Football

Recent history doesn’t bode well for rookie quarterback Mac Jones and the Patriots against the Bills

Rookie quarterbacks are 6-8 in their playoff debuts since 2000.

Mac Jones will make his playoff debut against the Bills on Saturday night. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

A year after missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, the Patriots are back in the tournament.

New England went 10-7 in the regular season, good enough for a wild card spot in a round matchup against Buffalo in the Wild Card Round. The roster revamp the Patriots made in the offseason could be seen as the big reason for their one-year turnaround, with the most notable change coming at quarterback. New England drafted Mac Jones in the first round and made him its starting quarterback right before the regular season, cutting 2020 starter Cam Newton in the process.

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Jones had a solid rookie season, clearly standing above his fellow first-round rookie quarterbacks. He led all rookies in passing yards (3,801), passing touchdowns (22), completion percentage (67.6), and passer rating (92.5), making him one of the two frontrunners to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Despite the solid numbers though, recent history suggests that the Patriots’ season will come to an end on Saturday. Since 2000, rookie quarterbacks are 6-8 in their first playoff start. It should be noted that four of those starts were made by rookies who replaced the regular starting quarterback, which would adjust the record to 4-6 among rookie quarterbacks who were the team’s starting quarterback during the regular season.

The last rookie quarterback to start a playoff game was Lamar Jackson in 2018. The Ravens QB had a rough day at the office, completing just 14 of 29 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. While he rushed for 54 yards, he was sacked seven times in a 23-17 Wild Card loss to the Chargers.

Two years prior, Dak Prescott, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, also fell short in his first playoff start. Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense struggled for the first three quarters in their Divisional Round matchup against the Packers, scoring just 13 points entering the fourth. Prescott did turn it around though, helping Dallas score 18 points to help tie the game 31-31 with 35 seconds left. But that was too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers, who set the Packers up for the game-winning field goal. Despite the losing effort, Prescott’s final stat line looked good, completing 24 of 38 passes for 302 yards with three touchdowns and a pick.

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Three rookie quarterbacks made their postseason debuts in 2012, with two facing off against each other. Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin went head-to-head in the Wild Card Round. Griffin led the Redskins to touchdowns on their first two drives, giving them a 14-0 lead. But they didn’t score for the rest of the day, losing 24-14 after Griffin left the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Griffin finished the day with just 84 passing yards.

Wilson wasn’t too impressive, either. He completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 and added 67 yards on the ground.

In the AFC, Andrew Luck also had a rough playoff welcoming. While he threw for 288 yards, it came on a whopping 54 passes as the Colts failed to reach the endzone in a 24-9 loss to the Ravens.

A year earlier, Andy Dalton helped the Bengals get back into the playoffs as a rookie. He had a rough day playoff debut, completing 27 of 42 passes for 257 yards with three interceptions as the Bengals lost to the Texans, 31-10.

Mark Sanchez came away with a win as a rookie in his playoff debut in 2009, leading the Jets to a 24-14 road win over the Bengals. Sanchez was able to manage the game well, too. He completed 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown.

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In 2008, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan made their playoff debuts as rookies with differing results. Flacco’s Ravens got a road win over the Dolphins despite him completing just 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards. Ryan had a shaky day in his playoff debut, completing 26 of 40 passes for just 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Falcons fell to the Cardinals, 30-24.

Ben Roethlisberger was the only non-injury replacement rookie to make a playoff start in nearly 20 years in 2004. After helping the Steelers go 15-1, Roethlisberger got the win against the Jets in Divisional Round. But he didn’t perform too well there, completing 17 of 30 passes from 181 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions as Pittsburgh needed overtime to win.

As a lot of the rookie performances in recent years don’t look pretty, the average stat line doesn’t look pretty, either. The 10 aforementioned quarterbacks averaged 200.9 passing yards with 1.2 touchdown passes against 1.1 interceptions, good for an average passer rating of 79.3.

So, history says that Jones will have a bad day at the office but they could still pull off a win. However, playing on the road against the league’s top pass defense in frigid temperatures will certainly make things tougher for the Patriots and Jones in his playoff debut.

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