Worst Quarterback Performances to Win a Super Bowl

While quarterbacks are usually the constant in how teams perform in a Super Bowl, there have been a few truly horrendous quarterback performances to win a Super Bowl. It doesn’t seem like Joe Burrow or Matthew Stafford will add their name to this list, but let’s check out who some of the worst Super Bowl quarterback performances were.

Terry Bradshaw – Super Bowl XIV: Los Angeles Rams vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

In 1979 the Pittsburgh Steelers were 12-4 and AFC Central Division champions.   The Steelers averaged 26 points per game, which was number one in the NFL and their famed “Steel Curtain” defense were fifth in the league allowing 16.4 points per game. 

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw started all 16 games, throwing for 3,724 yards, 26 touchdowns, 25 interceptions, with a 54.9 completion percentage and a 77-passer rating.  Running back Franco Harris rushed for 1,186 yards and accounted for 12 touchdowns (11 rushing and one receiving) and John Stallworth led the team in receiving with 70 receptions with 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Steelers were a 9.5-point favorite over the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round as Pittsburgh entered the playoffs looking to win back-to-back titles for the second time in 1970’s.  Terry Bradshaw completed 21 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers prevailed over the Dolphins, 34-14 to advance to the AFC Championship game against their rivals the Houston Oilers.  In the AFC Championship game, the Steelers, a 9.5-point home favorite, beat the Oilers 27-13 as the defense held Houston’s star running back Earl Campbell to 15 yards on 17 carries.  Terry Bradshaw threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter and finished the game completing 18 passes for 219 yards.  The Steelers were on their way to Super Bowl XIV to face the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, looking to win their fourth Super Bowl title in franchise history.

Entering Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, Pittsburgh was listed as a 10-point favorite over Los Angeles.  In the two previous playoff games against Miami, Terry Bradshaw had only thrown one interception as he threw 25 picks in the regular season.  After throwing an interception in the second quarter in which the Rams would turn into three points, Pittsburgh was down 13-10 to Los Angeles at halftime.  The three-time Super Bowl champion, Bradshaw threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the third quarter with the Steelers down 19-17, but the Rams were unable to turn any of those turnovers into points.  In the fourth quarter, Terry Bradshaw redeemed himself by throwing a 73-yard touchdown pass to John Stallworth at 12:15 of the fourth to put Pittsburgh up for good and on their way to their fourth Super Bowl crown. 

Despite the three turnovers, Terry Bradshaw was named the MVP of Super Bowl MVP and became the first and only Super Bowl MVP signal caller to throw more interceptions (three) than touchdown passes (two). 

Trent Dilfer – Super Bowl XXXV: New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens were 12-4 and finished second in the AFC Central Division.  Their defense is regarded as one of the five best defensive units of all-time as they allowed 10.3 points per game, which topped the NFL.  But on offense, they struggled with Tony Banks as their starting quarterback, which caused Baltimore’s coaching staff to turn to Trent Dilfer after the Ravens went four straight games without scoring an offensive touchdown.  In eight regular season starts, Dilfer a first-round pick by Tampa Bay in 1994, threw for 1,502 yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions with a 59.3 completion percentage and 76.6 passer rating. 

Against the Denver Broncos, as a 3.5-point favorite, the Ravens won the game, 21-3 in the wild card round.  Dilfer was 9-14 for 130 yards and a touchdown.  This game was won due to a dominating performance from the trio of Ray Lewis, Michael McCrary, and Peter Boulware as the combined for 17 tackles, four sacks and an interception.  In the divisional round, the Ravens, a six-point underdog took down the Tennessee Titans, 24-10.  Dilfer played poorly in this game, completing five out of 16 passes for 116 yards while being sacked three times and finishing the contest with a 58.6 passer rating.  In the AFC Championship game, the Ravens were a six-point road underdog to the Oakland Raiders, as they were vying for the right to play the NFC Champion New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.  This was another average performance by Dilfer as he was 9-18 for 190 yards, one touchdown, one interception, sacked twice with an 83.1 passer rating.  The defense intercepted Raiders quarterbacks, Rich Gannon, and Bobby Hoying a combined four times and sacked them four times as well.  The Ravens won, 16-3 and were headed to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Baltimore headed into Super Bowl XXXV as a three-point favorite over New York.  At 6:50 of the first quarter Trent Dilfer threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley for the first score of the game; that would be the Baltimore quarterback’s only significant contribution on the day for the Ravens.  The Ravens easily beat the Giants 34-7 to win their first Super Bowl title.  Baltimore scored their other points on the day on two field goals, a pick-six, a kickoff return, and a short rushing touchdown by Jamal Lewis.  The Ravens defense dominated the Giants offense, limiting them to 112 passing yards, holding New York’s running game to 66 yards and sacking New York’s quarterback Kerry Collins four times.  The Ravens punted the ball 10 times in the game with six three and out drives.  Trent Dilfer completed 12 passes out of 25 attempts for 153 yards and a touchdown.  This certainly was not quarterback play at its finest and Baltimore’s championship will be remembered for their dominating defense. 

In the off-season the Ravens didn’t resign Dilfer and the quarterback wasn’t brought back to defend the Ravens championship.  He remains the only quarterback who wasn’t resigned by his club after winning the Super Bowl. 

Ben Roethlisberger – Super Bowl XL: Seattle Seahawks vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Super Bowl XL as a four-point favorite over the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks.  It was the Steelers sixth Super Bowl appearance, while Seattle was making its first appearance in the NFL’s big game. 

Super Bowl XL is known for being played in Detroit, the home of Jerome Bettis, Steelers’ star running back who walked off the field a champion in his last game.  But this Super Bowl is also remembered for being one of the most unwatchable championship games in history and for the worst quarterback play by a winning starting quarterback in Super Bowl history.  Second-year Pittsburgh quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger was terrible in the game, posting a 22.6 passer rating, the worst quarterback rating in Super Bowl history.  For the game, “Big Ben,” was nine of 21 for 123 yards, no touchdown passes, two interceptions and sacked once.  The Steelers signal caller scored on one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but replays showed the play should have been overturned, as the Steelers quarterback did not reach the endzone.  With Pittsburgh leading Seattle, 14-10 in the fourth quarter, the Steelers coaching staff showed their lack of confidence in their young quarterback with one significant play call.  At 8:56 of the fourth quarter the Steelers called for a wide receiver pass as former college quarterback, Hines Ward (Georgia) threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to another former college quarterback, Antwaan Randle El (Indiana) to put the game away, securing the franchise’s fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks. 

Roethlisberger’s performance was horrid in Super Bowl XL, but he did manage to redeem himself in his next Super Bowl appearance.   Against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, Roethlisberger led the team on a lengthy drive late in the fourth quarter which culminated in an amazing six-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the back of the endzone to clinch the club’s sixth Super Bowl title.  In the game, Roethlisberger was 21-30 for 256 yards, one touchdown and a 93.2 passer rating.

Peyton Manning – Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos entered Super Bowl 50 as a five-point underdog to the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers featuring league MVP Cam Newton.  It was the Broncos eighth Super Bowl appearance, while Carolina was making its second appearance in the NFL’s big game; losing in their first appearance to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

This game is mostly remembered for the Broncos Von Miller’s dominant performance which earned him the MVP of the game as Denver beat Carolina, 24-10.  The Broncos linebacker had 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles (both leading to Denver touchdowns) and two quarterback hits. 

Super Bowl 50 will also be known as NFL legend, Peyton Manning’s last game as he got to walk off into the sunset a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.   The 2015 season was extremely difficult for the five-time league MVP as Manning battled injuries throughout the season forcing the Broncos to start back-up Brock Osweiler in seven games.  In 10 regular season games (nine starts), Manning threw for 2,249 yards, nine touchdowns, 17 interceptions with a 59.8 completion percentage.  The seven-time All-Pro simply didn’t have the arm strength to deliver the ball with the same zip he once had.  This culminated in a below average performance in Super Bowl 50. 

The 14-time Pro Bowler completed 13 passes out of 23 attempts for 141 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, sacked five times with a 56.6 passer rating in his final career game.  He did throw a two-point conversion to Benny Fowler after Denver’s final touchdown of the game.  The Manning-led offense punted the ball eight times on the day and had six three and out drives.  Quite frankly Denver won this championship despite Manning’s poor play, a sad way for such a tremendous player’s career to end.  But he left it all on the field and was once again a Super Bowl champion.

Scott has been a sports fan since he received a New York Mets jacket as a toddler. He’s been playing fantasy baseball and football for over 20 years, dating back to Frank Thomas being one of his first fantasy baseball picks. As a professional, he has covered the NFL, MLB, NCAAF, and NCAAB and is looked to as the go-to guy for fantasy sports amongst family, friends, and co-workers.

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