The burden of reaching the postseason is always heaviest at the most important position in football, and deep runs are often tied to experience. Since 2011, quarterbacks have gone a combined 12-22 in their first playoff start.
A year removed from a record–setting seven QBs under 27, this year features six — and this weekend alone, five passers are making their postseason debuts, with four of them 25 or younger.
Let’s take a closer look at this fresh crop of signal-callers.
– Chris Kuc
After Joe Burrow’s rookie season was cut short by a knee injury, the Bengals surprisingly drafted an offensive weapon (Ja’Marr Chase) with the fifth pick instead of an interior lineman to protect him.
The dynamic duo led Cincinnati to its first division title since 2015, and Burrow became an MVP candidate.
The Bengals look to snap their seven-game Wild Card losing skid when they host the Raiders (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET) — and ultimately vie for their first Super Bowl.
The Raiders’ season was an unmitigated disaster after losing Jon Gruden and Henry Ruggs. But this list’s oldest quarterback, Derek Carr, led them into their first playoffs since 2016 on the final day of the regular season — in overtime.
It capped off a quietly prolific season in his eighth year.
However, in Week 11 against Cincy, Carr went a dismal 19-for-27 for 215 yards, one touchdown, a pick, and a fumble in a 32-13 home loss.
After two decades of Tom Brady, New England’s Cam Newton experiment failed. So Bill Belichick used his No. 15 pick on Mac Jones — who could win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The 23-year-old not only put the Patriots back in the playoffs, but he also helped grab the AFC’s 1-seed momentarily and nearly won the division, recording 3,801 passing yards and 22 TDs.
Jones and the Pats head back to Buffalo (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET), where they won a bad-weather game in Week 13, to take on Josh Allen, who is 2-2 in his postseason career.
Perhaps due to the uninspiring Eagles themselves — and their even less inspiring division — Jalen Hurts’ sophomore season was easy to overlook.
The 23-year-old quietly broke out behind chemistry with rookie receiver DeVonta Smith. He may not have earned “elite” quarterback status, but he was unmatched on the ground in 2021.
Defeating Brady and the defending champions in Tampa on Sunday (1 p.m. ET) is a tall order — the Buccaneers are 8.5-point* favorites. Then again, over the past three seasons, road teams have won 10 of the last 14 Wild Card games.
Arizona was the last remaining undefeated team at 7-0, and Kyler Murray was headed for his first MVP. Then he got hurt in the final minute of Week 8, missed three games, and the Cardinals became the first team in league history to lose six games after a 7-0 start.
Arizona may have lost four of its last five, as well as the division, but the 24-year-old was still making history in the process.
Murray will debut in the first-ever Monday night postseason game (8:15 p.m. ET) — at their rival Rams, where they won 37-20 in Week 4.
Thus far in their careers, the five QBs making their postseason debuts have earned a combined $180.4 million. Meanwhile, there’s Tom Brady, who in 18 playoffs has played in a record 45 games: He’s hauled in a record $291.1 million — and won a record seven Super Bowl rings.
Editor’s Note: Tomorrow, Sports Section is back with our first Sunday edition, a weekly interview series with top sports personalities and athletes.