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In 1981, the Chargers and Bengals met in the AFC Championship Game. That game isn’t the most memorable game played that day, in part because of the cold weather: nicknamed the Freezer Bowl, San Diego struggled on the road in a game played with a windchill of -32 degrees.

But the bad weather obscured the fact that Dan Fouts and Ken Anderson — by far the top two passers in the NFL that season — were facing off for the right to play in the Super Bowl. Over in the NFC, the 5th and 6th leading passers in ANY/A — Danny White and Joe Montana — were meeting in what would turn out to be one of the most memorable games in NFL history.

At the team level, the Chargers, Bengals, Cowboys, and 49ers were the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th-ranked teams in ANY/A that year.1 In other words, 1981 was a year where it would be really easy to argue that passing was more important than ever.  After all, the final four teams in the playoffs were 4 of the top 5 passing teams in football.

However, this came just two years after the worst year one could make that argument: 1979.  The Steelers won the Super Bowl and ranked 3rd in ANY/A, but the Bucs, Oilers, and Rams ranked 19th, 22nd, and 24th in ANY/A.  It was a good year for pass defense: Tampa Bay, Houston, and Pittsburgh all ranked in the top 5 in pass defense, while the Rams ranked 8th.

On twitter, @smartfootball asked how Tuesday’s post would look if we expanded the list of teams from the Super Bowl champion to all four teams in the conference championship game. The graph below shows the average rank2 of the final four teams in the NFL playoffs in ANY/A for each season since 1966.

As you can see, having great quarterback play certainly isn’t more important than ever; if anything, it’s trending in the other direction (although the increase in league size from 26 to 32 teams mitigates some of the average gain). But the way our brain works, we are likely to overfit ideas that great quarterback play in necessary.

Look at 2008: the final four teams ranked 4th, 14th, 17th, and 19th in ANY/A. That would seem to be a good argument for the importance of a well-rounded team and not great quarterback play.  It just so happens, though, that the final four featured four name quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Kurt Warner.  That year, McNabb ranked 13th, Flacco 23rd, and Roethlisberger 25th in ANY/A: only Warner was having a great year.  But if your definition of a great QB includes mediocre QBs who have great years, and great QBs who have mediocre years, and maybe solid QBs who have pretty good years, you suddenly have a pretty broad definition of what’s a great quarterback.  As for what really put Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia in the final four?  Those three teams ranked 1-2-3 in yards allowed, and in the top 4 in points allowed.

The other big outlier year in recent history was in 2010, when the Jets and Bears both made it to the championship game was bad passing games but strong defenses and special teams. If passing was really more important than ever, we wouldn’t see teams like the 2015 Broncos, 2010 Bears, and 2009 and 2010 Jets in the final four.

  1. For those curious, Terry Bradshaw ranked 3rd in ANY/A but missed two games, causing the Steelers to drop to 7th in team ANY/A.  The third-ranked team was Tampa Bay, quarterbacked by Doug Williams, who ranked 4th in ANY/A. []
  2. Yes, I know taking an average of ranks is not advisable. []
  • Ryan

    Thanks for continuing this series Chase, enlightening and a fun read.

  • Wolverine

    I think when discussing the 2002 Bucs, 2009-2010 Jets, and 2010 Bears, the takeaway is that if you don’t have a great passer, you’d better be great at stopping the other team’s passer.

  • sacramento gold miners

    2008 also had four teams without a single 1000 yard back, so those QBs had to perform. Flacco was the surprising rookie, who helped take down a Tennessee team many thought would be the AFC SB representative. So what you have is two HOF QBs and two good QBs in the final four that season.

    Roethlisberger’s 2008 season can’t be judged on the 80.1 passer rating, or the 17-15 TD/INT ratio. Playing behind possibly the worst offensive line a SB winner has ever had, Big Ben played through injuries, and the running game struggled. He still delivered comeback wins, including versus Baltimore, as Pittsburgh swept the Ravens that season. So it wasn’t unusual to see the postseason success, including the game-winning SB drive.

    • But the 2008 season seems to go against that argument when it comes to Roethlisberger. Isn’t the 2008 season for Ben and the 2015 season for Manning evidence that having a great team is what really matters? Roethlisberger and Manning were great for 25 years, but won just 4 Super Bowls….. and 2 of those 4 Super Bowls came in 2 of their worst seasons. They didn’t win Super Bowls during many great years, but won during 2 bad years because of the teams around them.

      • sacramento gold miners

        I don’t think the 2008 Steelers and 2015 Broncos were among the best SB champions, just the best that season. A great QB can still lift a team to the promised land even when they haven’t had a superb statistical year.

        • Four Touchdowns

          Perhaps if you want to overly focus on one position as the key one to win a Super Bowl, you should consider safeties….

          “Want to Win a Super Bowl? An Elite Safety Has Been the Most Common Variable

          Earlier this week, I talked about Peyton Manning’s performance in the Super Bowl and how his playoff career compared to others when it came to stats and expected versus actual wins. In that, I discussed how, while it is generally accepted that you have to have a great quarterback to win a title, recent history shows that–while important–it is very infrequent that the winning quarterback had a great season.

          But I thought I would expound on that. If we look at which players on the Super Bowl champions were selected as first team all-pro, one position stands above the others: safety. Six first team all-pro safeties have won a title in the last two decades, and 9 other pro bowlers appeared on champions. In contrast, the last first team all-pro QB to win a title in the same season was Kurt Warner in 1999, and Cam Newton’s loss keeps that streak going. That’s one year longer than the last first team all-pro offensive tackle (Jonathan Ogden of the Ravens in 2000).”

          http://thebiglead.com/2016/02/11/want-to-win-a-super-bowl-an-elite-safety-has-been-the-most-common-variable/

          • Richie

            Interesting stuff.

          • Adam

            That’s a good way of putting the silliness of QB wins in perspective. It’s possible to emphasize the importance of any position with enough cherry picking.

            • Four Touchdowns

              QB is the most important position and the player most correlated to winning games, I’d assume. If you have a great one, you will win more games than you otherwise would, without a doubt. There is a reason everyone focuses on that position.

              That said, while we know that you can win a lot of games over a large sample size with a great QB, the NFL playoffs represent such a small sample of games and its “one and done” format allows luck to play a greater part of a team’s success.

              198 of the 488 playoff games — about 41% — since the creation of the Super Bowl have been one possession games (decided by 8 points or less). I tend to think of one possession games as being the most susceptible to “luck” because so often, the outcome of a single play or a single drive decides the outcome. In the last Super Bowl, if Matt Ryan is able to hold onto the ball instead of fumbling on that sack, the game could have had a different outcome… or if Shanahan decided to play the run and kick the field goal. Russell Wilson bot being intercepted at the goal line in 2014 could have changed the winner of that game.

              There’s just too many random probabilities that affect the outcome of these games and since they’re not played in a series format, we can’t really be sure the better team always wins.

              But more specifically to the QB position — just look at all the times a great QB has lost to a lesser QB in the playoffs. The most obvious first example is Eli Manning beating Brady twice in the Super Bowl… but hey, did you know that Mark Sanchez, Jake Plummer, and Joe Flacco (twice) managed to beat “Mr. Clutch” in the playoffs?

              And hey, Peyton Manning sure has lost a lot of playoff games. All those QBs must have been something, right? Elites like Tom Brady and Drew Brees are in there, but so are Jay Fiedler, Mark Sanchez, and Joe Flacco. And Philip Rivers, Steve McNair, and Chad Pennington beat him, so they must be better… but they don’t have RINGZ, so they must be worse… but… but…

              And if QBs = RINGZ, why do the greatest Super Bowl QBs of all time fail so often? I mean, if every season you don’t win the Super Bowl is a failure then that means Brady has failed 67% of the time, Montana has failed 71% of the time and Bradshaw has failed 71% of the time — and they’re the greatest!

              • sacramento gold miners

                I never suggested a great QB has to win a SB every year, the competition is extremely difficult. And I also never said a HOF QB is worse than a non-HOF QB just by losing a playoff game.

                What I’ve said from the beginning, and the numbers bear me out, is the fact a great QB usually wins a SB. It isn’t mandatory, but very helpful.

                • Four Touchdowns

                  Well, I agree with that. I guess I just don’t care for the inverse logic — if you don’t win a Super Bowl, you’re not a great QB.

              • Tom

                Four Touchdowns, see what I posted above regarding your last comment. Returning SB champs have a W/L record of 63%…better than average, but certainly not dominant.

          • Richie

            Actually, that article is a year old, and the Patriots added to the legacy, with Pro Bowler Devin McCarty at Safety.

            On the other hand, Brady’s performance in 12 games was nearly enough to get him the MVP award. If he hadn’t missed those games, and continued at his seasonal pace, he probably could have broken that first team all pro streak at QB.

    • Here’s another way to think of it. How many QBs would we say are
      franchise QBs if they had good passing stats and won a Super Bowl this
      year?

      AFC East: Brady…. and I think both Tannehill and Taylor would qualify if they had good years.
      AFC North: Roethlisberger…. and Flacco and Dalton if they have good years.
      AFC South: Luck….Mariota for sure if he has a good year…. Bortles is tricky, but if he plays well, then sure.
      AFC West: Rivers, Carr, Alex Smith all would be considered.

      So
      in the AFC, that’s 11 QBs that I think would pretty neatly fit in the
      franchise QB box if they had a good year and won a Super Bowl. With a
      good enough year, Bortles would, too. The only four that don’t are 3
      teams with QBs with no experience (Hackenberg, Watson, Lynch) and
      whoever the hell it is the Browns put at QB.

      NFC East:
      Cousins, Manning, Prescott all pretty clearly in the yes column. Wentz
      is a tricky one but…. I would probably lean yes?
      NFC North: Rodgers, Stafford…. too early to say on CHI QB… Bradford is pretty tough but I’d lean yes.
      NFC South: Newton, Ryan, Brees, Winston – all pretty clear yes
      NFC
      West: Wilson, Palmer, yes…. SF no. Goff — it’s so absurd to imagine,
      but if he posted top 10 numbers and won the Super Bowl, then yes.

      So in the NFC, that’s 11 that I think are clear yes votes. Wentz, Bradford, and Goff if they had big years and won it all, you would be able to make a pretty clear “they were top 2 picks and had great years and came through in the clutch so yes” argument. The only ones that leaves out are Chicago (and let’s face it, if Trubisky or Glennon had a big year and won the Super Bowl, who wouldn’t say they are franchise QBs?) and SF (Brian Hoyer ain’t cutting it).

      Maybe this was a silly exercise, but to me, it shows how self-fulfilling this is. If Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Tannehill or Blake Bortles or Alex Smith or Marcus Mariota or Andy Dalton or Jared Goff or Sam Bradford or Carson Wentz become franchise QBs by having a big year and winning the Super Bowl, then of course just about every QB that wins the Super Bowl is a franchise QB.

      What do you think?

      • Richie

        Yeah, I think the self-fulfilling is key. Once a QB has that Super Bowl win under his belt, it takes a lot of below average evidence in other seasons for him to NOT be considered a franchise QB.

        But I think you’re even going easy on guys like Goff, Bradford and Wentz. If they won a Super Bowl, I think their reputations would increase greatly. Wentz and Goff are second year guys drafted in the top 2. A Super Bowl win in their second season would cement them as franchise QB’s worthy of the trades used to acquire them. Sam Bradford would even be a guy who was a #1 overall pick, who was stuck playing on bad teams and had bad injury luck, but FINALLY got all the breaks and had the success that was expected of him.

        • Adam

          Hell, people were fellating Wentz like he was a savior after the Eagles started 3-0. If he won a SB he’d be considered a future HoF’er.

          • WR

            People were excited about Wentz because he was very good in the first 5 games of the season. You can’t blame fans for getting excited when a new guy performs that well out of the gate.

          • Four Touchdowns

            “Baldy: Wentz is Manning pre-snap, Rodgers post-snap

            ‘(Wentz) is Peyton Manning pre-snap, he’s Aaron Rodgers post-snap,” NFL Media’s Brian Baldinger said Monday on NFL Network. “He’s thrown 102 passes. He hasn’t thrown one, not one yet, that has been close to intercepted, a 50-50 ball. His decisions are impeccable and his location and accuracy, I don’t know if he could throw the ball any better than he’s thrown it.'”

            http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000710856/article/baldy-wentz-is-manning-presnap-rodgers-postsnap

            • Adam

              Haha I remember Baldy saying that last year. One of the more hyperbolic quotes I can remember, right up there with Jaws’ declaration that Colin Kaepernick may end up being the greatest QB of all time. What is it about sports pundits that has them wanting to anoint legends from tiny sample sizes?

              • Richie

                Not sure if that stuff comes from the person or from producers.

                I’m sure producers want the analysts to say outrageous things because it’s more interesting than “Wentz looks good so far. But let’s remember it’s only been 3 games. He may or may not end up being a good QB.”

                But, if it’s just the analyst making these choices, it’s so they can look smart. If Kaepernick ends up being great, then Jaws can say “hey, I predicted that!” But they don’t have to run back clips of him predicting it if it’s not true.

                • Tom

                  Agreed. You can’t just go on TV and say, “Well, we’ve only seen a few games, but he looks pretty good. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see” (and then crickets).

                • garymrosen

                  “But they don’t have to run back clips of him predicting it if it’s not true.”

                  LOL. I’ll never forget seeing once, after Ronnie Lott had established himself as an all-time great, an old clip of a local reporter (Ray Ratto) saying after the 1981 draft “The 49ers need someone who will make a difference. Ronnie Lott won’t make a difference”.

        • Tom

          Agreed….we’d look back on Bradford’s career and start picking things out that demonstrated his “greatness”, etc.

      • sacramento gold miners

        I see what you mean, but these QBs actually have to do it, and that’s a huge barrier. As we’ve seen, occasionally, a good QB can deliver a title, but time will be the ultimate decider. It would be a miracle if Mike Glennon, Tyrod Taylor, etc ever reached a SB.

        A player’s history does play a role here. In my opinion, Carson Palmer won’t win a SB, and I don’t think Kurt Cousins will quite reach that level, either. In the AFC, I think Derek Carr and Andrew Luck has a better shots than the likes of Ryan Tannehill.

        • Four Touchdowns

          So let me ask you — what does Trent Dilfer or Mark Rypien have that Kirk Cousins, Carson Palmer, and Ryan Tannehill don’t?

          • sacramento gold miners

            They didn’t melt down in the playoffs in those seasons. Carson Palmer has struggled historically in the postseason. It’s also important to note neither Dilfer or Rypien ever appeared in a SB again.

            • Four Touchdowns

              Palmer has played three full playoff games in his career — I think it’s a big stretch to say that represents some large sample size we can draw conclusions from.

              • sacramento gold miners

                He’s a 37 year old QB with a 1-2 record, 5 tds and 7 picks, I think that speaks for itself.

                • Adam

                  It does? Don’t you think if Palmer had the 2000 Ravens defense behind him he would’ve won more playoff games?

                • Tom

                  It’s never that simple…never. How do I know this? Because Dilfer and Rypien have rings and as you yourself pointed out, neither of them appeared in a SB again. Palmer’s 3 playoff games, and the fact that he’s 37 doesn’t “speak for itself”, in regards to how good he is, or whether he’s capable of getting a ring. If he had 6 or 10 appearances, etc., I might go with you…but three? C’mon man.

                  • sacramento gold miners

                    Palmer had talented teams in Cincinnati. and couldn’t make the playoffs. And his NFC TG against Carolina was horrible. He’s a very good QB, in that Tony Romo category.

                    • Tom

                      And Bradshaw had one of the greatest defenses of all time in 1976 and lost in the playoffs, and yes, I know that’s partly because Bleier and Franco were out for that game against Oakland. If Bradshaw were truly Great, he could have overcome that, blah, blah, blah, like your argument for Big Ben in ’08, right? Bad O-line, etc., no running game, etc.

                      We can judge Palmer on his entire career, any way you like, but I’m certainly not basing my judgement on his three playoff games. We can get into details about his busted finger, etc., etc….it’s just not enough games.

                    • sacramento gold miners

                      Great QBs aren’t going to win all postseason games, just ask Tom Brady. A 37 year old QB with a very good career should win more than a single playoff game.

                    • Tom

                      Well, above you say he’s a “very good QB, in that Tony Romo category”, so let’s just leave it at that…besides, the topic really isn’t “is Carson Palmer a good QB?”, it’s “could Carson Palmer lead a team to a Super Bowl?” You don’t think so, I do, so I guess we’re about done with this!

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      This is why context is so important.

                      He may have had talented teams from ’04 to ’10, but his Bengals were in the same Division as the Ravens and Steelers, who had some all-time great defenses during that time period.

                      But really, that’s besides the point — no one’s saying he’s up there with Joe Montana or Aaron Rodgers, we’re just saying that he’s good enough for a team to win it all with. The fact that far lesser QBs like Doug Williams and Phil Simms have won it all is proof enough of that.

                      Earlier, I asked you what Rypien and Dilfer have that Palmer doesn’t and you said they didn’t meltdown in those post seasons. First off, that alone is untrue — Dilfer had a 31% completion percentage, no TDs, and a 58.6 passer rating in his win over the Titans en route to his Super Bowl while Rypien posted an interception, no TDs, a 48% completion percentage and a 51.4 rating in his 24-7 win over the Falcons en route to his Super Bowl.

                      And throughout their playoff careers, Dilfer has thrown 4 TDs to 4 INTs while Rypien has thrown 8 TDs to 10 INTs — so it’s not like they’re raising their game in the playoffs.

                      Even “clutch” playoff QBs have had crappy performances en route to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady has no TDs, an INT, and a 70 rating against Oakland on his way to his first Super Bowl. He had 2 TDs, 3 INTs and a 66 rating in a win against the Chargers on his way to the 2007 Super Bowl. He had 0 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 57 rating in a whin against Baltimore on his way to the 2011 Super Bowl. And just this last year, he had 2 TDs, 2 INTs, a 47% completion percentage, and a 68 rating in his win over the Texans en route to his fifth Super Bowl title.

                      Joe Montana has four playoff games with no TDs and at least one INT. His Niners were crushed by the Giants 49-3 as he posted a 34.2 rate — good thing he has had great teams and multiple opportunities to play well in the playoffs so no one remembers games like that.

                    • garymrosen

                      I will say on Montana’s behalf (as always :^)) that in the 12 playoff games during the 49ers 4 SB wins he had only three games with a QB rating under 100, and only one less than 80 (60 against Chicago in 1984). His best play coincided with the team’s best performances. Actually it was not a coincidence.

                    • garymrosen

                      “so no one remembers games like that.”

                      Not true, as a 49er fan I remember that game very well. It was at the end of a season in which Montana returned from midseason back surgery to lead the team to the playoffs while Walsh was rebuilding the offensive line.

        • WR

          I think Palmer is a good example of how the perception of a guy can be hurt by playing a small number of playoff games. He’s only played 3 full playoff games, and one of them was terrible, so many people talk about him as someone who wilts on the big stage. But if Palmer had played 20 playoff games instead of 3, would that bad game against Carolina be viewed the same way? I think in that case, people would be far more likely to see the Carolina debacle as the anomaly it is.

          • Tom

            Exactly. I’m not saying the dude is a Hall guy, but sheesh, three playoff games?

      • Adam

        Totally agree. The franchise QB designation is often handed out in hindsight based on TEAM results. I’m sure after 2010 many people considered Mark Sanchez a franchise QB.

        I don’t think guys like Alex Smith and Joe Flacco should count as franchise QB’s. Despite making a ton of starts, both have been below average players over the course of their careers. Their team success is not a reflection of their play.

        • sacramento gold miners

          Well, the Chiefs have had limited team success. Put Len Dawson at the controls, and KC gets better results.

      • sn0mm1s

        I think you are being way too generous with your franchise QB distinction. The premise is self fulfilling if a single good year makes a QB a franchise QB. I generally consider a franchise QB one that has repeated success. How about looking at QBs that have made 3+ PBs or 1 1st team AP? I think this is a much better measurement of a franchise QB than ANY.

        Using that as criteria QBs with 3+ PBs or 1 AP have accounted for 61 of 68 starting SB QBs since 2000. That group has won 14 of the 17 SBs since 2000. There are only 23 QBs that fit that criteria since 2000 and 103 that started at least 16 games that do not.

        Obviously, this doesn’t factor in age and probably prevents most players with less that 3 years experience from being considered a franchise QB. However,
        Drew Brees
        Tom Brady
        Eli Manning
        Philip Rivers
        Ben Roethlisberger
        Aaron Rodgers
        Matt Ryan
        Andy Dalton
        Cam Newton
        Andrew Luck
        Russell Wilson
        all fit 3+ PBs, 1+ AP and are still starting. Add in Carr (2 PBs in 3 years) and Prescott (1 PB in 1 year) and I would be willing to bet that both starting SB QBs will be from these 13 players.

        • Richie

          Probably OK to have a system that doesn’t include anybody with less than 3 years experience. (Really, probably 4 years because only Andrew Luck made the Pro Bowl his first 3 years.)

          If you just looked at guys “on a good pace” through 2 years, you’d get some false positives like RGIII, Nick Foles, Marc Bulger, Vince Young, etc.)

        • Richie

          Using your criteria, and starting with the 2003 season (3 years after the 2000 season you began with), the following starting Super Bowl QB’s did not meet your criteria:

          2003: Delhomme, Brady
          2004: Brady
          2005: Roethlisberger, Hasselbeck
          2006: Grossman
          2007: Manning
          2008: Roethlisberger
          2009: none
          2010: Rodgers, Roethlisberger
          2011: Manning
          2012: Flacco, Kaepernick
          2013: Wilson
          2014: Wilson
          2015: Newton
          2016: none

          So out of the last 28 QB’s to start a Super Bowl, only 12 (43%) would have been on your list. And only twice did BOTH QB’s come from your criteria.

          I would take your bet. I say that at least one of the starting QB’s for the 2017 Super Bowl is not amongst Brees, Brady, Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Ryan, Dalton, Newton, Luck or Wilson. But I’d be awfully nervous about it!

          • sn0mm1s

            I said you have issues with QBs early in their careers. My point still stands though… Delhomme, Grossman, Flacco, Kaep are the only guys on that list that haven’t had 3 PBs or 1 AP.

        • sacramento gold miners

          The problem with recognizing Pro Bowls in recent years has been the increasing number of players who skip the game. We need to make sure the PB berths are authentic, and I don’t have the time to do the research.

          • Richie

            Even though some guys get undeserving Pro Bowls, the PFR definition of a Pro Bowl nod seems to work out. here is a list of everybody who has had 2+ pro bowls since 2000. It seems like a reasonable approximation of regular season performance.

            Player PB
            Peyton Manning 13
            Tom Brady 12
            Drew Brees 10
            Brett Favre* 6
            Donovan McNabb 6
            Philip Rivers 6
            Aaron Rodgers 6
            Ben Roethlisberger 5
            Jeff Garcia 4
            Eli Manning 4
            Tony Romo 4
            Matt Ryan 4
            Michael Vick 4
            Daunte Culpepper 3
            Andy Dalton 3
            Rich Gannon 3
            Matt Hasselbeck 3
            Andrew Luck 3
            Steve McNair 3
            Cam Newton 3
            Carson Palmer 3
            Kurt Warner* 3
            Russell Wilson 3
            Marc Bulger 2
            Derek Carr 2
            Trent Green 2
            Matt Schaub 2
            Alex Smith 2
            Vince Young 2

          • sn0mm1s

            I find it pretty unlikely that someone would make 3+ PBs based on players skipping the game. Even if that was the case it probably doesn’t happen very often.

            • sacramento gold miners

              The last five years has been worse in this regard, so Pro Bowl totals will need to be scrutinized more carefully for players in the future. I wouldn’t call Andy Dalton a franchise QB, that’s for sure.

  • Tom

    Here’s something else we can throw on the fire. If we define a “Great QB” as one who wins a SB (meaning, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino aren’t Great, which makes this somewhat silly), than we have 51 Great QB’s. Now, the Great QB’s, because they are Great, should win again if they get to a second Super Bowl. Here’s what we’ve got:

    (I did this pretty quick, so correct me if I’m leaving anything out…Chase you’ve probably even done a post on this at some point, just for trivia purposes)

    32 times a QB who has won a SB has returned to the Big Game, and that QB has won 20 times, for 63%. Below are the Super Bowl records for returning QB’s after their first SB victory (remember, a QB is not “Great” until he wins a SB):

    Starr 1-0
    Griese 1-0
    Staubach 1-2
    Bradshaw 3-0
    Theisman 0-1
    Plunkett 1-0
    Montana 3-0
    Aikman 2-0
    Favre 0-1
    Elway 1-0
    Warner 0-2
    Brady 4-2
    Roethlisberger 1-1
    P. Manning 1-2
    E. Manning 1-0
    R. Wilson 0-1

    Now, there is some funky overlap here because some of these guys lost games to Great QB’s, but I think that’s a wash: for example, in 2011 both QB’s were returning, one wins, one loses, result is a “tie” as it were.

    The results are mixed, but in my mind, if you need a Great QB to win the SB, the past record should be a bit higher than 63%. Keep in mind, we’re leaving out Marino’s loss, all of Kelley’s losses, Elway’s three losses…and we generally consider those guys “great”.

    As far as recent numbers, the W/L record for returning QB’s for the last ten years (since 2007) is 42%; returning Great QB’s have lost 7 out of 12 times: Brady (twice), Peyton (twice), Warner, Big Ben, and Russell Wilson have all lost Super Bowls. One more thing – four of those 7 losses were to guys who were not Great (by our definition): Eli in ’07, Brees in ’09, Rodgers in ’10, Wilson in ’13.

    By this absurd, very quick and very dirty study, having a Great QB helps, but it’s certainly not a lock to win.

    • sacramento gold miners

      There’s no doubt a QB can be great, even if they can’t quite win a SB, like the guys you mentioned. I’ve already stated as much, and Buffalo’s struggles since Jim Kelly says it all. With just 12 SB winning QBs not of HOF quality, it’s very helpful to have an elite QB on your team.

      • Richie

        I don’t think the Music City Miracle has anything to do with Jim Kelly, but it’s one of the reasons the Bills haven’t won a playoff game in decades.

        • sacramento gold miners

          It just demonstrates the problems Buffalo has had in finding a franchise QB. Rob Johnson wasn’t the answer.

          • Richie

            But you’re using it as evidence that Jim Kelly was a great QB.

            Kelly was a fine QB, but the franchise’s success or lack thereof since he left is really not proof one way or the other.

            • sacramento gold miners

              Team success at the level Buffalo had usually requires a franchise QB, and we’ve seen the problems since Kelly retired. Before Kelly, the Bills had a decent QB in Joe Ferguson, but only made a few playoff appearances with him.

              • Tom

                Well, I agree with Four TD’s on this. I can’t get passed the fact that the Bills got coach Marv Levy, RB Thurman Thomas and WR Andre Reed, among others, at around the same time Kelly came on board. Using the franchise success as a measure of QB quality makes no sense at all. If you want to say that Kelly is better than Ferguson, use something else, like ANY/A or just plain old yards.

                • sacramento gold miners

                  Based on history, if we put Joe Ferguson on those 90s Bills, their chances of winning four straight AFC titles is reduced. If we put Kelly on those early 80s Bills teams, they probably advance further in the postseason. And if we put Carson Palmer on the ’08 Cardinals, they may not beat Green Bay in the NFC title game.

                  • Tom

                    Sure, that’s all possible, and you’re basing those assumptions on the QB’s team’s previous playoff record and I wouldn’t.

                    I’m not looking at Kelly’s playoff record, then saying “That means he would improve other teams playoff records”. I don’t buy that.

                    It’s not completely wrong, but I’d rather look at the QB’s stats, how he actually played in those playoff games etc.

            • Four Touchdowns

              Yeah, the franchise’s success as a measure of QB quality makes no sense — if everything about the Bills stayed the same after Jim Kelly, then you can absolutely make that claim. But players get older, rosters turn over, coaches and front office staff change, etc.

              Comparing the ’89 Niners to the ’16 Niners is irrelevant in making a case for how good Joe Montana is.

      • Four Touchdowns

        At this point, I’m losing track of what the argument is, LOL.

        You’re acknowledging that it’s not essential to have a great QB to win a Super Bowl, just that it helps — which I think everyone else agrees with.

        What’s the debate?

        • Tom

          Hahahaha….I was thinking the same thing! Not just sacramento’s comments but my own…what are we talking about again?

          It looks like we all agree that having a Great QB isn’t essential but certainly a help (how much of a help we probably differ on) if you want to win a SB. So, I guess, we’re done?

          • Richie

            No, you’re wrong. Great QB’s are no help at all. I would much rather have a mediocre QB than a HOF QB.

            • Tom

              Damn, I thought we’d come to a consensus on this.