If we’re lucky, the 2009 NFL postseason may feature something NFL fans have not seen in almost a quarter of a century. When Ben Roethlisberger bested Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XLII, he, not Warner, joined the pantheon of quarterbacks who’ve won multiple Super Bowl rings. Big Ben made it an even ten. Here they are:
1) Bart Starr (1966, 1967)
2) Bob Griese (1972, 1973)
3) Terry Bradshaw (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979)
4) Roger Staubach (1971, 1977)
5) Jim Plunkett (1980, 1983)
6) Joe Montana (1981, 1984, 1988, 1989)
7) Troy Aikman (1992, 1993, 1995)
8) John Elway (1997, 1998)
9) Tom Brady (2001, 2003, 2004)
10) Ben Roethlisberger (2005, 2008).
But even rarer than the number of QB’s on that list is the number of matchups between any of those guys after having won multiple rings. On the Football Guys Message Board a poster named The Jerk, with a little help from other smart guy (wink wink), produced a complete list of those occurrences which PI will now reproduce here:
1) November 14, 1976: Miami 3 @ Pittsburgh 14
(Griese 2, Bradshaw 2)
2) November 5, 1978: Dallas 16 @ 23 Miami
(Staubach 2, Griese 2)
3) January 21, 1979/Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh 35/Dallas 31
(Bradshaw 2, Staubach 2)
4) October 28, 1979: Dallas 3 @ Pittsburgh 14
(Staubach 2, Bradshaw 3)
5) December 30, 1979/Divisional Playoffs: Miami 14 @ Pittsburgh 34
(Griese 2, Bradshaw 3)
6) September 22, 1985: San Francisco 34 @ LA Raiders 10
(Montana 2, Plunkett 2)
As you can see the NFL hasn’t seen a matchup between multiple Super Bowl winning quarterbacks since 1985. Since Starr retired before Griese won a second Super Bowl, no opportunity existed for a matchup of multiple ring-bearers until after Bradshaw won his second in 1975. And that historic matchup took place the very next year, with Bradshaw coming out on top. Staubach winning his second Super Bowl in 1977 made the 1978 and 1979 seasons the only two seasons in NFL history where three multiple Super Bowl winning QB’s were all taking snaps at the same time. From November 5, 1978 through December 30, 1979, a little more than a year, the NFL presented four separate games featuring two of these three men facing off against each other. Though it briefly seemed like a common occurrence, we’ve only had one more matchup of QB’s who’ve won two or more Super Bowls, the 1985 Montana-Plunkett battle. Why? Mainly because there just haven’t been the opportunities. Staubach and Griese retired after the 1979 and 1980 seasons respectively. Bradshaw followed suit after the 1983 season, just as Plunkett capped that year by winning his second Super Bowl. Montana joined Plunkett as a two-time winner in 1984 and the two faced off in their historic matchup the very next season. And that’s been it.
Plunkett, an old veteran, only had one more season left in him and Montana went almost the rest of his career as the league’s only multiple Super Bowl winner. Of course he won two more himself so that meant fewer opportunities for somebody else to win two. And nobody did until seven long years later: Troy Aikman in 1993. Unfortunately, he and Montana played in different conferences in 1994, Joe’s last season. So only a Chiefs-Cowboys Super Bowl in 1994 could have brought us a seventh multiple ring matchup. But it was not to be. John Elway won his second ring in 1998but he decided to hang it up after that season and Aikman followed suit a year later.
So the NFL went the longest it ever has without any QB’s playing who’d won at least two Super Bowls. The four-year drought ended after Tom Brady won his second Super Bowl in 2003. But he had no similar QB to battle against until now. The Patriots and Steelers do not play each other in the regular season in 2009, so any matchup between Brady and Roethlisberger will have to happen in the postseason. Hopefully it will. But if it doesn’t, both QB’s are young enough to make at least one more game between them a likely event.