The NFL playoffs turn January into a proving ground for quarterbacks both young and old. Stalwarts like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are expected to take their teams to the postseason every year and compete for the Super Bowl. They don’t always get there, though. Sometimes a young gunslinger steps up and has a miracle run that blasts them into elite territory. These are the greatest postseason quarterbacks to ever play, according to passer rating, and some of the names included might surprise you!
Bart Starr – 104.8 QB Rating
As the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Bart Starr appeared in six NFL postseasons. He won the Super Bowl twice, being named the MVP of the contest on both occasions. His best postseason performance came in 1966.
During the ’66 postseason, Starr started two games, completed 68.6 percent of his passes, and threw six touchdowns while averaging 277 yards per game. His passer rating was a nearly perfect 135.6. A perfect passer rating is 158.3.
Kurt Warner – 102.8 QB Rating
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner may have been a late bloomer in his NFL career, but his postseason credentials are impeccable. As the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, he started three Super Bowls, winning one ring.
In 2009, with the Cardinals, Warner threw for 11 postseason touchdowns, tying Joe Montana’s record originally set in 1990. That same season he very nearly became the first starting QB to win the Super Bowl with two different teams, but couldn’t overcome the Steelers’ game-sealing touchdown drive.
Matt Ryan – 100.8 QB Rating
Matt Ryan has accomplished a lot in his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, including winning a league MVP and appearing in the Super Bowl in 2016. In total, Ryan has started 10 postseason games, compiling a 4-6 record while throwing 20 touchdowns and passing for 2,672 yards.
Ryan’s best postseason came during his Super Bowl run when he completed 71.4 percent of his passes while tossing nine touchdowns and ending up with a 135.3 QB rating. He averaged 338 yards per game, too, more than earning his spot on this list.
Drew Brees – 99.6 QB Rating
Drew Brees has started 16 postseason games in his career, meaning he has exactly one NFL season of playoff experience under his belt. In that time, he has thrown for 34 touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes and amassing a 99.6 QB rating.
Unfortunately for Brees, his postseason story is more heartbreak than heroism. In the last three seasons, his New Orleans Saints have been eliminated from the playoffs thanks to controversial last-minute calls by the refs. At least he won a ring in 2009!
Aaron Rodgers – 99.4 QB Rating
To many NFL analysts, Aaron Rodgers is the greatest QB of his generation. He has always been extremely efficient during his career, and has made the postseason his second home. Since 2009, Rodgers has started 16 postseason games, throwing for 36 touchdowns and 4,458 yards.
In his third year as the starting QB for the Packers, Rodgers led the team to the Super Bowl, winning the game and MVP honors along the way. Since then he has spent his playoff life trying to win ring number two.
Nick Foles – 98.8 QB Rating
Everyone should know the story of Nick Foles by now. Once considered the future of the Philadelphia Eagles early in his career, injuries and poor play caught up to him. He nearly retired, then was given a second chance in Philly.
When Foles took over for starting QB Carson Wentz in 2017, magic happened. He had a postseason for the ages, steamrolling through the competition before going throw-for-throw against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl and winning. His postseason experience might be limited, but his results are undeniable.
Alex Smith – 97.4 QB Rating
Alex Smith may not be the flashiest QB, but he has been a steady presence in the postseason since 2011. That year he was the starter for the San Francisco 49ers and came one dropped punt return away from going to the Super Bowl.
With Kansas City he was just as good, finishing his 2017 postseason run with a 116.2 QB rating. In total, Smith has started seven postseason games and has thrown 14 touchdown passes while only giving up two interceptions. His 249.3 yards per game average is nothing to laugh at either.
Russell Wilson – 96 QB Rating
Since 2012, Russell Wilson has only missed the postseason once as the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. His best postseason performance came in 2014 when he averaged 241.3 yards per game and tossed six touchdowns. That season also saw him lead the Seahawks to their second straight Super Bowl appearance.
Over the course of 14 postseason games, Wilson has thrown 22 touchdown passes while completing 61.8 percent of his passes. He has also gone three postseasons without throwing an interception.
Joe Montana – 95.6 QB Rating
You didn’t think this list would leave off one of three QBs to win four or more Super Bowls as a starter, did you? Considered the GOAT before Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl ring, Joe Montana is a legendary postseason QB with the stats to back it up.
During his illustrious career, Montana started 23 postseason games, going 16-7 while tossing 45 touchdowns and averaging 251 yards per game. If there is anything that brings down his postseason QB rating it would be the 21 interceptions he threw.
Mark Sanchez – 94.3 QB Rating
Mark Sanchez only appeared in two postseasons, but both times helped lead the New York Jets to the AFC Championship Game. During his postseason career, Sanchez averaged 192 yards per game while tossing nine touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.
If Sanchez had been able to push the Jets into the Super Bowl, perhaps his career would be looked at in a different light today. It’s all too easy to remember how he regressed in the regular season before retiring and forget what he accomplished early.
Ken Anderson – 93.5 QB Rating
It’s hard to remember a time in NFL history when the Cincinnati Bengals were able to win playoff games. Ken Anderson was the quarterback under center for some of those wins, even taking the team as far as the Super Bowl in 1981. That great Bengals team lost to the San Francisco 49ers, but it wasn’t Anderson’s fault.
By the time he retired, Anderson started six postseason games, averaging 220.2 yards per game while throwing six touchdown passes and completing 66.3 percent of his passes.
Tony Romo – 93 QB Rating
Like Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo is remembered more in NFL circles for what he failed to do instead of how good he actually was. During his playing career, Romo put up Hall of Fame numbers, but injuries and a reputation for folding under pressure spoiled his riches.
With the Dallas Cowboys, Romo started six postseason games, completing 61.6 percent of his passes and throwing eight touchdowns. His best performance came in 2014 when he averaged 242 yards per game and completed 68 percent of his passes.
Joe Theismann – 91.4 QB Rating
Joe Theismann started eight postseason games during his career, including a Cinderella run to the Super Bowl in 1982. Those four magical games saw him complete 68.2 percent of his passed while tossing eight touchdowns and averaging 179 yards per game.
Theisman’s final postseason wasn’t as nice. In the one game played he failed to throw a touchdown, only completed 52.4 percent of his passes, and tossed one interception. His QB rating for the game was an ugly 64.8.
Tom Brady – 89.9 QB Rating
No quarterback in the history of the NFL has started more postseason games than Tom Brady. Now 42 years old and still playing, Brady has led the New England Patriots to nine Super Bowls, winning a record six rings. When you start 41 playoff games, success is bound to follow.
In those 41 games, Tom Brady has a 30-11 record. He has thrown for a jaw-dropping 73 touchdown passes and amassed 11,388 postseason yards while averaging 277.8 yards per game. While he might not be higher on this list because of his rating, he still might be the best postseason QB of all-time.
Joe Flacco – 88.6 QB Rating
From 2008 until 2014, Joe Flacco only missed making the postseason with the Baltimore Ravens once. And in those years, he had an innate ability to “up” his game in the biggest moments, ascending from a game manager to an elite QB.
Flacco’s greatest run came in 2012, when he tied a postseason record by tossing 11 touchdowns and beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. That postseason he averaged 285 yards per game on his way to a 117.2 QB rating.
Troy Aikman – 88.3 QB Rating
A three-time Super Bowl winner and Hall-of-Famer, Troy Aikman started 15 postseason games during his career, going 11-4 in that time. He completed 63.7 percent of his playoff passes while averaging 240.6 yards per game and throwing 23 touchdown passes.
Aikman’s best postseason performance came in 1992 when he started three games and posted a 126.4 QB rating. That year he won his first Super Bowl and was named the MVP of the game.
Cam Newton – 88.7 QB Rating
Cam Newton helped changed the game of football in his 20s. From 24 to 28-years-old he was one of the most electric dual-threat quarterbacks in league history, even winning MVP honors for his unstoppable 2015 campaign.
As a starter in the postseason, Newton has been just as good. Starting seven games, he has led the Panthers to one Super Bowl while averaging 260.1 yards per game. If there is any knocking him, it would be for his 59.8 percent completion average. That number, however, is .2 percent better than his regular-season average.
Eli Manning – 87.4 QB Rating
The only quarterback in NFL history to beat Tom Brady in two Super Bowls, Eli Manning’s postseason career has been full of ups and downs. In his best years, Manning was unstoppable. In his worst years, he was unwatchable.
Overall, Eli Manning has an 8-4 postseason record. He has averaged 234.6 yards per game while throwing 18 touchdown passes and completing 60.5 percent of his passes. Compared to his regular season, Manning’s playoff QB rating is three points higher.
Peyton Manning – 87.4 QB Rating
Peyton Manning, oddly enough, finished his career with the same exact postseason QB rating as his brother. Unlike Eli, however, Peyton is one of the greatest regular season QBs of all-time with a career 96.5 QB rating.
Having started 27 playoff games in his career, Manning retired on top, winning the Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015. That postseason, though, was not his best. The future Hall of Famer only completed 55.4 percent of his passes and threw two touchdown passes in three games played.
Colin Kaepernick – 87.3 QB Rating
A dual-threat postseason quarterback, Colin Kaepernick helped guide the San Francisco 49ers to the playoffs in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, he replaced Alex Smith as the team’s starter midway through the season, and never gave it back, ultimately leading the team to the Super Bowl.
The next season he helped the 49ers return to the NFC Championship game, where they lost a heartbreaker to the Seattle Seahawks. Since then, Kaepernick’s career has been stalled by controversy, although he has stayed in game shape, ready to answer the call should any team make it.