If you’re reading this, surely you at least thought about it. There’s a quarterback-related question worth asking with Super Bowl LVI.

No, it’s not about if any quarterback has ever won a Heisman, a national title and a Super Bowl. By now, you know that Joe Burrow is trying to become the first to do that. Cam Newton came up short of accomplishing that feat 6 years ago in Super Bowl 50.

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Speaking of Newton, you probably also know that this won’t be the first time that former SEC quarterbacks are facing off in the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl 50, we saw Newton battle against Peyton Manning. Burrow vs. Matthew Stafford will be the 4th time we’ve seen former SEC quarterbacks face off in the Super Bowl:

  • 1977: Fran Tarkenton (Georgia) vs. Ken Stabler (Alabama)
  • 2007: Rex Grossman (Florida) vs. Peyton Manning (Tennessee)
  • 2016: Cam Newton (Auburn) vs. Peyton Manning (Tennessee)
  • 2022: Matthew Stafford (Georgia) vs. Joe Burrow (LSU)

What you’ll notice about those first 3 games is that they were snoozers. All were decided by at least 14 points.

You might push back on that by saying that 2016 was entertaining because it was a 6-point game deep into the 4th quarter. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a banner day for either signal-callers. It consisted of:

  • A) A combined 11 sacks
  • B) 6.3 yards per pass attempt
  • C) 0 passing touchdowns
  • D) 4-for-29 on third-down conversions
  • E) All the above

It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”

That game wasn’t an instant classic by any means. It’s probably more known for the Newton fumble and bizarre scramble — or lack thereof — than anything else.

The first 3 Super Bowls featuring 2 SEC quarterbacks featured a combined 5 touchdown passes compared to 17 (!) turnovers. No quarterback threw for 300 yards or had multiple touchdowns. In fact, none of those 6 former SEC quarterbacks even led 3 offensive scoring drives in one of those games.

In other words, yes, I think Super Bowl LVI might be the best of the bunch.

I realize that’s not saying much. The bar has been set pretty low for Burrow and Stafford. Just getting a game with both teams in the 20s would accomplish that.

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To be fair, the Bengals have done nothing but play in thrilling, down-to-the-wire games in the playoffs so far. A 4-point spread — in favor of the Rams — suggests that we’ll get that. Combine that with an over/under of 48.5 and the expectation is we’ll also see both teams in the 20s. What a crazy concept.

Of course, that doesn’t guarantee much. For all we know, Aaron Donald and the Rams defense will hold Burrow out of the end zone all night. Maybe we’ll see Sam Hubbard and the Bengals defense pick up where they left off against the Chiefs and Stafford will be running for his life all night.

On the other hand, perhaps the No. 5 and No. 7 passing offenses led by former No. 1 overall picks will look the part (they also rank No. 1 and No. 3 in yards per attempt). Both are led by head coaches who are considered 2 of the best offensive minds in the sport, and both offenses have multiple star receivers.

Go figure that in 2020, both Burrow and Stafford played for teams that finished in last place with 11 losses. At this time last year, nobody would’ve envisioned a world in which either quarterback would be playing for a Super Bowl. Stafford then got a chance to leave Detroit and play for Sean McVay, while Burrow then got a chance to have a healthy ACL and reunite with Ja’Marr Chase.

It’ll be the first time that Stafford and Burrow will face off. They missed each other in college by about 7 years. Burrow was 12 years old when Stafford went No. 1 overall to the Lions in 2009. The idea of Burrow becoming a potential NFL quarterback didn’t even really take shape until just before his 23rd birthday, when Stafford was in the midst of his 11th NFL season (that should count in dog years when you’re playing for the Lions).

Their paths to the Super Bowl are essentially polar opposites, the lone commonalities being that they played in the SEC and they were drafted No. 1 overall by historically bad franchises. As in, historically bad franchises that lacked a Super Bowl win and were both searching for their first playoff win of the 21st century when they drafted their respective signal-callers No. 1 overall.

As many have pointed out this week, Burrow did what Stafford couldn’t. That is, overcome those historical hurdles with the team who drafted him. If Burrow wins the Bengals their first Super Bowl, he’ll forever be a legend for that feat alone. If Stafford brings the city of Los Angeles its first Super Bowl since the Raiders won it all in 1984, you could make the case that he will also have achieved “legend” status.

That’s at stake on Sunday night. Granted, both quarterbacks could get more cracks at that. And at the same time, we mustn’t forget that nothing is guaranteed. Stafford is living proof of that. Thirteen years it took him to get to this point. His 183rd career game will be his first Super Bowl. Newton got to 1 Super Bowl. The same was true of Stabler and Grossman. Shoot, even an all-time great like Peyton Manning didn’t get to his second Super Bowl until he was 33 years old.

Consider that all the more reason why Sunday night’s clash should just mean a little more; fingers crossed that it delivers a little more than the previous 3 SEC quarterback showdowns.