What a difference a year makes for the Cincinnati Bengals.
From winning just four games last season, they are now one win away from Super Bowl LVI.
But Joe Burrow remains the core of their impressive transformation to playoff winners.
The Tiger King
Joseph Lee Burrow pic.twitter.com/nAGuM8GrGG
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 24, 2022
Leading the Bengals to two historic postseason victories eliminates all doubt that he’s the man for the job.
More importantly, the team became must-see football because of him.
With all his accomplishments in 2021, he can already make a case for being an elite NFL quarterback.
As Cool As His Post-Game Glasses
Nothing seems to throw off Burrow from his game.
During the Divisional Weekend alone, he kept on making conversions despite nine sacks from the Tennessee Titans.
Joe Burrow had to call his own plays during the Titans game 😳 pic.twitter.com/TIzAm369F4
— PFF (@PFF) January 26, 2022
He was also on target with a 70.4 percent completion percentage during the regular season.
Those throws were not short passes either because he led the league in average yards per completion with 8.9.
His accuracy and composure also allowed Chase and Tee Higgins to have 1,000-yard seasons.
Like any great athlete, Burrow also turns setbacks into motivation to perform excellently.
Coming to take over your city. pic.twitter.com/s6Ur0A7daP
— WINCINNATI (@WINCINNATI_) January 25, 2022
He may not say it, but he wanted to prove that leaving him off the AFC Pro Bowl roster was a mistake.
As a result, he torched the division rival Baltimore Ravens with 37 completions for 525 yards and four touchdowns.
The Kansas City Chiefs became his victim a week later, finishing with 446 passing yards and four touchdowns.
After 17 games, Burrow set franchise records for passing yards (4,611), touchdown passes (34), and passer rating (108.3) in a single season.
The Current Quarterback Mount Rushmore
Establishing the top tier of active NFL quarterbacks will determine Burrow’s rightful place.
Therefore, the four best play-callers must have individual and team success, with the latter having more weight.
Identifying the fourth person is where it gets tricky.
— Super Bowl LVI on NBC (@SNFonNBC) January 26, 2022
Josh Allen can make a case, especially after his performance against Mahomes and the Chiefs during the Divisional Weekend.
There’s also Lamar Jackson, who led the Baltimore Ravens to multiple playoff appearances and was the 2019 NFL MVP.
While Jackson may have an edge because of his MVP, he did not finish the 2021 season due to injury.
Likewise, the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time after three seasons.
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) January 26, 2022
But it’s hard to ignore Allen after that epic game, plus he already led the Buffalo Bills to an AFC Championship Game.
That said, Allen gets the fourth spot in the Mount Rushmore of current starting quarterbacks.
Who’s The Fifth-Best Quarterback?
Aside from Jackson and Burrow, other quarterbacks are worth mentioning.
Justin Herbert lit up the league in his first two seasons but is yet to make the playoffs.
Matthew Stafford will play in the NFC title game but couldn’t win a postseason game with the Detroit Lions.
— Cincinnati 🧡🖤 (@CincyProblems) January 24, 2022
For now, Jackson is the NFL’s fifth-best quarterback while Burrow is knocking on the door.
But a victory over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on the road will catapult Burrow over Jackson and Allen.