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Tom Brady has defeated 27 QBs in the playoffs. Here's the ranking of all 27.

Frank Schwab
·8-min read

There are a few hundred crazy stats about Tom Brady’s career, but among them is that his teams have beaten 27 different quarterbacks in the playoffs.

That includes guys like Kurt Warner, who has been retired since 2009 and is already in the Hall of Fame. It also includes Byron Leftwich, who is Brady’s offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And yes, Tim Tebow.

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) is one of 27 quarterbacks to face Tom Brady in the playoffs and come up short. (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) is one of 27 quarterbacks to face Tom Brady in the playoffs and come up short. (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

It’s a fantastically fun list (h/t to Ohio-based TV reporter John Sabol for compiling it), with player after player whose legacies changed for the worse because Brady’s teams ended their playoff run (and for some of them, multiple runs). Let’s rank the 27 quarterbacks whose season has ended with a loss to Brady’s team:

27. Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team

Heinicke had one career start when he was forced into action during a wild-card game with Washington. He played very well, and perhaps that is the first step in getting a shot and having a good, long career. As of now, he’s the least accomplished QB to square off against Brady in the postseason.

26. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos

Tebow has maybe the oddest career in NFL history. He helped the Broncos to a miraculous playoff berth and threw for 316 yards in a playoff win over the Steelers before the Broncos lost to Brady and the Patriots in the divisional round. He never started another game at quarterback and had just eight more career passing attempts before turning to minor league baseball. He’s also still one of the most famous players ever due to his supremely devoted fans. There will be those who are angry he wasn’t No. 27, and those who are so unreasonably bought into the Tebow myth that they will say he should be in the top five. Or higher.

25. Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans

Osweiler will be remembered for the crazy contract Bill O’Brien gave him with the Texans, but Osweiler had a good run for the 2015 Broncos. The team won five of his seven starts, and likely doesn’t win Super Bowl 50 without his contributions.

22-24 (tie). Blake Bortles, David Garrard, Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville Jaguars

Is there any real separation between these three Jaguars? They all were decent for a short stretch but never great and ultimately forgettable. Not surprisingly, none of them led a playoff win over the Patriots.

21. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

For a while it seemed Mariota would be higher on a list like this, but his career stalled in Tennessee. Mariota was the Titans’ backup last season when Ryan Tannehill started and Tennessee beat Brady’s Patriots, with Mariota coming in to complete his only pass for 4 yards.

20. Kordell Stewart, Pittsburgh Steelers

Stewart came along 20 years too soon. He’d be a coveted dual threat in today’s game, though he had a nice Steelers career. It included an AFC championship game loss to the Patriots, though Drew Bledsoe played most of that game after Brady hurt his ankle.

19. Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers

Delhomme was a mostly average, interception-prone quarterback whose career legacy got a bump because he played well in a close Super Bowl loss against Brady’s Patriots. But it was a loss.

18. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Schaub wasn’t quite as bad as he’s remembered. He had three 4,000-yard seasons, two Pro Bowls and led the NFL in passing once. He’s still in the NFL, too. He has been Matt Ryan’s backup for the Falcons for four years, and has 16 seasons in the league. He even threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Patriots at the end of the 2012 season.

17. Chad Pennington, New York Jets

Pennington became synonymous with a lack of arm strength after shoulder surgeries, but he had solid seasons with the Jets and one with the Miami Dolphins, relying on great accuracy to last 11 seasons.

16. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith has had a solid career but he could never get his team to a Super Bowl. He lost once to the Patriots, falling in a divisional round game at the end of the 2015 season.

15. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Flacco, who has started the most games in NFL history among quarterbacks without a Pro Bowl berth, will always be remembered for a Super Bowl win that included an AFC title game victory over Brady and the Patriots. The Ravens were 2-2 against Brady and the Patriots with Flacco at QB.

14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Goff has time to climb higher on the list, but his career has stalled. It would be more palatable to Rams fans if he had a Super Bowl ring already, but Brady and the Patriots beat Goff’s Rams in an ugly Super Bowl LIII.

13. Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders

Gannon was the opposing quarterback for Brady’s first playoff win, the “Tuck Rule” game. If you want a measure of Brady’s longevity, Gannon just turned 55.

12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan has had a fine career with one phenomenal season. If Ryan would have finished an MVP season with a Super Bowl win, he’d have a special place in Falcons history. Instead ... 28-3 happened.

11. Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans

It’s a tragic way of looking at Brady’s longevity, but McNair died more than 11 years ago. The former MVP lost his only playoff matchup against Brady all the way back at the end of the 2003 season.

10. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles

Imagine how we’d view McNabb if he had just one ring. He had the chance, but went up against the Patriots and Brady in Super Bowl XXXIX and came up short.

9. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

Rivers is the only quarterback to lose three times to Brady’s teams. Considering Rivers’ Hall of Fame debate will center on his lack of a Super Bowl appearance, his career overlapping with Brady is some bad luck.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, left, shakes hands with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following their playoff game at the end of the 2006 season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, left, shakes hands with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following their playoff game at the end of the 2006 season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

8. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Maybe Luck is a little too high on the list, but the talent was obvious. Luck never got to a Super Bowl before his early retirement, denied his best chance when the Colts lost to the Patriots in the AFC championship game (a game that will be infamous in NFL history for starting the Deflategate controversy).

7. Kurt Warner, Los Angeles Rams

Who knew in February of 2002, when Brady’s Patriots shocked Warner’s Rams, that Brady would still be making Super Bowls 19 years later. Warner made the Hall of Fame. Another Super Bowl win would have changed how his career and that Rams’ mini-dynasty are perceived.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger’s two playoff meetings with Brady came 12 years apart, and both were losses in AFC championship games. A third or fourth Super Bowl ring would have been huge for Roethlisberger. Brady’s Patriots stood in the way.

5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Wilson is yet another player whose legacy won’t be quite as great as it should be due to a playoff loss to Brady. Super Bowl XLIX is one of the greatest games in NFL history, and Wilson’s Seahawks suffered a heartbreaking loss to get Brady his fourth ring.

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brady had first-time playoff meetings with Brees and the next quarterback on the list in the past couple weeks, and beat both future Hall of Famers. Brees is likely retiring, so Brady will have ultimate bragging rights.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, but his lack of Super Bowls will push him down just a bit. The Packers’ NFC title game loss to Brady and the Buccaneers was a blow to his legacy.

2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Too high? He hasn’t had the career of Rodgers or Brees, but he also is one win from having as many rings as both of them combined. This is a special player, and putting him here will age just fine. Mahomes’ only playoff loss came against Brady’s Patriots, and Brady can make it 2-for-2 in Super Bowl LV.

1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos

In a few years, No. 2 on this list might take the top spot. For now it’s the NFL’s only five-time MVP and a big Brady rival. The narrative of the rivalry is that Manning put up the numbers while Brady won the games, but Manning’s teams were 3-2 against Brady’s Patriots in the playoffs. It was and will be the greatest quarterback rivalry in NFL history.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning speak to one another following their final playoff meeting at the end of the 2015 season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning speak to one another following their final playoff meeting at the end of the 2015 season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)