The further 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy advances in the playoffs, the more the following scenario unfolds: fans across the country, ruminating on couches and barstools, wonder whether Purdy would be the first rookie quarterback to take his team to the Super Bowl.
Purdy, already one of just nine rookies ever to win a postseason game, would indeed be the first rookie quarterback to win a conference title in the Super Bowl era.
Here’s a look at the eight previous rookie quarterbacks to win at least one playoff game.
Pat Haden, Rams, 1976
Like Purdy, Haden was pressed into service by injuries to the Rams’ top two quarterbacks, and led his team to the NFC championship. Unlike Purdy, Haden actually had a year of pro football under his belt with the World Football League’s Southern California Sun.
Dieter Brock, Rams, 1985
Brock was even older than Haden—34, to be exact—after 10 years in the CFL with Winnipeg and Hamilton. Like Haden, he took Los Angeles to the NFC championship before being shut out 24–0 by the Bears.
Shaun King, Buccaneers, 1999
A year after leading Tulane to an undefeated season, King replaced injured quarterback Trent Dilfer and guided the Buccaneers to the NFC championship, where they lost to the Rams.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 2004
In maybe the most famous example of a rookie finding immediate success, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to 14 wins in 15 games between the regular season and playoffs. Pittsburgh fell 41–27 to the Patriots in the AFC championship.
Joe Flacco, Ravens, 2008
Going from Delaware to the NFL playoffs in a year’s time, Flacco was the first rookie to win in the postseason twice. He defeated the Dolphins 27–9 in a wild-card game and the Titans 13–10 in the divisional round.
Mark Sanchez, Jets, 2009
A sensation when the Jets took him fifth out of USC in 2009, Sanchez beat the Bengals and the Chargers before falling to Peyton Manning and the Colts in the AFC championship.
T.J. Yates, Texans, 2011
Yates is the answer to two trivia questions, being a) the quarterback when the Texans won their first playoff game, and b) the winner of the first playoff matchup between two rookie quarterbacks (his opponent: Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton).
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, 2012
It’s hard to believe in 2023 that Wilson was ever a rookie. Once upon a time, Wilson took the Seahawks to the postseason in his first season, outdueling fellow rookie Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III in a wild-card game but falling to the Falcons in the divisional round.