(Bonus data! Download this sortable spreadsheet showing the performance of every man who's ever tossed a pass in Super Bowl play.)
A version of this story originally ran in February 2006, before Super Bowl XL.
This Bloodbath of Data highlights the performances of every quarterback who (and this is key, folks) appeared in more than one Super Bowl. So if you're wondering why Ken Stabler or Steve Young is not on the list, that's why. However, the spreadsheet does contain the stats for every player, quarterback and otherwise, who's thrown a pass in Super Bowl play.
We haven't updated the list in two years, so there are two new additions: Ben Roethlisberger, who played in his second Super Bowl last year, and Peyton Manning, who played in his second Super Bowl this year. We also added Kurt Warner's third Super Bowl appearance in the wake of his effort against the Steelers last year in Super Bowl XLIII.
The Five Legends
Montana, Plunkett, Bradshaw, Aikman and Starr: These are quarterbacks who played well and won every time they appeared in the big game. They've won 15 of the 44 Super Bowls ever played.
The Six Champions
Favre, Staubach, Warner, Dawson, Brady and Roethlisberger: These are quarterbacks who played well in at least one Super Bowl but not so well in others. All but Roethlisberger (2-0) suffered at least one Super Bowl defeat. They've won 10 of the 44 Super Bowls.
The Four Cling-Ons
Griese, Elway, Theismann and P. Manning: These are quarterbacks who won Super Bowls, but who owe much of their Super Bowl success to great running games or who did not play particularly well in their Super Bowl appearances. They've won six of the 44 Super Bowls.
The Five Gimps
Kelly, Tarkenton, Unitas, Morrall and Morton: These guys played like gimpy hunchbacks in their Super Bowl appearances. Only Unitas and Morrall won Super Bowls, thanks to the mistake-filled victory by the Baltimore Colts over the Cowboys in Super Bowl V.
The NFL requires 40 pass attempts to be considered for the Super Bowl record books. But our method – QBs who appeared in two or more games – is actually a more inclusive and accurate way to measure Super Bowl success. First and foremost, our method includes a handful of quarterbacks who appeared in more than one Super Bowl but who did not attempt 40 or more passes.