There are currently six starting quarterbacks in the NFL who have won a Super Bowl: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers have combined to win 10 championships. And it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see any of those six men hoisting the Lombardi Trophy following the upcoming season.
However, just for kicks, let's examine which quarterback is most likely to become the seventh member of that elite club. I've taken the 26-plus eligible candidates and narrowed the list down to the seven quarterbacks who are closest to winning their first Super Bowl.
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Last season, Stafford helped guide the Lions into the playoffs for the first time since 1999. For Lions fans, there are several reasons to be excited about the future. Jim Schwartz is one of the brightest young coaches in the NFL and the roster is full of young, explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball. Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson has become the most dynamic passing combination in the entire league. Led by Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril, the Lions' defensive front four is one of the most disruptive in the NFL. I think this team will eventually be in position to make a title run, but that time is still a couple of years away.
The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs last season, despite Romo having one of his best seasons as a professional. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Most importantly, he started all 16 games. The Cowboys have a handful of elite players, but they still have some holes in key areas. Before they can be considered a Super Bowl threat, they need to improve their pass protection, as well as their pass defense.
Dalton is already one of my favorite players in the NFL. All he did during his rookie season was lead the Bengals to the postseason and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl -- not a bad start to a career. Along with Dalton, the Bengals have one of the league's rising stars in WR A.J. Green. For all of the jokes about the Bengals' thin scouting department, they have done a fantastic job of landing impact players in the past few drafts. This team is capable of winning a postseason game or two this season, and I believe they will play in a Super Bowl at some point in the near future.
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Flacco has led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first four NFL seasons. Last year, he had his team in position to advance to the Super Bowl before Lee Evans dropped a go-ahead touchdown late in the AFC Championship Game. Flacco's completion percentage took a dip in 2011, but he passed for more than 3,600 yards for the third straight season. He has plenty of young talent around him on the offensive side of the ball: Ray Rice is a premier running back, Torrey Smith has quickly established himself as one of the NFL's most explosive receivers, and I really like the young tight end combination of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. The defense will always be solid, but the injury to Terrell Suggs was a devastating blow. The Ravens don't have anyone on their roster capable of duplicating his sack production.
Vick was very inconsistent during the 2011 season and the Eagles fell one game short of making the playoffs. During the first half of the season, Vick really struggled to avoid costly turnovers. On a positive note, his play did drastically improve down the stretch and he helped lead the Eagles to blowout victories in each of their last four games. After a rough start, the defense really began to jell by the end of the 2011 season. The unit gave up more than 10 points only once in its last four contests. If Vick plays like he did at the end of the season, this roster is plenty talented enough to make a push toward the Super Bowl this season.
Smith revived his career last season by posting solid numbers and making clutch plays during the 49ers' journey to the NFC Championship Game. While I respect the improvements he's made, if Smith is to join the list of Super Bowl-winning QBs, it will largely be the result of the incredible talent base around him. The 49ers have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. Defensively, they have the top front seven in football with players like Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. Their offensive line is very big and physical, and they have a workhorse running back in Frank Gore. Smith understands his role is to protect the football and make a few plays on third downs. If he can perform those two tasks, this team is definitely poised to challenge for a Super Bowl again in 2012.
If not for Schaub's injury last season, he might already be a Super Bowl champion. The Texans were playing outstanding football before Schaub suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss the final six games of the regular season and the playoffs. Despite his absence, the Texans won their division and picked up their first playoff win by defeating the Bengals in an AFC wild-card game. In the divisional round, they did something that very few teams have ever done: physically whipping the Ravens on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Arian Foster rushed for 132 yards and the Texans' defense held the Ravens' offense to 227 total yards. Despite three costly interceptions by backup quarterback T.J. Yates, the Texans only lost 20-13. It's hard to imagine the Texans losing that game with a healthy Schaub in the lineup.
Despite allowing some big names to depart via free agency, the Texans still have a stacked roster. Foster is one of the top three running backs in the league, Andre Johnson is still a freak and the offensive line is one of the best in the league. On defense, Wade Phillips is one of the top coordinators in the NFL and has a bevy of talented pass rushers at his disposal. Brian Cushing is one of the top three inside linebackers in the league and a big play waiting to happen. Overall, if Schaub can stay healthy, this team is ready to contend for a championship this season.