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The Super Bowl's greatest quarterback matchups

What are the 10 best Super Bowl quarterback matchups? Depends on your criteria. Do you use hindsight and judge the quarterbacks' entire careers? Do you base it on their Super Bowl seasons alone? Do you base it on how the two played in that game? This list is about the hype heading into the Super Bowl. We're going to look at the matchup from just before kickoff. For instance, New England's Tom Brady is considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. But when he met St. Louis and Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI, he wasn't yet "Tom Brady." He had never won a Super Bowl and wasn't even the Pats starter at the beginning of the season, and, after he missed much of the AFC title game, many believed Drew Bledsoe should start the Super Bowl. So based on the hype, here are our picks.

1. Super Bowl XIII

Terry Bradshaw (Steelers) vs. Roger Staubach (Cowboys)

This was the second meeting between these two in a Super Bowl. Bradshaw, right, had the best regular season of his career with 28 touchdown passes and an 84.8 rating — second highest in the league. He won the league's MVP award. Staubach was the top-rated QB at 84.9. But here's what made it special: Both were two-time Super Bowl winners, and the winner would be the first to win three.

Winner: Steelers, 35-31

2. Super Bowl XIX

Joe Montana (49ers) vs. Dan Marino (Dolphins)

Marino, below, was in his second season, but it was a monster season as he broke practically ever NFL passing record. He set marks for completions (362), 300-yard games (nine), 400-yard games (four) and touchdown passes (48) and became the first to throw for more than 5,000 yards. Meanwhile, Montana had already won a Super Bowl.

Winner: 49ers, 38-16

3. Super Bowl I

Bart Starr (Packers) vs. Len Dawson (Chiefs)

Starr, top, had won five NFL championships going into Super Bowl I and was a four-time Pro Bowl pick and two-time All-Pro. Toss in an MVP award and he was the best quarterback of the 1960s. Meanwhile, Dawson had become the AFL's best quarterback. He led the Chiefs to three AFL championships and was a four-time All-AFL selection. He had won four passing titles.

Winner: Packers, 35-10

4. Super Bowl XXIV

Joe Montana (49ers) vs. John Elway (Broncos)

If you look at this matchup today, one could argue it was the best ever. But at the time, Montana, left, had won two Super Bowls while Elway had yet to win one (although it should be noted this was his third trip). He was known for his fourth-quarter heroics, including "The Drive" three years earlier.

Winner: 49ers, 55-10

5. Super Bowl XXIII

Joe Montana (49ers) vs. Boomer Esiason (Bengals)

A very underrated but highly anticipated duel. By this point, Montana had already won three Super Bowls and was considered among the best quarterbacks ever. Meanwhile, Esiason was the league MVP that season and was on his way to a third Pro Bowl.

Winner: 49ers, 20-16

6. Super Bowl XXXII

John Elway (Broncos) vs. Brett Favre (Packers)

Looking back, two of the biggest names in NFL history. But at the time, Elway still hadn't won a Super Bowl despite three previous trips. Meanwhile, Favre that season became the first player to win three consecutive MVP awards and was going for his second straight Super Bowl title.

Winner: Broncos, 31-24

7. Super Bowl XXVIII

Troy Aikman (Cowboys) vs. Jim Kelly (Bills)

This was the second straight Super Bowl these two met. Kelly had led his team to the Super Bowl in the previous three Super Bowls, all losses. Still, at the time, he was a four-time Pro Bowl pick. Aikman had won the previous Super Bowl. He didn't have an amazing season, but he was efficient with 15 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

Winner: Cowboys, 30-13

8. Super Bowl XLIV

Peyton Manning (Colts) vs. Drew Brees (Saints)

This year's matchup is the best in several years. Some already have Manning as the best pure quarterback in NFL history. Brees is a four-time Pro Bowl pick and one-time comeback and offensive player of the year.

Winner: To be determined

9. Super Bowl XVIII

Jim Plunkett (Raiders) vs. Joe Theismann (Redskins)

Only four times has the Super Bowl featured a matchup between quarterbacks who had already won Super Bowls. Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach met each other twice after winning Super Bowls. And last year, Ben Roethlisberger faced Kurt Warner. This was the other time, back in 1984 at old Tampa Stadium. Theismann was the league MVP that season, and Plunkett was a former Super Bowl MVP.

Winner: Raiders, 38-9

10. Super Bowl XLIII

Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) vs. Kurt Warner (Cardinals)

It makes the list because it was a matchup of two former Super Bowl-winning QBs. But it wasn't until the Super Bowl itself that Roethlisberger broke out and became a true superstar.

Winner: Steelers, 27-23

The Super Bowl's greatest quarterback matchups 02/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 6, 2010 8:44pm]
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