So far 30 different quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl. Some of them—like Montana, Unitas, Bradshaw, Manning, and Brady—are NFL legends. Others—like Plunkett, Williams, Dilfer, and Johnson—are not. If Denver wins Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, Peyton Manning will have his second championship. However, if Seattle wins this exclusive club will induct a new member inRussell Wilson.
Of course, there is actually an even more exclusive club for elite NFL quarterbacks. Unfortunately, it’s a club nobody wants to join. I am talking about the “great quarterbacks who never won the Super Bowl” club. There are about 11 members, and today you’re going to meet them all.
Now, some of the members are obvious. Everyone knows Dan Marino, for example, never won the Super Bowl. However, is he the best quarterback to never win the Super Bowl? Well, to find that out your going to have to keep reading…
Team(s): Vikings (1999-2006), Raiders (2007), Lions (2008-09)
At #11 I have my sleeper pick. There are other players who amassed more yards, completions, and touchdowns in their careers, and they certainly merited consideration. However, Daunte Culpepper is one of the greatest "What Might Have Been?" stories in NFL history. In 2004 this guy led the NFL in passing yards and set an NFL record (since broken) for most total yards for a quarterback with 5,123. He was just 27, he could beat you on the ground, and in his previous two seasons he posted passer ratings of 96.4 and 110.9 to go along with 64 touchdowns.
Given the fact that most QBs don't even peak until age 30 or so, Culpepper was looking like a future superstar. Then he hurt his knee and never played more than seven games in a season again. Career ruined, no Super Bowl, no Hall of Fame.
11. Daunte Culpepper
Team(s): Buccaneers (1987-92), Browns (1993-95), Ravens (1996-97), Jets (1998-2003, 2005), Cowbowys (2004), Patriots (2006), Panthers (2007)
It's easy to forget about Vinny Testaverde because he played so long and was never able to establish himself as a franchise quarterback, but the guy's career numbers are damn good. He threw for 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns, which is good for 10th all-time in each category. More importantly, the man had some truly excellent individual seasons. In 1996 he threw for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns with the Ravens. In 1998, at the age of 35, he had 3,256 yards, 29 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 101.6 in leading the Jets to a 12-4 record.
Those are some good numbers. Unfortunately, his best chance at winning the Super Bowl was 1998...when the Denver Broncos finally put a good enough team around John Elway and the Broncos won the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.
10. Vinny Testaverde
Team(s): Chargers (1962-72), Rams (1973-74), Packers (1974-75), Oilers (1976-77)
I debated whether or not to include Chargers great John Hadl on this list since some of his best seasons came before the advent of the Super Bowl. However, since he did had numerous excellent seasons in the Super Bowl era, and since he never won an AFL championship as a starter, I decided to count him.
Hadl's numbers? Yeah, they're great. He led the league in passing three times, touchdowns twice, and yards-per-game twice. If you look at his career passer rating you'll probably think it's a bit low because it's just 67.4. However, that was a different era when teams were not as pass-crazy as they are today. If you compare his yearly passer rating to what everyone else in the league was doing at the time, you'll see he was well above average most years.
In any case, Hadl is 17th on the list of career TD leaders, but he never won the Super Bowl. So yeah, he's in the club.
9. John Hadl
Team(s): Bengals (1984-92, 1997), Jets (1993-95), Cardinals (1996)
Boomer is one of those guys you really forget about precisely because he never won a championship. However, he really was good. He never led the league in passing yards, but he had over 3,000 seven times. He never led the league in passing touchdowns, but he had over 20 five times. And he never led the league in passer rating but...oh wait, yes he did. It was 1988, when he led the Bengals to the Super Bowl. His passer rating was 97.4 that year, which was better than everyone else—including Joe Montana.
Unfortunately, that proved to be Boomer's only trip to the Super Bowl. After 1988, he was never on a truly good team again.
8. Boomer Esiason
Team(s): Bills (1986-96)
Jim Kelly was never a prolific passer. Those great Buffalo Bills teams he quarterbacked—the ones that went to four straight Super Bowls—were all about defense. And when they needed offense, they had some guy named Thurmon Thomas. So basically, Kelly would not be in the Hall of Fame if not for those Super Bowl appearances. However, you still have to give the guy his due. Kelly led the league in passer rating with a scorching 101.2 in 1990, and in 1991 he led the league with 33 passing touchdowns.
Of course, of all the great QBs on this list, Kelly came the closest to actually getting that elusive ring. His Bills lost Super Bowl XXV to the Giants 20-19 when kicker Scott Norwood missed that 47-yard field goal with just eight second left on the clock.
7. Jim Kelly
Team(s): Eagles (1999-2009), Redskins (2010), Vikings (2011)
To be honest with you, I did not think Donovan McNabb would make this list, and I certainly did not think he'd come in at #6. However, after doing my research, I simply can't justify placing him any lower. His career passer rating of 85.6 is good but not legendary. However, his best seasons—92.9 in 2009, 95.5 in 2006, and 104.7 in 2004—were truly great. And while he never managed to break the 4,000-yard mark like so many of his contemporaries, McNabb is seventh on the list of all-time rushing yards by QBs with 3,459.
Sadly for Donovan and the Eagles fans who loved him, he only got one shot at a Super Bowl ring, and that was 2004 at the height of the Patriots dynasty. That being said, they gave New England a run for their money in Super Bowl XXXIX, trading touchdowns the whole way and losing just 24-21.
6. Donovan McNabb
Team(s): Bengals (1971-86)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Ken Anderson might be the least appreciated quarterback in NFL history. He's no NFL legend or anything. He just missed out on the Hall of Fame, he's 31st on the list of all-time passing yards, and he's 39th on the list of all-time passing TDs. However, Anderson led the NFL in passing yards two times, completion percentage three times, and passer rating four times. And in 1982—one of the years in which he led the league in passer rating—he led the Bengals to the Super Bowl...where they lost to Joe Montana and the 49ers.
All-time great? No. But Anderson was excellent, and definitely one of the best never to win the Super Bowl.
5. Ken Anderson
Team(s): Chargers (1973-87)
Now we're getting to the really prolific QBs. Dan Fouts and the Chargers offense absolutely lit up the league in the late 70s and early 80s. For four straight years, from 1979 to 1982, the guy led the NFL in passing yards. For the last two of those season Fouts also led the league in touchdowns, and in 1981 he was the NFL MVP.
However, for all his passing greatness, Fouts made it to the big game. His Chargers lost in the AFC Championship Game three times—in 1981 to the Raiders, in 1982 to the Bengals, and in 1983 to the Dolphins.
4. Dan Fouts
Team(s): Oilers (1984-93), Vikings (1993-96), Seahawks (1997-98), Chiefs (1999-2000)
Speaking of prolific passers, how about Warren Moon? The guy didn't even start his NFL career until age 28 because he was busy winning five straight Grey Cups in the CFL. Then he finally got his shot to play down south and tore up NFL defenses. Moon put up nine seasons of 3,000+ passing yards and four seasons of 4,000+ passing yards, and he led the league in yards per game three times.
In the end, this Hall of Famer finished with 49,325 passing yards and 291 passing touchdowns, which is good for 6th and 8th all-time. And remember, he didn't even get started in the NFL until he was 28. Can you even imagine his totals if he'd played for the Oilers right out of college?
Sadly, though, Moon never made a single trip to the Super Bowl. His Oilers were blocked by the Broncos and Bills.
3. Warren Moon
Team(s): Vikings (1961-66, 1972-78), Giants (1967-71)
You can make a very strong case for Fran Tarkenton as the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl. He's 6th on the list of career TDs with 342, he's 8th on the list of career passing yards with 47,003, and—most crucially—he's 4th on the list of QB rushing yards with 3,674. Add that all up what you get is one of the most valuable, productive quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and the face of the Minnesota Vikings franchise.
However, Tarkenton never won the big game—and he had his opportunities. Fran took the Vikings to the Super Bowl three times but lost to the Dolphins, Steelers, and Raiders. In those three games he threw just one touchdown but got picked six times, and the Vikings never led while getting outscored 72-27.
2. Fran Tarkenton
Team(s): Dolphins (1983-99)
I was really hoping that, upon evaluating all the statistics, I would find a reason to surprise you by not putting Dan Marino first. And while it's true that some advanced metrics do rank Tarkenton above Marino as the better all-around QB on account of his exceptional running abilities, in the end I simply could not overlook the records.For 20 years Marino owned the single-season touchdown record at 48. And for 27 years he owned the single-season passing yards record at 5,084. So in short, Marino's 1984 season was one of the greatest in the history of the game. Add that to the fact that he is still third all-time in career touchdowns (420) and passing yards (61,361), and you simply cannot deny the man's greatness.Unfortunately, defense wins championships. So while Marino was able to get the Fins to the Super Bowl that year he set all the records, he was never able to do it again. And to this day, he is still the greatest NFL QB to never win the big game.
1. Dan Mariono
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