One would think lifting an entire franchise, breaking a playoff curse, winning the first road playoff game in Bengals history, defeating Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, and coming within two minutes of a world championship would be considered a good playoff run for a QB. And Joe Burrow did all that despite getting sacked 19 times in those four games.
However, some are being highly critical of the young quarterback, suggesting he didn’t deliver when it mattered most. That is, to me, a bit infuriating. It means they don’t quite understand what Burrow did, what he overcame, and his role in invigorating the entire team, defense included.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal placed Burrow sixth overall in his final QB index of the year, a ranking most would think is fair (or even generous). He had this to say in his evaluation of Burrow’s second year as a whole (postseason included):
Burrow’s wild ride is another reminder of how impossible it is to evaluate quarterbacks. His worst three-game stretch of the season may have been his final three playoff games, yet he was simultaneously the main reason his Bengals kept playing, notching their first two road playoff wins in franchise history. His arm strength and processing both took huge leaps in Year 2. The offensive line made the position nearly unplayable in the postseason, and Burrow needed to be perfect on Super Bowl Sunday. He wasn’t, but that doesn’t change how far he came this season.
Meanwhile, former NFL QB J.T. O’Sullivan posted a 16-minute-long video to his YouTube channel explaining why Cincinnati’s offense struggled in the Super Bowl. Much of the time is spent criticizing Burrow for not taking shots down the field in the third quarter, even though in a lot of those clips, you can see the pressure right in the QB’s face.
In the third play O’Sullivan looks at, Burrow took off to convert a fourth and one early in the third quarter. Ja’Marr Chase won against Jalen Ramsey down the sideline, but Burrow decided not to take the shot. O’Sullivan says, “I think that they got to this game because they threw balls like this,” he said. “And if you’re not going to do it on the biggest stage, it’s potentially going to come back and get you.”
O’Sullivan later looks at a third and thirteen with about five minutes left in the third quarter, when Burrow’s pass to Chase came up short, saying:
“I mean, this is a miss you just don’t see Burrow make... And I think it’s a testament to kind of the pressure that he’s feeling and then his footwork kinda lets him down. That’s as heel-clicky as you’ll ever see Joe Burrow... Whew! That’s a rough miss on that down and distance, to get that opportunity with that pass protection. The pass protection holds up here... Oh! That’s a really, really, really tough miss. My goodness. And it doesn’t stop there [referring to this trend continuing in the next two plays he examines].”
O’Sullivan then criticizes Burrow for holding onto the ball trying to get the ball to Chase on first and ten late in the third quarter instead of quickly going through his progressions and hitting Tee Higgins. Finally, on second and eleven, again late in the third quarter, Burrow takes another sack. O’Sullivan believes that Burrow could have taken his three, hitch, and thrown to Tyler Boyd for a big gain. He emphasizes that Burrow would have gotten hit regardless, implying that fear of getting hit is why he hesitated.
In this writer’s opinion, Burrow gave a valiant effort in the Super Bowl that only bolstered his resume. This is because he had a couple big chunk plays and no turnovers despite perhaps the biggest mismatch in the trenches we’ve seen in the championship game.
It’s easy to criticize Burrow for not connecting on a couple of downfield throws after he lost the game. But in no way was the third year QB rattled. He had a lot to process and work through in trying to keep his offense afloat. We saw what Patrick Mahomes looked like on the same stage with a lackluster line. Considering what he was up against, Burrow was, as always, a capable leader on the field.
For more about our debate regarding Burrow’s Super Bowl performance and Logan Wilson’s heroic postseason run (despite a fully-torn labrum), watch the video below:
You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below: