Is playoff experience important for a quarterback?

January 3, 2020

Experience is an element to an athlete's career that can often go a long way in determining their level of success.

But what about playoff experience? Is there a significant difference in regular season and postseason football?

The Buffalo Bills' Wild Card matchup this Saturday against the Houston Texans is the first playoff game of quarterback Josh Allen's career, and the biggest stage he has played on. However, history tells us young signal callers, and first-time playoff quarterbacks don't always struggle without that Tom Brady-like resume in January. 

Over the last 10 years, there have been a number of players in Allen's situation that weren't affected in the slightest by their label as a playoff rookie. 

While the likes of Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes all instantly found a knack for going deep into the postseason, others who didn't reach that kind of star level also produced in the playoffs. 

In 2012, Collin Kaepernick took the San Francisco 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter. He ran the Green Bay Packers out of the building in the divisional round, out-dueled Matt Ryan and the No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons, only to fall one goal-line stand short of beating a Baltimore Ravens defense full of Hall of Famers in Super Bowl Super Bowl XLVII.

Still too big of a name for you? How about Nick Foles? Foles threw for two touchdowns and left the field with the lead in the fourth quarter in a 2013 Wild Card matchup against the New Orleans Saints. 

With just that one playoff game under his belt, Foles went on to have one of the best playoff runs a quarterback has ever had in the 2017-18 postseason. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl and Foles won Super Bowl MVP. 

This has happened over and over again in the 2010s.

Tim Tebow won a playoff game in overtime.

Teddy Bridgewater put Blair Walsh in position for a game-winning, chip-shot field goal against an all-time great Seattle Seahawks defense. It was his first playoff game. It was also negative-6 degrees outside. 

Heck, even Mitchell Trubisky threw for over 300 yards in the Bears-Eagles Wild Card matchup last year. Like Bridgewater, Trubisky was robbed of a win in the playoffs because of an easy field goal that was missed. 

This isn't to say the playoffs aren't a bigger stage that can't present much more pressure for a young quarterback. A do or die scenario isn't one that everyone thrives in. 

However, the gameplay of the NFL playoffs don't change as significantly as the NBA or NHL postseason does. 

If someone like Allen can handle the pressure in the regular season, producing at the highest level of any quarterback in the fourth quarter (as he has)?

They should be able to do it in the playoffs too. Others have.