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The 10 Best Quarterbacks to Never Win a Super Bowl

I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.

Fran Tarkenton is one of five Hall of Fame quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl.

Fran Tarkenton is one of five Hall of Fame quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl.

Who Are the Best Quarterbacks to Never Win a Super Bowl?

Quarterback is often considered the most important position on a football field, but as some of the best QBs in history would attest, it takes a team to win a championship. There have been five Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have failed to win a Super Bowl, and several other household names who couldn't find victory on the biggest stage either. In this article, I will count down the 10 best quarterbacks never to win a Super Bowl.

Only players who played the bulk of their career during the Super Bowl era were considered for this list, so an older championship-less player like Y.A. Tittle will not be featured here because he retired following the 1964 season and Super Bowl I was held following the 1966 season. I also excluded players like Sonny Jurgensen from consideration because even though he didn't win a Super Bowl, he did win an NFL championship in 1960.

Further reading: Best Running Backs Never to Win a Super Bowl

Vinny Testaverde played for seven teams over a 20-year career, but never played for a Super Bowl champion.

Vinny Testaverde played for seven teams over a 20-year career, but never played for a Super Bowl champion.

10. Vinny Testaverde

  • Years Active: 1987–2007
  • Teams: Buccaneers (1987–92), Browns (1993–95), Ravens (1996–97), Jets (1998–2003, '05), Cowboys (2004), Patriots (2006) and Panthers (2007)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1994, '98, 2001–02, '06
  • Super Bowl Appearances: None

Vinny Testaverde came into the NFL as the No. 1 selection in the 1987 NFL Draft, though he never quite lived up to the hype. But there is still something to be said for a player who can survive in the NFL for 21 seasons. Testaverde's best run of success came during his time with the Jets, when he made three postseason appearances and finished those regular seasons with a 34–14 record—a drastic improvement over his career mark of 90-123-1. In total, he started five playoff games (2–3) and threw six touchdowns and five interceptions, which is in line with his career tallies of 275 touchdowns and 267 interceptions.

9. Ken Anderson

  • Years Active: 1971–86
  • Teams: Bengals (1971–86)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1973, '75, 1981–82
  • Super Bowl Appearances: 1981

Ken Anderson posted winning records in eight of first 11 seasons, but despite that success, postseason appearances were few and far between for the long-time Bengals signal-caller. Anderson thrived on his accurate passing, leading the league in completion percentage three times and never finishing a full season under 50%. Anderson took an abrupt step forward in 1981, when he was named the NFL's MVP after helping the Bengals improve to 12–4 after a 6–10 finish in 1980. He led Cincinnati to Super Bowl XVI, but even though Anderson threw for 300 yards, he threw a pair of interceptions and was sacked five times in a 26–21 loss to the 49ers. Anderson failed to win the opening-round playoff game in each of his other postseason appearances, but finished his career with a 91–81 record in the regular season.

Philip Rivers is among the NFL's all-time passing leaders but has never appeared in a Super Bowl.

Philip Rivers is among the NFL's all-time passing leaders but has never appeared in a Super Bowl.

8. Philip Rivers

  • Years Active: 2004–2020
  • Teams: Chargers (2004–19) and Colts ('20)
  • Postseason Appearances: 2006–09, '13, '18, '20
  • Super Bowl Appearances: None

If Philip Rivers was nothing else, at least he was consistent. Rivers didn't miss a game after taking over as a starting quarterback in 2006, and even though he led the Chargers into the postseason six times and the Colts once, he never went to a Super Bowl. He won at least one playoff game in four of those trips, and played for the AFC championship in 2007. Rivers retired with the fifth-most career passing yards in NFL history (63,440), which came on the strength of 12 seasons with at least 4,000 yards. He is an eight-time Pro Bowler and went 134–106 during his career.

7. Randall Cunningham

  • Years Active: 1985–95, 1997–2001
  • Teams: Eagles (1985–95), Vikings (1997–99), Cowboys (2000) and Ravens (2001)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1988–90, '92, '95, 1997–98
  • Super Bowl Appearances: None

As a Pro Bowl-caliber dual-threat quarterback, Randall Cunningham led the Eagles to three straight 10-win seasons, but wasn't able to turn that into postseason success. Cunningham threw five interceptions and no touchdowns while losing three straight playoff games in that era, and he later had his chance at a Super Bowl berth with the Vikings. That came in 1998, which was his best season as a professional. Cunningham was named a first-team All-Pro after he led Minnesota to a 15–1 record that season, but the Vikings were upset by the Falcons in overtime in the 1998 NFC Championship game. For his career, Cunningham recorded 82 regular-season victories and added 4,928 rushing yards on top of 29,979 passing yards.

6. Donovan McNabb

  • Years Active: 1999–2011
  • Teams: Eagles (1999–2009), Washington (2010) and Vikings (2011)
  • Postseason Appearances: 2000–04, 2008–09
  • Super Bowl Appearances: 2004

Donovan McNabb was among the best quarterbacks in the NFL throughout much of the 2000s, but he simply struggled to win the biggest games. McNabb was 9–7 in seven postseason appearances, but went just 1–4 in NFC Championship games. In Super Bowl XXXIX, McNabb had three touchdowns and three interceptions in a 24–21 loss to the Patriots. During the regular season, McNabb was 98-62-1 (including five seasons with at least 10 wins), and he made six Pro Bowls. He finished his career with 37,276 passing yards and added 3,459 rushing yards to finish as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in NFL history.

5. Dan Fouts

  • Years Active: 1973–87
  • Teams: Chargers (1973–87)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1979–82
  • Super Bowl Appearances: None

Dan Fouts didn't become a star quarterback until 1979, but once he found his rhythm, he became a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Fouts led the NFL in passing yards from 1979–82, pushing the Chargers into the postseason each of those years. San Diego would lose back-to-back AFC Championship games in 1980 and '81, leaving Fouts without a Super Bowl appearance for his career. Fouts continued to be a strong quarterback until his retirement after the 1987 season, but the Chargers never again made the postseason under his guidance. Fouts was a six-time Pro Bowler and twice was named a first-team All-Pro. He was just 86-84-1 for his career (3–4 in the playoffs), but threw for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns, and was the first player in history to throw for 4,000 yards in three straight seasons.

Warren Moon (1) had a decent surrounding cast, including running back Mike Rozier for a time, but never made it to a Super Bowl.

Warren Moon (1) had a decent surrounding cast, including running back Mike Rozier for a time, but never made it to a Super Bowl.

4. Warren Moon

  • Years Active: 1984–2000
  • Teams: Oilers (1984–93), Vikings (1994–96), Seahawks (1997–98) and Chiefs (1999–2000)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1987–89, 1991–94
  • Super Bowl Appearances: None

Another quarterback who posted sky-high numbers during the regular season but couldn't quite find the same magic in the NFL playoffs was Warren Moon. Among the most prolific passers of the late 1980s and throughout most of the '90s, Moon closed out his Hall of Fame career with 49,325 yards (third at the time of his retirement), but went just 3–7 in his seven postseason appearances. It's not that he wasn't experienced in postseason action—during his time in the Canadian Football League before coming to the NFL, he won five Grey Cup titles. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler in the NFL and twice led the league in passing yards.

Bills quarterback Jim Kelly suffered four straight Super Bowl losses in the early '90s.

Bills quarterback Jim Kelly suffered four straight Super Bowl losses in the early '90s.

3. Jim Kelly

  • Years Active: 1986–96
  • Teams: Bills (1986–96)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1988–93, 1995–96
  • Super Bowl Appearances: 1990–93

Jim Kelly did not have the longest career, but he was regularly in the postseason—and the Super Bowl. Kelly led the Bills into the championship game in four straight seasons but was unable to engineer a victory in Super Bowls XXV–XXVIII. That leaves the Hall of Famer as the only quarterback ever to lose four Super Bowls, and he had a 7:2 interception-to-touchdown ratio when playing for a championship. Take away those losses, and he was 9–4 in other playoff games—but still had 21 interceptions against 19 touchdowns. For his career, Kelly suffered just two losing seasons on his way to a 101–59 regular-season record, and he threw for 35,467 yards, 237 touchdowns and 175 interceptions. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and earned his only first-team All-Pro selection in 1991 when he led the NFL with 33 touchdowns.

Fran Tarkenton loses a fumble during Super Bowl IX, a game which the Vikings would lose to the Steelers.

Fran Tarkenton loses a fumble during Super Bowl IX, a game which the Vikings would lose to the Steelers.

2. Fran Tarkenton

  • Years Active: 1961–78
  • Teams: Vikings (1961–66, 1972–78) and Giants (1967–71)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1973–76, '78
  • Super Bowl Appearances: 1973–74, '76

When Fran Tarkenton retired from the NFL, he held most of the league's major passing records, but he did so without winning a Super Bowl. Tarkenton is one of just three quarterbacks ever to lose three or more Super Bowls, and he had a 6:1 interception-to-touchdown ratio in those appearances with the Vikings (Super Bowls VII, IX and XI). Otherwise, he was decent in the postseason, securing a 6–2 playoff record in non-Super Bowl games. In the regular season, he earned his spot in the Hall of Fame by going 124-109-6 with 47,003 yards, 342 touchdowns and nine Pro Bowl selections, and was known for his ability to scramble. Tarkenton was the 1975 MVP after going 12–2 and leading the league in touchdowns (25), and he also earned the only first-team All-Pro selection of his career that year.

Dan Marino memorabilia is shown at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marino is the greatest quarterback in NFL history never to win a Super Bowl.

Dan Marino memorabilia is shown at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marino is the greatest quarterback in NFL history never to win a Super Bowl.

1. Dan Marino

  • Years Active: 1983–99
  • Teams: Dolphins (1983–99)
  • Postseason Appearances: 1983–85, '90, '92, 1994–95, 1997–99
  • Super Bowl Appearances: 1984

Dan Marino rewrote the record books during a legendary 17-year career with the Dolphins, but he made only one Super Bowl appearance. Even though he was unable to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX in just his second NFL season, it was expected that would be the first of many appearances in the big game for the 1984 MVP. Marino would go on to lead the Dolphins into the playoffs eight more times, but he held just an 8–10 career postseason record. It's an unfortunate track record for the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season.

Throughout his career, Marino posted a 147–93 record in the regular season, and threw for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns—which were far and away records at the time of his retirement but have been surpassed by quarterbacks in the modern, pass-happy NFL. In addition to being inducted to the Hall of Fame, he was a three-time first-team All-Pro and was invited to nine Pro Bowls.

Honorable Mentions

While the 10 best quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl were featured above, here are a few more superstars who never could win the biggest game of them all.

Boomer Esiason

Boomer Esiason led the Bengals to the postseason in 1988 and '90, but took the loss in Super Bowl XXIII after the 49ers secured the victory with 34 seconds to play. That was the same season he won MVP and first-team All-Pro honors, and he was also a four-time Pro Bowl selection. Esiason was 80–93 in his career and threw for 37,920 yards and 247 touchdowns.

Jim Hart

Among the longest-tenured quarterbacks ever, Jim Hart played for 19 seasons, but only made a handful of postseason appearances for the Cardinals. Those came with the "Cardiac Cards" of 1974–75, and St. Louis also made the postseason in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Hart was a four-time Pro Bowler but never reached the Super Bowl, and was 87-88-5 in his career with 34,665 yards and 209 touchdowns.

Steve McNair

Steve McNair might have been one yard shy of winning a Super Bowl. He was the quarterback in Super Bowl XXXIV, which is remembered for the "One Yard Short" play that saw Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson tackled at the 1-yard line on the final play of the game. McNair would make four more playoff appearances but went 2–4 in those games. For his career, McNair was a three-time Pro Bowler who went 91–62 with 31,304 yards and 174 touchdowns.

One quarterback who hasn't had any problems winning Super Bowls is Tom Brady, who has six championships.

One quarterback who hasn't had any problems winning Super Bowls is Tom Brady, who has six championships.

Super Bowl Passing Records

Below are Super Bowl passing records.

  • Career Passing Yards: Tom Brady (2,838)
  • Single-Game Passing Yards: Brady (505)
  • Career Passing Touchdowns: Brady (18)
  • Single-Game Passing Touchdowns: Steve Young (6)
  • Career Completion Percentage: Troy Aikman (70%)
  • Single-Game Completion Percentage: Phil Simms (88%)
  • Longest Pass: Jake Delhomme (85 yards)

© 2020 Andrew Harner

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