When was the last time an NFL rookie quarterback won a playoff game?
No rookie quarterback has ever led an NFL team to a Super Bowl victory, but how have they fared in the playoffs?
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy has had an incredible story this season. The 49ers picked him last in the 2022 NFL Draft and he was their third string. But when Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo both suffered season-ending injuries, Purdy was thrust into the start in his first year in the league. When Purdy came into the game in Week 13, the Niners had won four games in a row. Since then, they have won six more to end the season on a 10-game winning streak and become NFC West champions.
Purdy has become just the third player in NFL history with at least two touchdowns in each of his first five starts and the second rookie quarterback with at least two touchdown throws in six consecutive games. He is heading to his first-ever playoff game this Saturday, when he and the Niners will play the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Could Brock Purdy be the first-ever rookie quarterback to take his team to a Super Bowl victory? Let’s take a look at how other rookie quarterbacks have fared in the NFL post season. Hint: It’s not great.
NFL rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs
Just nineteen rookie quarterbacks have started in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era - Super Bowl I was back in 1967 - and they have a 9-19 record throughout that time. Last season, it was Patriots quarterback Mac Jones who was up against these terrible statistics, and he and the Pats lost 47-17 to the Bills in the Wild Card round. Now, it’s Purdy who will be up against it, though his odds do look a little better against the Seahawks, who he will have the advantage of playing at home. Regardless, winning in the post season as a rookie quarterback is not an easy or common feat. The last rookie quarterback to win a playoff game was Russell Wilson, who started for the Seahawks in 2012.
Throughout the NFL’s history, only eight playoff games have been won when starting a rookie quarterback - only two of them won two playoff games. And no rookie quarterback has ever reached the Super Bowl. So, only six rookie quarterbacks have ever won their first NFL playoff game.
There are two other players who were technically rookies in the NFL who won their first playoff game, but they spent time playing in other football leagues. Dieter Brock was 34 years old when he won his first playoff game in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985, but he spent 10 years playing for the CFL before that. Pat Haden also won his first NFL playoff game as a rookie in 1976 with the Rams, but had spent a year playing in the World Football League before that.
T.J. Yates won his first playoff game as a rookie, but he didn’t take his team there. The Texans were missing Matt Schaub and Yates filled in, playing against another rookie, Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals). Russell Wilson also beat a fellow rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III (Washington Commanders). King, Roethlisberger, Flacco, and Sanchez are the only rookie quarterbacks to have beat a veteran quarterback in their first playoff game, and Flacco and Sanchez are the only two rookie quarterbacks to have won their first playoff game on the road.
Though the history for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL post season isn’t too positive, Purdy could be set to buck that trend. He is already the Niners’ first rookie quarterback to start in the playoffs. If he and the Niners beat the Seahawks, he’ll be the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game in 11 years.
“I feel like our mentality is, we’ve been playing playoff games for a long time, and the pressure’s always on,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “Brock takes that into every game. And this game, if you want to sit and think about all the outside stuff, I’m sure you could psych yourself out. The only thing I would say through experience of it is once you get on the field, there’s absolutely nothing different. Whether it’s a playoff game, whether it’s the Super Bowl, all you can do is control the athletic sporting event that you’re involved in. Don’t make it more than that.”