Winning in the NFL playoffs is hard enough, but it has basically become impossible over the past few years for any team that enters the postseason with a rookie quarterback.
The Ravens are the only team this year entering the playoffs in that situation and if Baltimore is going to beat the Chargers on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS), Lamar Jackson is going to have to end an ugly drought. The last five rookie quarterbacks to start a postseason game have all lost, with three of those losses coming from quarterbacks who are actually in the playoffs this year (Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Dak Prescott).
Even uglier is the fact that rookie quarterbacks are 0-5 in playoff games since 2010 when facing a team that features a veteran starter. In that span, rookie quarterbacks have actually gone 2-7 overall, but both wins came in a game where it was a rookie quarterback versus another rookie quarterback, so a rookie had to win (Andy Dalton vs. T.J. Yates in 2011, Russell Wilson vs. Robert Griffin III in 2012).
One other thing the Ravens have going against them is the fact that no rookie quarterback has ever led his team to the Super Bowl. The rookies who came the closest were Ben Roethlisberger (2004 season, AFC title game), Shaun King (1999, NFC title game with Buccaneers), and Mark Sanchez (2009, AFC title game with Jets).
Of course, if any team can win a game or two with a rookie, it's the Ravens, and that's because they've already done it. Back in 2008, Joe Flacco won two playoffs games as a rookie and led Baltimore to the AFC title game where they lost to the Steelers 23-14. Flacco and Sanchez are actually the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to win multiple games as rookies.
The one thing that will be interesting to watch with Lamar Jackson is how he'll react if the Ravens fall behind. In Jackson's seven starts this year, the Ravens never trailed by more than eight points, which means he's never had to throw a pass or run an offense in a game where he was trailing by two or more scores. Trailing by multiple scores can add urgency to an offense, and when you're in the postseason, it can add enough pressure to melt any rookie.
The biggest upside to the Ravens situation is that Jackson is almost the perfect quarterback to be taking into the postseason. Since 1980, rookie quarterbacks have won eight total games in the playoffs, and in each one of those games, the rookie threw for 200 yards or less.
That basically means that the most successful playoff teams generally try to avoid putting the ball in the air when they have a rookie starter. In 2008, Flacco averaged just 148 yards and 22.5 pass attempts per game in Baltimore's two playoff wins. The good news for the Ravens is that they won't even have to try to keep Jackson's passing numbers low and that's because their offense is already designed to do that. In Jackson's seven starts, he's only thrown for more than 200 yards once and he's never attempted more than 25 passes.
Jackson has already broken the mold for how an NFL offense should be run, so it wouldn't be surprising if he ends up being the quarterback who ends the rookie drought. Of course, it won't be easy. As you can see below, the NFL playoffs have been a rough ride for rookie quarterbacks.
Record of rookie QBs in playoffs since AFL-NFL merger
|Robert Griffin III||Redskins||2012||0-1|
|COMBINED RECORD|| || ||8-16|
|*Wins against fellow rookies|| || || |