For years the conventional wisdom has always stated that a quarterback needed to have years of playoff experience before finally being able to make the leap to winning a Super Bowl. This year may indeed be a test of that adage as we have an incredibly even split between young gunslingers and wily veterans looking to lift the Lombardi Trophy this year.
On the elder statesmen side, Tom Brady and Drew Brees would each become the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at 40+ years of age. Peyton Manning currently holds the record at 39 years of age after winning Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos. Although he doesn’t have experience in the Super Bowl yet, Philip Rivers of the Chargers would also be one of the oldest quarterbacks to lift the Lombardi Trophy at 37 years old.
At the other end of the spectrum, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs would be the youngest quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl at 23 years and 4 months of age. Ben Roethlisberger was 23 years and 11 months old when he won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers in 2006. Los Angeles’ Jared Goff (24) would join only Roethlisberger and Tom Brady to win a Super Bowl at younger than 25 and Dak Prescott (25) wouldn’t be far behind.
Finally, the middle-aged category for quarterbacks is a mix of signal callers, one with a ring and one without, as Nick Foles of the Eagles and Andrew Luck of the Colts are both 29 years old.
So does either side have an edge? Is it better to have a quarterback with lots of experienced, a fearless newcomer, or someone that’s in the middle of their career? According to the historical data, which group of quarterbacks has the edge when it comes to Super Bowl winners? We’ve looked through the list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and found some interesting statistical trends when it comes to the age of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
As it turns out, Foles and Luck are right in the sweet spot of Super Bowl winners. The average age of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks is 30.71 years of age. Over the course of NFL history that seems to fit with what one would think of as the prime of a quarterback’s career. The data for first-time Super Bowl winners is about the same as well with quarterbacks being an average of 29 years of age winning their first Super Bowl. (You’re welcome Colts fans.)
Drilling down deeper into the data is even more interesting as the wide majority of Super Bowl winners have come from the surrounding age brackets with few outliers over the previous 52 Super Bowls.
Super Bowl Victories By Age Bracket
25 or younger: 5 Super Bowls
26-30 years old: 24 Super Bowls
31-35 years old: 16 Super Bowls
36 or older: 7 Super Bowls
What’s amazing about this statistic is that the 36 and older crowd has almost doubled their total the last few years. Three of the last four Super Bowl winners have been among the oldest to ever win the game with Tom Brady taking two Lombardi Trophies at 37 and 39 respectively and Manning’s victory with the Broncos. These numbers line up with what we’re seeing around the NFL with quarterbacks being more and more protected by the changes taking place in the game. With more elite quarterbacks like Brees and Brady playing to 40 and beyond it certainly increases their chances of winning a championship in the latter stages of their career. In case you’re wondering, the other 35+ year-old quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl were Johnny Unitas, Jim Plunkett, and John Elway twice.
Nowhere is that trend more clearly seen than Rivers having what may be his best chance to win a ring at the ripe old age of 37. And Chargers fans certainly shouldn’t be discouraged about that number because both Elway and Unitas won their first Super Bowl at the same age.
After the 2000s were dominated by younger quarterbacks like Brady in the early years of the Patriots dynasty, Roethlisberger, and Rodgers, the 2010s have had the highest average age by decade of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, although the numbers are remarkably consistent over the years.
Average Age of Super Bowl Victories By Decade
2010s: 31 years old
2000s: 27 years old
1990s: 30.6 years old
1980s: 30.8 years old
1970s: 30 years old
1960s: 30.7 years old
What can we learn from these numbers? While it’s certainly not historically improbable for a quarterback like Mahomes or Goff or Prescott to win a Super Bowl, it would be a bit of a novelty especially considering recent trends that are skewing towards older quarterbacks.
Veteran quarterbacks are having more success than ever before in winning a Super Bowl trophy, specifically in the 35 and older crowd which would seem to favor Brees, Brady, and Rivers.
However, in looking at Super Bowl history on the whole, it would seem to favor the two #6 seeds and their quarterbacks with Foles and Luck being in seemingly the perfect spot. And given the way both of their teams played over the weekend with being able to win on the road in the Wild Card round, they have to be feeling pretty good about their chances at the moment.