Super Aerial Circuses Sometimes CrashPeyton Manning didn't have a very good day passing the football in Super Bowl 50. Some have claimed it was the worst performance by a winning quarterback in the championship game's history. Not so. It's not even runner-up.
Cam Newton had a terrible, no-good very bad day at quarterback for the losing Panthers. But as far as stinkeroos by losing Super Bowl QBs go, Newton's performance wouldn't crack the top (bottom?) 15.
Manning completed 13 of 23 passes for 141 yards and one interception, also losing a forced fumble. Not so hot. But it was a Montanaesque effort compared to the winning quarterback in Super Bowl XL. Ben Roethlisberger completed 9 of 21 passes for 123 yards and threw two picks. Somehow the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 anyway.
For that matter, Manning's passing was superior to that of the following stat line turned in by a Super Bowl winning field general: 12 completions in 22 attempts for 123 yards and one interception. Can you guess whodunit?
It was Manning's perhaps soon-to-be-former boss John Elway in Super Bowl XXXII, the "this one's for John" Bowl. The dramatic nature of Denver's upset of the Packers, and Elway's helicopter leap for a first down have obscured how poorly he threw in his most cherished victory.
As for losers, Newton can't even be Superman in that department. He completed 18 of 41 passes for 265 yards, running for 45 more. He had an interception and two disastrous strip sack fumbles. All in all, however, that's only a slightly below average horrorshow for a quarterback whose team loses the Bowl.
There were some real doozies in the 49 prior Super Bowls, games of surpassing futility apparently taken from the book "Cleveland Browns' Quarterbacks: 1999-2015." Take 1988 NFL MVP Boomer Esiason in Super Bowl XXIII. He went 11 for 25 for 144 yards and one pick. Or Billy Kilmer for the Redskins in Super Bowl VII. He completed 14 of 28 passes for 104 yards and three interceptions. Amazingly, they are not the worst games turned in by losing starters in Super Bowls.
Which stinker leads the list is a matter of perspective. Tony Eason threw six consecutive incompletions at the start of Super Bowl XX for the Pats against the Bears, and was benched for Steve Grogan. Losing your job before the end of the first quarter sets a high standard in low, not that Sammy Baugh, John Unitas or Tom Brady could've done much against the Bears in that game.
But for 60 minutes of futility, we must consider David Woodley of the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII against Washington. Woodley completed 4 of 14 passes for 97 yards, throwing one TD pass and one interception. That's weak enough, but dig into the play by play chart, and the poor guy's nightmare moves into LSD-tinged technicolor.
Woodley's TD pass came in the first quarter on his second attempt of the game. It was a 76-yard bomb to Jimmy Cefalo, and it had to have Woodley and all the Dolphins thinking "here we go, this is gonna be our day." For the rest of the 27-17 defeat, Woodley completed 3 of 12 passes for 21 yards. And you thought Peyton fizzled out in the second half!
The most salient bad Super Bowl for a losing quarterback, however, wasn't the worst of them. It also belongs to Manning's boss. In Super Bowl XXIV, in which the Broncos were edged out by the 49ers 55-10, Elway completed 11 of 29 passes for 136 yards and was picked twice. He did have a short TD run in the second half. The score was 41-3 at the time.
Note how similar Elway's passing stats are in what was the most memorable victory of his Hall of Fame career and in his most humiliating defeat. Why, it's almost as if the 44 other guys on his team and the 45 guys on the other team had something to do with each outcome. It's almost as if quarterbacks aren't always the most important players on their teams.
Super Bowl 50 was far from the best of 'em. But if it winds up convincing a few more people of the truth of my previous two sentences, it's a contender for a Super Bowl MVP award of its own.