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How have rookie QBs performed in their first NFL Playoff game?

With Texans QB CJ Stroud looking for his first playoff win, we go over how rookie signal-callers have fared in their first bit of postseason action.

C.J. Stroud #7 of the Houston Texans leads a huddle prior to an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 6, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The 2024 NFL playoffs are upon us, with the Wild Card round beginning on Saturday, January 13. Two teams will be on bye, but we know the 14 teams that are vying for the Super Bowl. Last season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy made headlines as a rookie quarterback in the playoffs. This year, Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud will be the latest rookie QB to play in the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at how rookies have done in the playoffs in the past and see if Stroud can lead the Texans to their first Super Bowl victory.

How have rookie QBs performed in first playoff game?

Update — There’s still about a few minutes left in this game, but Stroud is about to become the youngest starting QB to win a playoff game. His new mark replaces the one held by Michael Vick, who set the record back in 2002.

Since 2008, 25 rookie quarterbacks have played in a playoff game in their rookie season. Joe Flacco did it that year with the Baltimore Ravens. He struggled in the Wild Card round against the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens won the game 27-9, but Flacco finished just 9-of-23 for 135 yards. Baltimore beat the Tennessee Titans in round two, and Flacco threw a touchdown along with 161 yards. The Ravens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game with Flacco throwing for 141 yards with three interceptions.

Of the 25 rookies to start a playoff game since 2008, only six have picked up wins. Flacco, Mark Sanchez (2009, New York Jets), T.J. Yates (2011, Houston Texans), Russell Wilson (2012, Seattle Seahawks), Taysom Hill (2017, New Orleans Saints) and Purdy (2022, 49ers). Purdy wasn’t the only rookie QB to start a game last season as Miami Dolphins rookie Skylar Thompson started in the Wild Card round against the Buffalo Bills due to injuries to Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater. Thompson finished 18-of-45 for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Purdy led the 49ers all the way to the NFC Championship Game. He was a combined 41-of-63 for 569 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the playoffs. Purdy sustained an injury in the NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles and was only able to attempt four passes for 23 yards. When he returned to the game, he couldn’t throw, and the 49ers ended up largely running the ball.

Stroud should be in the running for the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year Award this season. There were times when people thought he should be in the MVP conversation, but an injury de-railed that hope in the latter part of the season. Still, the rookie played in 15 games this season and threw for 4,108 yards with 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Stroud isn’t a dual-threat quarterback but has the ability to scramble and escape pressure, which resulted in 167 yards and three more touchdowns.

Stroud will have to face the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Wild Card round, but since Houston won the division, gets to at least do it at home. These teams matched up in Week 16, but Stroud missed the game due to a concussion. Cleveland won 36-22, but Stroud is a much better option under center. There will be plenty of pressure on the rookie, and he will have his work cut out for him as Cleveland’s defense allowed the fewest passing yards per game in the league this season.