San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
The most important position in professional sports becomes even more important in the postseason.
That much was clear on wild-card weekend, where the team with the best quarterback wound up advancing to this week’s final eight in just about every instance.
Four were gigantic mismatches — Tampa Bay and Tom Brady against Philadelphia and Jalen Hurts; Josh Allen and Buffalo against Mac Jones of New England, Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City against Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh, and the Rams and Matthew Stafford against Kyler Murray and Arizona.
Yes, their supporting casts were all superior, but Brady, Allen and Mahomes all looked like quarterbacks who had been there and done that in mid-January. Stafford got off to a big lead and won his first playoff game, but we’ll wait and see. Hurts and Jones showed their lack of experience, and Roethlisberger was simply hanging on in terms of being a downfield passer.
Where Murray is concerned, it gets more complicated based on the Cardinals’ late-season fade and the possibility that he’s more of a gimmick than a championship-level quarterback. His panicked pick-six and basically a no-show from the Cardinals offense did little to enhance his status.
In Cincinnati, meanwhile, the margin wasn’t as big, but Joe Burrow clearly…