Super Bowl 54 features the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers against the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Neither of the starting quarterbacks – Jimmy Garoppolo for SF and Patrick Mahomes for KC — have won a Super Bowl. In fact, neither have started in a Super Bowl. As noted below, Garoppolo was previously on a Super Bowl roster — twice.
A few years ago I wrote my post QB Reality – Why Most Teams Stand No Chance which pointed out that the majority of Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl wins. That post also showed how that winning multiple championships trend dates all the way back in NFL history to the days when the league switched from single wing to T-Formation offenses.
Super Bowls featuring two starting quarterbacks with no previous Super Bowl wins (or NFL/AFL Championship Game wins regarding the early Super Bowls) happens occasionally. The last time it happened was Super Bowl 47 when the Ravens and 49ers matched up with Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. The time before that it was Super Bowl 41 in which the Colts defeated the Bears. Here again comes the dim reality for teams without a superstar quarterback – Peyton Manning led the Colts to a win over Rex Grossman and the Bears. In that scenario it was merely Manning’s first of two Super Bowl wins.
Manning, of course, ended up making four Super Bowls – two with the Colts and two with the Broncos. This is where the reality gets a bit dimmer for teams just hoping to even make the Super Bowl with a quarterback who isn’t just among the league’s best not only that particular season but one of the best in a decade or more.
As I pointed out on The Game Before the Money Facebook Page before this year’s AFC Championship, this year’s AFC Championship with Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill starting at quarterback was the first AFC Championship since the 2002 season that didn’t feature Manning, Tom Brady, and/or Ben Roethlisberger starting at quarterback for one of the two teams. Once you add in the 2002 starters, Rich Gannon and Steve McNair, you then have to go all the way back to the 1998 season when John Elway faced off against Vinny Testaverde to not find one of those five quarterbacks in the AFC Championship Game. Then, of course, you add in Elway and you’ll find several AFC Championship spots locked up through the mid-80s — not to mention Super Bowl appearances.
Looking again at Super Bowl history and the two quarterbacks starting Super Bowl 54, things might not bode well for other franchises lacking a quarterback with Super Bowl starting experience to even make the big game. The only Super Bowls that featured both starting quarterbacks with only one Super Bowl game started over their entire career are Super Bowl 37 (Kapernick and Flacco), Super Bowl 39 (Gannon and Brad Johnson), Super Bowl 35 (Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins), Super Bowl 29 (Steve Young and Stan Humphries), and Super Bowl 20 (Jim McMahon and Steve Grogan). That’s only 5 of the first 53 Super Bowls!
Now, let’s add in what I call the NFL’s Coaching Elite (coaches who have either played for or and/or assisted under coaches with multiple championships). The winning coaches of Super Bowls 20 and 29 were Mike Ditka (assisted with and played for Tom Landry) and George Seifert (won 2 SBs as a HC and assisted under Bill Walsh). The Buccaneers won Super Bowl 39 with Jon Gruden at the coaching helm. Gruden served in 1990 as an assistant under – any guesses? George Seifert.
The anomaly in the coaching realm are the Ravens. John Harbaugh won with the Ravens in Super Bowl 37, quarterbacked by Joe Flacco. Of note, however, Harbaugh served as an assistant under current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who will be a head coach in the Super Bowl for the second time. Reid served as an assistant under Mike Holmgren, who guided teams to the Super Bowl three times. Holmgren worked as an assistant under both Bill Walsh and – yep, George Seifert!
The Ravens won Super 35 under Brian Billick who worked under Dennis Green at Minnesota — who was an assistant under (drum roll, please) Bill Walsh. Also of note, Billick tried out for the Dallas Cowboys as a player under Tom Landry and was the last cut going into the season. He was drafted in 1977 by the 49ers in the 11th round but never played a regular season game for either team.
Like I posted in the original QB Reality, we’ve yet to find out if Russell Wilson will win another championship. Same with Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Wilson, however, did make a second Super Bowl appearance. Whether it’s Garoppolo or Mahomes who quarterbacks their team to victory in Super Bowl 54, pro football history shows there’s a good chance we will see one or both of them back in the Super Bowl during their careers. Indeed, this is technically Garoppolo’s third Super Bowl appearance (although the first two don’t apply to the QB Reality theory) – he backed up Tom Brady in Super Bowl 51 but didn’t play in New England’s overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons. He also backed up Brady in their Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49.
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