Most quarterbacks would be thrilled to be surrounded with championship-caliber talent. But in some cases, it limits their opportunities to shine individually and can result in giving them the dreaded 'game manager' label.
This year's Super Bowl matchup features two quarterbacks at very different stages of their careers, and with very different responsibilities on the field.
Peyton Manning is a coach on the field for the Denver Broncos, calling plays at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive looks he sees, and carving up defenses with his trademark precision and accuracy, as well as a receiving corps that is arguably the best in the NFL.
He is a lock to win his fifth career MVP this year and set multiple single-season passing records in his fifteenth season.
Russell Wilson, on the other hand, plays for a run-first offense in Seattle and his weapons at wide receiver are not nearly as talented. The Seahawks are known for their attacking defense and hard-hitting secondary.
Many of their most important players were undrafted or late round selections, so they play with a collective chip on their shoulder that most teams cannot compete with. Even Wilson, a third round draft pick in 2012, plays with that underdog determination, but that should not be confused with a lack of talent or ability.
Wilson is anything but a game manager, as his 100+ passer rating and 27-9 overall record as a starter will attest, both records for a player in his second year. But it is his escapability and improvisational skills as a quarterback that make him special, most evident in his numerous fourth quarter comebacks and highlight reel plays. It is clear after two seasons that he is a top ten quarterback in the NFL, and was merely overlooked in the draft due to his lack of height.
Wilson's career has started in comparable fashion with Ben Roethlisberger, who previously held the record for best record for a starting quarterback in his first two seasons. Roethlisberger also made the Super Bowl in his second year, and played very poorly in a victory over the Seahawks.
But he went on to have an outstanding career, while this list is more focused on quarterbacks who had no business ever starting in a Super Bowl, much less winning. Most of them were blessed to be on fantastic teams with spectacular defenses.
Some obviously mediocre quarterbacks like Jeff Hostetler were left off the list, as he took over an injured starter late in the season, the respectable Phil Simms who had previously been a Super Bowl MVP. But the rest just were not all that good.
Honorable Mention: Mark Rypien, Eli Manning, Earl Morrall. Rypien had the ultimate anomaly season in 1991 for the Washington Redskins, winning league MVP honors after throwing over 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns and leading his team to a 14-2 record. He had never started a full season before that and never made the Pro Bowl after that, but he was brilliant in 1991 so not worthy of this list.
Manning had a fantastic season in 2011, but when the Giants won their first Super Bowl in 2007, he had never made the Pro Bowl or even won a playoff game, and his Giants were the biggest underdog in the playoffs before they started.
Morrall was a journeyman backup when he took over for an injured Bob Griese and led the 1972 Dolphins to their perfect 17-0 season. He also backed up Johnny Unitas in Baltimore, and even though his numbers were not impressive, he was a winner.
5. Brad Johnson, 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs - While he did start for several playoff teams prior to joining the Bucs in 2002, there is something spectacularly average about Johnson. Maybe his name or his passing style or the fact that he was a backup at Florida State for most of his college career.
Johnson had one of his best seasons in 2002, putting up 3,049 yards and 22 touchdowns to just six interceptions in thirteen games. It was his first season under quarterback guru Jon Gruden and the team was defined by its defense.
He was the perfect game manager for that team, able to move the ball downfield without making the big mistake. Their run in the playoffs was also remembered for the defensive touchdowns, but Johnson made a few plays when they needed too.
4. Jay Schroeder/Doug Williams, 1987 Washington Redskins - Schroeder is most responsible for this pair making the list. He was the starter for the Redskins for most of that season, for some reason, and had a horrendous 48 percent completion mark.
It was a different era in football, with more running and less precision passing, but that was still an awful percentage. Williams took over late in the regular season for an ineffective Schroeder and led the Redskins on their playoff run, and while his numbers were not all that impressive either, his performance in the Super Bowl was one for the ages.
3. Jim Plunkett, 1980 Oakland Raiders - While it is hard to put a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback on this list, Plunkett was average at best in the 1980 season. It was his first full season starting for the Raiders and his completion percentage was a menial 51.6 percent.
He had 18 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions and only 2,299 yards passing, but he was also 9-2 as a starter and led them to the playoffs, despite losing the division to the high-powered San Diego Chargers. But Plunkett played tremendously well in a road victory over the Chargers in the playoffs and led them to a Super Bowl, resurrecting his previously underachieving career.
2. Jim McMahon, 1985 Chicago Bears - The punky QB is remembered for his toughness and unique leadership for an '85 Bears team full of characters.
But his effectiveness as a quarterback was limited in the NFL, mostly by injury. He only started 11 games in 1985, and never started a full season in his career.
He played fearlessly and inspired his teammates, but also took too many hits, and was knocked out of plenty of games.
In 1985, it barely mattered, as the team had one of the most dominating defenses of all time and rolled through opponents with ease.
In the playoffs, their defense allowed 10 total points, so they didn't need much from McMahon, but he did throw for 2,392 yards and fifteen touchdowns, including one memorable comeback against the Vikings.
1. Trent Dilfer, 2000 Baltimore Ravens - The network analyst who invented the QBR statistic for ESPN may have done so to validate his own career, which was defined by mediocrity. Dilfer spent one season in Baltimore, starting off as a backup to Tony Banks, and eventually taking over a team that was winning games without scoring offensive touchdowns.
They were led by a record-setting defense featuring Ray Lewis, and a balanced rushing attack led by Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes. Dilfer was a bust first round draft pick from Tampa Bay who had been given up on, but gave the Ravens enough of a spark to keep him as the starter.
He kept winning games and the team rolled all the way to the Super Bowl, which their defense won in a rout. Dilfer was not brought back the following season and replaced by journeyman free agent Elvis Grbac.