SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 10:  (L-R) Former San Francisco 49er players Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana stand with a Super Bowl trophy during a public memorial service for former 49ers coach Bill Walsh August 10, 2007 at Monster Park in San Francisco, California. NFL Hall of Famer Bill Walsh, who was known by many as "The Genius" for leading the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl championships, died last week at the age of 75 after a long battle with leukemia.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The 50 greatest players in Super Bowl history

As we approach the 50th edition of America’s most celebrated sporting event, The Comeback is taking a look at the 50 greatest players in Super Bowl history.

But let’s be clear: simply having played in a lot of Super Bowls doesn’t get you on this list, even if you are/were a quarterback. John Elway, for instance, played in five Super Bowls but won only two as somewhat of a game manager. Elway had eight interceptions to just three touchdowns in those five games. Peyton Manning also has more losses than wins and more picks than touchdowns in his Super Bowl career, which is why he and Elway won’t be mentioned below.

Most were MVPs, but many weren’t. And some players didn’t make the cut despite winning MVP, which in some games over the last 50 years, is an honor that has been overrated.

Let’s get into it.

50. Ottis Anderson – New York Giants, Super Bowl XXV

The 34-year-old back came out of nowhere to win MVP of the 1990 Super Bowl with 102 tough rushing yards and a touchdown, taking a ton of pressure off backup Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler.

49. Rod Smith – Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXIII

The three-time Pro Bowler stepped up in a major way in John Elway’s last game, catching an 80-yard touchdown pass as part of a five-reception, 152-yard performance.

48. Larry Brown – Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII, XXX

The cornerback had three interceptions in Dallas’ three early-1990s Super Bowl victories, two of which came in the second half of a close victory over Pittsburgh. That earned him MVP honors.

47. Rodney Harrison – New England Patriots, Super Bowls XXXVIII, XXXIX and XLII

JACKSONVILLE, FL - FEBRUARY 06:  Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The star safety had 28 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in three Super Bowls with the Patriots, two of which New England won.

46. Desmond Howard – Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XXXI

Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return touchdown against the Patriots in 1996 might be the only reason Brett Favre has a Super Bowl ring. He also had two 30-yard punt returns that night, which is why Favre retired without a Super Bowl MVP.

45. Jake Scott – Miami Dolphins, Super Bowls VI, VII and VIII

He helped Miami win two Super Bowls and played a key role in three, but Scott’s unforgettable performance came when he earned MVP honors by intercepting Billy Kilmer twice in the team’s 14-7 Super Bowl VII victory over Washington.

44. Richard Dent – Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX

The leader of Chicago’s historically great defense earned MVP honors for a 1.5-sack performance in the 1985 Super Bowl.

43. Randy White – Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl X, XII and XIII

The co-MVP of the 1977 game sparked Dallas to one of the most masterful defensive performances in Super Bowl history.

42. Chuck Howley – Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl V

The only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team intercepted both Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall in order to keep Dallas alive against the mighty Colts in 1970.

41. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy alongside head coach Pete Carroll after their 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

He’s won just the one championship and hasn’t been a Super Bowl MVP, but Wilson has a 117.1 passer rating and just a single interception in his two Super Bowl appearances, the first of which was an impressive upset victory. He also ran for 65 yards in those games.

40. Charles Haley – Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowls XXIII, XXIV, XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX

How do you not include the only player in NFL history with five Super Bowl rings? The terror of a pass-rusher had 4.5 sacks in his five championship victories.

39. Adam Vinatieri – New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowls XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLI

The most clutch kicker of all time won two Super Bowls on last-second field goals, with one coming from 48 yards to upset the Rams.

38. Doug Williams – Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XXII

He threw four touchdown passes and won MVP in his only Super Bowl start, a 42-10 victory over Denver.

37. Ricky Sanders – Washington Redskins, Super Bowls XXII and XXVI

In the 1987 Super Bowl, Sanders caught nine of the 11 passes he was targeted on for a then-record 193 yards and two touchdowns.

36. Thurman Thomas – Buffalo Bills, Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII and XXVIII

Only one player in Super Bowl history has won MVP despite playing for the losing team, but a lot of folks feel Thomas — who averaged 9.0 yards per carry on 15 attempts in a heartbreaking Super Bowl XXV loss to the Giants — deserved the award. The eventual Hall of Famer picked up 48 yards on his final three touches in a close game. But unfortunately for the Bills, that wasn’t enough. And Thomas loses points for amassing just 69 rushing yards in Buffalo’s next three Super Bowl appearances, all of which were also losses.

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Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.