Joe Burrow, the man who has led the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl, has the unquantifiable it factor that I grew up absolutely loathing when I heard about it. Even when it’s not Burrow leading his team to victories like Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes tried the week before, Burrow’s squad somehow overcame insurmountable odds to not just compete but to win.
We all saw it when he was leading LSU to a historic season in 2019, but we didn’t expect the Bengals’ sustained organizational mediocrity to magically dissipate in Year 2. And at no point during this season did anybody actually expect this team to contend for a Super Bowl. But Joseph Lee Burrow changed everything.
Joe Burrow is built differently
After sitting behind the likes of J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, and Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State, Burrow found a home in Louisiana. But even as the former four-star quarterback entered his final collegiate season, nobody believed he’d ever be a starting NFL QB — let alone lead a perennially mediocre franchise that hadn’t won a playoff game in 31 years to the NFL’s peak a year after winning just four games.
But Burrow is different. A week ago, I complained about his arrogant confidence in the right side of his offensive line. I said he needed to limit sacks if he wanted to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl. He did that, but not by taking the traditional avenue of “getting the ball out faster.” No, Burrow played Houdini and used his legs to avoid sacks and pick up first downs.
Burrow prevailed on third down for the Bengals
Zac Taylor called far too many first-down runs. Burrow and the Bengals’ offense was constantly put in bad positions by their play-caller. But on longer third downs, Burrow was consistently able to avoid pressure and make throws past the sticks.
Losing C.J. Uzomah early in the game took away an option over the middle. Tee Higgins became that target, especially as Tyler Boyd faded away from the game plan.
Could Tom Brady’s reported retirement mark a passing of a torch?
This isn’t meant to crown Burrow as the next Tom Brady. However, Burrow doesn’t have nearly the physical talent of Mahomes, Allen, or Justin Herbert. Although he’s more mobile than Brady, Burrow was likened to the future Hall of Famer coming out of LSU thanks to his ability to avoid the rush.
Now, he becomes only the second quarterback to beat Mahomes in the playoffs. The other is Brady, who did it twice. And when Brady’s team won on the back of a defense and rushing attack, it was still Brady at the helm.
Burrow hasn’t been perfect in this postseason, but the rest of his team has consistently stepped up to fill the gaps. You can call it luck, toughness, leadership, swagger, or whatever else you see fit. But whatever it is, he has it.