Comparatively speaking, Patrick Mahomes first five seasons as a starting quarterback were among the most successful of any quarterback in the history of the game. Mahomes is, without a doubt, the best player to enter the league since I began covering football in 2003 (Dan Marino is the only other player in the modern era who even comes close), and I’ve seen a lot of players. Although his list of career accomplishments won’t come close to matching Tom Brady’s for a long time, Patrick Mahomes is already ahead of the pace on that front. Mahomes has won more games than Brady in his career. Mahomes is a two-time first-team All-Pro and a presumed two-time MVP, and he is currently playing in his fifth season as a starting quarterback. When Brady started for the seventh time, that was the year that he finally reached his potential as an individual athlete.
Due to the fact that this ranking places an emphasis on accomplishments, Mahomes does not come in at number one on the list that follows of the best quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl game. Because Mahomes and the opponent he faced in Super Bowl LVII still have a ways to go in their careers, comparing their legacies or discussing where a player would stand if he retired today is inherently pointless.
Mahomes of the Chiefs and Jalen Hurts of the Eagles is a matchup that represents the rise of the Black quarterback as well as the youth movement at the position more than any other Super Bowl quarterback matchup that has ever occurred. Mahomes, who was only 27 years old at the time, was the oldest quarterback in the AFC playoff field and the second-oldest quarterback in either conference to reach the Divisional Round, behind only Dak Prescott of the Cowboys (29). In just his third NFL season, Hurts has advanced from being a solid starter in 2021 to being named to the second team of All-Pros. He has improved his deep-ball accuracy as well as his decision-making from the pocket, making him more than just the engine behind one of the best running games in all of football. Denying his prowess as a runner, however, is equivalent to denying a significant portion of his value.
These two quarterbacks are great examples of how the game is improving as a result of evolution that is taking place in football, which is a sport that is constantly changing. Winning from one’s pocket is a wonderful accomplishment, but winning from one’s pocket and elsewhere is an even more satisfying accomplishment.
My list of quarterbacks to start in the Super Bowl, which I update annually and which now stands at 66 after Hurts’ performance as the starting quarterback for the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, is presented below. It is important to note that when considering players like Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr, who started Super Bowls but whose best years came before the era of the Super Bowl, I looked at their entire careers and not just what they did after 1966. This is because their best years came before the era of the Super Bowl. I ranked all quarterbacks according to their career accomplishments, giving more weight to things like regular-season excellence, All-Pro/Pro Bowl appearances, and seasons spent as a top-five or top-10 player at the position than I did to simply having won a Super Bowl. (Spoiler alert: despite winning two Super Bowls, Jim Plunkett did not have a more successful career than Marino, who never won a championship.)
After only 34 career starts in the regular season, it is impossible for Hurts to do well on a list like this, but this ranking is similar to a low introductory offer in a negotiation. Along with his income, his position within these ranks is expected to improve on an annual basis over the course of the next decade and beyond.
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