January 13, 2023 5:00pm

The NFL, the Hall of Fame, and the Super Bowl

We Asked Power Poll NFL.

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

The NFL playoffs begin this week. A 32-team field has been reduced to 14 and, in a few weeks, it will be pared down to one – the Super Bowl champion.

So every year countless players, coaches and teams do not win the championship – and countless players and coaches are unable to use that Lombardi Trophy as a springboard to Canton. So our focus in this week’s NFL Power Poll is on two groups – quarterbacks and coaches.

There have been 56 Super Bowls and Hall of Fame quarterbacks have won 28 of them. If you count the Super Bowls won by quarterbacks not yet eligible for Canton – Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes – that’s 14 more Lombardi Trophies.

In our first question, we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters to identify the best Super Bowl-winning quarterback that does not own a bust in Canton – and we ruled out all those quarterbacks not yet eligible.

We provided five options: Jim McMahon (Bears), Jim Plunkett (Raiders), Phil Simms (Giants), Joe Theismann (Redskins) and Doug Williams). Theismann was the NFL MVP in 1983 and Plunkett, Simms and Williams were all Super Bowl MVPs. We received 208 votes and Simms was named on 78 of the ballots, followed by Plunkett with 71, Theismann with 33, Williams with 19 and McMahon with seven.

“In the seven seasons Simms started at least 14 games, the Giants went 75-33,” said Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsPan.com. “And during the post-season for the 1986 Giants, Simms threw eight touchdowns with no interceptions, capped by one of the best quarterback performances in Super Bowl history. When healthy, he was veery good at his job.”

So was Jim Plunkett, the only quarterback on this list to quarterback a team to two Super Bowl championships.

“Jim Plunkett is one of the most underrated players in history,” said Bill Bradley of the Las Vegas Review Journal. “Any other quarterback having won Super Bowls and an MVP would be a lock for the Hall of Fame in modern times. He might not have worked in a grocery store or come up through the Arena League but Plunkett’s comeback was just as impressive as Kurt Warner’s. Also, remember he was the first Latino to quarterback a team to a Super Bowl victory.”

Added Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Daily Times: “I always appreciated Jim McMahon’s swagger, coolness under pressure and candor. But from what I understand, Jim Plunkett was the ultimate, unconditional leader – the football equivalent of Yul Brynner in “The Magnificent Seven.’’

In our second question, we asked out panel who was the best coach never to win a Super Bowl and offered up five options: But Grant (Vikings), Chuck Knox (Rams), Marv Levy (Bills), Dan Reeves (Broncos, Falcons) and Marty Schottenheimer (Browns, Chiefs, Chargers). Grant, Levy and Reeves all took their teams to four Super Bowls and Knox took the Rams to one. Schottenheimer was the only coach of the group who never got to the Super Bowl.

Levy won the vote going away with 91,followed by Grant and Schottenheimer with 42 apiece, Reeves with 25 and Knock with eight. Only Grant and Levy have busts in the Hall of Fame.

“Marv Levy’s four straight Super Bowl appearances in Buffalo is a singular accomplishment that may never be duplicated in the salary cap/free agency era of the NFL today,” said Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers.

Grant, Levy and Elway had Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Schottenheimer never had a Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly or John Elway. But he still won 200 games and took both the Browns and Chiefs to AFC title games.

“If you trade quarterbacks between Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Belichick how is history different?” said Soren Petro, a talk show host at WHB in Kansas City. “Just look at what Belichick before and after Tom Brady. Now compare that to Schottenheimer’s career spent largely without any Hall of Fame quarterbacks and you quickly understand how good a coach Marty Schottenheimer was. Also check the records of every team after he left.”

Added John Bednarowsky of the Marietta Daily Journal: :”Marty Schottenheimer kept running into the AFC’s version of Michael Jordan in John Elway (in AFC championship games). He was one play away from taking the Browns to the Super Bowl and was close with Kansas City and San Diego.”

Grant and Levy both took the same franchise to Super Bowls. Reeves took two different franchises, the Broncos and Falcons.

“I voted for Marv Levy,” said Charean Williams of NBCSports.com. “But I love Dan Reeves’ candidacy for the Hall of Fame. He went to nine Super Bowls – NINE – as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Bill Belichick and Tom, Brady are the only other individuals who have participated in that many. That deserves Hall of Fame consideration despite him not winning a Super Bowl ring as a head coach.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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