance, Baltimore beat the New York Giants, 34-7.

Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl XXXVII)

Two years after former Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer won it at his former home field, Brad Johnson quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their lone championship. The Buccaneers scored three non-offensive touchdowns in the 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders, but Johnson was solid in Super Bowl XXXVII. Johnson finished with 215 yards passing and two touchdowns. Both scoring tosses went to Keenan McCardell.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl LXIV)

One of the quarterbacks alluded to in the introduction, Drew Brees made just one Super Bowl. Brees however, made the most of his opportunity. Against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl LXIV, Brees led the New Orleans Saints from 10 points down for a 31-17 victory. Brees passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Brees’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey with less than six minutes remaining put the Saints ahead for good. He would go on to earn MVP honors.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl LXV)

For the second year in a row, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will finish one win shy of the Super Bowl. Rodgers’ lone Super Bowl appearance was a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl LXV. In that contest, Rodgers passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers joined Bart Starr as the only Green Bay quarterbacks to be named Super Bowl MVP.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl LXVII)

The second Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback to make the list, Joe Flacco seemed to do his best work in the playoffs. In Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns as Baltimore held off the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. All three touchdown passes for Flacco came in the first half. Flacco was named the game’s MVP.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl LII)

Nick Foles’ Super Bowl fame followed a path similar to Jeff Hostetler’s. Foles was forced to take over for an injured Carson Wentz late in the 2017 season. He proceeded to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to their lone Super Bowl victory. In a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Foles earned MVP honors. Foles passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns. His 11-yard scoring strike to Zach Ertz with 2:11 left put the Eagles ahead for good. Foles also caught a touchdown in the win.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.