Montana's Super Bowl performance reigns supreme

From Joe Montana to Tony Eason, ranks the Super Bowl starting quarterbacks from 1-82.

Originally Published: January 22, 2008
By Allison Wachs |

Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Doug WilliamsFocus on Sport/Manny Rubio/NFL/Getty ImagesFrom left, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Doug Williams rank 1-2-3 in's top performances by a quarterback in a Super Bowl. Montana threw for five TDs in Super Bowl XXIV against Denver.
Through 42 Super Bowls, there have been 51 different starting quarterbacks. Among them are players who put up monster numbers and won regular-season MVP awards, and guys who still make us wonder how they ever started a Super Bowl.

Our list is top-heavy with 49ers (Joe Montana and Steve Young) and bottom-heavy with Hall of Famers (John Elway, John Unitas) and guys who will get into the Hall only with a ticket (Kerry Collins, Rich Gannon).

Here is's ranking of the Super Bowl performances of the starting quarterbacks, from best to worst:

11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-82

1. Joe Montana, 49ers, Super Bowl XXIV (1990)

Stats: 22-29, 297 yards, 5 TD, 0 interceptions in a 55-10 win over Broncos.
Montana was spectacular in winning his third Super Bowl MVP, throwing for a then-record five TDs and completing 76 percent of his passes against a Broncos team that boasted the top scoring defense in the NFL that season.

2. Steve Young, 49ers, Super Bowl XXIX (1995)

Stats: 24-36, 325 yards, 6 TD, 0 interceptions in 49-26 win over Chargers.
Young set a Super Bowl record with six TD passes against a helpless Chargers defense. Young also led the 49ers with 49 yards rushing.

3. Doug Williams, Redskins, Super Bowl XXII (1988)

Stats: 18-29, 340 yards, 4 TD, 1 interception in 42-10 win over Broncos.
Williams started only two games in the 1987 regular season, but he was in top form, rallying the Redskins from an early 10-0 deficit. The Redskins scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives in the second quarter.

4. Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl XIII (1979)

Stats: 17-30, 318 yards, 4 TD, 1 interception in 35-31 win over Cowboys.
Bradshaw set a then-Super Bowl record with his four TD passes in winning the third of his four SB titles. This was the first time in his Hall of Fame career that he threw for more than 300 yards in a game.

5. Joe Montana, 49ers, Super Bowl XIX (1985)

Stats: 24-35, 331 yards, 4 TD (1 rush), 0 interceptions in 38-16 win over Dolphins.
Montana beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins through the air with three touchdowns and another score on the ground. His 59 yards rushing were more than San Francisco star running back Roger Craig had.

6. Phil Simms, Giants, Super Bowl XXI (1987)

Stats: 22-25, 268 yards, 3 TD, 0 interceptions in 39-20 win over Broncos.
Simms was masterful in setting a Super Bowl record by completing 88 percent of his passes, including 10 in a row. "This might be the best game a quarterback has ever played," Giants coach Bill Parcells said afterward.

7. Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVII (1993)

Stats: 22-30, 273 yards, 4 TD, 0 interceptions in 52-17 win over Bills.
Aikman, who was named MVP, was part of a dominating offensive performance; he completed 73 percent of his passes and orchestrated quick scoring drives. "This game meant everything to me," Aikman said. "No matter what happens from here on out, I can say I took my team to a Super Bowl victory."

8. Kurt Warner, Rams, Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)

Stats: 24-45, 414 yards, 2 TD, 0 interceptions in 23-16 win over Titans.
Warner led "The Greatest Show on Turf," becoming the first and only player to pass for more than 400 yards in a Super Bowl.

9. Joe Montana, 49ers, Super Bowl XXIII (1989)

Stats: 23-36, 357 yards, 2 TD, 0 interceptions in 20-16 win over Bengals.
Montana's second TD pass was the game winner, a 10-yard strike to John Taylor with 34 seconds left. San Francisco dominated offensively, outgaining the Bengals 453 yards to 229.

10. Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)

Stats: 32-48, 354 yards, 3 TD, 1 interception in 32-29 win over Panthers.
Brady outdueled Jake Delhomme with a Super Bowl-record 32 completions. He led the drive that set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining.


Stats: 17-30, 228 yards, 3 TD, 1 interception in 35-31 loss to Steelers.
Staubach nearly brought the Cowboys back from a big hole, throwing two fourth-quarter TD passes. His effort was good enough to earn him honors as the top non-winning QB performance.

Stats: 16-23, 250 yards, 2 TD, 1 interception in 35-10 win over Chiefs.
Starr's passing yards were impressive coming in an era when big totals weren't the norm. Starr made wide receiver Max McGee look like a Hall of Famer (7 receptions, 138 yards). McGee, who replaced an injured Boyd Dowler early in the game, broke the team curfew the night before and did not expect to play.

Stats: 13-21, 261 yards, 3 TD, 0 interceptions in 27-10 win over Eagles.
Plunkett got the Raiders started on the right foot with two first-quarter touchdown passes, including an 80-yarder to Kenny King. Plunkett started the season backing up Dan Pastorini.

Stats: 14-27, 246 yards, 3 TD (1 rush), 0 interceptions in 35-21 win over Patriots.
Favre threw a 64-yard TD pass to Andre Rison on the second play from scrimmage and a then-record 81-yard scoring pass to Antonio Freeman. Add a rushing touchdown, and it's surprising that he was not named MVP (Desmond Howard won).

Stats: 23-33, 236 yards, 2 TD, 0 interceptions in 24-21 win over Eagles.
Brady had another near-flawless performance in the Patriots' most recent Super Bowl crown, but it was wide receiver Deion Branch (11 catches, 133 yards) who was named MVP.

Stats: 16-33, 323 yards, 3 TD, 0 interceptions in 32-29 loss to Patriots.
Delhomme's numbers were excellent, but unfortunately for him, Tom Brady was on the other side of the field. Delhomme connected on a Super Bowl-record 85-yard TD pass with Muhsin Muhammad, but an early fumble by the QB led to a Patriots touchdown.

Stats: 18-29, 336 yards, 2 TD (1 rush), 1 interception in 34-19 win over Falcons.
Elway's last NFL game proved to be one of his best. In addition to his 80-yard TD pass to Rod Smith, Elway rushed for a score as Denver cruised.

Stats: 28-44, 365 yards, 2 TD (1 rush), 2 interceptions in 20-17 loss to Patriots.
Warner nearly led his heavily favored Rams to a win over the upstart Patriots with a TD pass and rushing TD in the fourth quarter. But Ty Law's 47-yard interception return in the second quarter hurt the Rams and Warner.

Stats: 14-21, 309 yards, 2 TD, 3 interceptions in 31-19 win over Rams.
In his fourth and final Super Bowl championship, Bradshaw had touchdown passes of 47 yards to Lynn Swann and 73 yards to John Stallworth. Bradshaw was named game MVP for the second straight year.

Stats: 18-33, 292 yards, 2 TD, 1 interception in 37-24 win over Bills.
Rypien's solid performance resulted in both Gary Clark and Art Monk collecting more than 100 receiving yards for the Redskins. Rypien was named MVP.


Stats: 12-20, 256 yards, 2 TD (both rushing), 0 interceptions in 46-10 win over Patriots.
McMahon became the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to rush for two touchdowns. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a wrist injury.

Stats: 17-28, 206 yards, 0 TD, 0 interceptions in 16-7 win over Colts.
His numbers alone wouldn't be enough to put Namath this high. But we're giving him major props for guaranteeing the win over the heavily favored Colts -- the AFL's first win over the NFL.

Stats: 25-42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 interception in 31-24 loss to Broncos.
Favre led the Packers on a 76-yard opening touchdown drive, but Green Bay fell short in its attempt for back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Stats: 14-22, 157 yards, 2 TD (1 rush), 0 interceptions in 26-21 win over Bengals.

Yes, this is the fourth time that Montana has appeared on this list -- it certainly says a lot that he has one-sixth of the best 24 performances by a Super Bowl quarterback. Montana's steady hand in this game -- his first Super Bowl appearance -- earned him MVP.

Stats: 12-17, 142 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception in 23-7 win over Vikings.
While the numbers look rather pedestrian, Dawson's game management was impeccable; the Chiefs led 16-0 at the half. It was the AFL's second straight upset of the NFL.

Stats: 16-27, 145 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions in 20-17 win over Rams.
New England's defense stood out, but Brady orchestrated the drive at the end of the game to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal as time expired for the upset win. Brady completed 5 of 6 passes on the winning 53-yard drive.

Stats: 15-23, 209 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions in win over Steelers.
Aikman was efficient and easily outperformed his counterpart, Neil O'Donnell (see No. 71). Most impressively, Aikman was able to lead the Cowboys to victory despite a rushing attack that was held to just 56 yards.

Stats: 25-34, 300 yards, 3 TD (1 rush), 2 interceptions in 26-21 loss to 49ers.
Anderson put up better numbers than Joe Montana in this game but would probably like those two interceptions back; his team lost by only five points.

Stats: 12-19, 119 yards, 2 TD, 1 interception in 24-3 win over Dolphins.
Staubach didn't need to throw much as the Cowboys rolled to the win with 252 rushing yards.

Stats: 20-32, 222 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions in 20-19 win over Bills.
Hostetler was a made Scott Norwood FG away from dropping on this list, but his efficient performance cannot be overlooked. He managed a game that saw the Giants rack up 40 minutes, 33 seconds in time of possession.


Stats: 12-19, 180 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions in 32-14 win over Vikings.
Stabler had a solid performance as the Raiders put up a then-record 429 yards of total offense. Fred Biletnikoff, who had only four receptions for 79 yards, was named MVP.

32. John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXI (1987)

Stats: 22-37, 304 yards, 2 TD (1 rush), 1 interception in 39-20 loss to Giants.
Behind Elway's 187 passing yards in the first half, the Broncos actually led 10-9 at the break. In the second half, however, Elway was outdueled by a white-hot Phil Simms, who completed 22 of 25 passes overall.

33. Bart Starr, Packers, Super Bowl II (1968)

Stats: 13-24, 202 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception in 33-14 win over Raiders.
Starr, coming off one of the worst regular seasons of his career, pulled it together to earn Super Bowl MVP honors for the second straight year.

34. Peyton Manning, Colts, Super Bowl XLI (2007)

Stats: 25-38, 247 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception in 29-17 win over Bears.
On a rainy Miami night, Manning completed a 53-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne in the first quarter and earned MVP honors. His running back duo of Joseph Addai (143 total yards) and Dominic Rhodes (113 rush yards) arguably had better games.

35. Steve McNair, Titans, Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)

Stats: 22-36, 214 yards, 0 TD, 0 interceptions in 23-16 loss to Rams.
McNair and the Titans came up just short -- literally -- of winning. After catching a McNair pass, Kevin Dyson was tackled by Mike Jones at the 1-yard line as time expired. McNair rushed for 64 yards, the most by a QB in Super Bowl history.

36. Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl XII (1978)

Stats: 17-25, 183 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions in 27-10 win over Broncos.
Staubach's solid performance was aided by the Cowboys' defense, which forced eight Broncos turnovers. His 45-yard touchdown to Butch Johnson in the third quarter put the game away.

37. Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl X (1976)

Stats: 9-19, 209 yards, 2 TD, 0 interceptions in 21-17 win over Cowboys
Four of Bradshaw's completions went to game MVP Lynn Swann for 161 yards, including a 64-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter that clinched Pittsburgh's second straight championship.

38. Brad Johnson, Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII (2003)

Stats: 18-34, 215 yards, 2 TD, 1 interception in 48-21 win over Raiders.
It's hard to believe that a quarterback whose team scored 48 points is this low, but it was the Bucs' defense that drove up the score with three interceptions returned for touchdowns.

39. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)

Stats: 30-51, 357 yards, 3 TD, 3 interceptions in 24-21 loss to Patriots.
While critics will point out McNabb's three interceptions -- including one on the Eagles' final drive -- it's hard to fault the Eagles' QB, especially with Philadelphia's ground game (45 yards) shut down.

40. Vince Ferragamo, Rams, Super Bowl XIV (1980)

Stats: 15-25, 212 yards, 0 TD, 1 interception in 31-19 loss to Steelers.
In a game that was back and forth, Ferragamo more than held his own, making only one big mistake. The Rams' only touchdown pass was by Lawrence McCutcheon on a halfback option play.

Click here for Nos. 41-82.

Allison Wachs is an NFL researcher for ESPN.