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5 NFL Rookie Quarterbacks That Almost Won the Super Bowl

| December 9, 2021 9:03 am PDT

For the most part, a quarterback is starting his rookie season because his team was bad the season before or is in a rebuild. Because of that, it’s not often you see a rookie quarterback lead his team on a deep playoff run.

The NFL has held the Super Bowl every year since 1967. No rookie quarterback has ever qualified for the Super Bowl. A few have come close, but they failed to make the big game.

Here are five rookie quarterbacks that fell short of winning the Super Bowl.

Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers (2004)

While the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers debated who wanted Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers, the Pittsburgh Steelers sat back and selected Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick.

The plan was for Roethlisberger to sit behind veteran Tommy Maddox. However, that all changed when Maddox suffered an elbow injury in Week 2. Roethlisberger came in relief, passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

As it turns out, that was the only regular-season game the Steelers lost in 2004.

Roethlisberger started the next 13 games, leading the Steelers on a 13-game win streak.

He led multiple fourth-quarter comebacks, including the game-winning touchdown drive against the Dallas Cowboys. Roethlisberger moved the Steelers in position to take the lead with 34 seconds remaining.

Maddox returned to the lineup for a meaningless Week 17 game.

Roethlisberger’s numbers from his rookie season
  • 66.4 completion percentage
  • 2,621 passing yards
  • 17 touchdowns
  • 11 interceptions

Roethlisberger wasn’t making a huge impact, but his defense was helping out, as they allowed the fewest points and yards per game.

In the playoffs, Roethlisberger showed his rookie stripes.

He threw a late interception in the Divisional Round that should’ve ended the Steelers playoff run. Luckily, the New York Jets missed a game-winning 43-yard field goal. Pittsburgh went on to win the game in overtime.

The AFC Championship pitted Roethlisberger against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Pittsburgh ended New England’s 21-game win streak earlier in the season. That win streak is one of the greatest in sports history.

New England jumped out to a 24-3 lead and never looked back. They won 41-27, with Roethlisberger throwing three interceptions.

In 2005, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the Super Bowl. He became the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens (2008)

In 2008, the Baltimore Ravens were looking for a fresh start. They fired head coach Brian Billick, replacing him with John Harbaugh.

Baltimore also made the move to select Joe Flacco with the 18th overall pick.

Flacco started from the beginning, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Baltimore began 2-3, with Flacco throwing one touchdown and seven interceptions. Their final loss in that stretch was an ugly 31-3 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Ravens stuck with the rookie, and they turned their season around.

They won seven of their next eight games, scoring 24+ points in each victory. Check out Flacco’s touchdown to interception numbers.

  • 12 touchdowns
  • 3 interceptions

Cutting down on those turnovers was the key to success.

Baltimore lost in Week 14 but bounced back to finish the season 11-5.

Their passing offense wasn’t much to celebrate, as they ranked 28th in passing yards. Thankfully, Flacco cut down on the turnovers, which helped their run game and defense.

Flacco sat back and watched Baltimore’s defense dominate the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card Round. The 27-9 victory led to a road matchup with No. 1 Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens came into the game as (+3.0) underdogs, but Flacco wasn’t going to let that stop him. He led the Ravens on multiple scoring drives, including the game-winning field goal with 43 seconds remaining.

With the victory, Flacco became the first rookie quarterback to win multiple playoff games.

Unfortunately, Baltimore couldn’t contend with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They lost the AFC Championship Game 23-14, with Flacco throwing three interceptions. The final interception was a pick-six to put the game out of reach.

It took him a few years, but Flacco led the Ravens to the Super Bowl. He threw 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the 2013 postseason.

Mark Sanchez – New York Jets (2009)

This might surprise some younger football fans, but Mark Sanchez nearly led the New York Jets to the Super Bowl.

Like the 2008 Baltimore Ravens, the 2009 New York Jets came into the season with a new head coach and quarterback.

They hired Rex Ryan and drafted Sanchez with the fifth overall pick.

Sanchez led the Jets to a 3-0 start, as he passed for four touchdowns and two interceptions. Unfortunately, the Jets season went downhill fast.

New York lost six of their next seven games. When you look at the numbers, Sanchez was a big reason for their downfall.

  • 48.7 completion percentage
  • 169.3 passing yards per game
  • 6 touchdowns
  • 14 interceptions

Luckily, the Jets turned their season around, winning four of their last five games to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

The Jets went on the road in the Wild Card Round and upset the Cincinnati Bengals. Sanchez went 12/15 with 182 yards and a touchdown.

Not many people were giving Sanchez and the Jets a chance against the San Diego Chargers the following week. New York came into the game as (+9.0) underdogs.

It was a defensive battle as the Chargers led 7-3 going into the fourth quarter. That’s when Sanchez led a pair of touchdown drives to give New York a 17-7 lead. New York held on to win 17-14.

With the victory, Sanchez became the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to win multiple playoff games.

In the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez had the Jets in position to advance to the Super Bowl. He threw a pair of first-half touchdowns to take a 17-6 lead. Unfortunately, their defense struggled as the Colts went on to win 30-17.

New York went on another surprising playoff run in 2010 but fell short in the AFC Championship Game.

Dieter Brock – Los Angeles Rams (1985)

Dieter Brock is an interesting case because he wasn’t your typical NFL rookie. Brock played in the CFL for ten seasons before joining the NFL.

In 1985, he signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a 34-year-old rookie. With Brock in charge, the Rams won their first seven games. Brock wasn’t doing much, as he failed to clear 220 passing yards in that stretch.

Coincidentally, his best performance of the season came in the Rams first loss.

  • 35/51
  • 344 passing yards
  • 2 touchdowns

That started a rough stretch for the Rams, as they lost four of their next six games. They bounced back with back-to-back wins to clinch a playoff spot. Brock passed for a career-high in their Week 15 victory.

Brock finished the season with 2,658 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.

Los Angeles went into the Divisional Round as slight favorites over the Dallas Cowboys. The sportsbooks sold the Rams short, as they dominated in a 20-0 victory. The run game stole the show, with Eric Dickerson rushing for a playoff record 248 yards.

The Rams didn’t stand a chance against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game.

Chicago’s defense held Brock to 66 passing yards. He also didn’t have any help from his run game. The Bears covered the (-10.5) point spread with a 24-0 victory.

The Bears went on to win the Super Bowl and complete the season with one loss. That loss came in one of the greatest Monday night football games of all time.

Unfortunately, that marked the end of Brock’s career. In the preseason, he suffered a knee injury, then aggravated his back while rehabbing.

While he never played again, there’s no doubt he left his mark as a rookie quarterback.

Pat Haden – Los Angeles Rams (1976)

I purposely saved Pat Haden for last because his situation isn’t like the other quarterback we discussed.

Unlike the other rookie quarterbacks, Haden didn’t start most of the season. He started in Week 2, passing for 136 yards and two interceptions in a 10-10 tie.

After that, he made appearances, but he didn’t become the full-time starter until Week 10. At that point, the Rams had a 6-2-1 record.

Haden lost his first game but led the Rams on a four-game winning streak to end that season. He passed for two touchdowns in Week 12 and a season-high 214 yards in Week 13. He finished the season with 896 passing yards and eight touchdowns.

His strong finish helped the Rams win the NFC West with a 10-3-1 record.

The Rams were (+3.5) point road underdogs to the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round. Despite three interceptions from Haden, the Rams held on for a 14-12 victory. Haden did have a four-yard rushing touchdown.

Once again, the Rams went into the NFC Championship Game as the underdog. Only this time, they couldn’t pull off the victory.

The Minnesota Vikings had a 17-0 lead before Haden led a pair of touchdown drives. Minnesota scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

Check out Haden’s numbers from the game
  • 9/22
  • 161 passing yards
  • 1 touchdown
  • 2 interceptions

Haden made the Pro Bowl the following season with 1,551 passing yards and 11 touchdowns.

In 1979, the Rams made it to the Super Bowl, but Haden broke his finger midway through the season. He retired two seasons later.

While he didn’t start at the beginning of his rookie season, Haden led the offense when it mattered most.

Honorable Mentions

  • Shaun King – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1999)
  • Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks (2012)

Like Pat Haden, Shaun King didn’t begin the 1999 season as the starter. He became the starter in Week 13 following an injury to Trent Dilfer. King led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFC Championship Game before falling to the Los Angeles Rams.

Russell Wilson had a great rookie season with 3,118 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. The Seattle Seahawks lost in the Divisional Round on a last-second field goal.

It’s interesting to see how poorly some of these quarterbacks played. For the most part, it was an elite defense and/or run game that led them on the playoff run.

In the future, make sure you note that when thinking about betting on a rookie quarterback. If you’re reading this in 2021, Mac Jones fits the bill.

When it comes time to bet on the Super Bowl, make sure you check out our NFL betting guide.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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