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It's Almost Embarrassing to Admit Who Is the Best Part of 'Quarterback'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 11, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 11, 2023 |


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I’m a longtime NFL fan (though not always proud to admit it), but until this week, I’d never watched an episode of Hard Knocks or any other behind-the-scenes NFL documentary infomercial. That’s exactly what they are, and no, Netflix’s Quarterback is no exception. Produced by Peyton Manning, the all-time greatest regular-season quarterback, it’s evident that he doesn’t want to embarrass his subjects. This makes it strange that he’s struggling to find quarterbacks willing to participate in the second season.

The first season follows the 2022 NFL season for three quarterbacks, including league MVP and Super Bowl champ Patrick Mahomes. The Kansas City Chiefs QB is everything you’d expect him to be and everything you’d want him to be. I can’t envision a better face for the NFL. He’s fiercely competitive, self-assured without arrogance, charming, and personable — the only player in the league right now likely to challenge Tom Brady for the GOAT title. His wife, Brittany, comes across as even more likable than on social media, and the series wisely excludes Mahomes’ brother, Jackson (though it’s clear he’s probably on the periphery).

Watching Mahomes throughout the season is thrilling, and his determination not to let a severe ankle injury slow him down during the playoffs is amazing. The coaching style of Andy Reid is also briefly spotlighted, and it’s easy to see why he’s well-liked and successful: He’s not an asshole. A particularly savvy aspect of Mahomes’ play is how he compliments every defender who tackles him, thinking it might make them less eager to power-drive him into the ground. “Good hit,” he’ll comment, getting back up. At one point, he even chastises a ref for an illegal hit while simultaneously praising the lineman responsible.

Marcus Mariota’s season is also chronicled; a first-round draft pick who failed in Tennessee but is trying again in Atlanta. It’s hard to find a quarterback as unexciting as Mariota. This isn’t an insult to him as a person; he’s just uninspiring, which may have contributed to his NFL struggles. After a promising start, the 2022 season unravels for Mariota, and he’s benched with about four games left. Depending on who you believe, he either leaves the team or opts for surgery. He’ll be backing up Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia next season, a role that seems to suit him as a reliable but uninspiring leader.

The real revelation in Quarterback is Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Those I’ve spoken to about the series agree against our better instincts: Kirk Cousins is a genuinely nice guy. Despite likely having dogshit politics and being a devout Christian (not inherently a bad thing), Cousins shines through as a likable, dorky dad who happens to be good at football.

His wife Julie epitomizes the football wife: supportive, nurturing, and even dresses her husband. He’s the NFL’s answer to Ned Flanders: a polo-shirt-wearing family man who adores his children and yells, “GOSH DARNIT,” after a particularly hard sack.

The Vikings had a strong season last year (against a soft schedule) before crumbling in the first round of the playoffs. Blaming it all on Cousins would be unfair. He had a standout season, even orchestrating the biggest comeback in NFL history against the Colts (from 36-3 down at halftime). Cousins may be the opposite of Mariota: Someone who may lack raw talent but compensates with dedication and hard work. However, his ceiling may be capped, possibly at the playoffs’ first round.

I started watching Quarterback as a dinner-making diversion, but found myself more engaged than I anticipated, even knowing the ultimate fate of all three players. It’s fascinating to see their lives off the field, even if, for two of them, it’s mostly what you’d expect. As for Cousins? He’s never been a particular favorite in the NFL, but Quarterback might change that, making it even more puzzling why finding subjects for season two should be a challenge.