The changing of the guard under centre this season has been well- documented. However, with the loss of Tom Brady and Drew Brees last week, the playoffs have a very different look. Between the eight remaining teams, the starting QBs have 37 starts. 30 of those are shared between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, who face off this weekend.
The matchups are as follows:
Jackson (1 start) v Tannehill (1 start)
Mahomes (2 starts) v Watson (2 starts)
Garoppolo (Postseason debut) v Cousins (3 starts)
Rodgers (16 starts) v Wilson (14 starts)
We’ll leave Packers v Seahawks for now as Rodgers and Wilson were winning Super Bowls before the likes of Mahomes, Watson & Jackson graduated High School. However, while the likes of Tannehill, Cousins and Garoppolo have been pro for longer, they still have only four playoff starts between them, two of which were last week.
We saw Josh Allen’s performance last week. To be fair, he started off composed. His performance did drop when they got off the scripted plays and it definitely appeared that the moment got to him late in the fourth quarter. By the way, he was by no means the only reason the Bills lost from 16-0 up in Houston. Regardless, inexperience can rear it’s ugly head at any time.
There’s no getting around it, there will be a new representative from the Super Bowl from the AFC. What’s more, barring injury, one of Jimmy Garopolo or Kirk Cousins will be playing in the NFC Championship Game. Outside of the game in Green Bay, none of the QBs have much experience leading a team in the Pros when it’s win or go home and your team need a score. Between the six QBs, they have four playoff wins and three of those were last week.
In comparison, Drew Brees has eight playoff wins and the biggest outlier of all, Brady, has 30.
How Valuable Is College Success?
One man who breaks that mould is Deshaun Watson. Yes he lacks NFL playoff success, but he does have college experience. Watson won the National Championship with Clemson in 2016 and guided the Tigers to the National Championship Game in 2015.
It does seem bizarre to say that Watson has the third most big game experience of those left in the playoffs. However it is true. He has experience of handling the pressure, managing the clock in a close game and leading his team on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes.
Of course, all of the QBs will have had pressure on them to win games this season, if not at some point in their careers. All of them could be described as clutch. But is clutch in the playoffs the same thing? Or is being able to win the big game just a trait that is overthought by fans and the media? This season will be a good test of this.
QB Contracts A Big Factor
One factor increasing QB inexperience in the playoffs is the rookie wage scale. Excluding the Patriots, although Brady has never had a contract matching his market rate, the more successful teams in the NFL tend to be those with a QB on a rookie deal. This allows the franchise to spend more on other areas. They can build a better team around the QB before they sign a $30M+ per year deal.
It will be interesting to see if the likes of the Texans, Chiefs, Cowboys & Ravens continue to have success once Watson, Mahomes, Preskott and Jackson sign big money deals. We have already seen the drop off in the Rams and Eagles since tying their QB down long term.
Of course the ultimate irony would be if Wilson or Rodgers have a poor game on Sunday evening. There is some irony that the Seahawks and Packers are outsiders to win the Super Bowl.
We have seen young Quarterbacks thrive early in their career before. Joe Flacco, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson himself are all evidence of this. This weekend will be a big test of whether young/inexperienced QBs can perform on the biggest stage. The numbers flying the flag for the old guard are dwindling. We’ll have to see if the likes of Jackson, Mahomes, Watson, Garoppolo, Tannehill or Cousins outshine the old guard over the next month.
Image: Touchdown Wire