Ranking every Super Bowl QB matchup from I to LV

55. Jim McMahon vs. Tony Eason


The list isn't look at how the matchups played out during the game, but rather the anticipation of the matchups before the Big Game. Here is the ranking from worst to best. Eason was one of the other quarterbacks from the '83 draft class, and Walter Payton and the Bears defense were more renowned heading into Super Bowl XX.

54. Kerry Collins vs. Trent Dilfer

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Both quarterbacks for the Giants and Ravens were on their second teams and the focus was on the defense and other parts of the game for Super Bowl XXXV.

53. Rich Gannon vs. Brad Johnson

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Two journeyman old guys squaring off in Super Bowl XXXVII. Again, the emphasis was more on other parts of the game than the QB battle.

52. Jim Plunkett vs. Ron Jaworski

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The two quarterbacks were on their second teams, and Plunkett was considered washed up, even though he led the Raiders to Super Bowl XV.

51. Bob Griese vs. Billy Kilmer


Griese was hurt for most of 1972 and Kilmer was the hot hand for Washington leading up to Super Bowl VII.

50. Bart Starr vs. Daryle Lamonica

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Lamonica was a star for the Raiders and Starr was the signal caller for the Packers' efficient offense as the two met in Super Bowl II.

49. Len Dawson vs. Joe Kapp

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Maybe the matchup would have been more interesting if Fran Tarkenton were the Vikings' quarterback for Super Bowl IV.

48. Troy Aikman vs. Neil O'Donnell

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Aikman was the two-time champion and O'Donnell was the upstart. Quarterback wise, Super Bowl XXX didn't have the same feel as the previous times the Cowboys and Steelers hooked up.

47. Bob Griese vs. Fran Tarkenton

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Everyone knew all Griese did was hand off the ball; Tarkenton would be the one picking up the slack in Super Bowl VIII. The stats bore out as Griese won the Big Game going 6-of-7 for 73 yards — yes, in a complete game.

46. Craig Morton vs. Johnny Unitas


Unitas was nearing the end of his career and Morton was being carried by the Cowboys' ground game and Doomsday Defense, and Super Bowl V did turn out to be one of the worst Big Games ever.

45. Joe Theismann vs. "WoodStrock"

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Theismann was a decent quarterback in his own right, but the Dolphins featuring Don Strock and David Woodley at quarterback just ensured Super Bowl XVII would be about the running game and defense.

44. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Matt Hasselbeck

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Roethlisberger was in his second season and was a big part of the Steelers getting to Super Bowl XL. Hasselbeck was excelling in Mike Holmgren's offense, which was led by running back Shaun Alexander.

43. John Elway vs. Chris Chandler

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The Broncos were driven by running back Terrell Davis, and Chandler was a journeyman on a good team, who did his part to lead the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII.

42. Bart Starr vs. Len Dawson

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People wanted to see the two best NFL and AFL quarterbacks go against each other in the first Super Bowl, but it wasn't the compelling compared to the other matchups that followed. In a way, that's good. What if no other quarterback battle could compare to the first one in the history of the Big Game?

41. Terry Bradshaw vs. Fran Tarkenton


Bradshaw was still battling Terry Hanratty and Joe Gilliam for the starting job in Pittsburgh; he hadn't yet achieved his superstardom. Vikings vs. Steelers in Super Bowl IX was about the defense and run games.

40. Tom Brady vs. Jake Delhomme


Again, to reiterate, this list is about the anticipation of the matchups before the game, not an evaluation of the performance. People knew who Tom Brady was, but not so much for Delhomme leading into Super Bowl XXXVIII. They knew quickly thereafter though.

39. Tom Brady vs. Nick Foles

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Brady in the Big Game was old news, and Foles was just a bus driver. However, that was not the case in Super Bowl LII.

38. Steve Young vs. Stan Humphries

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Super Bowl XXIX in some regards was played in the NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Cowboys. This was as close as one could get to replicating the "Playoff Bowl" from the pre-Merger days.

37. Roger Staubach vs. Bob Griese

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The Cowboys and Dolphins featured great defenses and rushing attacks. Staubach was bringing all the QB star power.

36. Joe Montana vs. Ken Anderson

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Montana made great plays throughout the '81 season and was the catalyst for the 49ers making Super Bowl XVI. Anderson was a solid starter for years for Cincinnati.

35. Jim Kelly vs. Jeff Hostetler

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Kelly was the dynamic quarterback fans wanted to see in Super Bowl XXV; most folks knew Hostetler was adeptly driving the bus with Phil Simms out with an injury.

34. Jim Plunkett vs. Joe Theismann

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Super Bowl XVIII featured two quarterbacks who had each won the Big Game themselves, but the emphasis was still on the running backs with Washington's John Riggins and Los Angeles' Marcus Allen.

33. John Elway vs. Phil Simms

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Elway was starting to emerge as one of the league's best quarterbacks, and the Giants dominated en route to Super Bowl XXI.

32. Fran Tarkenton vs. Ken Stabler

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Tarkenton had been to the Big Game before, and the Raiders finally made it to Super Bowl XI.

31. Tom Brady vs. Jared Goff

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Again, who really wants to see Brady in a Super Bowl? And the Rams shouldn't have been in Super Bowl LIII anyway given the blown pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game.

30. Brett Favre vs. Drew Bledsoe

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Favre and the Packers were in Super Bowl XXXI taking on a young field general.

29. Roger Staubach vs. Craig Morton


It may have been a big deal back then for a former quarterback to face his old team in the Super Bowl, as was the case with Morton in Super Bowl XII, but there have been bigger storylines since then.

28. Joe Montana vs. Boomer Esiason

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People wanted to see what Montana would do in Super Bowl XXIII, and if the 49ers could win three Super Bowls in team history.

27. Troy Aikman vs. Jim Kelly I

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The Cowboys are always a big draw, and Kelly was in his third consecutive Big Game going into Super Bowl XXVII.

26. Vince Ferragamo vs. Terry Bradshaw

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The Rams were a Cinderella team led by Vince Ferragamo, and the Steelers were vying to win four Super Bowls. It was one of Bradshaw's more compelling quarterback battles ahead of Super Bowl XIV.

25. Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman

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People wanted to see Manning finally get his just due. For fun, at your watch parties Sunday, see if you can get a Mandela Effect going and have people believe Kyle Orton started in Super Bowl XLI and not Grossman.

24. Joe Namath vs. Earl Morrall


Namath saying the AFL champion Jets would beat the superior NFL champion Colts in Super Bowl III got a lot of people's attention. Could Namath deliver on his guarantee?

23. Mark Rypien vs. Jim Kelly

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The Bills offense was back in Super Bowl XXVI and squaring off against the best quarterback in the league that year in Rypien.

22. Kurt Warner vs. Steve McNair

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Warner had a great season in 1999 and McNair was skilled at combining scrambling with keeping the eyes downfield.

21. Roger Staubach vs. Terry Bradshaw I

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Staubach and Bradshaw each had star power and were Super Bowl champions, which made Super Bowl X compelling.

20. Kurt Warner vs. Tom Brady

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2001 was when Brady was Cinderella and not Violet Crawley, and he was taking on Warner, who had another powerful season, in Super Bowl XXXVI.

19. Troy Aikman vs. Jim Kelly II

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Same time next year. Aikman was the champion now. Could the Bills knock off the defending champs in Super Bowl XXVIII?

18. Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan

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Brady and Ryan were good quarterbacks in their own right going into Super Bowl LI. Could the Falcons put Atlanta pro sports back on the map?

17. Patrick Mahomes vs. Jimmy Garoppolo

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Everyone wanted to see Mahomes, and Garoppolo was more of a bus driver for San Francisco's running game going into Super Bowl LIV.

16. Peyton Manning vs. Russell Wilson

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If this had been later in Wilson's career, it would have been bigger. However, he was still young and the perception was he rode a running game and the Legion of Boom's coattails to get to Super Bowl XLVIII.

15. Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady I

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The Giants were on an improbable run was a wild-card and were taking on the perfect Patriots. How would Eli perform in Super Bowl XLI? Could it even hold a candle next to the excellence of Brady?

14. Doug Williams vs. John Elway

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Elway was getting another shot at winning the Big Game, and Williams would be setting history in Super Bowl XXIII.

13. Tom Brady vs. Donovan McNabb


Could Brady win a third Super Bowl? Could McNabb bring a world championship to Philadelphia for the first time since 1960? Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville had it all.

12. Kurt Warner vs. Ben Roethlisberger

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Warner and Roethlisberger were established champions, although Big Ben's may have been dragged across the finish line given he set the lowest passer rating for a winning quarterback at 22.6 in Super Bowl XL. How much of Roethlisberger was a fluke, and could Warner make history leading a second team to a championship in Super Bowl XLIII?

11. Colin Kaepernick vs. Joe Flacco

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Kaepernick was Lamar Jackson a half-decade before his time, and his play was next-generational. Flacco was also on an un-Flacco-like postseason run that led Baltimore into Super Bowl XLVII — all the while playing on an expiring contract.

10. Russell Wilson vs. Tom Brady


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Brady had three Super Bowl wins to this point and was in the unique situation of taking on the defending champions in Super Bowl XLIX.

9. Joe Montana vs. John Elway

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In Super Bowl XXIV, Elway was in the Super Bowl for the third time and Montana was going for his fourth win to tie Terry Bradshaw.

8. Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning II

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Now, Brady and Manning were each Super Bowl champions. Who would win this time?

7. Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees

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The Colts and Saints were the last of the undefeated teams heading into Week 15 of the 2009 season, and their quarterbacks were having career years. You couldn't ask for a better matchup in Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.

6. Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning

Cam Newton Super Bowl 50
Cam Newton Super Bowl 50

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Manning was probably playing in his last game, and Newton was the captain of a 15-1 team, and he was unstoppable in 2015. Who would prevail in Super Bowl 50?

5. Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger

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Roethlisberger was no fluke, and Rodgers was the catalyst for the Packers' wild-card run. Who would be the better quarterback in Super Bowl XLV?

4. John Elway vs. Brett Favre


As it looked like Elway's career was winding down and he would never get a shot at the Big Game again, he did, and he was going against the defending champions in Super Bowl XXXII.

3. Dan Marino vs. Joe Montana

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Marino was setting records throughout the 1984 season, but the 49ers were the Thanos in the hidden parts of the universe just waiting to collide with Miami and dust them away in Super Bowl XIX.

2. Roger Staubach vs. Terry Bradshaw II

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They were the best in the game and were multi-Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. Super Bowl XIII was the battle for team of the '70s. It has been difficult to get those momentous storylines in a Super Bowl since.

1. Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady

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It isn't a recency bias. Think about it: young champion who is the future at quarterback taking on a gridiron legend. Will the old dog teach the young pup some new tricks, or will the next generation turn the page at last?