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The Three Best Quarterbacks to Never Win a Super Bowl

In the NFL, the quest for the Lombardi Trophy is the ultimate endeavor, a gold pinnacle atop the Everest of the sport. It’s the defining measure of a quarterback’s legacy, a symbolic passage into the annals of football greatness. However, there’s a bittersweet pantheon reserved for those elite quarterbacks who, despite their undeniable talent and relentless effort, have never laid claim to the Super Bowl title.

One such man who doesn’t have to worry about that in the slightest is Patrick Mahomes. The former Texas Tech standout rallied his Kansas City Chiefs to an underdog victory against the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas in February to secure the Lombardi for the second straight year. In fact, their trip to the Big Game was the fourth in five years and their third triumph. But this year was different to those of years gone by.

This time around, the Arrowhead side entered the postseason as rank outsiders after losing five of their final ten games of the regular season. Once the playoffs got underway, they had to embark on back-to-back road games in which they were underdogs, firstly against the Buffalo Bills and then against the top-seed Baltimore Ravens. But Mahomes and Co. comfortably ran out victorious in both those matchups before knocking off the Niners at Allegiant Stadium deep into overtime.

Their victory means that later this year, they will have the chance to become the first team in history to win three straight Super Bowls. They’ve got a lot of fans and gamblers on their side, of course, rooting for them to win. They’ll be crossing their fingers as the matches heat up. And the bookies fancy their chances. The latest NFL Super Bowl odds make them +450 favorites for glory once again next term, but it remains to be seen whether they can live up to the billing.

But unlike Mahomes, some superstar quarterbacks never managed to secure one Super Bowl ring, never mind three. Here are three of the best of them.

Jim Kelly

In the storied history of the NFL, Jim Kelly is synonymous with the Buffalo Bills and their remarkable four-year, four-Super Bowl run that began at the end of the 1989 season. The “K-Gun” offense, orchestrated by their quarterback supremo, was a high-octane juggernaut that terrorized defenses and brought victory after victory. But he could never get the win when it mattered the most.

Drafted in the first round of the 1983 draft, Kelly initially rejected the Bills for the warmer climes of the Houston Gamblers in the USFL. But destiny had different plans. He finally made his way to Highmark Stadium two years on from his initial drafting and immediately transformed a struggling franchise into a force to be reckoned with.

In the early 1990s, the former University of Miami standout turned New York State into a fortress. Four years, four trips to the Super Bowl, the only team to ever complete such a feat. However, inexplicably, both he and his Bills lost all four games.

The Bills’ story is as much a narrative of tragedy as it is of triumph, with their Super Bowl losses defining their era. Kelly, the consummate professional, took those losses to heart, but his spirit never broke. Three decades on from those four losses and Buffalo remains without that maiden Lombardi, but in the form of Josh Allen, they finally have a quarterback that is able to fill Kelly’s cleats once and for all.

Cam Newton

In an NFL increasingly defined by athleticism in the pocket, Cam Newton is a phoenix of raw power and agility. His impact transcends the typical measures of a quarterback’s success, and he has excelled in ways that both delighted and confounded in equal measure. His peak was somewhat shorter than most players, but what a run he had when he was at the top of his game.

The former Auburn Tiger was the definition of a dual-threat player who seemed equally comfortable outrunning linebackers as he was threading the needle with a tight spiral. A Heisman Trophy winner in 2010, his professional career began with a bang, securing the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2011. A season MVP, three Pro Bowl selections, and countless highlights ingrained him as the face of the Carolina Panthers.

Newton’s ascent reached its apex with the Panthers’ Super Bowl 50 appearance in 2016. His “Superman” celebrations and on-point play captivated a fan base. But an indomitable Denver Broncos defense dashed their dreams, leaving Super Cam to ponder a championship that seemed just beyond his grasp. Unfortunately, just a handful of years later, injuries took their toll and left him as a shell of his former self, and as of 2024, at the age of 34, he finds himself without a team.

Donovan McNabb

In the shadow of an era dominated by the “Greatest Show on Turf,” McNabb provided the steely resolve and clutch performances for a Philadelphia Eagles team often punching above its weight. Selected second overall in the 1999 draft, he became the face of the franchise at the Linc, a team that had historically been starved of quarterback success. But with the former University of Syracuse standout, stability arrived.

The McNabb-led Eagles of the early 2000s were perennial contenders. They reached the Super Bowl in the 2004 season, a testament to their QB’s drive and on-field acumen. Although his path was littered with talent, including the likes of Terrell Owens, the trophy once again proved elusive. As such, he was often the scapegoat for Philadelphia’s near-misses, with some pointing to his reluctance to run a two-minute offense and his tendency to play through mistakes rather than take risks.

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