If media day showed us anything, it's that the quarterbacks are the show. The storylines in this Super Bowl, as much as any before it, are driven by the quarterbacks ‒ Tom Brady making his case for the greatest of all time, while Eli Manning makes his case that he's as good as Tom Brady, his brother, or any other quarterback who ever played.
It's gotten me thinking about the best quarterback matchups in Super Bowl history. To take subjectivity out of it (in other words, to make sure I don't just put Stan Humphries at No. 1, because Stan Humphries is awesome), I ranked all the Super Bowl quarterback matchups by the combined regular-season QB ratings of the participants. Some of the names may surprise you. Here we go.
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10. Super Bowl XXIX - Steve Young vs. Stan Humphries - 194.4.
And Stan Humphries still made the list! Worldwide audiences were glued to their televisions to watch Stanny Hump Hump throw lasers ‒ ah, who am I kidding? This has nothing to do with Stanny Hump Hump and everything to do with Steve Young, who had a monster passer rating of 112.8 that year. It's the only matchup on the list where one QB so clearly carried the other. That's how great Steve Young was in '94 ‒ he put Stan Humphries on this list.
9. Super Bowl XXVI - Mark Rypien vs. Jim Kelly - 195.5.
It's good to see Jim Kelly on the list, as he was a fantastic quarterback who had some great regular seasons. I doubt he fondly remembers any of his Super Bowls, though. And a surprise to see Mark Rypien, but he was a stud in that '91 season. He had a rating of 97.9, with 28 touchdowns against 11 interceptions ‒ and a tremendous yards-per-completion average of 14.3. It was his best NFL season by far.
8. Super Bowl VI - Roger Staubach and Bob Griese - 195.7.
One of just two single-digit Super Bowls (in regular numbers, not Roman Numerals, or, acknowledging the only purpose they have left in the world, Super Bowl numbers) to make the list, the victory goes to Staubach. His regular season was better (104.8 to Griese's 90.9), and he was the game's MVP, too. Griese wouldn't stay down, though ‒ he won the next two Super Bowls.
7. Super Bowl XL - Ben Roethlisberger vs. Matt Hasselbeck - 196.8.
I was a little surprised to see this one make the list, as it's a Super Bowl that certainly won't be remembered for its high level of quarterback play. Ben Roethlisberger won the game despite an in-game rating of 22.6 ‒ nine completions on 11 attempts, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Hasselbeck threw the ball a lot more, going 26 of 49, but his yards-per-attempt was actually worse than Roethlisberger's.
6. Super Bowl XXXIX - Tom Brady vs. Donovan McNabb - 197.3.
Tom Brady is one of only two quarterbacks to make the list twice (the other is Ben Roethlisberger), and this one happened to come at the same time as Donovan McNabb's best year as a pro. Brady won the matchup, of course, while McNabb was alleged to have gotten tired and vomited on his shoes in the game. The time since this game has been kinder to Brady.
5. Super Bowl XLV - Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger - 198.2.
Last year's Super Bowl matchup, in which Aaron Rodgers outdueled Ben Roethlisberger, puts Rodgers on the list ‒ something else that Brett Favre can't claim. Incidentally, had the Packers been able to beat the Giants this season, the matchup of Rodgers vs. Brady would've destroyed every other game on this list. The QB rating total would've been 228.1, more than 16 points better than the current No. 1.
4. Super Bowl XLVI - Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning - 198.5.
Please note that this is the game being played on Sunday, not the previous matchup in Super Bowl XLII. That one narrowly missed the list (191.1 if you're curious, 13th all time), while this one easily ranks as one of the best Super Bowl QB matchups of all time. Keep that in mind as you're watching. We're in the golden era of quarterbacking and we should enjoy it.
3. Super Bowl I - Bart Starr vs. Len Dawson - 206.7.
It's rather remarkable that the first Super Bowl ever ranks so high on the list. The higher numbers definitely skew to the more recent Super Bowls as I expected, but there were some great ones early ‒ three of the first 11 Super Bowls topped out at over 190 (Ken Stabler vs. Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl XI didn't quite make the list). Of all the totals under 170, 14 of them happened in Super Bowl XXI or lower, while only two came after that point.
2. Super Bowl XLIV - Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning - 209.5.
The last three Super Bowls are in the top five (including the one that's about to be played), with the run starting here. It's good to see Peyton Manning make the list, too. He's only played in two Super Bowls to this point, and in his other one, he was saddled with Rex Grossman as an opponent, severely limiting the potential. This one, with Brees, has all kinds of star power, but still probably pales in comparison to No. 1 on the list.
1. Super Bowl XIX - Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino - 211.8.
Color me surprised that Joe Montana only makes the top 10 once ‒ I guess it's a sign of the inflated quarterback numbers of today. Still, even with today's inflation a Montana vs. Marino matchup is enough to top the charts. If Super Bowl XIX had the same media hype and attention of Super Bowl XLVI, Montana and Marino wouldn't have been able to breathe back in '84. Marino, of course, came up short in the only Super Bowl he ever played in.
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