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Does the Better Quarterback Win the Super Bowl?

We all know the play of the quarterbacks is key to going home with the Lombardi Trophy. To see how many times the winning Super Bowl quarterback has had the higher passer rating, I’ve gone back and looked at the last 21 Super Bowls. All listed years are those of the regular season, not when the Super Bowl was played.

As you might have expected, 14 out of 21 times the team whose quarterback had the higher passer rating wound up victorious.

Green Bay Quarterbacks

When the Green Bay Packers last played in the big game, Aaron Rodgers outshone Ben Roethlisberger, 111.5 to 77.4, and the Packers prevailed 31-25. Against a tough Steelers defense, Rodgers had what amounted to a typical day for him: 24-of-39, 304 yards, three TDs, no interceptions.

The Packers also went to the Super Bowl after the 1996 and 1997 seasons. In one game Brett Favre (107.9) got the better of Drew Bledsoe, and the Packers beat the Patriots 35-21 — returner Desmond Howard was named MVP. In the unhappy outcome following the 1996 season, Favre (91.0) handily out-passed John Elway (51.9), but MVP running back Terrell Davis was the difference as the Broncos won 31-24

Tom Brady

How has the most consequential player of the modern era performed in the Super Bowl? Tom Brady has been to seven of them, winning five and losing two. Eli Manning has been kryptonite to Tom Brady, as both of his bowl losses were to Manning and the Giants. Following the 2011 season, Manning had the better rating, 103.7 to 91.1, and following the 2007 season Manning again rated higher, 87.3 to 82.5.

Though Brady has walked away with four Super Bowl MVP awards, he has yet to have a really dominant passing performance in the big game. From most to least recent, his passer ratings have been 95.2, 101.0, 91.1, 82.5, 110.2, 100.5, and 86.2. Will that change on February 4?

Interestingly, in their five victories the Patriots’ biggest winning margin was six points, and three of their wins were by only three points. Those two losses to the Giants were by scores of 21-17 and 17-14.

Best QB Performances

You don’t have to think back far to recall who has produced the highest passer rating in the last 21 Super Bowls: the Falcons Matt Ryan had a rating of 144.1 just last year – and Atlanta lost! And Brady (95.2) was named MVP.

The next five highest ratings belong to some pretty fair throwers: Joe Flacco, 124.2 in 2012; Russell Wilson, 123.1 in 2013; Drew Brees, 114.5 in 2009, Kurt Warner, 112.3 in 2008; and Aaron Rodgers, 111.5 in 2010. Of these five, only Wilson and Warner were not selected as the game’s MVP. The only QB to lose the game was Warner (112.3), versus Ben Roethlisberger (93.2).

Worst QB Performances

The worst passer ratings, with one exception, were by unheralded QBs: Kerry Collins (Giants), 7.1 in 2001; Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), 22.6 in 2005; Drew Bledsoe (Pats), 46.6 in 1996, Chris Chandler (Falcons), 47.2 in 1998; and Rich Gannon (Raiders), 48.9 in 2002. All these poor passing efforts resulted in losses except in 2005, when the Steelers still beat the Seahawks (and Matt Hasselbeck), 21-10.

The recent Super Bowl featuring the most ineffective passing by both teams was after the 2015 season: the Broncos’ Peyton Manning had a 56.6 rating, while the Panthers’ Cam Newton came in at 55.4.

Super Bowl LII

Is there any way that the talented, but unheralded Eagles quarterback Nick Foles can overcome the great Tom Brady? We shall see.

At any rate, fans are in store for a treat in about 10 days, as they’ll get to watch the greatest Super Bowl quarterback of all time.

What, did I hear some Joe Montana fan cry foul? Joe went to four Super Bowls, numbers 16, 19, 23, and 24 – and his 49ers won them all. Along the way, Montana was presented with three MVP trophies – he was also in large part responsible for a fourth one, which went to receiver Jerry Rice.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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2 Comments

  1. Cheese January 26, 2018

    Nick Foles is capable, he just needs to show up on gameday. As does the rest of his team. It’s like SB45 when people said Pittsburgh was gonna win because Rapistburger had more SB experience than Rodgers, despite that being a 22.6 QBR. Talk about riding your defense to a title. Peyton Manning cough cough.. I think this just reiterates the point that the Packers have been trying to ignore for so long, the quarterback doesn’t need to be a miracle worker to win games.

  2. CZ Stevens January 27, 2018

    good research thanks!