This is an astonishing thing to read, so much so that I didn’t believe it when I saw it come across my Twitter timeline Saturday evening:
Patrick Mahomes is the 1st Big 12 quarterback to ever win a playoff game
— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) January 13, 2019
Could that really be true? I thought to myself. I immediately tried to debunk it. But every time I tried, I could not, because it’s an honest-to-goodness real fact. It does require you to interpret “win a playoff game” as “be the winning or primary QB in a playoff game.” That seems fair enough. It’s what I took it to mean when I read it, and also how I’d mean it if I were talking casually about QBs to have “won playoff games.”
No QB from a Big 12 school had ever been the winning QB in an NFL playoff game until Texas Tech’s Mahomes led the Chiefs past the Colts in the AFC Divisional round.
The Big 12 has only been the Big 12 since 1996.
Before that, most of its longtime members played in the Big 8. That league produced at least a few QBs who went on to win NFL playoff games. Colorado’s Kordell Stewart was one, but his last season in Boulder was 1994, a few seasons before CU became a Big 12 thing. The same kind of thing’s true of West Virginia’s Marc Bulger, later a Rams playoff QB, and also WVU’s Jeff Hostetler, later of playoff Giants and Raiders teams. There could be more cases like that, for sure.
Oklahoma’s Troy Aikman, who transferred to UCLA before turning pro, was another, but it’s fine if you’d rather not count Aikman as an OU quarterback anyway.
Since the advent of the Big 12, it’s possible there’s been a transfer QB somewhere who’s left the conference, then got drafted out of a non-Big 12 school and went on to playoff success. (If you can think of one, let us know. I cannot, based on a quick surveying of NFL playoff years.) But either way, a Big 12 team had never had a QB drafted after finishing his career in the Big 12 who’d gone on to win a playoff game, before Mahomes did it in 2019.
This is the full list of 25 QBs drafted out of the Big 12 since it became the Big 12, via Sports Reference. Mahomes is one of seven top-10 picks on that list, but none of the others has any playoff wins to his name. Sam Bradford, Vince Young, Ryan Tannehill (who left Texas A&M before its move to the SEC), Blaine Gabbert (ditto, but with Missouri), Robert Griffin III, and Baker Mayfield have a combined no playoff wins between them, for various reasons.
That list doesn’t include undrafted Big 12 QBs, but I can’t find anyone anywhere pointing to one who’d qualify, and that seems like something that’d be memorable.
No Big 12 QB has ever won a College Football Playoff game, either.
However, if you want to get cute about this (and I definitely do, because otherwise, what’s the fun?), you can point out that at least a few other Big 12 QBs have participated in playoff wins.
One is Seneca Wallace, the former Iowa State QB who became an NFL backup and participated in Seahawks playoff wins after the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He didn’t throw a pass in any such games (though he had a reception in two of them), and he wasn’t close to being the winning QB, but you could fairly point out that he won an NFL playoff game and also was a Big 12 QB.
Missouri’s Brad Smith may well have lined up in the Wildcat formation at some point during a Jets playoff win, but he never threw a pass in one. Mizzou’s Chase Daniel, who went undrafted, threw two times for the Chiefs in the 2015 season’s playoffs.
Also, a handful of Big QBs have been on teams that have won Playoff games.
Mahomes’ college coach, Kliff Kingsbury, was on injured reserve for the 2003 Patriots. Texas’ Garrett Gilbert, of the 2014 Patriots, is in a similar boats, a reader pointed out to us on Twitter. (Gilbert finished his career at SMU.)
There also could be a CFL playoff win somewhere, in some fashion, but:
That Mahomes is the first Big 12 QB to ever win a playoff game sounds far too outrageous to be true when you first read it, or at least it did for me. But it’s not wrong.