Not many are looking forward to the Raiders-Texans Wild Card Game on Saturday, and for good reason: the QB matchup is going to be fairly horrendous.
Both teams have major questions at the position because of injuries, meaning the Raiders could be starting Connor Cook for the first time in his young career against Tom Savage, who will be making his third career start if he’s healthy enough. Whether it’s those two, or Matt McGloin and Brock Osweiler, this matchup is going to be pretty horrific from a QB perspective. But is it really the worst ever in the history of the NFL’s postseason?
Backups starting in the playoffs is nothing new, especially recently. Great names such as Chris Simms, Todd Collins, Joe Webb, Tarvaris Jackson, T.J Yates, Ryan Lindley, Tim Tebow, and Brian Hoyer among others have started games in the last decade or so.
Normally on the other side of the field, far more accomplished QB’s opposed them. For instance in 2005 when Chris Simms made his only playoff start for Tampa against Washington, Mark Brunell was his opposite number. Joe Webb’s playoff cameo was against Aaron Rodgers, Tebow started against both Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, and the list goes on. But the rarity of two backups, or even a third string QB against a highly-paid probable bust figures to set up the worst QB matchup in playoff history.
So we here at The Comeback went back into the NFL archives and looked at almost every playoff QB matchup ever, and here’s what we found:
The last time two “backups” started against each other in a playoff game was the 2002 Wild Card meeting between the Browns and Steelers, when Kelly Holcomb, who made two starts that season, faced Tommy Maddox, a big time bust whose career was revived when he replaced the benched Kordell Stewart one quarter of the way through the season. Pittsburgh won that game in a shootout against the 8-8 Browns (it’s their last playoff game). But digging deeper into the archives, there’s more to be found.
The least experienced QB playoff matchup ever, according to Pro Football Reference (hat tip to the Big Lead), was in 1971 between Minnesota and Dallas when Bob Lee (six starts) faced a nascent Roger Staubach, who only had 10 by that point. But since Staubach was present, it’s hardly a bad QB matchup, just lopsided. The second least-experienced QB playoff matchup was the aforementioned Bengals-Texans Wild Card Game in 2011 which saw T.J Yates (five starts) play Andy Dalton, who only had 16 by that point. Of course, Staubach went on to become a Hall of Famer while Dalton
What’s clear is that whatever combination of QB’s start on Saturday, it’ll be the least experienced matchup ever in the history of the playoffs, but does that mean it’ll be the worst? Most of us tend to think so, but then again, Holcomb-Maddox was a really fun game, so maybe anything is possible.