AP Pro Football Writer
It’s quite a list: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer and Alex Smith.
A particularly elite collection of NFL quarterbacks will be in action this weekend. Never before have the last eight teams in the playoffs featured starting QBs that already own a combined nine Super Bowl championships, according to STATS.
“A star-studded cast,” said Joe Theismann, QB of the 1983 Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins. “What it really tells me is — and it should send a message to everybody — if you don’t have a quarterback of this quality, it’s going to be very difficult to get to the level of competing for a championship.”
Brady has four titles, Roethlisberger two, and Manning, Rodgers and Wilson one apiece. That group also accounts for nine NFL MVP awards (five for Manning; two apiece for Brady and Rodgers). The other three guys, meanwhile, were the No. 1 overall pick in the draft: Newton and Palmer, both in the conversation for league MVP this season, plus Smith, whose team is on an 11-game winning streak.
“They’re all outstanding decision-makers,” said Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott, who helped Joe Montana win four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. “What they’re really good at is taking advantage of what the defense gives them.”
When Lott watches today’s star quarterbacks, he does so with an eye to how he would game-plan as an opponent.
“You’re trying to figure out what you would do to try to slow them down or get them out of their rhythm. You’re not going to stop them,” Lott said. “But you want to try to take something away and force them to try to do something else with the football.”
Last season is the only other time five previous champs started at quarterback in the divisional round; that bunch owned seven titles at the time.
On Saturday, it’ll be Smith’s Kansas City Chiefs at Brady’s New England Patriots, followed by Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers at Palmer’s Arizona Cardinals. On Sunday, Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks are at Newton’s Carolina Panthers, before Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers play at Manning’s Denver Broncos.
“They all bring something different to the table. They all bring great leadership; that’s the constant. But when it comes to being able to play the game, everybody’s a little bit different,” Theismann said, “and I think that’s what makes this group so exciting.”