Courtesy of the Cold Hard Football Facts’ spreadsheet listing data on every person to have thrown a pass in a Super Bowl, here are some quarterback facts on the “Big Game” synthesized from that information.
Pass Attempts in a Super Bowl
Jim Kelly, of the Buffalo Bills, has made the most pass attempts by any one quarterback in a Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XXVI, a 37-24 loss to the Washington Redskins, he racked up 275 yards on 58 attempts; of which 28 were complete for a miserable 4.74 yard per attempt. He threw 2 touchdowns that day, but 4 interceptions. Kelly finished the game with a 44.8 quarterback rating (discussed later in this article).
Fewest (by a starting quarterback)
Tony Eason, of the New England Patriots, attempted 6 passes in Super Bowl XX against the Chicago Bears. He was replaced during the second quarter by Steve Grogan because of his inability to complete a pass: he went 0 for 6.
Completions in a Super Bowl
The New England Patriots own both the most completions in a Super Bowl and the fewest by a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl, up through Super Bowl XLI.
Tom Brady, of the New England Patriots, has made the most completions by any one Super Bowl quarterback, completing 32 of 48 in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Brady racked up 354 yards of passing offense with a 7.375 yards per attempt average in the 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Jim Kelly comes in a close second with 31 completions of 50 attempts in Super Bowl XXVIII, a 30-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and Donovan McNabb comes in third with 30 completions of 51 attempts for 357 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX, a game in which he had 3 touchdowns, but also 3 interceptions.
Fewest (by a starting quarterback)
This dubious distinction also belongs to a New England Patriot quarterback, the aforementioned Tony Eason. He completed none of his 6 attempts during Super Bowl XX – a 46-10 loss at the hands of the Chicago Bears. Number two is the immortal Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V with 3. He too was replaced in the second quarter.
Completions vs. attempts is one measure by which Quarterbacks are measured and one of the statistics that go into the Quarterback passer rating. It’s a rudimentary measure of accuracy, but together with yards per attempt, it does give some idea of the performance of a quarterback.
Of players with at least 10 pass attempts in a game, Phil Simms of the New York Giants completed 22 of 25 attempts in Super Bowl XXI, a 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos, giving him a Super Bowl high of 88.0% completions, with a 268 yards and a 10.72 yards per attempt average. Bob Griese comes in with an 85.7 completion percentage in Super Bowl VIII, a 24-7 romp over the Minnesota Vikings – 6 of 7 for 73 yards and a 10.43 yards per attempt average.
8 men have a perfect 100% completion rate in Super Bowl play, however between the 8, there have been a total of 11 passes.
Craig Morton of the Denver Broncos had a 26.7 completion percentage (4 of 15) in Super Bowl XII against the Dallas Cowboys. In reality Morton had 8 completions in the game, however 4 of those were completed to the Cowboys defense. His replacement in the game, Norris Weese fared only slightly better, completing 40% of his 10 pass attempts for 22 yards, but alas, he had no interceptions on the day.
Quarterback Passer Rating
The Quarterback Rating is one of the least understood statistics in football. Fans of the game understand that the higher the rating, the better the game for the quarterback. Most fans understand that it has something to do with passing attempts vs. completions, touchdowns vs. interceptions, and whatnot. Suffice to say that the rating is a calculation of these criteria and that the highest possible rating is 158.3.
Phil Simms, in Super Bowl XXI, achieved the highest quarterback rating of people throwing more than 1 pass in Super Bowl history with a 150.9 rating; a 3 touchdown, 0 interception day with a 10.72 yards per attempt and 268 passing yards. Three years later, Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers would have a game that would earn him the second highest QB rating ever in Super Bowl XIV – 147.6 rating for a 5 touchdown, 0 interception game; 22 of 29 for a 75.9 completion percentage and 297 yards. Despite having thrown 2 more touchdowns and more yards than Simms in Super Bowl XXI, his completion percent brings down his overall rating.
Craig Morton, of the Denver Broncos, threw 15 pass attempts in Super Bowl XII against the Dallas Cowboys. As anemic as 15 pass attempts may be, the number that truly sticks out is the lowly 4 completions. Sadly for Mr. Morton, he threw an equal number of completions to the Dallas defense. A 0 touchdown, 4 interception day in a 39 passing yard effort, yet somehow the Broncos only lost by 17, Morton’s passer rating that fateful day in 1978? 0
Other Statistics of Note:
Most Interceptions in a Super Bowl:
Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XXXVII – 5
Kerry Collins, New York Giants, Super Bowl XXXV – 4
Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXI – 4
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl XXVI – 4
Craig Morton, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XII – 4
Most Touchdowns in a Super Bowl:
Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIX – 6
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIV – 5
Doug Williams, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XXII -4
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XIII – 4
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVII – 4
Cold Hard Football Facts, “CHFF classic: A Super Bowl bloodbath” retrieved 1/31/08
Cold Hard Football Facts excel spreadsheet on Super Bowl Quarterbacks retrieved 1/31/08
Prime Computing, “The Original Quarterback Rating Calculator,” retrieved 1/31/08
Prime Computing, “Quarterback Rating Formulas,” retrieved 1/31/08