Can a quarterback be too old to win a Super Bowl? Is a certain amount of playoff experience a prerequisite for a title run? Are running QBs incapable of winning a ring? We analyzed the championship seasons of the quarterbacks who won the past 10 Super Bowls to get a better understanding of NFL trends. Here's what we learned, including which QB left in this year's postseason best fits the mold.
While having an extensive playoff résumé may be a bit overrated, every championship QB in the past 10 years played in at least two postseason games before making their Super Bowl-winning run. Cam Newton and Andrew Luck are the only two QBs left in this postseason without that kind of experience.
Notable stat: 24 — Postseason games played by the Patriots' Tom Brady — more than Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Newton and Luck combined.
Past 10 years' average: 5 games
The belief that young QBs can't win in the postseason has been debunked repeatedly over the past 10 years. On the other end of the life spectrum, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are proving that guys in their mid-30s can still play at an elite level. But when it comes to winning titles, there's been a rather small career window. No Super Bowl-winning QB over the past 10 years was older than 30 when his championship season started. And in that span, only one QB (Ben Roethlisberger in 2005) was younger than 26.
Weird Stat: 4 — Number of the past six Super Bowls won by a Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Eli Manning (twice), Brees and Joe Flacco.
Past 10 years' average: 27 (as of Dec. 31 of that year)
Tom Brady — the Patriots' sixth-round selection (199th pick) in 2000 — has won three Super Bowls, but let's not jump to the conclusion that championship QBs are easy to find in later rounds. Since Brady's last title in 2004, each Super Bowl-winning QB was selected in the top 32, with Drew Brees (the first pick in the second round in 2001) being the only one chosen outside the first round.
Notable Stat: 1 — QB to win a Super Bowl in the past 10 years with a team other than the one that drafted him (or was traded to on draft night). Brees was drafted by the Chargers but he won with the Saints.
Past 10 years' average: 50th pick (it rises to 12th without Brady)
There really hasn't been any correlation between regular-season passer rating and titles — which is kind of surprising. Eli Manning won in 2007 with a dismal rating of 73.9, while Drew Brees had a 109.6 mark in his championship season. In the past 10 years, four Super Bowl-winning QBs had a passer rating below 87.7 — a mark 16 QBs surpassed in 2013.
Notable stat: 7 — QBs with a passer rating above 100 this year, the most ever in a single season.
Past 10 years' average: 92.4
No QB passed for 5,000 yards in the same season he won the Super Bowl — although Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have a chance to break that trend this year. Passing yard figures are often overvalued. In fact, Brees' lowest single-season passing-yard total in eight years in New Orleans was in 2009 — the year he won the title. As for three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, he's surpassed 4,000 passing yards six times in his career, but never in a title year.
Notable stat: 198.8 — Average passing yards per game for Ben Roethlisberger in his Super Bowl-winning campaign in 2005. Only five out of 37 qualifying QBs passed for less than 200 yards a game in 2013.
Past 10 years' average: 3,779 (245 per game)
In nine of the past 10 years, the Super Bowl-winning QB rushed for 101 yards or less in the regular season. The exception, Aaron Rodgers, ran for 356 yards in 2010, but even he doesn't rely on running as much as some of his counterparts. He's never rushed for more than 500 yards in a season — a mark reached by Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick this year.
Notable stat: -31 — Rushing yards by Peyton Manning this season. While a true rushing QB hasn't won a Super Bowl over the past 10 years, no QB had negative rushing yards and went on to win the title in the same season.
Past 10 years' average: 79 (5 per game)
There has been a drastic variance in TD-INT ratio for the past 10 Super Bowl-winning QBs; TD passes range from 17 to 34 and interceptions thrown range from nine to 20. But three of the remaining eight QBs in this year's playoffs don't fall in that wide spectrum (outperforming the winning QBs of the past 10 years). Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have each thrown more than 34 TDs this year — with Manning setting the single-season record with 55 — and Colin Kaepernick threw fewer interceptions (eight) than each of the previous 10 Super Bowl winners.
Notable stat: 20 — Interceptions thrown by Eli Manning in his Super Bowl-winning season of 2007, which was tied for the league lead.
Past 10 years' average: 25-13
And the winning QB will be . . .
After crunching the numbers and evaluating the past 10 Super Bowl winners we've found that . . . this postseason is set up to break the mold. There's two distinct groups of QBs remaining: the old-time, prototypical drop-back passers (Brady, Manning) and the up-and-coming, mobile QBs (Wilson, Kaepernick).
Still want a prediction based on those stats we just made you read? OK. So which quarterback best aligns with the past 10 champs? Drumroll please . . . it's Colin Kaepernick!
Quick, call your bookie. Tell him to put your life savings on the 49ers! When have trends ever been broken? I'm sure this formula would have spit out Joe Flacco's name at this time last year.
So why Kaepernick? His playoff experience (three games), age (26) and QB rating (91.6) are the closest to the averages for the past champions. While he has more rushing yards (524) than any Super Bowl winner of the past 10 years, his stats are pretty close in the other six categories.
So there you have it. The San Francisco 49ers will win Super Bowl XLVIII. If by some miracle it's not the 49ers, don't blame us. It was the numbers' fault.