Some time ago, I posted a question in the MOP Squad forum, asking for suggestions for the best quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era of the National Football League that never won a Super Bowl. We received a total of twenty-four suggestions. All of the suggestions had merit--although the person that suggested Steve Spurrier may want to turn in their Hall of Fame ballot.
From the suggested names, I have compiled my top ten. I examined career statistics; factored in the teams for which the individual played; added some points if the player ever played in a Super Bowl, and looked at whatever 'intangibles' may have applied to that player.
This list, as most of these lists do, will cause some disagreement and debate. That is the purpose. Feel free to go to our forums and make your case.
10. John Hadl
Hadl is known primarily for his AFL career as the quarterback of the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers. He led the Chargers to one AFL title, but didn't make the big game in eight seasons in the NFL. He played in six Pro-Bowl games and played in every single game during his sixteen year career
Hadl ranks in the top twenty in passing yards and touchdowns all-time. He threw for 33,503 yards and 244 scores. He is best known for being one-half of the Hadl-Lance Alworth connection, perhaps the best known receiving duo in the AFL.
9. Jim Everett
This name may surprise many. Everett will never be enshrined in Canton, and his name isn't recognized as being among the elites of the game's history. A close examination of his career reveals impressive facts, however.
Everett only played twelve NFL seasons, but amassed 34,837 yards and over 200 touchdowns. Five of those seasons saw Everett throw for over 3,800 yards, and he led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1988 and 1989. He led the Rams to the NFC title game in 1989, losing to the 49ers.
8. Ken Anderson
Anderson spent his entire sixteen-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals, leading them to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1981-1982. Throwing for over 32,000 yards in his career, Anderson led the league in yards thrown twice.
Anderson is generally regarded as the best quarterback in Bengals' history, although Boomer Esiason's career numbers were better. Anderson is known for leading the Bengals to an amazing victory over the Chargers in the 1981 AFC title game in temperatures of -10 degrees fahrenheit. Many argue Anderson would have found Super Bowl success if he'd played on teams with more depth of talent.
7. Dave Krieg
Dave Krieg had the privilege of inheriting a lousy Seattle Seahawk team from Jim Zorn--and promptly led the team to four playoff appearances between 1983 and 1988. Krieg posted a career season in 1984, throwing for 3,671 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Krieg is eleventh all-time in passing yards, with 38,147, and tenth in touchdowns thrown, with 261. He had good accuracy and played an incredible nineteen NFL seasons.
6. Boomer Esiason
Esiason's career numbers are similar to Krieg's--throwing a career total of 37,920 yards and 247 touchdowns. He played in fourteen seasons, made four Pro-Bowl appearances, and led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl appearance in 1989.
Prior to Carson Palmer, Esiason owned the Bengals' single season yardage record, passing for 3,959 in 1986. Equally impressive was Esiason's last season. In 1997, upon returning to the Bengals, he started the last five games of the season, winning four, and finishing the season with a quarterback rating of 106.9.
5. Dan Fouts
Fouts played his entire fifteen-year career with the San Diego Chargers. During those fifteen seasons, he led the NFL in passing yards four straight seasons, including 1981, when he led the Chargers to the AFC title game and threw for 4,802 yards.
Fouts is a Hall of Fame quarterback that ranks eighth all-time with 43,040 yards. He also threw 254 touchdowns and made the Pro-Bowl six times. Had his Chargers made one Super Bowl appearance, his ranking would be higher.
4. Fran Tarkenton
Tarkenton played eighteen NFL seasons, missing only eight games in that span. He is best known for quarterbacking the Vikings, but also logged time for the Giants.
His 47,003 career yards ranks fifth all-time, while his 342 touchdowns ranks third. He was named a Pro-Bowler nine times and led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances.
Tarkenton is a Hall of Fame quarterback that will forever be recognized as the face of the Viking franchise.
3. Jim Kelly
Kelly only played in the NFL for eleven season. During that time, he threw for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns. He completed an impressive 60.1 percent of his throws.
The most impressive fact of Kelly's Hall of Fame career is that, over the course of his eleven seasons with the Buffalo Bills, he led them to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Kelly will be remembered as being a last-second field goal away from avoiding this list in the 1991 Super Bowl against the Giants.
2. Dan Marino
Most, if not all, will be shocked at Marino's position on this list. Marino is the most prolific quarterback in the history of the NFL, ranking number one all-time in pass attempts, yards (61,361), and touchdowns (420). He is second in completions only to Brett Favre.
Marino holds the record for most yards in a season with 5,084, and had the record for touchdowns with 48, until Peyton Manning eclipsed it by one. Marino led the Dolphins to one Super Bowl appearance in 1984, losing to the steamroller known as the 49ers. He is a nine-time Pro-Bowler and had a 8-10 post-season record.
1. Warren Moon
Moon and Marino could be interchangeable on this list, or even share the number one spot with either being 1-A and the other being 1-B. Moon ranks fourth all-time in passing yards with 49,325, and fifth in touchdowns with 291.
One factor distinguishes Moon from Marino, however. Moon's NFL career didn't begin until he was 27 years old, as he spent the first six seasons of his career playing in the Canadian Football League. In those six seasons, Moon threw for an additional 21,228 yards, 144 touchdowns, and led his team to five league titles. He also threw for 5,648 yards in 1983, the year before his NFL debut.
I don't place him at number one by adding his NFL and CFL statistics, as that is mixing apples and oranges. I do estimate, assuming six additional healthy NFL seasons, he would have easily tacked on another 12,000-15,000 yards and 80-90 touchdowns. Those numbers would have put him neck and neck with Marino statistically.
He led the Houston Oilers to the playoffs in six seasons, without the coaching and supporting players Marino had in Miami.
OTHERS OF NOTE:
Ron Jaworski--Jaworski threw for 28,190 yards and 179 career touchdowns. He is most noted as an ESPN analyst who, but for one Super Bowl appearance in 1980, had a mostly indistinguished career.
Steve Grogan--Grogan played sixteen seasons for the New England Patriots when the Patriots were terrible. His career was average, but is known for leading the Patriots to a horrendous beating at the hands of the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.
Sonny Jurgensen--Jurgensen is a Hall-of-Fame quarterback who threw for 32,224 yards and 255 touchdowns. He played eleven seasons for the Redskins from 1964 to 1974, seeing the post-season one time, in his final season in the NFL.
Steve Deberg--Deberg played 21 seasons, including three for the pre-Montana 49ers, and three stints with awful Tampa Bay teams. He is seventeenth all-time in passing yards and saw post-season action in four seasons.
George Blanda--Blanda played 27 seasons as both a quarterback and kicker. Blanda is in the Hall-of-Fame, primarily due to his amazing longevity and ability to perform at both positions.
Doug Flutie--Flutie's NFL career was extremely average, throwing for 14,715 yards and 86 touchdowns. Flutie spent eight years in the CFL, throwing for 41,355 yards, including 6,619 in one season, the all-time record in any professional football organization. He threw for 270 touchdowns in the CFL and had record of 99-27 as a starter. He won five Grey Cups, and was Grey Cup MVP 3 times.
Steve Bartkowski--Who? Bartkowski was quarterback for the Falcons from 1975 to 1985. He didn't post great career numbers, but did throw for 30-plus touchdowns twice and 3,500-plus yards twice. He led the Falcons to the post-season three times.
Danny White--White was the quarterback/punter that inherited the Cowboys from Roger Staubach. He technically won a Super Bowl with the 1977-1978 Cowboys, primarily as a punter although he completed one pass for five yards. As the Cowboys' starter, he led the team to the playoffs in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985.
Archie Manning--Manning's sons have sparked a renewed interest in his career. He played for one of the worst teams in history--the 1970's/early 1980's Saints, or Ain'ts, as they were also known. His numbers weren't great, and he never made the playoffs. Most agree Manning was more talented than his statistics indicate.
Bernie Kosar--Kosar led the Browns to the AFC title game in 1986, losing the game to John Elway and the Broncos' famous 'Drive'. Injuries kept Kosar from making much of a statistical impact with his career.
Jim Zorn--Two distinctions: 1) First guy unlucky enough to quarterback the expansion Seahawks beginning in 1976. 2) Last name begins with a 'Z'. Lost in his only post-season start--the 1983 AFC Championship game against the Raiders.
Billy Kilmer--20,485 career passing yards, 152 career touchdown passes, and one loss in his only Super Bowl appearance, throwing three interceptions against the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.
Jack Kemp--Congressman Kemp played four games in the NFL for the 1957 Steelers before switching to the AFL for the remainder of his career from 1960 to 1969. He threw 21,218 yards in 11 seasons and 114 touchdowns.
Steve Spurrier--The great collegiate coach, and utter NFL coaching failure, threw 6,878 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 60 interceptions in his illustrious career. His biggest quarterbacking claim to fame? He was the first starting quarterback for the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losing all fourteen regular season games.
This column has profiled all twenty-four names submitted as 'the greatest quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl'. As ESPN says, "Let the debating begin."