Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl Quarterback Origins

A former sixth-round pick led his team to victory over a former third-round pick in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday night...Where have all the Super Bowl teams in the free agency era found their quarterbacks

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Super Bowl XLIX featured two teams that got their quarterbacks in the draft, though neither one was a first-round pick
  • Since the advent of true free agency in 1993, 26 of a possible 44 Super Bowl quarterback starts have been made by players originally drafted by their teams
  • The Bucs' SB XXXVII win was the last one that pitted two free agent QBs

    On Sunday, the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24, in Super Bowl XLIX. Leading the Seahawks' offense was Russell Wilson, the quarterback they deftly nabbed in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. At the helm of the Patriots' attack was Tom Brady, who was even more famously a sixth-round pick back in 2000.

Last year's Super Bowl, also won by Seattle, pitted Wilson's crew against a Denver Broncos offense led by Peyton Manning, a former #1-overall pick who came to Denver as an unrestricted free agent. The championship game before that, between Baltimore and San Francisco, pitted a former first-round quarterback against a former second-rounder.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers own the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and they could use it to address their quarterback situation. If so, they would be the 13th team in the last 18 drafts to go that route. As this year's Super Bowl demonstrates, however, a championship-caliber field general can be found in a variety of ways.

Wilson and Brady made the 97th and 98th starts for a quarterback in Super Bowl history (obviously, Brady and some others have accounted for several of those 98 starts), and the 43rd and 44th starts since the beginning of the NFL's free agency era in 1993. Here is a run-down of how each of the Super Bowl teams since the 1993 season acquired their starting quarterbacks (and for some, an additional note about their original entry into the NFL):

XLIX Winner New England: Tom Brady, sixth-round pick (#199) in his 15th season with the team.
XLIX Loser Seattle: Russell Wilson, third-round pick (#75) in his third season with the team.

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XLVIII Winner Seattle: Russell Wilson, third-round pick (#75) in his second season with the team.
XLVIII Loser Denver: Peyton Manning, unrestricted free agent in his second season with the team; former #1 overall pick in the 1998 draft by Indianapolis.

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XLVII Winner Baltimore: Joe Flacco, first-round pick (#18) in his fifth season with the team.
XLVII Loser San Francisco: Colin Kaepernick, second-round pick (#36) in his second season with the team.

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XLVI Winner New York Giants: Eli Manning, trade acquisition on a draft-day trade with San Diego after Chargers took Manning #1 overall and Giants took Philip Rivers at #4; in his eighth year with the team.
XLVI Loser New England: Tom Brady, sixth-round pick (#199) in his 12th season with the team.

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XLV Winner Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers, first-round pick (#24) in his sixth year with the team.
XLV Loser Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger, first-round pick (#11) in his seventh year with the team.

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XLIV Winner New Orleans: Drew Brees, unrestricted free agent in his fourth season with the team; former 2nd-round pick (#32) in the 2001 draft by San Diego.
XLIV Loser Indianapolis: Peyton Manning, first-round pick (#1) in his 11th season with the team.

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XLIII Winner Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger, first-round pick (#11) in his fifth year with the team.
XLIII Loser Arizona: Kurt Warner, unrestricted free agent in his fourth season with the team; former undrafted free agent by Green Bay in 1994.

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XLII Winner New York Giants: Eli Manning, draft-day trade with San Diego after Chargers took Manning #1 overall and Giants took Philip Rivers at #4; in his fourth year with the team.
XLII Loser New England: Tom Brady, sixth-round pick (#199) in his eighth season with the team.

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XLI Winner Indianapolis: Peyton Manning, first-round pick (#1) in his ninth season with the team.
XLI Loser Chicago: Rex Grossman, first-round pick (#22) in his fourth season with the team.

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XL Winner Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger, first-round pick (#11) in his second year with the team.
XL Loser Seattle: Matt Hasselbeck, trade acquisition in his fifth year with the team; former sixth-round pick (#187) in the 1998 draft by Green Bay.

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XXXIX Winner New England: Tom Brady, sixth-round pick (#199) in his fifth season with the team.
XXXIX Loser Philadelphia: Donovan McNabb, first-round pick (#2) in his sixth season with the team.

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XXXVIII Winner New England: Tom Brady, sixth-round pick (#199) in his fourth season with the team.
XXXVIII Loser Carolina: Jake Delhomme, unrestricted free agent in his first season with the team; former undrafted free agent by New Orleans in 1997.

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XXXVII Winner Tampa Bay: Brad Johnson, unrestricted free agent in his second season with the team; former ninth-round pick (#227) in the 1992 draft by Minnesota.
XXXVII Loser Oakland: Rich Gannon, unrestricted free agent in his fourth season with the team; former fourth-round pick (#98) in the 1987 draft by New England who was then traded to Minnesota.

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XXXVI Winner New England: Tom Brady, sixth-round pick (#199) in his second season with the team.
XXXVI Loser St. Louis: Kurt Warner, free agent signing in his fourth season with the team; former undrafted free agent by Green Bay in 1994.

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XXXV Winner Baltimore: Trent Dilfer, unrestricted free agent in his first season with the team; former first-round pick (#6) in the 1994 draft by Tampa Bay.
XXXV Loser New York Giants: Kerry Collins, unrestricted free agent in his second season with the team; former first-round pick (#5) in the 1995 draft by Carolina.

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XXXIV Winner St. Louis: Kurt Warner, free agent signing in his second season with the team; former undrafted free agent by Green Bay in 1994.
XXXIV Loser Tennessee: Steve McNair, first-round pick (#3) in his fifth season with the team.

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XXXIII Winner Denver: John Elway, trade acquisition in his 16th season with the team; former first-round pick (#1 overall) in the 1993 draft who was traded a week later to Denver.
XXXIII Loser Atlanta: Chris Chandler, trade acquisition in his second season with the team; former third-round pick (#76) in the 1988 draft by Indianapolis.

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XXXII Winner Denver: John Elway, trade acquisition in his 15th season with the team; former first-round pick (#1 overall) in the 1993 draft who was traded a week later to Denver.
XXXII Loser Green Bay: Brett Favre, trade acquisition in his sixth season with the team; former second-round pick (#33) in the 1991 draft by Atlanta.

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XXXI Winner Green Bay: Brett Favre, trade acquisition in his fifth season with the team; former second-round pick (#33) in the 1991 draft by Atlanta.
XXXI Loser New England: Drew Bledsoe, first-round pick (#1) in his fourth season with the team.

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XXX Winner Dallas: Troy Aikman, first-round pick (#1) in his seventh season with the team.
XXX Loser Pittsburgh: Neil O'Donnell, third-round pick (#70) in his sixth season with the team.

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XXIX Winner San Francisco: Steve Young, trade acquisition in his eighth season with the team; former first-round pick (#1) in the 1984 USFL Allocation Draft by Tampa Bay.
XXXIX Loser San Diego: Stan Humphries, trade acquisition in his third season with the team; former sixth-round pick (#159) in the 1988 draft by Washington.

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XXVIII Winner Dallas: Troy Aikman, first-round pick (#1) in his fifth season with the team.
XXVIII Loser Buffalo: Jim Kelly, first-round pick (#14) in his eighth season with the team (Kelly was drafted in 1983 but held out one season and played two seasons in the USFL before finally signing with the Bills in 1986).

**

So, how have the 44 Super Bowl teams of the NFL's free agency era acquired their quarterbacks? If we allow duplicates (e.g. count Tom Brady for each of his appearances), it breaks down like this:

  • 26 of the 44 quarterback appearances were accounted for by players who were drafted* by the team for whom they started.
  • 8 of the 44 were acquired via trades*.
  • 8 of the 44 were signed as unrestricted free agents.
  • 2 of the 44 were signed as "street" free agents (Kurt Warner with St. Louis accounts for both of these). * We have chosen to count Eli Manning among the drafted players, as the trade worked out in the first hour of the 2004 draft between the Giants and Chargers was essentially the same as a trade up by the Giants to take Manning. However, we have chosen to include John Elway among the trade acquisitions because that trade took place a week later. The same holds true for all of the notes below.

Of those 26 appearances by quarterbacks who were drafted by their Super Bowl teams:

  • 16 were accounted for by quarterbacks selected in the first round.
  • 1 was a second-rounder.
  • 3 were third-rounders.
  • 6 were sixth-rounders.
    Colin Kaepernick is the second-rounder on the list; Wilson accounts for two of the third-round appearances with the other belong to Neil O'Donnell; and, of course, all six sixth-round appearances are Brady. If you want to count only the individual quarterbacks involved and not their repeat appearances you end up with:
  • 10 first-rounders.
  • 1 second-rounder.
  • 2 third-rounders.
  • 1 sixth-rounder.
    Other notes:
  • The last Super Bowl to pit two first-round picks starting at quarterback for their original teams was XLV at the end of the 2010 season, when Aaron Rodgers' Packers beat Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers.
  • The most recent Super Bowl in which neither starting quarterback was originally a draft pick for his team was XXXVII, in which Brad Johnson's Buccaneers beat Rich Gannon's Raiders.
  • Super Bowl XXXII was the last one to feature two starting quarterbacks who had been acquired via trade, although the circumstances were quite different between John Elway landing in Denver and Chris Chandler landing in Atlanta.
  • The matchup of the highest draft picks still with their original teams comes from the first Super Bowl on our list, when Dallas and Troy Aikman (#1 in 1989) matched up with Jim Kelly (#14 in 1983).
  • Super Bowl XXXV is the only one in our set that pitted two quarterbacks who originally entered the league as a top-10 draft pick, though neither was still with his first team by that point. That would be Trent Dilfer's Baltimore Ravens against Kerry Collins's New York Giants.
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