Super Bowl 48  

 

Colin Kaepernick among most athletic Super Bowl quarterbacks

When Colin Kaepernick leads the San Francisco 49ers into battle in Super Bowl XLVII, he'll do so as one of the most athletic quarterbacks to ever have played in the title game.

That got me thinking about Super Bowl history and the other signal-callers to grace the NFL's biggest stage, and I decided to list the five most athletic, in my opinion.

I want to emphasize that this comparison has nothing to do with statistical achievements or wins or anything like that. I'm simply considering the athletic ability and skill -- not the performance history -- of quarterbacks who have made it to the Super Bowl.

Moreover, the top five I came up with is, obviously, subjective. Many very athletic quarterbacks have played in the Super Bowl over the years, and a good argument could be made that, say, Aaron Rodgers or Ken Anderson or Donovan McNabb belongs on this list.

That said, here is my ranking of the five most athletic Super Bowl quarterbacks ever:

1) Steve Young

Young was an outstanding athlete who tested off the charts and clocked a 4.53-second 40-yard dash. He had excellent foot quickness and knew how to make guys miss.

One of the greatest running plays I ever saw was a 49-yard scoring dash by Young against the Minnesota Vikings in 1988 when he made about 11 guys whiff. I also remember watching him, in person, take off around left end and run 80 yards for a score against San Diego State when he was at BYU.

Young owned the NFL's highest passer rating in six different seasons (a league record) and was named to six Pro Bowls. He was so dominant, he helped the San Francisco 49ers score 505 points in 1994, 91 more than the next-closest team (Dallas Cowboys). Young went on to be named the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX after totaling 325 yards through the air with a record six touchdown passes in the San Francisco 49ers' 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. It'd be interesting to see what he could do in the spread-type formations NFL teams run today.

2) John Elway

Elway was very fast (clocking a 4.59-second 40-yard dash on grass) and excelled in every drill thrown at him (running, jumping, change of direction), showing outstanding foot agility and overall quickness. He was a top-notch all-around athlete who was drafted by the New York Yankees and spent some time in their minor league system.

He had great change-of-direction skills, and would scramble from one sideline to the other. I'll always remember, of course, his spinning leap on a run against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII -- when he was 37 years old. The next season, when he was 38, he led the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl XXXIII, winning the game's MVP award. It's one thing when a guy does something at 21 or 22, but it's another when he does something and he's almost 40.

It's unbelievable how far he can hit a golf ball, by the way. I golfed with him one time at Lake Geneva, Wis., and he hit a ball over a creek on one hole that the course pro said no one had ever cleared before.

3) Roger Staubach

When Staubach entered the world of pro football, we weren't doing the kind of athletic testing we do today, and not much was known about him beyond the fact that he was a pretty good basketball player at the Naval Academy. He had a gangly running form that made you think he was not going to be very athletic, but when we evaluated him prior to his rookie season, he just aced every athletic test we had, off the charts in quickness and change-of-direction drills.

He was, in fact, one of the best athletes to play for the Dallas Cowboys throughout all my years working with the team. Staubach will turn 71 two days after Super Bowl XLVII, and he would still score high marks today. The winner of two titles and the MVP of Super Bowl VI was a great competitor and made so many great running plays that it boggles the mind.

4) Colin Kaepernick

The best way to describe Kaepernick is as a great athlete who is extremely competitive and passionate for the game, though he is a long strider without the great change-of-direction skills of, say, a young Staubach. The numbers Kaepernick generated at the NFL Scouting Combine (including a 4.53-second 40-yard dash) were very good. His success with the 49ers is a great example of a coaching staff drafting a player to carry out and execute their vision.

Roger Theder, a former coach at Cal who now helps quarterback prospects prepare for the draft, did a very good job changing Kaepernick's delivery. Kaepernick used to have kind of a sidearm throwing motion, which hurt his accuracy; now he's so much more accurate than he used to be at Nevada.

There's one play I'll always remember from his college days, during a game against Boise State in his senior year. Kaepernick made a throw down the left side of the field that went about 50 yards in the air, like he was dropping it in a peach basket. The important thing, though, is that his athletic ability was what enabled him to get free and launch that pass in the first place.

5) Joe Montana

Coming out of Notre Dame, Montana was more of an athlete than a football player. He didn't have a strong build, but he had super quickness. During his high school days in Pennsylvania, Montana was considered to be better at basketball than football. In drills, he displayed excellent vision and quickness and the ability to change directions.

The play I'll always remember is the play that resulted in what came to be known as "The Catch." In the 1981 NFC Championship Game between the Niners and the Dallas Cowboys, with San Francisco trailing, 27-21 and less than a minute on the clock. Montana barely escaped the clutches of Ed "Too Tall" Jones and D.D. Lewis before delivering an improbable 6-yard touchdown throw to a leaping Dwight Clark.

Montana was the MVP of three Super Bowls over his career (XVI, XIX and XXIV) and was named to eight Pro Bowl teams. He put on a master class in postseason play during the 1989 playoffs, throwing 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

*****

Again, that is just how I would rank the five most athletic Super Bowl quarterbacks. That's not to say, of course, that someone like Terry Bradshaw or Drew Brees wouldn't fit up there with those guys.

By the way, the quarterback who will represent the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII isn't exactly a dud, either, athletically speaking. Joe Flacco might not look like a great athlete, but he showed at the NFL Scouting Combine that he is actually quite fast, completing the cone drill in an unbelievably quick 6.82 seconds. That's a good time for a player at any position, let alone a 6-foot-6 quarterback.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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