Analyzing Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks

(SportsData) — In the Super Bowl’s 45-year history, 29 quarterbacks have won the big game. Given that 2011 has been called the Year of the Quarterback, we took a look at each winning quarterback’s draft history, his performance during his Super Bowl season and how he played in the Super Bowl and beyond to see what these 29 players have in common and where they’re vastly different.

The draft history of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks reveals an extremely top-heavy distribution curve. You’d probably expect that many or most of these quarterbacks were first-round picks, but it might surprise you to learn that eight of the 29 Super Bowl winners were the first overall pick in their respective drafts, and those eight QBs have combined to win 15 Super Bowls, or 33 percent of all Lombardi Trophies.

Other statistics of note:

  • 16 of the 29 Super Bowl-winning QBs were first-round picks
  • Those 16 first-round picks have combined to win 25 Super Bowls; e.g. 56 percent of all Super Bowls have been won by first-round picks
  • Significant outliers
    • Kurt Warner (only undrafted QB to win the big one)
    • Brad Johnson (lowest pick at No. 227)
    • Bart Starr (200) and Tom Brady (199) combined for five victories (so far)
    • This year’s contenders

One first-rounder (Eli Manning – 1) and one outlier (Tom Brady – 199)

We wanted to see which of the three major quarterback statistics (QB efficiency, TD passes and passing yards) would be the best predictor of success. We discovered that eight Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks led the league in QB efficiency in their Super Bowl seasons, while seven led the league in touchdown passes. But no QB has ever led the NFL in passing yardage and won the Super Bowl in the same season, a trend that will continue this season (Drew Brees).

The average NFL rank of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in their Super Bowl seasons was 5.8 in efficiency, 7.6 in touchdown passes and 9.6 in passing yards (counting only QBs who made at least seven starts in that season). Thus, QB efficiency is the best predictor of Super Bowl success, followed by touchdown passes and finally passing yards.

Two quarterbacks – Doug Williams in 1987 and Jeff Hostetler in 1990 – started just two regular-season games before winning the Super Bowl. The average age of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks is 29.8 – for this year’s game, Tom Brady is 34, while Eli Manning just turned 31.

Here’s how this year’s remaining contenders ranked in the 2011 regular season. Note that Tom Brady finished above the average rank of past Super Bowl winners in all three categories, while Eli Manning was below average in efficiency but above the norm in the other two statistics.

QB efficiency – 2011 NFL rank (Super Bowl winners’ average rank: 5.8)

1. Aaron Rodgers

2. Drew Brees

3. Tom Brady

4. Tony Romo

5. Matthew Stafford

7. Eli Manning

Touchdown passes – 2011 NFL rank (Super Bowl winners’ average rank: 7.6)

1. Drew Brees

2. Aaron Rodgers

3. Matthew Stafford

4. Tom Brady

5. Tony Romo

6. Eli Manning

Passing yards – 2011 NFL rank (Super Bowl winners’ average rank: 9.6)

1. Drew Brees

2. Tom Brady

3. Matthew Stafford

4. Eli Manning

5. Aaron Rodgers

Ten quarterbacks have won multiple Super Bowls as starters – Steve Young, Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler have multiple rings, but each won only one game as a starter (Young was the 49ers backup in 1988 and 1989, Hostetler was the Giants backup in 1986 and Simms was injured when the Giants won it in 1990). Eli Manning could become the 11th member of that club with his second win this year, while Tom Brady could join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only four-time winners.

Meanwhile, of the 29 quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl, 19 are eligible for the Hall of Fame (i.e. have been retired for at least five years). Of those 19 quarterbacks, 11 are in the Hall of Fame, and those 11 Hall-of-Famers have combined to win 23 Super Bowls – thus, slightly more than half of the Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks who currently are in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Plunkett is the only two-time Super Bowl winner who doesn’t have a bust in Canton. The other eligible quarterbacks aren’t likely to be inducted; however, of those not yet eligible, three are virtual locks to reach the Hall (Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning), three others likely have done enough to merit induction (Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees), while Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers are off to a pretty good start, leaving only Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson on the outside looking in.

Hall of Famers (SBs won)

Terry Bradshaw (4)

Joe Montana (4)

Troy Aikman (3)

Bart Starr (2)

Bob Griese (2)

Roger Staubach (2)

John Elway (2)

Joe Namath

Len Dawson

Johnny Unitas

Steve Young

11 QBs, 23 Super Bowl wins


Not in Hall of Fame

Jim Plunkett (2)

Ken Stabler

Joe Theismann

Jim McMahon

Phil Simms

Doug Williams

Jeff Hostetler

Mark Rypien

8 QBs, 9 Super Bowl wins


Not yet eligible

Tom Brady (3)

Ben Roethlisberger (2)

Brett Favre

Kurt Warner

Trent Dilfer

Brad Johnson

Peyton Manning

Eli Manning

Drew Brees

Aaron Rodgers

10 QBs, 13 Super Bowl wins


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