Peyton Manning vs. Cam Newton — Does Super Bowl History Favor Experience Over Youth?

Cam Newton will end his fifth season in the NFL with his first Super Bowl at the age of 26. The Carolina Panthers quarterback will be up against Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning, who hadn’t made it to the Super Bowl until his ninth season. Manning — who turns 40 later this year — has been back to the Super Bowl twice since then, but has yet to bring home a second ring. If this is Peyton Manning’s last season, as some have said, then the stakes are that much higher when Super Bowl 50 kicks off on Sunday.

While Sports Illustrated has noted the very different paths that these two quarterbacks took to Super Bowl 50, the difference in their age is the largest difference between starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. That being the case, has it been more advantageous for a team to have an experienced quarterback for the Super Bowl? Or do the Super Bowl gods seem to favor youth? Will the age gap in Sunday’s big game benefit the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers?

Here are the results from the last ten Super Bowl match-ups, showing the starting quarterbacks, the year they were born, and whether it was experience or youth that won out in that instance.

  • Super Bowl XLIX — Tom Brady (1977) over Russell Wilson (1988) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XLVIII — Russell Wilson (1988) over Peyton Manning (1976) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XLVII — Joe Flacco (1985) over Colin Kaepernick (1987) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XLVI — Eli Manning (1981) over Tom Brady (1977) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XLV — Aaron Rogers (1983) over Ben Roethlisberger (1982) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XLIV — Drew Brees (1979) over Peyton Manning (1976) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XLIII — Ben Roethlisberger (1982) over Kurt Warner (1971) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XLII — Eli Manning (1981) over Tom Brady (1977) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XLI — Peyton Manning (1976) over Rex Grossman (1980) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XL — Ben Roethlisberger (1982) over Matt Hasselbeck (1975) — Youth

Over the last ten years, the team with the younger quarterback has won 70 percent of the time. Recent history is on the side of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. It is interesting to note that of all the QBs that have started over the last ten years, only two are older than Peyton Manning: Kurt Warner (who lost seven years ago) and Matt Hasselbeck (who lost ten years ago). In all four of his Super Bowl starts (including Sunday), Manning will have been the oldest quarterback.

If the fifteen years prior to that are also taken into consideration, the numbers still favor the youth. Winning 9 out of 15 games, the team starting the younger quarterback won 60 percent of the Super Bowls from No. 25 through 39. That’s not a great sign for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

  • Super Bowl XXXIX — Tom Brady (1977) over Donovan McNabb (1976) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXXVIII — Tom Brady (1977) over Jake Delhomme (1975) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXXVII — Brad Johnson (1968) over Rich Gannon (1965) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXXVI — Tom Brady (1977) over Kurt Warner (1971) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXXV — Trent Dilfer (March 1972) over Kerry Collins (December 1972) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXXIV — Kurt Warner (1971) over Steve McNair (1973) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXXIII — John Elway (1960) over Chris Chandler (1965) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXXII — John Elway (1960) over Brett Favre (1969) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXXI — Brett Favre (1969) over Drew Bledsoe (1972) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXX — Troy Aikman (November 1966) over Neil O’Donnell (July 1966) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXIX — Steve Young (1961) over Stan Humphries (1965) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXVIII — Troy Aikman (1966) over Jim Kelly (1960) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXVII — Troy Aikman (1966) over Jim Kelly (1960) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXVI — Mark Rypien (1962) over Jim Kelly (1960) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XXV — Jeff Hostetler (1961) over Jim Kelly (1960) — Youth

Over the last 25 years, the team that started the younger quarterback ended up winning nearly two-thirds of the time at 64 percent. Only twice in the fifty years of Super Bowl history have the starting quarterbacks been born in the same year, Super Bowl 30 and Super Bowl 35.

If you look at the quarterback match-ups from the first 24 Super Bowls, however, the older quarterbacks have a substantial edge. Having won 15 of the first 24 games, they were also just shy of two-thirds with 62.5 percent. But is this an indication of a shift in the NFL’s quarterback position?

  • Super Bowl XXIV — Joe Montana (1956) over John Elway (1960) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXIII — Joe Montana (1956) over Boomer Esiason (1961) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXII — Doug Williams (1955) over John Elway (1960) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XXI — Phil Simms (1956) over John Elway (1960) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XX — Jim McMahon (1959) over Steve Gordon (1953) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XIX — Joe Montana (1956) over Dan Marino (1961) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XVIII — Jim Plunkett (1947) over Joe Theismann (1949) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XVII — Joe Theismann (1949) over David Woodley (1958) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XVI — Joe Montana (1956) over Ken Anders (1949) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XV — Jim Plunkett (1947) over Ron Jaworski (1951) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XIV — Terry Bradshaw (1948) over Vince Ferragamo (1954) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XIII — Terry Bradshaw (1948) over Roger Staubach (1942) — Youth
  • Super Bowl XII — Roger Staubach (1942) over Craig Mortaon (1943) — Experience
  • Super Bowl XI — Ken Stabler (1945) over Fran Tarkenton (1940) — Youth
  • Super Bowl X — Terry Bradshaw (1948) over Roger Staubach (1942) — Youth
  • Super Bowl IX — Terry Bradshaw (1948) over Fran Tarkenton (1940) — Youth
  • Super Bowl VIII — Bob Griese (1945) over Fran Tarketton (1940) — Youth
  • Super Bowl VII — Bob Griese (1945) over Bill Kilmer (1939) — Youth
  • Super Bowl VI — Roger Staubach (1942) over Bob Griese (1945) — Experience
  • Super Bowl V — Johnny Unitas (1933) over Craig Morton (1943) — Experience
  • Super Bowl IV — Len Dawson (1935) over Joe Kapp (1938) — Experience
  • Super Bowl III — Joe Namath (1943) over Johnny Unitas (1933) — Youth
  • Super Bowl II — Bart Starr (1934) over Daryle Lamonica (1941) — Experience
  • Super Bowl I — Bart Starr (1934) over Len Dawson (1935) — Experience

If the entire Super Bowl history is taken into consideration, it’s as close to an even split as you can get with 49 match-ups. The youngest starting quarterback has won 25 of the 49 Super Bowl contests, just barely more than 51 percent of the time. When you look at just the 25 most recent Super Bowls, the younger quarterback has won 64 percent of the games. Then, if you look at just the last ten years, the youngest starting QB has lead his team to the Vince Lombardi trophy 70 percent of the time.

As he told ESPN, Peyton Manning thinks Cam Newton deserves the NFL MVP this year. If the age of the starting quarterback is significant, the numbers seem to point towards Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers defeating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 50 on February 7.

[Image via Twitter]