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The Most Overrated Quarterbacks Who Won Super Bowls

  • Feb 5, 2012

How many Super Bowls do you think were won on the strength of great quarterbacking? Well, there were a lot. But the thing with the Super Bowl is that it allows a chance for mediocre players to shine on the nation's biggest stage. A great number of quarterbacks have strutted into the big game and played flawlessly, giving their all for what may be their only chance. 


That being said, however, the Super Bowl spotlight has a habit of cementing players' legacies. If they succeed, they're known as great clutch artists, and some are heralded as all-time greats. And some of those players, while very good, were overrated. Others weren't great at all. Here's a few cases of players who aren't QUITE worthy of the accolades bestowed upon them. In fact, some of them were downright bad. 

Joe Namath

Joe Namath is in the Hall of Fame, and he was the quarterback of the New York Jets for the pivotal Super Bowl III. But Namath is the textbook definition of overrated. People try to defend his presence in the Hall of Fame by talking about his advanced mechanics and the fact that he was the first quarterback to ever throw for over 4000 yards in a season, and the only one to do it in a 14-game season. The latter accomplishment is huge, no doubt, but as for the former, plenty of quarterbacks have had fantastic mechanics too, even ones who will never be in Hal of Fame consideration: Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, and Matt Leinart all have advanced quarterbacking mechanics, so trying to argue for Namath based on that alone is absurd. 


What Namath had was a lot of hype and a lot of luck. He played for the Alabama Crimson Tide under Bear Bryant - a big-time college football team ruled by a big-time college coach. Then he made big money in the Big Apple. Namath made headlines for having the biggest personality around, which to his credit was instrumental in setting the upstart AFL up in the battle the the stalwart NFL. There's no denying the imprint he smashed into the game helped elevate it to its current level of popularity. 


THAT is the ONLY reason Namath is regarded as a legend. As a quarterback, Namath sucked so bad, there's no way you can even begin to put the proper spin on his career numbers to make them look better or excuse them. When Namath retired, he had a career passer rating of 65.46, 50.1 percent pass completion rate, 27,663 passing yards, and 173 touchdowns to a whopping 220 interceptions. His career record was 62-63-4, and after Super Bowl III, only two of those wins came against teams with winning records. His one great contribution to Super Bowl III was to not throw an interception, but the Jets won that game on running and defense while Namath threw for a pedestrian 17 of 28 for 206 yards and no touchdowns. Those career numbers are pathetic and had Namath spent his career exiled to some lost outpost like Detroit, he's just another long-forgotten bad quarterback. 

Terry Bradshaw

Bradshaw is a likable hillbilly, and as a winner of four Super Bowl rings, he can hardly be called a bad quarterback. Unlike Namath, he didn't spend the majority of his time being detrimental to his team's success, and his gutsiness, toughness, and leadership were instrumental in leading the Pittsburgh Steelers through what ultimately turned out to be one of the most incredible long-term franchise turnarounds in history. As I wrote in my review of the old team, the Steelers were doormats for close to four decades before Bradshaw took them to the heights of the league. 


Bradshaw is also in the Hall of Fame, though I'm not sure if I believe he deserves that. Certainly he has a number of accolades which make a good case for him: Three Pro Bowls, All-Pro selection, All-Decade team in the 70's, 1978 league MVP, and two-time Super Bowl MVP. Maybe those could push a fence voter into Bradshaw's favor a bit more, but then again, 27,989 career passing yards, a career quarterback rating of 70.9, and a TD-INT ratio of 212-210 might push a voter the wrong way. He also once had a season in which he threw 24 interceptions against six touchdowns in 13 games. You can't deny his accomplishments, but Terry Bradshaw is certainly overrated through that lens, Hall of Fame or not. 

Jeff Hostetler

Before I started researching this list, Jeff Hostetler wasn't even in contention. He was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1984 draft to back up Phil Simms, and his big break was Simms's foot on December 15, 1990. The injury kept Simms out of the Super Bowl, and Hostetler stepped in and took care of business in a Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills in which neither team turned over the ball. Hostetler, not having the talent necessary to lead the Giants to victory himself, was instructed to merely not be a hero and not screw up a carefully crafted gameplan created to slow down Buffalo's revolutionary K-Gun offense. Hostetler did what he was told and the Giants eked out a nail-biting, 20-19 victory. 


That's not why I'm including him. By most accounts, that was the last thing on my mind about Hostetler. But when I found myself googling the necessary research, I learned that Hostetler threw for 94 touchdowns, 71 interceptions, and 16,430 passing yards for an 80.48 career passer rating. In 1994, he made the Pro Bowl! Those numbers are fantastic if you're a career backup, and ultimately, that's why Hostetler is on this list. He was a career backup who had a run of spectacular luck. 

Trent Dilfer

Another guy I originally had no intention of putting onto this list. He's Trent Dilfer, and that Trent Dilfer sucks may be the NFL's worst-kept secret! But you know what? He started lots of games, was the primary go-to guy for a number of them, and (sigh) made a Pro Bowl. I'll grant this: Dilfer is a good guy, and so it's nice to see that for once, a guy like him became successful beyond any laws of space, time, or real-world possibility. 


In all fairness, Dilfer put up a better career completion percentage (55.5) and quarterback rating (70.2) than Namath. Putrid, yes, and a TD-INT ratio of 113-129 to go with a paltry 20,518 career passing yards don't help his case. This guy has a ring while Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, and Jim Kelly don't. We employ the term "system quarterback" a lot these days, not always fairly. I'm not against the concept, but I believe that a great quarterback can evolve beyond his system and carry his team when it's required. Throughout his career, Dilfer seemed to keep finding systems, then doing just enough to keep his teams in contention. 

Jim Plunkett

The Raiders are an odd duck when it comes to quarterbacking. The team is a known misfit island that keeps winning, and that's reflected in their quarterbacks. The Raiders are very strongly identified and defined by their quarterbacks, but their quarterbacks have been mostly journeymen who found weird strides in a Raider outfit. Two of their quarterbacks, Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett, have won Super Bowls as starters for the team. 


Yet, Plunkett was a bad quarterback. He played in the NFL for 16 seasons, and in twelve of them, he heaved more interceptions than touchdowns. I lamented Hostetler and Dilfer above because they made Pro Bowls; Plunkett, in all his years, never got to a Pro Bowl despite being a Rookie of the Year and a Comeback Player of the Year. He won two Super Bowls starting for the Raiders, and was even the MVP of one of them. It's frequently mentioned that he's the only quarterback to ever win more than one Super Bowl and not be in the Hall of Fame. And with 164 touchdowns, 198 interceptions, and a putrid 67.5 career quarterback rating, it's easy to see why the election committee passed on him.

Ken Stabler

Speaking of Raiders quarterbacks. He holds many of Oakland's team passing records, but generally it's the same as above, different numbers.

Doug Williams

The Washington Redskins are one of the NFL's classic franchises, and they have a legion of racial injustices in their past to boot. They were the team responsible for the NFL being segregated at all. They were the last team to integrate, something their owner only grudgingly did with Uncle Sam's boot over his head once the Civil Rights movement was in full swing. So it was a gratifying story when Doug Williams, a black quarterback, became the first black quarterback to ever lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. And that team was none other than the perpetrator of the NFL's worst racial crimes, the Washington Redskins. 


Unfortunately, too often these days Williams gets mistaken for a great quarterback. Good, yes. But my final entry on this list had the lowest pass completion percentage of anyone on it with 49.5. He threw 100 touchdowns to 93 interceptions, and has a meager 16,998 career passing yards to go with a paltry 69.4 quarterback rating. He never went to a Pro Bowl, and with statistics like that, it's tough to argue his Pro Bowl exclusion was a racial thing. People give Donovan McNabb a lot of shit for losing a very winnable Super Bowl, but McNabb was actually a great quarterback. 

What did you think of this list?

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February 27, 2012
I don't meant to trash your list but it's called the "most overrated" QBs to win the SB. Maybe Namath and Bradshaw are good but Dilfer was not overrated because he as just a game manager that the Ravens plugged in to not turn the ball over. Hoss was a back-up to Phil Simms who got hurt, and it's hard to call Plunket and Williams overrated when they are not in the Hall of Fame and were, again, plug ins. To me the MOST overrated QB to win a SB is Ben Rothelsberger. He is the QB with the distinction of having the WORST QB rating of a SB winning QB in Super Bowl XL and the Steelers won depsite him. He did have a good game in the SB win against the Cardinals. But to me, it's that defense that wins those SBs for Pittsburgh.
February 08, 2012
Great analysis on these players. I was too young to remember much of Bradshaw's time although I am a Steelers fan. I am with Madpenguin, I am a little bummed that Marrino never got a ring. I would include Bret Favre on this list.
February 07, 2012
I agree with Mike. The QBs on your list very much belong there. Quarterbacking is a science which transcends the numbers and gets into split-decision moments, team execution, motivation and many other things that are determining factors in very close games.
February 07, 2012
Great list but I disagree with your premise. The only overrated QB on your list was Bradshaw. Namath made the Jets who they are and helped them to the playoffs several times. If not for the knee injuries that killed his mobility he might have been greater (HBO is currently showing a documentary on him). Hostetler was a backup that got lucky when Simms went down. Plunkett was one of the best college QBs ever at the time he played but it took him till the end of his career to become a quality NFL QB. Stabler was always second fiddle to Darryl Lamonica and only got to lead the Raiders at the end of his career. Bradshaw was a smart QB on great teams. Even though he won 4 Super Bowls he is never considered in the same class as guys like Montana, Aikman, Elway. You may want to have added to your list Earl Morrell.
February 07, 2012
Educational list...I don't know anything about football and I enjoyed reading up on all these guys!
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Nicholas Croston ()
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