Giving quarterbacks big money doesn’t guarantee success or even playoff appearances.
The NFL’s six highest-paid quarterbacks in 2018 will be spectators this postseason. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan ($30 million), Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins ($28 million), San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5 million), Detroit’s Matthew Stafford ($27 million) and Oakland’s Derek Carr ($25 million) couldn’t lead their teams to the playoffs.
Only Cousins had a winning record (8-7-1), and he failed in a do-or-die game in the regular-season finale. Cousins, who received a three-year, fully guaranteed, $84 million contract, struggled in a 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears that eliminated the Vikings.
Of the top six on the salary list, only Rodgers has won a Super Bowl. Ryan is 4-6 in the playoffs, Stafford is 0-3 and Cousins is 0-1. Carr and Garoppolo haven’t made a postseason start.
Among the 12 starting quarterbacks still playing, six are still under their rookie contract and another — Nick Foles — is a backup.
Here’s a look at a few more numbers entering wild-card weekend:
SETTING RECORDS: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees broke his own record with a 74.4 completion percentage, the highest in a season in NFL history. … Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz set a record for most receptions by a tight end (116). … San Francisco’s George Kittle set a record for most yards receiving by a tight end (1,377). … Teams combined to score 1,371 total touchdowns, the highest total in a season. … Eight quarterbacks had a passer rating of 100 or higher, most in a season.
LAST MAN STANDING: Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson is the only one of seven coaches hired in 2016 still with his team. Adam Gase (23-26, Miami), Chip Kelly (2-14, San Francisco), Hue Jackson (3-36-1, Cleveland), Mike Mularkey (19-17, Tennessee), Dirk Koetter (19-29, Tampa Bay) and Ben McAdoo (13-16, Giants) all were fired, some sooner than others.
WORST TO FIRST: The Bears (12-4) and Texans (11-5) won their divisions after finishing in last place in 2017. The Eagles won the Super Bowl last year after going worst-to-first in the NFC East.
THE NEWCOMERS: Seven teams who weren’t in the playoffs last season qualified this year. All seven — Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle — will play this weekend. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the previous year.
WILD-CARD CHAMPS: Nine teams who played wild-card games have won the Super Bowl, including the 1980 Raiders, 1997 Broncos, 2000 and 2012 Ravens, 2005 Steelers, 2006 Colts, 2007 and 2011 Giants and 2010 Packers.
TOUGHEST ROAD: The Eagles and Colts are each trying to become only the third No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl, joining the 2005 Steelers and 2010 Packers.
EASIEST ROAD: Since 1975, 49 of the 86 teams (57 percent) to reach the Super Bowl were No. 1 seeds. In that span, 20 No. 2 seeds, four No. 3, nine No. 4, two No. 5 and two No. 6 made it. Over the past five years, nine of 10 No. 1 seeds played in the Super Bowl. Only the 2016 Cowboys didn’t get in.
WELCOME TO THE DANCE: Four quarterbacks will make their postseason debut as starters. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky and Houston’s Deshaun Watson play this weekend. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes has a bye.
STINGY DEFENSE: In three of the past four seasons, the teams with the stringiest regular-season scoring defense have advanced to the Super Bowl. The Bears led the league with the fewest points allowed per game (17.7) this season.
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