When the NFL Playoffs are in gear there are some quarterbacks, no matter how good, who seem to misfire.
Great in the regular season...can't get it done in the playoffs.
You've probably heard that about more than one NFL team, and in particular, about some of their quarterbacks.
It's infuriating to fans. Watching guys who can stack wins higher than IHOPs all-you-can-eat pancakes in the regular season, but then turn into a glob of sticky batter when they hit postseason play. And some of these quarterbacks are not just good...they're great.
(Admit it...you read that with a Tony the Tiger voice)
There's no rhyme or reason to it either. Most of the time these signal-callers are playing with the same personnel, the same coaches, and at times even against some of the same opponents from the regular season. But the ball just seems to take funny hops when January hits.
And while it's not always their fault, that's part of the hazard of being an NFL quarterback – too much praise when you win, and too much blame when you lose.
Of course, there are a lot of quarterbacks who struggle in the postseason, but here are ten of them who put up All-Pro numbers, but just seem to...well...choke when it's a win-or-go-home proposition.
Here are the best-worst postseason NFL quarterbacks we could find. (Five or more playoff appearances)
Regular Season Record: 67-48
Postseason Record: 1-4
Ryan is a two-time Pro-Bowl quarterback who has thrown for 28,166 yards in his first seven seasons, and has a career passer rating of 91.1 to go with his 64 percent pass completions.
He was nearly unbeatable at home during his first five seasons, and led the league in comeback victories. The Falcons rose to unprecedented franchise heights with Ryan under center, and he’s broken just about every career and single-season passing record in Atlanta’s history.
But in the postseason… Matty Ice has meltdowns. The Falcons have been the number one seed in the NFC twice during his career, and both times failed to reach the Super Bowl. During the regular season, Ryan throws more than twice as many TDs as interceptions, but in postseason that ratio falls to 9/7.
Matt will have a new head coach for the first time in his career in 2015, so perhaps if Atlanta gets back to the playoffs, he can start to even out his postseason record.
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
No. 9: Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys
Regular Season Record: 75-48
Postseason Record: 2-4
Romo may be the biggest punching bag of all the NFL quarterbacks, and his postseason struggles are well-documented.
In the regular season (well, at least until December) Romo slings the pigskin with the best of them, and has a penchant for dramatic wins (and losses). He’s got a career passer rating of 97.6 and 33,270 passing yards in his ledger.
But fumbles, untimely interceptions and some just plain bad luck have haunted Romo in the postseason, with another early exit in 2014 after Dallas finally fought their way back into the playoffs following three straight 8-8 seasons.
Snakebit…or choke artist? You be the judge.
(Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
Regular Season Record: 102-101
Postseason Record: 3-7
If you want to talk about putting up some ungodly stats, Warren Moon has to be right there in the middle of the discussion. In an 18-year NFL career, Moon put up 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, and led the league is passing yards twice.
His Hall of Fame arm always seemed to have his teams in a position to make the playoffs, but once they got there, things took a turn.
His playoff performances weren’t terrible, but like Romo, he seemed to throw interceptions at just the wrong time and couldn’t make those big comebacks like he did during the regular season. Some of the former Houston Oilers best shots at a Super Bowl were during the Moon years.
(Photo by William R. Sallaz/Getty Images)
No. 7: Randall Cunningham – Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings
Regular Season Record: 82-52-1
Postseason Record: 3-6
Randall Cunningham was one of the first dual-threat, multi-purpose quarterbacks in the league. He could beat you with his cannon arm, with his nimble legs…heck, the guy even punted the ball better than most NFL punters.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, Cunningham was one of the most exciting players to watch during his time. He was like Michael Vick with an accurate arm, amassing 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns.
But talk about your Jekyll and Hyde acts, Cunningham’s near 60 percent completion clip dipped down to 52 percent in the playoffs, and during his first three Eagles playoff performances, he was an interception machine, throwing five picks against zero touchdowns.
We’ll give him credit for getting better with age in the playoffs, as he went 2-2 as the Vikings postseason starter.
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
No. 6: Dave Krieg – Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions
Regular Season Record: 98-77
Postseason Record: 3-6
Krieg was the guy who was going to put the Seahawks on the NFL map, and during the regular season, he did just that.
Finishing his career with 38,147 yards and 261 touchdowns, Krieg was the workingman’s quarterback. Tough, gritty and unconventional in many ways. In 12 seasons with the Seahawks, he compiled an unprecedented 70-49 record and let Seattle to the playoffs in four seasons.
But like all the others on this list, his postseason success was minimal, and he couldn’t get out of his own way in several playoff games. He had a 60 percent completion clip in the regular season that dipped to 51 percent in the playoffs, and found his playoff games with KC and Detroit to be even worse.
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
No. 5: Ken Anderson – Cincinnati Bengals
Regular Season Record: 91-81
Postseason Record: 2-4
Anderson would be on any list of great quarterbacks, spending his entire 16-year career with the Bengals, and taking a franchise known as the “Bungles” to the playoffs four times, including one Super Bowl appearance.
He amassed 32,828 yards and 197 touchdowns, and still holds the Bengals career passing mark. He was the league MVP in 1981 and led the league in passing yardage twice during his career.
However, in the playoffs Anderson just turned into another quarterback. Going winless in three of the four years he took the Bengals to the postseason, and coming up empty against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. His 1982 playoff performance was marred by three interceptions, and his two interceptions in Super Bowl XVI helped seal the San Francisco win.
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
No. 4: Dan Fouts – San Diego Chargers
Regular Season Record: 86-84-1
Postseason Record: 3-4
Fouts is a Hall of Famer and a Chargers legend. The guy who put up some of the biggest passing numbers of his time, and who put the air in “Air Coryell”.
A six-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and member of the 1980s all-decade team, Fouts was one of the most prolific passers the game has seen.
When you think of quarterbacks who could thread the needle, spread the ball around, and beat you with is arm on any given day, Dan Fouts automatically comes to mind. Four four straight seasons between 1979-82, the Fouts-led Chargers seemed like the team to beat in the AFC.
But it was always the bridesmaid, never the bride for Fouts, who lost in two straight AFC title games in 1980 and 1981. Fouts threw 16 interceptions in his seven playoff games, including a 5-pick performance in 1979.
(Photo by: Tony Tomsic/Getty Images)
No. 3: Drew Bledsoe – New England Patriots
Regular Season Record: 98-95
Postseason Record: 3-3
Bledsoe was supposed to be the answer in New England. The guy who was going to finally bring the Patriots their long-awaited Super Bowl trophy.
Little did Pats fans know it was his backup who’d eventually gain that status.
But for his time in the league, Bledsoe was one of the toughest competitors and top passers in the game. He led the Patriots to the AFC Championship game in 1996, and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. Throwing for 44,611 yards and 251 touchdowns during his career puts him in some elite company.
In the playoffs, however, Bledsoe ran into some tough luck and even tougher teams. Despite all the success the Patriots had during the Bledsoe years, he was never able to take them to a Super Bowl. His ability to lead the Pats to dramatic last-second wins was stymied in postseason play, evidenced by his 12 interceptions to just six touchdown passes.
The one thing Bledsoe did pass well in the playoffs was the torch… to Tom Brady.
(Photo by John Bohn/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
No. 2: Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
Regular Season Record: 88-56
Postseason Record: 4-5
Rivers is an enigma. Seemingly flawless in some games, and then absolutely abysmal in others. The Chargers habit of starting slow in the regular season and then making a final push to the playoffs at the last minute has become an earmark of the Rivers years.
But you can’t deny Rivers’ ability to throw the ball. So far in his 11-year career, he’s put up some pretty impressive numbers, totaling 36,655 yards, 252 touchdowns and a career passer rating of 95.7…not too shabby.
But in the playoffs, Rivers gets muddy. His Chargers teams lose their swagger, and can’t seem to get over the hump to make a Super Bowl run. All of Rivers stats take a dip in postseason play, none more important than the win percentage.
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
No. 1 – Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos
Regular Season Record: 179-77
Postseason Record: 11-13
It’s hard to put Manning on this list because after all, the guy won a Super Bowl. On the other hand, it’s hard not to have him on the list because he probably should have won at least two or three more.
There is quite possibly no other quarterback who has been as great at winning games in the regular season, and as average at winning in the postseason as Peyton Manning.
How does a guy who owns such an unbelievable win percentage in the regular season, and who will go down as one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, play so badly when it means the most?
And make no mistake, many of Manning’s playoff failures fall squarely on his shoulders. A quarterback who’s calling card is the game-winning, fourth quarter drive, Manning has precisely one of those in his 24 playoff game appearances.
His interceptions go up, his yards per attempt and completion go down, and Peyton Manning has ended up walking away from the playoffs scratching his forehead more times than raising his arms.