Championship Sunday could be a transformative day for 2 NFL QBs
The Ravens take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, while the 49ers host the Lions in the NFC title clash later that same day.
It’s Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes. It’s Brock Purdy vs. Jared Goff.
Three of these quarterbacks have much to gain and a lot to lose. One has much to gain, but if he doesn’t gain it, no biggie, right?
Mahomes is the quarterback who doesn’t have much to lose. He’s already been to three Super Bowls and won two of them. He’s already been named NFL MVP twice. He’s already been Super Bowl MVP twice. He’s already starred in the Netflix documentary, Quarterback, once. As they say in those mafia movies–and, I assume, in real-life mafia circles–Mahomes is a made man. He’s going to Canton, likely on the very first ballot. Some say he’s already the greatest quarterback who has ever played the game of football. Sure, Mahomes is still a competitor. He obviously wants to keep winning Super Bowls. He wants to catch or even pass Tom Brady, who accrued seven rings with the Patriots and Buccaneers. If Mahomes can lead the Chiefs to one more Lombardi, he’ll join the rarefied air of quarterbacks with at least three rings–including Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman.
Other than that, he has nothing left to prove.
What about Mahomes’s quarterback counterpart in Baltimore, however? Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, will be making his first appearance in a conference championship. If he wins on Sunday, he’ll silence a lot of folks who have always been convinced that he’s nothing but a glorified running back. Sure, Jackson would have to silence them, again, two weeks later, but winning a conference title would be a huge step for his career. He had a bitter contract dispute with the Ravens during the 2022 regular season, and getting his team to the Super Bowl would more than justify the huge financial investment his bosses ultimately made in him. Baltimore selected Jackson late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He then replaced a floundering Joe Flacco during the 2018 campaign and led the Ravens to an unlikely AFC North title. The next season, head coach John Harbaugh decided to design his entire offense–including coordinator, scheme and personnel–around Jackson’s talents. It paid off to the tune of a league MVP award for the second-year quarterback. Unfortunately, Baltimore hasn’t enjoyed much postseason success with Jackson at the helm. That could all change in a huge way on Sunday.
Speaking of a quarterback who would REALLY need to shut some folks up in the Super Bowl, what about Goff? He had some decent success after the Rams made him the first pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Goff even led Los Angeles to Super Bowl LIII. Unfortunately, the Rams didn’t even register a touchdown in a 13-3 loss that gave New England its sixth Lombardi trophy. The Rams never seemed to believe in Goff after that, and in the 2021 offseason, Los Angeles traded him to the lowly Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford. Stafford then immediately led the Rams to a victory in Super Bowl LVI. But the Lions are no longer lowly. They’re pretty damn good, in fact, as evidenced by their first appearance in the NFC Championship Game since January of 1992. Detroit hasn’t won an NFL title since 1957 and has never been to a Super Bowl. Believe me, a victory by the Lions on Sunday would do a lot for a lot of people. And it would cement Goff’s reputation as a legit franchise quarterback. Yes, he’d have one more mile to go in two weeks, but leading two different teams to the Super Bowl would be one hell of an achievement.
Finally, we have Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant, the last guy picked in the 2022 NFL Draft. Purdy’s NFL debut was the very essence of baptism by fire. He had to fill in for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, a veteran who was filling in for an injured Trey Lance, a youngster with a much better draft pedigree. Purdy had to lead a deep and talented team that made it to the NFC title game the year before and the Super Bowl two years before that. Purdy was a rookie sensation. 49ers fans chanted his name in unison. His father cried tears of joy and pride. Purdy guided San Francisco to the NFC title game for the second straight season. Sadly, Purdy suffered a torn UCL in his throwing arm, and it was the Eagles who earned a trip to the Super Bowl. Purdy has the 49ers back in the title game–three years in a row for them; two years in a row for him–and a win would be huge for both parties. It would especially be big for the perception of Purdy. His draft pedigree will likely always follow him around. He’s always going to be seen by some as the guy with the physical limitations. He’s just a system quarterback. He benefits from playing in Kyle Shanahan’s sophisticated but QB-friendly offense. Purdy can change that perception with a huge game. More importantly, he can just lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, which would organically change the minds of many.
Sunday is going to be a big day for all four quarterbacks, but two of them could punch their ticket to an even higher tier.
Let’s see who has what it takes.