## Are the Super Bowl-Winning QBs Getting Worse?

Now that we live in a world where Joe Flacco and Eli Manning have quarterbacked 3 of the last 6 Super Bowl-winning teams, you might be tempted to think that winning a Super Bowl as a QB doesn’t mean what it used to. After all, the playoffs are getting more random — as Aaron Schatz pointed out last night, four of the last six Super Bowl champs have finished the regular season with 10 or fewer wins. So it stands to reason that, as the championship teams themselves post less-remarkable seasons, so too would their quarterbacks not be the cream of the crop. And for all of his postseason brilliance, Flacco was just the league’s 17th-best quarterback during the regular season. Does his ascendancy, coming on the heels of Manning’s, signal a new trend?

To answer that question, I turned to a methodology I’ve used many times before. The basic premise is that, to put modern and historical quarterbacks on an even playing field (no pun intended), you must translate their stats into a common environment. To do this, you take the quarterback’s stats from a given season, pro-rate to 16 scheduled games, and multiply by the ratio of the league’s per-game average during the season in question to that of a common reference season. For instance, if I’m adjusting Terry Bradshaw’s 1977 passing yards to the 1991-2012 period, I would multiply his actual total of 2,523 by (16/14) to account for the shorter season that year, then multiply that by (225.1/162.2) to account for the change in the league’s passing environment, giving an adjusted total of 4,001 yards.

After doing that for every QB season since the merger, I then plugged the translated stats into a regression formula that predicts Football Outsiders’ Yards Above Replacement based on the QB’s box score stats (including the standard cmp/att/yds/td/int, plus sacks, fumbles, and rushing stats). This gives us Estimated Yards Above Replacement (eYAR) a measure of total value for each QB season, adjusted for schedule length and league passing conditions, which is perfect for historical analysis.

To get an idea of what we’re talking about, here are Flacco’s career translated stats and eYAR numbers:

YearAgeGCmpAttYdsTDIntSkSkYdsrushrYdrTDFmbpassYARrushYAReYAR
2008231625343629841514363205217521264.313.978.2
200924163014933502201239235355408608.6-11.6597.0
2010251628947734512310422994483110614.3-3.0611.3
2011261629652433201813312004085113268.0-12.1255.9
2012271629050234932011352303321311544.0-3.4540.5

Total eYAR is simply the sum of passing and rushing eYAR.

Armed with this value metric, we can now evaluate the careers of each Super Bowl-winning quarterback who started their career after the merger. Here’s a massive table with all of their translated numbers and eYAR totals:

PlayerYearAgeGCmpAttYdsTDIntSkSkYdsrushrYdrTDFmbpassYARrushYAReYARCareer
Peyton Manning199822163465863808252720101156203437.224.3461.520648.7
Peyton Manning1999231633351840772614131083677261421.416.01437.420648.7
Peyton Manning20002416361570447434151912937116151645.229.01674.220648.7
Peyton Manning2001251634655142072722282273515847910.765.5976.220648.7
Peyton Manning20022616377575416626192314738144261057.937.11095.020648.7
Peyton Manning2003271638857844933010191192725061770.6-5.81764.820648.7
Peyton Manning2004281634151145544510131022537052310.413.42323.820648.7
Peyton Manning200529163094633866291117823345051623.8-3.01620.820648.7
Peyton Manning20063016367572451432914892335421961.340.82002.120648.7
Peyton Manning20073116321508398429142213220-5361303.715.01318.720648.7
Peyton Manning2008321636556540192814161002020111361.515.41376.820648.7
Peyton Manning2009331637656443623116118019-13021659.5-3.41656.120648.7
Peyton Manning201034164266624478301817921818031290.96.41297.320648.7
Peyton Manning201236163665524263331321139236021641.52.31643.820648.7
Brett Favre1991222040021110000-104.60.3-104.315116.7
Brett Favre19922315340517353721123117548202111732.230.2762.415116.7
Brett Favre19932416331533345222242920157221113105.623.8129.415116.7
Brett Favre1994251636156938433414342034221827956.670.11026.715116.7
Brett Favre19952616344539421736133421939189381395.168.41463.515116.7
Brett Favre199627163295373950401240243481412111116.832.51149.315116.7
Brett Favre19972816320515396936172215057187171280.532.71313.215116.7
Brett Favre1998291636856142903023352073913318944.527.4971.915116.7
Brett Favre1999301634357940332221322072815009527.230.0557.315116.7
Brett Favre2000311634257938652116312322710809556.814.3571.015116.7
Brett Favre20013216316514399333142114838561151167.1-15.21151.915116.7
Brett Favre2002331632853636282616261902571010642.43.5645.915116.7
Brett Favre200334163154813539332121153181405892.15.9898.015116.7
Brett Favre200435163515564085281712941635041259.511.01270.515116.7
Brett Favre2005361637762040042130241721862010117.44.1121.515116.7
Brett Favre200637163476293988191821138232818479.3-5.5473.815116.7
Brett Favre200738163395284098261516992912091296.3-23.11273.215116.7
Brett Favre200839163385323487232534247214211157.41.058.415116.7
Brett Favre2009401634752540733173626797021493.421.91515.315116.7
Brett Favre20104113205349239110202314117808-113.2-19.0-132.215116.7
Joe Montana19792316162610910002180116.73.119.814558.9
Joe Montana1980241519929318871571582286823471.015.2486.314558.9
Joe Montana198125163495073605199261582182211126.237.41163.614558.9
Joe Montana19822616413642473531153120548201251461.553.21514.714558.9
Joe Montana1983271636154039072592816253247221341.365.81407.114558.9
Joe Montana198428163004443581278179235107231535.132.21567.314558.9
Joe Montana19852915333504362927102816638138241157.446.11203.614558.9
Joe Montana19863082073122230871070163602607.30.0607.314558.9
Joe Montana19873114312434328130112112833137121262.644.81307.414558.9
Joe Montana198832142694143079198341923512333851.944.2896.014558.9
Joe Montana1989331329439634662673116647222371433.363.11496.414558.9
Joe Montana19903415368567420027162813740160131262.342.51304.914558.9
Joe Montana1992361172313820173290077.29.186.314558.9
Joe Montana1993371118830422411571262256601756.99.7766.614558.9
Joe Montana19943814297482325016921142181807741.3-9.5731.814558.9
Drew Brees20012211527225102122180253.51.655.112826.8
Drew Brees2002231630851232571716241823812612436.025.8461.812826.8
Drew Brees200324112103632220111523199218005-91.510.9-80.612826.8
Drew Brees200425152664123157257181335282271155.7-3.81151.912826.8
Drew Brees200526163275113689251627225214918791.011.6802.612826.8
Drew Brees2006271636156945352711181084131081662.5-26.61635.912826.8
Drew Brees2007281641964443622618171162353191063.86.71070.512826.8
Drew Brees20082916407647509136191510722-1071761.3-8.21753.212826.8
Drew Brees20093015347508425332112114622322111643.08.81651.812826.8
Drew Brees20103116424641440230232618818-3010841.7-13.0828.712826.8
Drew Brees2011321644463550364215241562183112124.050.22174.212826.8
Drew Brees201233163876344737382226193155161305.516.21321.712826.8
Steve Young19852457914192936171073621013-113.043.0-70.012048.6
Steve Young198625142113692276810412416840448-165.4105.3-60.112048.6
Steve Young198726943756121003202518410400.456.1456.412048.6
Steve Young19882711611057023313652517114-10.338.428.112048.6
Steve Young1989281069949858211703612322427.525.0452.512048.6
Steve Young19902964468455208371515701110.042.9152.912048.6
Steve Young199130111952952641208147667435431157.5128.41285.912048.6
Steve Young1992311630244137982962612877548481649.0159.41808.412048.6
Steve Young19933216327472420533163016268417271570.6113.41684.012048.6
Steve Young19943316322451392936103417657317741709.2136.21845.412048.6
Steve Young1995341128642230581911261165026133891.777.8969.512048.6
Steve Young199635122163122441146341615132143716.0106.9822.912048.6
Steve Young1997361525435731092063118749198341179.256.81236.012048.6
Steve Young19983715342527424735124421769454691390.0154.31544.312048.6
Steve Young1999383458244034758116002-117.69.8-107.712048.6
John Elway198323111342721662711241572412714-197.027.7-169.210061.8
John Elway19842415230391256317121910650216111326.424.0350.410061.8
John Elway1985251635961838652218302074622805479.045.4524.410061.8
John Elway1986261630351334751910281724824416752.052.2804.310061.8
John Elway19872713263448343518101911262295421116.085.31201.310061.8
John Elway1988281531051734181816302044921716445.040.7485.710061.8
John Elway1989291524242730031815332494623937284.864.5349.310061.8
John Elway1990301633754737551514422795025537517.568.2585.610061.8
John Elway19913116263476341415114729556267611319.882.5402.310061.8
John Elway1992321219634724571115332293496211-85.87.5-78.310061.8
John Elway19933316362563421229103829643157071210.326.31236.610061.8
John Elway19943414305483345516105132757254411448.964.7513.510061.8
John Elway1995351630351237942514231824118419954.135.4989.510061.8
John Elway1996361529046033712613261964925846889.786.6976.310061.8
John Elway19973716295504373028113017349217110974.740.21014.910061.8
John Elway199838132233632858211017125369417868.37.0875.310061.8
Ken Stabler19702533107401001-401-25.0-4.8-29.88188.8
Ken Stabler1971261640703971353542921-64.621.8-42.88188.8
Ken Stabler197227167611279953107762502147.16.2153.38188.8
Ken Stabler19732816286402322420938241199004932.729.7962.58188.8
Ken Stabler19742916285441370638102113211-2131628.522.71651.28188.8
Ken Stabler1975301626440232292019201715-403712.66.6719.28188.8
Ken Stabler1976311431541840603716191626-2141823.824.01847.88188.8
Ken Stabler1977321529244234513117171183-3031131.618.51150.18188.8
Ken Stabler1978331632850537322022372763007437.57.9445.48188.8
Ken Stabler19793416376565408929173322713-308945.5-1.6943.98188.8
Ken Stabler19803516330491336613212721613-1906289.4-16.7272.78188.8
Ken Stabler1981361318529620111414292089-305-13.2-2.7-15.98188.8
Ken Stabler1982371422735124341113201315-705285.2-5.4279.88188.8
Ken Stabler198338141913261987914151158-12032.9-8.7-5.98188.8
Ken Stabler19843933572334244271-101-142.1-0.5-142.68188.8
Kurt Warner19982714114000000000-6.80.0-6.87665.9
Kurt Warner1999281632748542924012271872397191786.437.11823.57665.9
Kurt Warner2000291123834734762217191131817041236.6-0.71235.97665.9
Kurt Warner2001301637855049193721362282861091631.48.91640.47665.9
Kurt Warner200231713921414193112113283208-249.4-6.7-256.17665.9
Kurt Warner20033223966384116421006-109.8-11.6-121.37665.9
Kurt Warner2004331017728520536438198132911267.5-7.759.87665.9
Kurt Warner20053410245383279912923160132809511.8-8.2503.67665.9
Kurt Warner200635710917314146514107133010155.0-27.2127.87665.9
Kurt Warner2007361426844533702517211491715112667.3-6.5660.87665.9
Kurt Warner20083716395609460331163021118-20121250.1-15.51234.67665.9
Kurt Warner2009381532450736382514261862110012783.2-19.4763.87665.9
Troy Aikman198923111683011722915181303629505-246.069.2-176.87238.2
Troy Aikman1990241525943527461117382584017014-98.735.2-63.57238.2
Troy Aikman19912512257383289013103321716514606.82.8609.67238.2
Troy Aikman1992261634051937762613219437107141252.324.21276.57238.2
Troy Aikman1993271428240032401762515431128061140.818.41159.27238.2
Troy Aikman19942814232353264913121564306712726.210.0736.27238.2
Troy Aikman19952916268408315715714902133151112.41.61113.97238.2
Troy Aikman199630152994593167121218121344316672.9-12.2660.87238.2
Troy Aikman199731163075203369201229229247906507.212.6519.87238.2
Troy Aikman199832111983212373125854226923823.121.0844.17238.2
Troy Aikman199933142644302922171117121211118589.3-10.7578.67238.2
Troy Aikman2000341115826216557141289101302-18.5-1.8-20.37238.2
Aaron Rodgers200522391667013282702-118.7-3.1-121.86751.5
Aaron Rodgers2006232615470031921101-72.70.3-72.56751.5
Aaron Rodgers20072421928215103267290069.84.674.46751.5
Aaron Rodgers20082516336546405529153926856201311887.846.2933.96751.5
Aaron Rodgers20092616335535429829754331583055111238.796.51335.26751.5
Aaron Rodgers20102715295463373725113219665351441205.0105.91310.96751.5
Aaron Rodgers2011281532548542704163621661247361961.074.12035.16751.5
Aaron Rodgers2012291634052239303595229755252261181.374.91256.26751.5
Ben Roethlisberger2004221419930426191611302165513912675.013.7688.75585.3
Ben Roethlisberger20052312170274246018923130316932813.628.8842.45585.3
Ben Roethlisberger200624152844823606192447288319425219.630.3249.85585.3
Ben Roethlisberger2007251525139931103011503703620729573.269.8643.05585.3
Ben Roethlisberger2008261627747833151817523293498216-75.85.1-70.75585.3
Ben Roethlisberger2009271532250041952512543764079271037.716.51054.35585.3
Ben Roethlisberger201028122273793049155332233417327823.848.3872.15585.3
Ben Roethlisberger2011291530749637491915402663267011608.9-8.6600.25585.3
Ben Roethlisberger20123013260425298823930184278907691.314.2705.55585.3
Joe Theismann1974251014162181021031210137.99.8147.85507.2
Joe Theismann1975261615301351221533000-81.29.7-71.55507.2
Joe Theismann1976271612823415371192213715831243.231.875.05507.2
Joe Theismann19772816145274174011732202251331039.746.686.35507.2
Joe Theismann1978291625948532871613423112914116224.337.4261.75507.2
Joe Theismann1979301628844831632210332103815132794.656.7851.35507.2
Joe Theismann1980311629648831141712312312515525388.058.2446.25507.2
Joe Theismann1981321632951536081915282123115325694.945.6740.55507.2
Joe Theismann1982331631246836842412462765025505941.258.4999.55507.2
Joe Theismann1983341630048137112782917532203111360.072.31432.35507.2
Joe Theismann1984351630449033452310382285628616705.465.6771.05507.2
Joe Theismann198536111833071762812292122310423-265.332.4-232.95507.2
Phil Simms1979251216630119711411382552413817-136.836.1-100.74960.0
Phil Simms1980261321843224401514361913116815-197.743.9-153.84960.0
Phil Simms198127101933282054117382461636054.53.47.84960.0
Phil Simms1983292814130013250000-7.30.7-6.64960.0
Phil Simms1984301630854839892114432903814706669.026.6695.64960.0
Phil Simms19853116302505380422154126734119012576.27.0583.24960.0
Phil Simms198632162814763477211839265406817439.20.2439.34960.0
Phil Simms19873310191308239616833182134303552.216.0568.24960.0
Phil Simms198834152984993470229533493014106527.337.1564.54960.0
Phil Simms1989351524741630131412372043013817403.728.8432.44960.0
Phil Simms1990361421133924321541993216016747.210.1757.34960.0
Phil Simms199137689149104294157694414167.016.8183.84960.0
Phil Simms19923849415010006395661700247.26.6253.84960.0
Phil Simms19933916257409317517936219273206744.6-9.4735.14960.0
Eli Manning200423996203104269138463403-285.67.0-278.64565.1
Eli Manning200524162985693881251828186298019559.212.4571.64565.1
Eli Manning200625163055363330251825191252009265.6-14.1251.54565.1
Eli Manning2007261628352232902220292322970113-0.7-2.7-3.44565.1
Eli Manning200827162854883252221131202201016586.01.0587.04565.1
Eli Manning2009281630350338972614322331763014833.42.2835.54565.1
Eli Manning201029163215253813282617119336908672.4-1.5670.94565.1
Eli Manning20113016340569453726172819736141111189.1-22.51166.64565.1
Eli Manning201231162945073613231719138202906765.6-1.6764.04565.1
Mark Rypien198826912921717871911149982915415.015.1430.04333.0
Mark Rypien1989271430448937092211159025551121121.2-4.61116.64333.0
Mark Rypien199028101903312204161163015402559.6-4.6555.04333.0
Mark Rypien1991291627044437403210757156181580.82.11582.94333.0
Mark Rypien199230163035263597151521148365124658.34.2662.54333.0
Mark Rypien19933112173326158251016889446-340.012.0-328.04333.0
Mark Rypien19943265912568743212740243.4-6.636.84333.0
Mark Rypien19953311124205138498116191001212.61.5214.14333.0
Mark Rypien19963411013771000000046.30.847.04333.0
Mark Rypien19973552039277021811009.8-0.59.34333.0
Mark Rypien20013945958001600006.40.36.64333.0
Jim Plunkett1971241626647731952713453014420805410.749.4460.13980.1
Jim Plunkett1972251629253933481123493933421315-410.958.2-352.73980.1
Jim Plunkett1973261633858141171916413233918755633.378.4711.73980.1
Jim Plunkett1974271627750136882819251632815624798.660.1858.73980.1
Jim Plunkett1975286551268034614753612-119.37.7-111.63980.1
Jim Plunkett197629142043492361181526198168101221.430.9252.23980.1
Jim Plunkett197730162213732685141232203246412405.020.6425.63980.1
Jim Plunkett1979324917101112721500-2.54.21.73980.1
Jim Plunkett1980331318634424171812362342412527123.338.7162.13980.1
Jim Plunkett198134910518610574722150103312-234.211.3-222.93980.1
Jim Plunkett198235162954843687262035261241005643.3-4.7638.63980.1
Jim Plunkett198336142503972933191436262236805435.613.0448.63980.1
Jim Plunkett19843781162041453681069141312195.0-0.8194.23980.1
Jim Plunkett19853837810579832106851105101.6-6.395.33980.1
Jim Plunkett19863910144256198114723159114503403.714.7418.33980.1
Doug Williams19782310101242148396655211814154.3-9.8144.53931.9
Doug Williams1979241620545027692019746299912281.029.4310.33931.9
Doug Williams1980251628656035702012231595032736591.498.2689.63931.9
Doug Williams1981261626748936031911181104118137966.550.61017.13931.9
Doug Williams19822716318570375317151715856269312551.151.3602.43931.9
Doug Williams198631101000000000-4.40.0-4.43931.9
Doug Williams19873259515612421147437912425.58.3433.73931.9
Doug Williams198833112413962695161010768015657.61.0658.63931.9
Doug Williams1989344559657612281-40081.1-1.279.93931.9
Jim McMahon198223142333902720179412423817921434.656.1490.73794.8
Jim McMahon1983241419030921821110361924826723218.869.3288.03794.8
Jim McMahon1984259911471131828323525121469.872.7542.53794.8
Jim McMahon19852613195320237615921844322723644.164.5708.53794.8
Jim McMahon198627683153992565302014411111.240.9152.13794.8
Jim McMahon1987287147229176112721110218522427.034.6461.63794.8
Jim McMahon19882991292001390661368249735196.931.9228.83794.8
Jim McMahon198930121913272099108261402813802223.229.7252.93794.8
Jim McMahon1990315710670016310016.6-2.614.03794.8
Jim McMahon199132122033282350141022124225812480.516.9497.43794.8
Jim McMahon1992334254730612421623009.73.813.63794.8
Jim McMahon19933412208338205710823105329804237.36.6243.83794.8
Jim McMahon199435323422171332563501-106.65.7-100.93794.8
Jim McMahon1995361116000000002.80.02.83794.8
Jim McMahon1996375344000004-1015.7-6.8-1.13794.8
Jeff Hostetler198827161830252125275-301-5.8-5.7-11.52708.7
Jeff Hostetler198928162240289326311069223.328.031.32708.7
Jeff Hostetler199029165495654319343918823119.737.5157.22708.7
Jeff Hostetler1991301219430121326421974328626477.269.3546.42708.7
Jeff Hostetler19923113116211134393221243517535128.950.7179.62708.7
Jeff Hostetler1993321524542833891610372085420765787.871.2859.12708.7
Jeff Hostetler19943316261445330020164525046172210359.635.5395.22708.7
Jeff Hostetler199534111652701909119231343112405247.915.6263.52708.7
Jeff Hostetler1996351324539725812313321833618514376.154.0430.12708.7
Jeff Hostetler199736683144923510944142803-137.6-4.6-142.22708.7
Joe Flacco2008231625343629841514363205217521264.313.978.22083.0
Joe Flacco200924163014933502201239235355408608.6-11.6597.02083.0
Joe Flacco2010251628947734512310422994483110614.3-3.0611.32083.0
Joe Flacco2011261629652433201813312004085113268.0-12.1255.92083.0
Joe Flacco2012271629050234932011352303321311544.0-3.4540.52083.0
Trent Dilfer199422538804291694522902-256.17.5-248.6-514.0
Trent Dilfer1995231621439226514184833423120212-544.322.2-522.1-514.0
Trent Dilfer19962416270476289612172820931128010-114.88.4-106.5-514.0
Trent Dilfer199725162283872622221128167329918385.014.0399.0-514.0
Trent Dilfer1998261623943727802015251603914129201.525.5227.1-514.0
Trent Dilfer1999271014723715961110241753615206-21.018.9-2.1-514.0
Trent Dilfer200028111362261523121121133207508-48.33.2-45.0-514.0
Trent Dilfer2001296741231033741070111703260.8-3.9256.9-514.0
Trent Dilfer200230690164117246736102602165.5-0.9164.6-514.0
Trent Dilfer2003315483311192-102-71.6-5.8-77.4-514.0
Trent Dilfer2004325256033313421101401-89.5-6.2-95.7-514.0
Trent Dilfer200533112023402394121323140204609182.0-9.2172.8-514.0
Trent Dilfer2007357108216115071229194102508-630.5-6.4-636.9-514.0

It’s true that Flacco’s career total of 2,083 eYAR is the second-worst by any quarterback in that sample, topping only Trent Dilfer, but that’s pretty misleading — Flacco is only 27 years old, so it’s not accurate to compare him to many QBs whose careers are over. A more appropriate measure would be to look at each QB’s career eYAR through the season in which they won the Super Bowl. Did more prestigious QBs win it all in the past?

YearWinning QBAge at timeeYAR at time
1976Ken Stabler315261.3
1980Jim Plunkett332407.9
1981Joe Montana251669.7
1982Joe Theismann333536.8
1983Jim Plunkett363272.2
1984Joe Montana286158.7
1985Jim McMahon262029.8
1986Phil Simms321464.8
1987Doug Williams323193.3
1988Joe Montana3210173.0
1989Joe Montana3311669.4
1990Jeff Hostetler29177.0
1991Mark Rypien293684.6
1992Troy Aikman261645.8
1993Troy Aikman272805.0
1994Steve Young337583.5
1995Troy Aikman294655.2
1996Brett Favre274427.0
1997John Elway379186.4
1998John Elway3810061.8
1999Kurt Warner281816.8
2000Trent Dilfer28-298.3
2005Ben Roethlisberger231531.1
2006Peyton Manning3013355.9
2007Eli Manning26541.1
2008Ben Roethlisberger262353.2
2009Drew Brees308502.2
2010Aaron Rodgers273460.2
2011Eli Manning303801.1
2012Joe Flacco272083.0

Not really. The correlation coefficient between the year of the Super Bowl and the winning QB’s at-the-time eYAR is just 0.08, meaning there’s practically no trend (either positive or negative) in the Super Bowl winner’s eYAR over time. Here’s that data in graphical form:

As for Flacco, he has actually accomplished more through his first Super Bowl-winning season than the likes of Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, and Troy Aikman, to name just a few. However, that’s also a bit misleading, since at 27 Flacco is at least a year older than any of the aforementioned QBs.

Another measure of Super Bowl QB quality, then, would be to look at actual career eYAR for retired QBs, but also project a career eYAR total for active QBs by looking at the career trajectories of comparable historical QBs at the same age. Doing that, we get this updated chart of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks:

YearWinning QBFinal YrCareer eYAR
1976Ken Stabler19848188.8
1980Jim Plunkett19863980.1
1981Joe Montana199414558.9
1982Joe Theismann19855507.2
1983Jim Plunkett19863980.1
1984Joe Montana199414558.9
1985Jim McMahon19963794.8
1986Phil Simms19934960.0
1987Doug Williams19893931.9
1988Joe Montana199414558.9
1989Joe Montana199414558.9
1990Jeff Hostetler19972708.7
1991Mark Rypien20014333.0
1992Troy Aikman20007238.2
1993Troy Aikman20007238.2
1994Steve Young199912048.6
1995Troy Aikman20007238.2
1996Brett Favre201015116.7
1997John Elway199810061.8
1998John Elway199810061.8
1999Kurt Warner20097665.9
2000Trent Dilfer2007-514.0
2005Ben Roethlisbergeractive8268.1
2006Peyton Manningactive22624.8
2007Eli Manningactive6043.3
2008Ben Roethlisbergeractive8268.1
2009Drew Breesactive15520.1
2010Aaron Rodgersactive10432.5
2011Eli Manningactive6043.3
2012Joe Flaccoactive4899.4

This time, we see a slightly more significant correlation between the year and the career eYAR of the winning QB — but it’s positive (0.22), meaning as time has gone on, the quality of the winning QB has improved somewhat.

Flacco still projects to be near the bottom of Super Bowl-winning QBs, but he still figures to outpace Mark Rypien, Doug Williams, Jim Plunkett, Jeff Hostetler, Jim McMahon, and Trent Dilfer. In fact, Flacco’s projected career eYAR total is roughly the same as the man who called the game last night — Phil Simms. And it also bears mentioning that the career of Eli Manning, another similar QB, took off after a great postseason that culminated in a Super Bowl title. Who knows if a similar path is in Flacco’s future?

At any rate, it appears we aren’t in a Super QB downturn. Flacco and (Eli) Manning are not as marquee as the names that fueled the halcyon 1992-99 period, when one of Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, or Kurt Warner won it all every year, but it’s hardly the darkest hour of Super Bowl quarterbacking. So, yes, we now live in a world where Joe Flacco and Eli Manning have quarterbacked 3 of the last 6 Super Bowl-winning teams… and it’s not appreciably different from the previous three decades.

• Richie

Flacco and (Eli) Manning are not as marquee as the names that fueled the halcyon 1992-99 period, when one of Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, or Kurt Warner won it all every year,

Wait – in the chart above aren’t you saying that Aikman and Warner were less accomplished than Flacco when they won their first?

I guess some differences are that Aikman was a #1 pick playing for Dallas. And that Warner had nearly the same career accomplishment as Flacco, but did it in one season.

I think when you have a QB who won a Super Bowl and has multiple seasons of consistent play (like Aikman or Montana) and they win a second Super Bowl, it makes them feel like “worthy” winners.

But most of the Super Bowl winning QB’s probably feel more “worthy” only in hindsight. I seem to recall that Favre was one of those guys who “couldn’t win the big game” until he actually did. And now, after tacking a HOF career (and another Super Bowl appearance) on top of his win, he feels like a much more worthy winner in hindsight.

Even guys like Bradshaw and Staubach probably owe a lot of their legends to the fact that they got to play pre-free agency & salary cap, so all their best players stayed on the team and they were able to stay on top for a decade. How many Super Bowls would Tom Brady have won if guys like Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel Deion Branch, etc. didn’t get tossed aside due to cap issues?

Point being, I don’t think Super Bowl-Winning QB’s are getting worse. I think our perception of past winners increases with the hindsight of their future accomplishments.

• Neil

Yes — it’s simultaneously true that Warner and Aikman ended up having higher career values than Flacco is likely to achieve, but also had achieved less than Flacco at the time of their 1st SB win. Warner’s career path — 7276 eYAR from age 28 onward — isn’t exactly reasonable to expect from anybody in the future. (If Flacco did that, he’d finish with roughly as much career value as John Elway.) And Aikman was a year younger than Flacco at the time of his 1st win; through age 27, Aikman had 800 more eYAR than Flacco. So my “marquee” names were based more off of career value than accomplishments through their 1st SB wins.

But I agree with you that SB winners aren’t getting worse, and that our perceptions of worthiness are built as much in hindsight as they are at the time.

• Richie

Even some of the winning QB’s who are dismissed as “lesser” QB’s are guys who didn’t play much after they won (Plunkett, Dilfer, Brad Johnson).

• RickD

The “lesser” QBs who didn’t play that much after they won did so because they were lesser. (Plunkett was old, too.)

• Richie

Another thought:

Some of the recent Super Bowl winners:
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees – guys who were considered all-time greats BEFORE their wins.

Aaron Rodgers – I think was on his way to being considered great

I guess Roethlisberger is a little like Flacco. He won in his second season, and was kind of thought of as a game manager at the time. Then he won another, and developed more of a reputation as a guy who came through big in the playoffs. I think now, in hindsight, he is thought of as a “worthy” winner, but probably wasn’t when he won his first (especially since he won despite a poor performance).

• TI

“The older we get, the better we were.”