NFL Playoffs: Big Ben's Been There; Jets, Pack, Bears Haven't

Matthew YoungContributor IJanuary 18, 2011

Jay Cutler won his first playoff game Sunday against the Seahawks
Jay Cutler won his first playoff game Sunday against the SeahawksDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

It's hard to believe that we're heading into Conference Championship week already. It's equally difficult to comprehend that the NFL playoffs will end up without three of the biggest quarterback names in the game hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. 

When the New York Jets defeated the highly touted New England Patriots on Sunday, Tom Brady joined Drew Brees and Peyton Manning on the proverbial golf course in 2011. That leaves us with three quarterbacks who have a combined seven playoff wins (four of which belong to Mark Sanchez!) and zero Super Bowls.

Hang on a minute.

Wasn't this supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback? Wasn't this supposed to be the year of Michael Vick's resurrection? Of Drew Brees' Two Dat? Of Tom Brady's 07 revenge?

When did Jay Cutler become one of the last four quarterbacks standing? This wasn't supposed to happen. This is a quarterback league! The conventional wisdom is this: You don't get to the Super Bowl without a top QB.

Yet here we are. Mark Sanchez was 27th in passer rating during the regular season. Jay Cutler was 13th.

Conventional wisdom, meet reality.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Cutler and Rodgers each got their first playoff wins this postseason. It testifies to the parity of the league. But aren't we always told that you had to have experience to succeed in the postseason?

Clearly, that is the case with Ben Roethlisberger, who continues to have success in January, exemplified by his thrilling fourth-quarter finish against Baltimore on the 17th. And on the flip side we have Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, who continue to struggle in the postseason.

However, the lesson here is that lack of playoff experience and/or a top-five regular season performance, doesn't necessarily equate to an early exit.

And it's that kind of will-they-won't-they any-given-Sunday drama that makes the NFL playoffs one of the most exciting tournaments in sports.