Joe Burrow seems to have become one of the NFL’s inconvenient truths. He’s again in position to get the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl with a win in the AFC conference final against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team he’s beaten three straight times. This opportunity comes after beating the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round, a team many people throughout the season predicted was better than the Bengals.
When we talk about the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Burrow’s name is rarely mentioned with the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. But considering that these quarterbacks have failed to beat Burrow’s Bengals, are we overlooking him? Mahomes and Allen both have physical abilities that are above those of Burrow, but how much does that actually matter? There’s something about him that puts him on the level of the league’s best quarterbacks.
It’s been said, in one fashion or another, that Burrow possesses something that isn’t quantifiable, and that that’s what puts him in the same class as Mahomes and Allen. That like Joe Montana before him, Burrow is just too cool. Certainly, this is true. Without a doubt, he’s “cooler” than Mahomes and Allen. But there are other things about his game that put him on that same level, if not even beyond it.
Career Completion Percentage
- Burrow: 68.2%
- Mahomes: 66.3%
- Allen: 62.5%
Burrow is simply more accurate than Mahomes and Allen. The reason for this is that he’s comfortable taking what opposing defenses give him rather than being obsessed with the home run-type plays that we think of with Mahomes and Allen. In fairness, Mahomes, in particular, has adjusted to being able to lead his offense without those relying on those big plays. This is less so the case with Allen, who needed to be Superman in order for the Bills to be a threat this season.
This wraps back around to Burrow’s “cool” factor. He knows he has the best wide receiver core in the NFL at his disposal with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, but he’s levelheaded and confident enough to know he doesn’t have to make superstar plays at all times. But there’s another level to this as well. It disguises the big play potential of the offense. Burrow is keen enough to know this and the offense rallies around it.
So, no, Burrow doesn’t possess the physical abilities of Mahomes and Allen. He isn’t going to be slinging the football around the yard at ridiculous angles and he isn’t going to be hurdling defensive backs on 40-yard runs. But he is going to dissect opposing defenses and open them up for the right plays at the right moments, slowly and surely. His football IQ is probably higher than either Mahomes or Allen, his composure is clearly higher, and his intangibles are unmatched among his contemporaries. All of that may just make him the best overall quarterback in the NFL, even though he isn’t the most talented.