Quarterbacks have a huge influence on NFL games. But football remains a team sport. Many of the best QBs have no Lombardi trophies to go with their individual honors. Consider Aaron Rodgers; the current NFL MVP has just one Super Bowl ring to his name. He isn’t the only starting quarterback to struggle to convert his personal greatness into a Super Bowl win.
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes won their first Super Bowls early
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes both have Super Bowl wins under their belts. Both managed their feats early in their careers. Brady won by his second season in the league, the youngest QB to achieve that feat. Mahomes managed to win the big game by his third year. Unlike many of their peers over the years, they have their Hall of Fame resumes padded out early.
Their individual talent mattered greatly, of course. Brady earned a Pro Bowl invite in 2001, a clear signal that he didn’t exactly come out of nowhere to win Super Bowl XXXVI later that year. Mahomes won the overall league MVP in his second season, and was widely understood as a favorite to push his team to the Super Bowl the next year.
Great starting quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl
QBs aren’t always blessed with the circumstances to achieve massive success. Rookies have major inherent disadvantages due to the NFL’s draft rules. The difficulty of transitioning from Division I to NFL play is the first hurdle. Then, the best rookies usually go straight to the worst teams. And of course, there’s the simple fact that the playoffs are single elimination.
Andrew Luck is a great example of how these careers play out. He was widely expected to lead the Indianapolis Colts toward an era of deep postseason runs. But the team failed to build a good enough defense to help him. The IndyStar explains that his offensive line regularly left Luck vulnerable, contributing to his surprising early retirement in 2019.
Luck was followed up by Philip Rivers, who, as USA Today reports, suffered a similar fate. The eight-time Pro Bowler was great during his 17 NFL seasons. Rivers’ final season stat line, with 68% of his passes landing for 4,169 yards, was one of the best swan songs of any QB. But the LA Chargers never built teams that could take Rivers all the way.
The best starting quarterback who never won a Super Bowl
There is no name more associated with both greatness and a total lack of Super Bowl success than Dan Marino. Bleacher Report ranked Marino as the best QB to walk away from the game without a ring. It’s hard to disagree, given what he accomplished on the field in his 17 seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
According to Pro Football Reference, Marino is easily one of the top-10 QBs of all time. His 61,361 total passing yards, paired with 420 touchdowns and respectable 86.4 QB rating, easily earned him Hall of Fame honors.
Marino’s era remains one fondly remembered by Dolphins fans to this day. But all that individual success simply didn’t lead to the one thing any serious NFL player wants the most, thanks in part to an organization incapable of shoring up the pieces around their great talent at QB.