Is A Star QB A Necessity?

Every NFL team is made up of a roster of 53 men, a practice squad, coaching staff, and an entire front office, but only one gets the chip at the end of the season. You see it all the time; A team with so much talent that can’t make the playoffs due to that one missing piece. But then again, you also see a QB playing out of their minds carrying an otherwise unqualified team to a playoff berth just about every season. So, is a star QB really that important?

Before we go anywhere, what is a ‘Star’? In the playoff context, it should be defined as a QB who elevates his teams play by a value of 2 or more wins over the 50% mark. This statistic is determined at the author’s discretion. Despite wins not being an accurate stat to attribute to a single player, regardless of who that player is, we will analyze the rate of success teams see with the inclusion of a star. These players will be judged purely within the single-year playoff context and, as such, definite stars who miss the playoffs will not be counted.

Let’s take a look at the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs.

Based on the previously mentioned method, here are the team’s starting QBs.

  • Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield (Star)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger (Star)
  • Indianapolis Colts – Philip Rivers
  • Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen (Star)
  • Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson (Star)
  • Tennessee Titans – Ryan Tannehill
  • Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes II (Star)
  • L.A. Rams – Jared Goff
  • Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson (Star)
  • Chicago Bears – Mitchell Trubisky
  • N.O. Saints – Drew Brees (Star)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tom Brady (Star)
  • Washington Football Team – Taylor Heinicke
  • Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers

We’ll track head to head matchup between star and non-star QBs only, as matchups between stars serve no purpose in this argument, as do matchups between non-stars.

  • Philip Rivers at Josh Allen – Star QB Wins
  • Lamar Jackson at Ryan Tannehill – Star QB Wins
  • Jared Goff at Russell Wilson – Non-Star QB Wins
  • Mitchell Trubisky at Drew Brees – Star QB Wins
  • Tom Brady at Taylor Heinicke – Star QB Wins

At the end of the wild card round, in which only one team featuring a non-star QB hosted a game (Washington, with a 7-9 record), there is only one team remaining without a Star QB. Jared Goff and the L.A. Rams would be swiftly eliminated by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Going back as far as 2010, because this is being written to be relevant in the modern era, star QBs have outnumbered Non-Stars in the SuperBowl 19-5. They’ve gone head-to-head on all 5 of the non-star appearances, and shockingly, despite the success rate of Stars in the playoffs, they only beat the Non-Stars 3-2. Those 2 occasions are, of course, Philadelphia’s Nick Foles and New York’s Eli Manning, though Manning does have a case to be a Hall Of Famer.

So, what does this tell us? Star QBs make the Divisional Round significantly more often than non-stars, regardless of who makes the playoffs. Star QBs have appeared in every SuperBowl in recent history, more often than not on both sides of the game. Lastly, Star QBs win the SuperBowl almost every time, with Non-Stars taking the chip home only twice in recent history. Long story short; A talented roster can make the SuperBowl, but a QB is almost the icing on the cake. Get yourself a Star.