“The NFL is a quarterback’s league” is something you may have heard the experts say if you have spent any time watching the National Football League over the past few years.
Unlike the emphasis on running the ball or on defense in the past, modern NFL teams rarely succeed without a strong “franchise” quarterback to build the team around.
What makes a strong quarterback? Great passing stats. What makes a top quarterback? One who can carry their team to the Super Bowl. And what makes a quarterback one of the game’s greatest? Performing at their pinnacle on the biggest stage of all – the Super Bowl.
So which quarterbacks are the greatest? Looking at who has the most passing yards in a Super Bowl, most Super Bowl wins, and other QB-heavy records will give us a clear idea!
MOST PASSING YARDS IN A SUPER BOWL
The top 10 passing yards in a Super Bowl include some of American football’s most legendary names, performances, and comebacks. Yet, surprisingly, a significant number of these performances still were not enough for the players in question to get their hands on the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.
10. DOUG WILLIAMS: 340 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XXII WASHINGTON REDSKINS VS. DENVER BRONCOS
We begin our countdown by going back to January 1988 to a quarterback performance significant for many reasons.
The Redskins were down 10-0 after the first quarter to the Denver Broncos, scoring 35 unanswered points in the second as Doug Williams became the first player to throw four touchdown passes in the same quarter of a Super Bowl. This and Williams’ 340 yards – the record at the time – set Washington up for a 42-10 win.
Williams became the first African American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, in which he was rightly named the MVP.
9. TOM BRADY: 354 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XXXVIII NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. CAROLINA PANTHERS
It’s no surprise that Tom Brady is on this list! Two years on from the franchise’s first Super Bowl, New England Patriots edged out Carolina Panthers in Houston, and the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick double act was well on its way to creating a dynasty.
Brady built solid drives, which all resulted in short touchdown runs and passes before he got Adam Vinatieri in position to win the game 32-29 with a field goal. This was Brady’s second of seven total Super Bowls!
8. JOE MONTANA: 357 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XXIII SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Doug Williams’ record lasted just twelve months; in 1989, at Super Bowl XXIII, Joe Montana threw the ball 17 yards further as the San Francisco 49ers ousted the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 in Miami.
The 49ers were behind by a touchdown but made a legendary game-winning drive in the final quarter. In the third of his four Super Bowls, Montana did not throw a touchdown pass until the final quarter, when he connected first with MVP Jerry Rice and then with John Taylor to win the game with 34 seconds remaining.
7. DONOVAN MCNABB: 357 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XXXIX PHILADELPHIA EAGLES VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
In 2005 at his only Super Bowl appearance, Donovan McNabb tied Joe Montana’s 357 passing yards. But 357 yards were not enough for a Super Bowl ring for Donovan McNabb, as he and Philadelphia Eagles lost 24-21 to Tom Brady’s New England Patriots.
McNabb seemed to have got Philly back into the game with his third touchdown pass of the game, but the drive that got them there had taken far too much time off the clock. Had McNabb hurried things up, he could have been a Super Bowl champion and possibly been higher on this list!
6. KURT WARNER: 365 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XXXVI ST. LOUIS RAMS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
In 2002, three years before the Eagles, another team passed their way through the New England Patriots’ defense but still came away with nothing. Keep in mind that this was the season in which Tom Brady began to shine as the top player in the entire NFL.
Kurt Warner notched 365 passing yards for the St. Louis Rams, who were the favorites against the up-and-coming Patriots but were 17-3 down with under 10 minutes to go. Warner ran for a touchdown himself and passed one to Ricky Proehl to tie the game with a minute and a half left. But, with seven seconds on the clock, Adam Vinatieri managed to kick a 48-yard field goal, sealing the first Super Bowl for New England, Brady, and Belichick with a score of 20-17.
5. NICK FOLES: 373 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL LII PHILADELPHIA EAGLES VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
In a match remembered best as the “Philly Special”, the Philadelphia Eagles got revenge on the New England Patriots thirteen years after losing out to them with McNabb as QB.
Nick Foles, the journeyman backup quarterback in his second stint with the Eagles, was the unlikely hero when he came into the team to replace the injured Carson Wentz. Guiding the Eagles through the playoffs, he ran the show at the Super Bowl with 373 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, a famous touchdown of his own, and the MVP award in a 41-33 win!
4. KURT WARNER: 377 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XLIII ARIZONA CARDINALS VS. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Kurt Warner’s career was so unique that it is not too surprising that he is the only player to make this top 10 list twice on the losing side.
The Arizona Cardinals shocked everyone by making it through the playoffs and to the 2009 Super Bowl, led by 37-year-old Warner, who threw for 377 yards, the second-highest at the time (more on that shortly). Like with the Rams seven years earlier, Warner rallied in the final quarter, and the Cardinals took a 23-20 lead, only for the Steelers to score the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
Unfortunately for Warner, the game is best remembered for one of his interceptions, in which James Harrison took 100 yards down the field to score at the end of the first half.
3. KURT WARNER: 414 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL XXXIV ST. LOUIS RAMS VS. TENNESSEE TITANS
Warner’s 377 in 2009 was only bettered at the time by his 414 for the St. Louis Rams in 2000 against the Tennessee Titans in the one Super Bowl he won with a score of 23-16.
Undrafted, Warner failed to get a contract at the Green Bay Packers and played in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe before getting a chance at the Rams in 1998.
Leading the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense, Warner became the first player to break 400 yards in a Super Bowl, sealed with a 73-yard game-winning pass to Isaac Bruce in the final minute.
2. TOM BRADY: 466 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL LI NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. ATLANTA FALCONS
One of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, let alone in the NFL, Tom Brady’s Patriots were 28-3 down to the Atlanta Falcons midway through the third quarter in 2017.
In his seventh Super Bowl, Brady completed a Super Bowl record 43 passes and smashed Warner’s record by over 50 yards as the Pats tied the game 28-28 before winning in overtime, securing a fifth title in the most dramatic of circumstances.
1. TOM BRADY: 505 PASSING YARDS IN SUPER BOWL LII NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Of course, to no one’s surprise, Tom Brady takes first place as the only quarterback to ever throw over 500 yards in a playoff game, let alone the Super Bowl!
What does perhaps raise eyebrows is that his record-breaking performance, just one year after the comeback against the Falcons, came when he was on the losing side.
Brady threw for an almighty 505 yards against the Eagles, the most not just in Super Bowls but in entire postseason history. Still, it was not enough as Nick Foles inspired Philadelphia to a 41-33 victory in a legendary match that had a combined 878 passing yards!
613 total yards for the Patriots was also a Super Bowl record, as was 33 points for a losing team. It is quite amazing that they did not win the game; no wonder they called it the “Philly Special”!
MOST PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN A SUPER BOWL
Only six times in history has a team recorded more than three passing touchdowns in a Super Bowl! Here are the teams that got their connections right on Super Bowl Sunday.
1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: 6 PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN SUPER BOWL XXIX
The 49ers lived up to their name in 1995 when they beat their fellow Californians, the San Diego Chargers, 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX. Steve Young proved the Niners would be more than fine without their hero Joe Montana by throwing six touchdown passes in a dominant offensive performance.
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: 5 PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN SUPER BOWL XXIV
They love a high-scoring win in a Super Bowl down in San Francisco! Prior to Steve Young beating Joe Montana’s record in 1995, Montana’s 49ers of 1990 held the record when beating the Denver Broncos 55-10 in New Orleans. Winning his fourth Lombardi trophy, Montana threw the first five 49ers TDs before they completed the huge victory with a couple of rushing touchdowns.
(TIE) 3. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: 4 PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN SUPER BOWL XLIX
Tom Brady’s best for passing touchdowns in a Super Bowl was in his and the New England Patriots’ fourth triumph, in 2015, against the Seattle Seahawks. All 28 of the Patriots’ points came courtesy of Brady’s touchdown passes, two of which arrived in the fourth quarter to take a 28-24 win.
(TIE) 3. DALLAS COWBOYS: 4 PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN SUPER BOWL XXVII
Splitting San Francisco’s highest and third-highest scores in Super Bowl history are the Dallas Cowboys, who beat the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in 1993. That night in Pasadena, the Cowboys scored seven touchdowns, four of which came from the arm of Troy Aikman as “America’s Team” won their third title.
(TIE) 3. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: 4 PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN SUPER BOWL XXII
We have already heard about Doug Williams’ exploits in this match, as the Redskins – now the Commanders – beat the Denver Broncos 42-10. Getting four passing touchdowns in a Super Bowl is a huge achievement, but getting them all in one quarter may never be equaled.
(TIE) 3. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: 4 PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN SUPER BOWL
Terry Bradshaw did not receive the MVP award in his first two Super Bowl wins, but it was third (and fourth) time lucky for the Hall of Fame Steeler. Pittsburgh edged out the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 in a thriller in 1979, as Bradshaw became the first player ever to throw four touchdown passes in a Super Bowl.
QUARTERBACKS WITH THE MOST SUPERBOWL WINS
It is hard enough to win one Super Bowl, but in its 57-year history, 12 quarterbacks have guided their team to victory on multiple occasions. So let’s find out who they are!
1. TOM BRADY: 7
Another quarterback list, another first place for Tom Brady! In a career spanning from 2000 to 2022, Brady reached the Super Bowl ten times, winning seven, and was named the MVP five times. He won six with the New England Patriots before a surprise seventh with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a 43-year-old.
(TIE) 2. JOE MONTANA: 4
San Francisco 49ers’ “Joe Cool” was considered the greatest quarterback in history before Brady tore up the record books. In a career spanning 1979 to 1994, Montana won just four Super Bowls, but, unlike Brady, he never lost one. His first came in Super Bowl XVI after the 1981 season, with the final one in 1990 in Super Bowl XXIV – a 55-10 hammering of the Denver Broncos.
(TIE) 2. TERRY BRADSHAW: 4
While Montana dominated the 1980s, the 1970s belonged to Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Spending his 14-year career at Pittsburgh from 1970 to 1983, Bradshaw took them to victory in Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, and XIV and, like Montana, was never on the losing side in the big game.
4. TROY AIKMAN: 3
The Montana era gave way to that of Troy Aikman, whose 12-season career from 1989 to 2000 was spent exclusively at the Dallas Cowboys. Beating the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII – the first of which he was named MVP, before adding number three two years later against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
5. EIGHT PLAYERS: 2
Eight other quarterbacks have won more than one Vince Lombardi trophy, including Lombardi’s own quarterback, Bart Starr, who won the first two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers. Brothers Peyton and Eli Manning have two apiece, as do legendary names such as John Elway, Ben Roethlisberger, Jim Plunkett, Bob Griese, and Roger Staubach.
|# SUPERBOWL WON
|2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021
|1982, 1985, 1989, 1990
|1975, 1976, 1979, 1980
|1993, 1994, 1996
MOST CAREER PASS YARDS FOR FOOTBALL QB
Here are the top 10 quarterbacks with the most career passing yards. With only one of the top 10 not playing this century, it is easy to see how passing has become more dominant than rushing in recent times.
1. Tom Brady – 90,523 – (2000-2022)
2. Drew Brees – 80,358 – (2001-2020)
3. Peyton Manning – 71,940 – (1998-2015)
4. Brett Favre – 71,838 – (1991-2010)
5. Ben Roethlisberger – 64,088 – (2004-2021)
6. Philip Rivers – 63,440 – (2004-2020)
7. Matt Ryan – 62,792 – (2008-)
8. Dan Marino – 61,361 – (1983-1999)
9. Aaron Rodgers – 59,055 – (2005-)
10. Eli Manning – 57,023 – (2004-2019)
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PASSING AND RECEIVING YARDS?
Passing yards are awarded to the player who throws the ball (usually the quarterback), and receiving yards are awarded to the player who catches the ball.
If a play starts on the 20-yard line and the quarterback throws the ball to a wide receiver who then is tackled on the 5-yard line, then the quarterback gets 15 passing yards, and the receiver gets 15 receiving yards, regardless of how far the throw actually was.
Passing yards combine with rushing yards for a team’s total offense, whereas receiving yards are attributed to an individual player.
WHAT WAS THE LONGEST FOOTBALL PASS ATTEMPT?
The longest attempted pass in the NFL belongs to Baker Mayfield, then of the Cleveland Browns, who launched a 70.5 Hail Mary against the Baltimore Ravens in 2020. Unfortunately for him, the attempt was incomplete.
There have been 13 successful 99-yard pass plays in the NFL, the most recent by Eli Manning for the New York Giants against the New York Jets in 2011, but the actual pass to Victor Cruz itself was a little over 10 yards before Cruz evaded tackles to score.