Commentary

Greatest fantasy performances: Quarterbacks

Updated: January 30, 2008, 10:55 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft

It has long been said that it's the running backs who are the "lifeblood of fantasy football." That might be true during the regular season, but in the Super Bowl, it's the quarterbacks who historically have captured all the glory.

Take a gander at the Super Bowl MVP list: 21 of those 41 names -- that's more than half -- have been quarterbacks. It really shouldn't surprise you; they're the ones whose images hoisting the Lombardi Trophy stick in your mind for years, the ones taking that memorable trip to Disneyland after their victories.

And, interestingly enough, the fantasy numbers back it up. The top two single-game performances, as you'll see below, came from quarterbacks. Nearly 20 times in the Super Bowl did a quarterback manage 20-plus fantasy points, well ahead of any other position. Five quarterbacks -- Terry Bradshaw (Super Bowl XIII), Jake Delhomme (XXXVIII), John Elway (XXI), Jim Plunkett (XV) and Roger Staubach (XIII) -- tied with 22 fantasy points and missed the top 10; and two of those (Bradshaw and Plunkett) were MVPs!

Needless to say, MVP voting has been pretty on point when it comes to quarterbacks. Only three of 21 finished with single-digit fantasy points despite winning the award: Joe Namath (Super Bowl III) and Len Dawson (IV) had eight, and Tom Brady (XXXVI) had nine. But whose was the best of a strong crop? Take a look:

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1. Steve Young, 49ers
Stats: 41 points, 24/36-325-6-0 passing, 5-49-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXIX, Jan. 29, 1995: 49ers 49, Chargers 26
Six touchdown passes. Six! Only four times in the past decade has a quarterback thrown for that many, which demonstrates the rarity of the feat, and in a Super Bowl this was the one and only time it happened. Having inherited the quarterbacking reins from four-time Super Bowl champion Joe Montana three seasons prior, Young one-upped his predecessor, registering the greatest single-game fantasy performance in Super Bowl history. He completed a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice a minute and 24 seconds into the game, added another 4:55 in and threw for a score in each of the game's four quarters. It'd be his one and only Super Bowl as a starter, but boy, was it a memorable one.

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2. Joe Montana 49ers
Stats: 36 points, 24/35-331-3-0 passing, 5-59-1 rushing.
Super Bowl XIX, Jan. 20, 1985: 49ers 38, Dolphins 16
Montana's performance in Super Bowl XIX might have been passed fantasy-wise by Young 10 years later, but in terms of sheer quantity of standout statistical Super Bowl efforts, it's no contest between them. The first of three Montana appearances on the list, this one earned his 49ers their second Super Bowl title in four years and it captured him his second game MVP award of an eventual record three in his career. Plus, it represents another first -- and only such instance -- in Super Bowl history; Montana is the only man to pass for three or more touchdowns and run for a score.

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3. Joe Montana 49ers
Stats: 32 points, 22/29-297-5-0 passing, 2-15-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXIV, Jan. 28, 1990: 49ers 55, Broncos 10
Maybe he didn't realize it at the time, but in his final of four appearances in the Super Bowl, Montana managed a memorable one. He and his 49ers set all sorts of records in this one: His five touchdown passes set a new standard, broken by Young five years later, and his 49ers set marks for most points (55) and largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl (45) that stand today. His 13 consecutive completions in the game is a Super Bowl record, and he ranks second in completion percentage (75.9, 20 or more attempts). For his efforts Montana won his third MVP trophy, more than any other player in Super Bowl history.

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4. Troy Aikman, Cowboys
Stats: 28 points, 22/30-273-4-0 passing, 3-28-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXVII, Jan. 31, 1993: Cowboys 52, Bills 17
No one ever really thought of Aikman as an elite fantasy quarterback. Only once did he pass for more than 20 touchdowns in a season (23, 1992), and only 13 times in 165 career games did he throw for 300-plus yards. On this January day, though, Aikman stepped up his performance, offering a statistical output unlike almost any other in his career. His four touchdown passes to this day rank him third in Super Bowl history, and his 273 passing yards easily trumped his efforts in his Super Bowl XXVII (207) or XXX (209) victories. Like the two men ahead of him, he picked up an MVP trophy for his work.

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5. Doug Williams, Redskins
Stats: 27 points, 18/29-340-4-1 passing, 2-(-2)-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXII, Jan. 31, 1988: Redskins 42, Broncos 10
Coming into the game, few people gave Williams and his Redskins much of a chance at unseating John Elway, widely considered the more talented quarterback, or his Broncos. Williams, though, proved more than up to the challenge, becoming (at the time) just the second player to throw for four touchdowns in a Super Bowl, while recording the third-longest completed pass in a Super Bowl, an 80-yard touchdown strike to Ricky Sanders. Later named the game's MVP, Williams led the Redskins to an incredible 35-point second quarter, completing all four of his scores in the period.

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6. Brett Favre, Packers
Stats: 26 points
, 14/27-246-2-0 passing, 4-12-1 rushing, 2-pt conversion.
Super Bowl XXXI, Jan. 26, 1997: Packers 35, Patriots 21
It's amazing to think it has been 10 years since Favre last sniffed a Super Bowl, but back in the day, he was as impressive a performer on the big stage as anyone, save maybe for Montana. He's the first name on this list who didn't win himself an MVP award for his efforts, but that doesn't mean they weren't exceptional. Favre did it all that day; he threw for two scores, ran for another and even completed a two-point conversion. Plus, he holds the distinction of completing the second-longest pass in a Super Bowl, an 81-yard touchdown toss to Antonio Freeman, giving his Packers a lead they'd never relinquish.

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7. Tom Brady, Patriots
Stats: 25 points, 32/48-354-3-1 passing, 2-12-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXXVIII, Feb. 1, 2004: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
Here's how impressive Brady's 2007 has been: Six times in his 16 regular-season games he managed a better fantasy point total than this. Not one of those performances, however, earned him a Super Bowl ring or a second game MVP trophy, as this did. Brady set a record in Super Bowl XXXVIII with his 32 completions, and every one of those 354 yards and three scores he threw for mattered in a game decided by a last-minute Adam Vinatieri field goal. Without Brady, it could be said the Patriots wouldn't have won their three Super Bowls in four years -- this was their second in that run -- and now he has a chance to make it four in seven. The question: Can he top this fantasy output?

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8 (tied). Phil Simms, Giants
Stats: 24 points, 22/25-268-3-0 passing, 3-25-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXI, Jan. 25, 1987: Giants 39, Broncos 20
How fitting is it that immediately following a Patriot, we have a Giant? The Giants can only hope Eli Manning is up to the task Simms was 21 years ago, when he set a record for best completion percentage in a Super Bowl (88.0, 20-plus attempts), while completing 10 consecutive passes, tied for second-most in Super Bowl history. He was as efficient as they come on this day; down 10-9 at halftime, he was a perfect 10-for-10 passing in the game's second half, as the Giants set a record with 30 points after halftime.

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8 (tied). Kurt Warner, Rams
Stats: 24 points, 24/45-414-2-0 passing, 1-1-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXXIV, Jan. 30, 2000: Rams 23, Titans 16
Three times in his career has Warner thrown for 400-plus yards, but he saved another for his first Super Bowl appearance, which put a cap on an extraordinary season for him and his Rams. The 1999 season, remember, was the year when Warner came completely out of nowhere to throw for 41 touchdowns, and six more in his first two playoff games, while the Rams went 13-3 and charged into their first Super Bowl in 20 years. Warner's 414 yards remain a Super Bowl record and earned him the game's MVP.

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10 (tied). Ken Anderson, Bengals
Stats: 23 points, 25/34-300-2-2 passing, 4-15-1 rushing.
Super Bowl XVI, Jan. 24, 1982: 49ers 26, Bengals 21
The first -- and only -- man on this list to lose in the Super Bowl, Anderson made the cut thanks to his ability both as a passer and runner. He threw for two scores and ran for another, while managing the third-best completion percentage in a Super Bowl (73.5). Joe Montana, the game's MVP, might have generated most of the headlines, but what's so impressive about Anderson's output is that his stat line would have earned him six more fantasy points than Montana's 17. Take that, Joe Cool!

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10 (tied). Jim McMahon, Bears
Stats: 23 points, 12/20-256-0-0 passing, 5-14-2 rushing.
Super Bowl XX, Jan. 26, 1986: Bears 46, Patriots 10
McMahon's efforts as a passer -- 12-of-20 completed passes, 256 yards, no scores -- might not have earned him much attention, but in Super Bowl XX, he did something no other quarterback in history has done: He managed multiple rushing touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Remember, our scoring system awards two more points for a rushing score than for a passing score, so McMahon's legs helped him barely make the cut.

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10 (tied). Joe Montana, 49ers
Stats: 23 points, 23/36-357-2-0 passing, 4-13-0 rushing.
Super Bowl XXIII, Jan. 22, 1989: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
In his third appearance on the list, Montana might not have been game-MVP worthy, but his performance wasn't much less stellar than in any of his other three Super Bowl wins. His 357 passing yards rank him tied for third-best in a Super Bowl, and actually represent his best total in 23 career postseason games. It'd be his first of back-to-back titles.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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