The final four quarterbacks remaining from the 2017 NFL season are Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum. This is a real sentence.
Three of these quarterbacks (shocker here, not Tom Brady) enter the conference championship round for the first time in their careers, and honestly it’s a surprise that each of them did.
Everyone that wins any NFL game deserves credit for doing so, but anyone who follows the sport knows that there’s a certain amount of luck and good fortune associated with any playoff run.
Take Case Keenum for example. He’s in the NFC Championship while New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees isn’t. Brees led an amazing drive in the final minutes of Sunday’s divisional round to put his team in position to win. The Saints kicked a field goal, but thanks to a Marcus Williams goof they lost and are home for good.
Drew Brees, future Pro Football Hall of Fame QB, was denied a playoff win and chance at a Super Bowl ticket because a rookie safety made one of the worst plays of his life (hopefully he bounces back, btw). That’s how unfair the NFL can be.
It’s number nine that sits on Brees’ jersey, and it’s a different number nine that we all think of when it comes to how unfair the NFL can be - Tony Romo.
Romo will call Sunday’s AFC Championship Game knowing that Bortles, Keenum, and Foles all reached territory that he never did throughout his storied career. While they each defeated formidable competition to get there, it doesn’t change how frustrating it is that the cards never seem to fall the right way for Dallas.
Consider the Patriots in this season’s penultimate round. They simply have to go through Blake Bortles and the winner of Nick Foles and Case Keenum in order to win their third Super Bowl in four years, an entirely separate dynasty from the one they had in the early 2000s.
New England, other teams as well, is seemingly drawing the easiest possible matchups in the most critical situations. Of course the same could have been said of Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans (to a degree considering Keenum) last Friday, but they all squandered their opportunity.
When you think of the Cowboys from the Romo era until now, they’ve never been afforded any sort of pass like this in the playoffs. Every game they’ve played has been difficult:
- 2006, Wildcard Round - Dallas had to take on the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in their stadium, one of the loudest venues in the NFL. They lost in heartbreaking fashion (Romo bobble).
- 2007, Divisional Round - The Cowboys welcomed to town a division rival who they’d already beaten twice that season in the New York Giants. Eli Manning had at his back one of the best defenses Romo had ever seen, and New York the game.
- 2009, Wildcard Round - It wasn’t easy, but the Cowboys pulled off their first Romo-led playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a team they beat in back to back weeks.
- 2009, Divisional Round - Brett Favre experienced a renaissance during his first season in Minnesota. Of course, the Cowboys ran into this buzzsaw, making Favre the oldest quarterback to win a playoff game (until Brady did against Tennessee last Saturday).
- 2014, Wildcard Round - Tony Romo was magnificent as the Cowboys exhausted every resource in their wheelhouse to take down one of the league’s more underrated defenses that season in the Detroit Lions.
- 2014, Divisional Round - Aaron Rodgers is heralded as one the finest talents to ever play the quarterback position. Even with a shaky calf, the Cowboys were on the wrong end of one of the most infamous calls in NFL history, and they failed to beat him.
- 2016, Divisional Round - 3rd and 20, Jared Cook, Mason Crosby. Dallas fell at the hands of their kryptonite yet again, Aaron Rodgers was simply too much to handle for them.
The Cowboys last three playoff losses have been against, as mentioned, one of the finer if not the finest talent to ever play quarterback and Brett Favre in a season where he found the fountain of youth in a record-breaking way.
Dallas isn’t drawing Nick Foles, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, or Tim Tebow in their biggest game’s of the season. Whether it’s because Tony Romo never got what was rightfully his or just because of it all, it’s understandable if you’re upset at how unfair the NFL can be.
It’s frustrating that other teams are not only good but have all of the breaks go their way as well. Some like to say that being that good forces the breaks to go your way, but some teams simply end up on the fortunate side of league-altering injuries.
While Rodgers might be the finest talent to ever play the game, Brady is the finest overall quarterback to play. It’s just frustrating that the well-acknowledged Superman of quarterbacks draws a field of what are seemingly non-challengers.
Football can suck sometimes.