If you watched last night’s second postseason game between the Tennessee Titans and the home New England Patriots, you probably saw Tom Brady bleed some of his own blood. It has many people wondering if Bill Belichick’s dynasty is finally over after two decades and six Super Bowl titles. Or if he’ll just dominate the NFL with a new quarterback.
But it did make history with the Titans knocking Brady out. Or at least recent history. With his elimination, the AFC Championship game this season is now guaranteed that it will not feature at least one of him, Peyton Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger. For the first time since 2002. It has happened every single year since then. And only one quarterback—Joe Flacco in 2012—snuck in as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
During that span, Brady himself appeared in 12 AFC Championship games, including, absurdly, each of the last eight. They advanced to the Super Bowl five times in that eight-year streak, with eight Super Bowl appearances and five wins (plus a win in 2001).
As for the Steelers, they would reach the AFC Championship game five times between 2004 and now, most recently in 2016. They would advance to the Super Bowl three times, winning twice. Manning, with two different teams, of course, appeared in the AFC Championship game five times, and the Super Bowl four times, winning twice. The three of them have accounted for 15 of the past 16 AFC representatives in the Super Bowl, with 11 Super Bowl wins to show for it.
Not this year. One has been retired for years. One has been on injured reserve most of the year. And the other just get embarrassed in the Wildcard Round. The four remaining quarterbacks in the AFC are Ryan Tannehill, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, and Patrick Mahomes, the latter three being the Pro Bowl representatives this year, while the former finished the regular season with the highest quarterback rating in the NFL after entering the year as the backup.
One of these four quarterbacks will be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Their possible opponents are Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Brees, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson, or Kirk Cousins. Of the six, Rodgers, Wilson, and Brees have won Super Bowl games as starters (Wentz has a ring from injured reserve, while Garoppolo got two as Brady’s backup.
All but Cousins has at least experienced Super Bowl weekend. On the AFC side, all four remaining quarterbacks are entering uncharted territory, or at least would be if they reach the Super Bowl. Mahomes was in the AFC Championship game last year, losing to Brady in overtime.