What are the top ten Super Bowl Passer rating performances? Who would we expect to lead the way in a system ranking quarterbacks in the Super Bowl? Tom Brady and Joe Montana would seem the likeliest candidates. Yet neither is top of this list.
Passer Rating is a flawed way to judge
I would argue that passer rating is a flawed way to judge. For instance, one of the greatest passing performances you could ever have seen in a Super Bowl came from Steve Young in his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXIX. That game he went 24 of 36 for 325 yards and 6 touchdowns (passer rating 134.8).
That was good enough to lead the 49ers a dominant 49-26 win against the (then) San Diego Chargers. Yet it does not feature in the top 5 passer ratings in Super Bowl history. Are there really five better Super Bowl quarterbacking performances than that? It’s open to debate.
Tom Brady has appeared in an astonishing ten Super Bowls. Having already played in Super Bowl XXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX, LI, LII, LIII & LV). Winning seven, and claiming a record 5 game MVP awards.
Yet it was only in his 10th Super Bowl start that he broke into the top 10 passer rating performances. (according to Wikipedia). Clearly this is not the ideal way to judge quarterbacking performances for the biggest of games then.
But that doesn’t make it any the less fun to look back and see what the top ten passer rated games in the Super Bowl were. If nothing else it’s a good excuse to go down memory lane of the big game. Plus we all love a list we can argue with and say why it’s wong don’t we?!
A little Super Bowl Passer Rating History
If you look at HOF QB Terry Bradshaw’s stats in comparison to the modern era they can look quite pedestrian. But he was the first quarterback to take his team to 4 Super Bowls and win them all.
In fact, by the time he had played his last Super Bowl with the Steelers, (XIV), his passer rating performances in the big game itself made up 4 of the top 10 passer rated games in the first 14 Super Bowls.
Of course, the game has changed immeasurably since then. Defensive players don’t have the same liberties they did in covering receivers or hitting QB’s. But even allowing for that it took until Super Bowl LI for Bradshaw not to have a Super Bowl passer rating performance in the top 10.
Sometimes class shines through. And they way the passer rating system is weighted to efficiency over big plays meant that some early performancs were still well regarded. For example, by the time 46 Super Bowls had been played, Bart Starr’s QBR of 116.2 (16 of 23 250 yards 2 TD’s, 1 int) from Super Bowl I was still in the top ten of the 92 QB performances we had seen up to that point.
The Super Bowl Passer Rating Top 10
10 Joe Flacco Super Bowl XLVII
22 of 33 287 yards 3 TD’s 0 interceptions 124.2
For his performance in the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers, Flacco was named MVP. (The fourth QB in a row to win the honour in the Super Bowl).
All of Flacco’s scoring strikes came in the first half as Baltimore went in 21-6 ahead at the intermission.
In the second half he led the Ravens Offence to just 6 points (2 Field Goals) but it proved to be enough to hold off a frenetic San Francisco comeback.
9 Tom Brady Super Bowl LV
21 of 29 201 yards 3 TD’s 0 interceptions 125.8
Tom Brady finally cracked the Super Bowl passer rating top 10 in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. None of which diminishes the 6 Super Bowl rings he picked up prior to this with New England.
Tampa Bay posted a dominant win, and Brady throwing 8, 17 and 1 yard TD passes put an exclamation alongside their defensive dominance on the way to a 31-9 win.
Whilst Tampa’s D heckled and harassed Patrick Mahomes all game long, Brady had time to find his targets and was only sacked once.
8 Joe Montana Super Bowl XIX
24 of 35 331 yards 3 TD’s 0 interceptions 127.2
Joe Cool makes the first of two appearances in this top ten. Montana threw the ball 35 times without a pick, which at the time was a Super Bowl record.
It didn’t hurt that there was a size mismatch on the line of scrimmage. The much larger Niners O Line was able to dominate the Dolphins Defensive Linemen and Montana was only sacked once in the game.
Feeling comfortable in the pocket meant he was able to go about his business of picking holes in the Miami secondary on the way to a 38-16 win.
7 Doug Williams Super Bowl XXII
18 of 29 340 yards 4 TD’s 1 interception 127.9
Doug Williams became the first African American quarterback to play, win, and receive the Super Bowl MVP award as he threw for 340 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Washington Redskins 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.
10-0 down going into the second quarter Williams and the Washington Offence exploded into life. In that period Williams threw 80, 27, 50, and 8 yard TD passes. A 58 yard TD run by Timmy Smith in the middle of it all made it 35-10 at the half and this one was over.
Williams was named MVP, and it is difficult to overstate the significance of this performance.
6 Steve Young Super Bowl XXIX
24 of 36 325 yards 6 TD’s 0 interceptions 134.8
Until the 1994 season, despite leading the league in passing from 1991-94, Young had been criticized for never winning a truly important game. He especially was haunted by consecutive losses to Dallas in the NFC championship game. But this time the 49ers had beaten the Cowboys in the conference title game two weeks earlier.
Young seemed much more relaxed in his demeanour going into this one. His 24 of 36 for 325 yards and six touchdowns passing was supplemented by being the game’s leading rusher, scrambling for 49 yards on five attempts.
His touchdown total broke Montana’s record of five, set against Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, and his passing yardage was the fourth-highest in Super Bowl history (at this time). Not surprisingly in the midst of the 49-26 win against the San Diego Chargers, Young was named MVP.
5 Troy Aikman Super Bowl XXVII
22 of 30 273 yards 4 TD’s 0 interceptions 140.7
Buffalo scored first in this game, but Aikman and the Cowboys ran out 52-17 winners after a dominant performance.
The Cowboys scored 35 points off of a Super Bowl-record nine Buffalo turnovers, including three first half touchdowns. Aikman threw 23,19,18, & 45 yard touchdown passes without throwing a pick.
Aikman also had three carries for 28 yards and Dallas had a balanced attack as Emmitt Smith ran for 108 yards and a TD.
4 Matt Ryan Super Bowl LI
17 of 23 284 yards 2 TD’s 0 interceptions 144.1
Ryan is the only player on the top ten passer rating list to come away from the Super Bowl on the losing side.
Part way into the third quarter Atlanta led 28-3. Only for the wheels to fall off as the New England Patriots went on to become the first team to win a Super Bowl in overtime, 34-28.
Tom Brady who went 43 of 62 for 466 yards with 2 TD’s and 1 interception was named game MVP (his passer rating was 95.2).
3 Jim Plunkett Super Bowl XV
13 of 21 261 yards 3 TD’s 0 interceptions 145.0
Plunkett, a former Heisman winner and 1st overall NFL Draft pick was a reclamation project for the Raiders. He would lead them to two Super Bowl titles.
Including this 27-10 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Plunkett threw two of his three TD’s in the first quarter. One travelling 2 yards, and the other 80 which was a Super Bowl record. His third covered 29 yards in the third period.
2 Super Bowl XXIV Joe Montana
22 of 29 297 yards 5 TD’s 0 interception 147.6
Two first-half touchdowns from Montana to Jerry Rice propelled the 49ers to a 27-3 halftime lead. Rice scored a third touchdown to begin the second half as San Francisco cruised past the Broncos, 55-10.
Montana won his third Super Bowl MVP award after throwing for 297 yards and five touchdowns.
Joe Montana still owns the NFL record for career Super Bowl quarterback rating at 127.83. (minimum 40 attempts).
1 Phil Simms Super Bowl XXI
22 of 25 268 yards 3 TD’s 0 interceptions 150.9
Phil Simms had a 15 year career with the New York Giants (1979-1993). He had a career 78.5 passer rating. But in the 1986 playoffs he was electrifyingly good.
That year the Giants defeated the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins by a combined score of 66-3 in the NFC Playoffs. Then beat the Broncos 39-20 in the Super Bowl. That year he set the franchise record for Best Passer Rating in the playoffs: 131.8.
But the pinnacle was this Super Bowl MVP performance. His 88% completion rate in this game broke both a Super Bowl and NFL postseason record.
This article was updated in 2021 to reflect a changed top 10 list.
Banner image from 49ers.com