Based on raw statistical production, the quality of the opposing defense and clutch plays in big moments or against uncertain circumstances.
Eli stands alone in football lore: he's the only QB in NFL history who's led a championship-winning TD drive in the final two minutes when anything less than a TD would have meant defeat. This singular accomplishment -- highlighted by a Houdini-like escape from the clutches of the Patriots pass rush -- earns him a spot. That he also reduced to rubble a seemingly indestructible 18-0 gridiron empire in the process of the 17-14 victory adds another layer of extraordinary to what was otherwise a very ordinary game.
2 of 10
Kurt Warner (XXXIV)
The greatest storybook season in NFL history -- Warner's rise from supermarket stock boy to Super Bowl MVP -- ended with the most prolific passing performance in Super Bowl history. Warner's 414 yards are a record for the big game, and it was highlighted by a gorgeous 73-yard rainbow to Isaac Bruce for the game-winning score with 1:54 to play in the Rams 23-16 win over Tennessee. Pittsburgh beware: Warner's 377 yards in a losing effort against Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII are the second most in Super Bowl history.
3 of 10
Joe Namath (III)
Broadway Joe had the cojones to declare that his AFL Jets were going to beat one of the most dominant teams in NFL history, Don Shula's 13-1 Colts. He then went out and delivered a 16-7 victory with a tactically brilliant nip-and-tuck, mistake-free performance against one of the most suffocating pass defenses of the Super Bowl Era: the powerful Colts led the NFL in scoring defense (10.3 ppg) and had surrendered just nine TD passes all season, while hauling in 29 INTs. Namath deserves a big sideline kiss for his performance.
4 of 10
Jim Plunkett (XV)
The 1970 Heisman Trophy winner was destined to be remembered as a big-time bust. That all changed on a single Sunday afternoon at the Superdome, when Plunkett shredded the heavily favored Eagles and their top-ranked scoring defense 27-10 with an MVP-winning effort highlighted by a then-Super Bowl record 80-yard TD toss to Kenny King. Plunkett's performance was, at the time, the best statistical game by any quarterback in the Super Bowl (as measured by passer rating). He also became the first QB to lead a team to four victories in the same postseason.
5 of 10
Doug Williams (XXII)
Williams had barely stepped on an NFL field in five long years, before being pressed into action for the 1987 playoffs in place of the injured Jay Schroeder. The Redskins seemed to win despite Williams, who completed just 9 of 26 passes against Minnesota in the NFC title game. Then with the Redskins trailing the Broncos 10-0 in Super Bowl XXII, he exploded without warning, firing four TD strikes in the second quarter alone, including scoring tosses of 80 and 50 yards to Ricky Sanders. He earned MVP honors in the 42-10 victory for a 340-yard effort that set a Super Bowl record at the time.
6 of 10
Tom Brady (XXXVIII)
Brady produced the first and only walk-off Super Bowl-winning scoring drive two years earlier. He essentially pulled off the same feat again in this 32-29 win over Carolina. In a fourth quarter shootout for the ages, Brady led the Patriots to 11 points in the last three minutes -- including a TD toss to linebacker Mike Vrabel -- and a game-winning field goal with four seconds on the clock. Brady secured his legacy as a big-game legend with his second Super Bowl MVP trophy, while completing a Super Bowl-record 32 passes.
7 of 10
Phil Simms (XXI)
Simms was an under-achieving first-round draft pick (1979) who Giants fans tried to run out of town earlier in the 1986 season. Then on the day it mattered most, in the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance, he sparkled like the finest bottle of bubbly in the 39-20 throwdown of Denver. His 88.0 completion percentage is easily a Super Bowl record and was the best mark in postseason history until surpassed by Brady in the 2007 divisional playoffs, while his 150.9 passer rating remains the Super Bowl standard.
8 of 10
Steve Young (XXIX)
Young needed a performance for the ages to finally emerge from the long shadow cast by Joe Montana: he delivered one with a spectacular MVP effort in the 49-26 win over San Diego. It's well known that his six TD passes that day are a Super Bowl record. But that statement actually diminishes his accomplishment: Young is, in fact, the only quarterback in history to throw six TD passes in an NFL postseason game. (Daryle Lamonica threw six in an AFL playoff game in 1969.)
9 of 10
Terry Bradshaw (XIII)
Bradshaw was low-wattage regular-season performer who routinely lit up the Super Bowl as if it were Times Square. His greatest performance (despite three turnovers) could not have come at a better time or in a bigger battle. In the signature game of the 1970s, and in a battle to determine who would go down as the team of the decade, Bradshaw lobbed one deadly bomb after another, including a 75-yard scoring strike to John Stallworth that erased Dallas's only lead and put Pittsburgh in the driver's seat of destiny. His 318 yards and four TD tosses in the 35-31 win were Super Bowl records at the time.
10 of 10
Joe Montana (XXIV)
The King of Super Bowl Quarterbacks led a last-minute, game-winning touchdown drive against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. He one-upped himself a year later in his fourth and final Super Bowl appearance. Montana was at his surgeon-like best, calmly slicing the heart out of the Broncos, 55-10, with five TD tosses and a near-perfect 147.6 passer rating -- remarkable statistical accomplishments against a Denver defense that led the NFL in scoring (14.1 ppg) while surrendering just 13 TD passes all season. He earned a record third Super Bowl MVP award for his performance, while San Francisco's 55 points and 45-point margin of victory remain Super Bowl records.
The biggest exclusion from this list might be Troy Aikman in his team's 52-17 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII. But on a day when the Dallas D forced a Super Bowl-record eight turnovers, the Cowboys could have won with a tackling dummy at quarterback. Joe Montana, meanwhile, is limited to one spot on the list. You could make a great case that three of his Super Bowl performances belong in the top 10.
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