One of Joe Burrow’s biggest fans watched the Bengals win their first playoff game in 31 years from the comfort of his mother-in-law’s basement.
That fan couldn’t stop texting his three children, who attended the AFC Wild Card game against the Raiders. That fan received countless photos of the scene inside and outside Paul Brown Stadium after the 23-16 win on Jan. 15. That fan can’t wait for Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game against the Titans, and is looking forward to meeting Burrow in person one day.
That could describe just about any Cincinnati fan right now. In this case, that fan in question is former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson.
Anderson won the NFL MVP award in 1981 and led Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl appearance in the same year. It is an icon of the franchise that was part of the The Bengals’ first Ring of Honor class this season along with Paul Brown, Anthony Munoz and Ken Riley. Anderson was impressed with the way Burrow, who threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders, handled that first playoff start.
There’s another Cincinnati legend in the making, and Burrow is ahead of the curve. Or is it him?
“I think it might surprise everyone, but not him,” Anderson told Sporting News. “He’s 25 years old. Some guys in his second year might be 21 or 22. He’s played in the College Football Playoff, won a national championship and played all kinds of big games in the SEC. He’s used to big games, and like the old Paul Brown would describe him, ‘The game ain’t too big for him.
Burrow can achieve another milestone if the Bengals beat the Titans on Saturday. Among the quarterbacks who have been drafted with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in the Super Bowl era, Burrow could be the first to lead his team to the conference championship round in just his second season. .
A total of 26 quarterbacks have been selected with the first pick in that stretch. Seven of those quarterbacks haven’t won a career playoff game. Here’s a look at how Burrow compares to those with at least one postseason win and how long it took those quarterbacks to reach their first conference championship and Super Bowl.
QB pick #1 in the playoffs (min. one win in the playoffs)
|ATTACKING PLAYER||CLASS||1st APPLICATION||1st WIN||FIRST CONFERENCE (REC)||FIRST SUPER BOWL (REC)|
Stafford, the other former No. 1 pick active in this year’s playoffs, took 13 years and a trade from the Lions to the Rams to get to this spot. Meanwhile, Burrow has the Bengals on the verge of clinching the AFC championship for the first time since the 1988 season. He didn’t celebrate the win against the Raiders like everyone else.
“The fans were very excited, but I tried to play it down and everything because that’s the way it’s going to be from here on out.” Burrow said at a news conference on Tuesday. “This is a big win for us, but this is the standard for the bare minimum for every year going forward.”
Who is going to dispute Burrow on that?
‘Either you’re accurate or you’re not’
Burrow also criticizes the comparisons to another Hall of Fame quarterback that Bengals fans know well. San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana beat Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XXIII. CBS analyst Phil Simms made that comparison after the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens 41-17 on Oct. 24.
“Let’s relax,” burrow replied. “Let’s relax with all that. Let me be me.”
In Burrow’s first postseason start, he made a Montana-style play late in the first half against Las Vegas. Burrow ran to the right, gained as much time as possible, then shot through his body to a wide-open Tyler Boyd in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and a 20-6 lead. That’s a play that might be remembered for the whistle that accompanied it after the ball was thrown, but it accentuated Burrow’s remarkable composure.
“That’s what you expect from the first pick in the draft,” Bengals coach. said Zac Taylor at the post-match press conference. “Plays like that. Plays you can’t explain. Making a play when there’s no play to be made. That’s a phrase I’ve heard often in my career. Joe Burrow is the kind of guy who can make those kinds of plays. It’s pretty Awesome”.
Maybe it’s not “The Catch”. However, Burrow, like Montana, showed he belonged in his first playoff start. Anderson would know. He was on the losing end of Super Bowl XVI against the 49ers.
Anderson and Burrow also share a common bond in their games. Anderson led the NFL in completion percentage three times in his career. Burrow led the league with 70.4% in 2021. Anderson uses another Hall of Fame quarterback when talking about Burrow’s accuracy.
“When I was training it was ‘You’re either accurate or you’re not,'” Anderson said. “You can improve a quarterback’s accuracy to a point, but I go back to Sonny Jurgensen. Sonny knew where the ball was going no matter what arm angle he was at. He was going the right direction. That’s Joe. He is extremely precise.”
Burrow closed out the season with a flurry that put him in the MVP conversation alongside Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady.
Burrow led the Bengals to wins against the Ravens and Chiefs in his last two regular-season starts in a stretch in which he had 971 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He took the next step against the Raiders, recalling the torrid streak he put together to lead LSU to the college football championship in 2019.
Despite comparisons to Hall of Fame quarterbacks and earlier-than-expected success, Burrow continues to walk the line between confidence and arrogance with the charm that has made him an endearing player at every stop. Despite all she accomplished on Saturday, Burrow was on trend with her accessory, a pair of square-framed, rose-tinted Cartier sunglasses.
“I only wear things that I like,” Burrow said. “I just see something online that I like or people buy me stuff that’s right up my alley. I just wear it. If it’s cool, then I’ll wear it.”
‘Let the magic work’
Now the Bengals, a franchise that inherited the “Bungles” tag for most of the 21st century, have become the hot topic of the NFL. he formed one of the best passing combinations in the NFL. Cincinnati is asking that two-word question again, a catchphrase that began when Anderson was leading the Super Bowl race.
“Back to our ’81 season, we went to our Super Bowl,” Anderson said. “We were the No. 1 seed, so we had a bye week and we had both playoff games at home. It was the old Riverfront Stadium and that’s when the ‘Who Dey?’ the singing began.
History repeated itself in 1988 when Boomer Esiason won the NFL MVP award and led the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII. Now, Cincinnati finally appears to have a quarterback who can keep the franchise in the Super Bowl conversation for several years.
Burrow doesn’t take that success for granted, especially after suffering a torn ACL and ACL in his left knee that cut short his rookie season. At his news conference Tuesday, he smiled when asked about Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, who was one of his favorite two-way players growing up. Burrow also put a spin on his experience when it comes to preparation that puts that fast-paced success into perspective.
“In the NFL, they can invent a lot of things that you haven’t seen,” Burrow said. “I would say maybe Tom Brady has just seen everything they can throw at him, but he was drafted when I was 3 years old. I still have a lot more to see.”
The good news? Whatever happens on Saturday, it looks like Burrow will be must-see television for years to come. That means more high-wire touchdown moments against the Raiders and perhaps an era of stability in Cincinnati. Burrow has made it possible. Those moments are when Taylor takes a step back.
“I just learned,” Taylor said. “The more I’ve been around him, the more I’ve learned to shut my mouth and let the magic work.”
Anderson, meanwhile, simply hopes to meet Burrow in the future. Anderson said he has exchanged text messages with Burrow, especially after big wins. This week, however, Anderson just wants to watch in the basement with his wife Cristy.
At this point, Anderson loves being a fan.
“That’s all I am when I watch the game,” he said. “I don’t apologize for that. I think my wife is worse than me yelling at the TV and cheering them on. It’s funny, just the electricity that Joe has brought to the city of Cincinnati. I think it’s amazing.”