The fraternity of Super Bowl quarterbacks will reach 63 members next Sunday when Kansas City’s 24-year-old Patrick Mahomes and San Francisco’s 28-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo form the freshest matchup of up-and-comers that this grand game has ever seen.
In 54 Super Bowls, this duo ranks third in youth, tied for sixth in playoff inexperience and tied for first in fewest career starts.
In other words, thank you, Tom Brady. Thank you, GOAT, for at least hitting a one-year pause in your unprecedented and never-to-be-duplicated journey as the greatest ball hog in the history of Super Bowl story lines.
Twenty quarterbacks have played in multiple Super Bowls, led by Brady’s nine. Fifteen have won their one and only Super Bowl start, ranging in greatness from Steve Young pulling that figurative monkey off his back to Trent Dilfer, who became the ultimate monkey wrench in the argument that quarterbacks should only be measured by the Super Bowls they win.
Twenty-six quarterbacks have swung and missed in their only Super Bowl start. This includes a wide range of disappointments from the Vikings’ Joe Kapp, who was a 12-point favorite against the Chiefs 50 years ago; to the Rams’ Vince Ferragamo, whose third playoff start was Terry Bradshaw’s fourth Super Bowl win; to Miami’s Dan Marino, who nobody expected to go one-and-done when he stepped into the 19th Super Bowl as a 23-year-old kid with a 21-4 record and an MVP trophy.
Thirty-five years later, the possibilities are endless for Mahomes and Garoppolo, two vastly different types of players who have one important thing in common: winning. Garoppolo is 23-5 (82.1%), including 2-0 in the playoffs. Mahomes is 27-8 (77.1%), including 3-1 in the playoffs.
Their combined gameday age of 52 years and 230 days will move them into third place — by 38 days — ahead of the Super Bowl XX matchup of 26-year-olds Jim McMahon and Tony Eason. The only younger matchups came in the 19th Super Bowl — 23-year-old Marino and 28-year-old Joe Montana — and the 31st Super Bowl — 27-year-old Brett Favre and 24-year-old Drew Bledsoe.
With a combined 57 regular-season starts, Mahomes and Garoppolo tie the 36th Super Bowl matchup between Brady, who was 11-3, and Kurt Warner, who was 35-8. There’s never been another Super Bowl matchup in which both quarterbacks have had fewer than 32 starts.
At 24 years and 138 days, Mahomes will be the fourth-youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Marino is the only person younger than 24 to do it. Nos. 2-3 are Miami’s David Woodley, who was 24 years and 97 days in the 17th Super Bowl, and the Rams’ Jared Goff, who was 24 years and 112 days in last year’s Super Bowl.
And dropping to No. 5 behind Mahomes?
Brady. When he won his first Super Bowl, he was 46 days older than Mahomes will be in Super Bowl LIV.
So how will Super Bowl history remember this intriguing matchup between Mahomes, the flamboyant maestro and his pack of speed demons, and Garoppolo, the so-called system quarterback whose talents are restrained behind the blunt force wallop of San Francisco’s old-school football mentality?
Who the heck knows? And that’s part of the fun as the NFL transitions away from the guys named Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger.
It’s safe to assume we’re not looking at something that will sink to the bottom and settle next to the 35th Super Bowl’s matchup of Baltimore’s Dilfer and the Giants’ Kerry Collins, whose passer rating that day was 7.1. Yes, 7.1.
At the other end of the quarterback spectrum sit 17 Hall of Famers (so far) who were Super Bowl starters. Twelve Super Bowls have featured two Hall of Fame starting quarterbacks, including two rematches — Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach, and Troy Aikman vs. Jim Kelly.
It’s hard to say where Mahomes and Garoppolo will fall. In Super Bowl history, Garoppolo’s 26 regular-season starts are the 13th-fewest among quarterbacks. Mahomes’ 31 starts are the 16th-fewest.
Jeff Hostetler’s career record was 4-0 when he won a Super Bowl. Staubach was 13-1 when he won the first of his two rings.
Then again, Rex Grossman was 17-6 when he fell short in his one unexpected attempt. Eason was 15-12 when he was mauled by the ’85 Bears. And Marino was 21-4 when he left the big stage never to return despite another 15 years of trying.
Sorry, Tom. With all due respect to your GOATness, this is great. It’s high time to enjoy someone else’s story lines.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org