As the Netflix show Quarterback demonstrates, surviving and thriving in what may be the hardest job in sports isn't just about throwing a ball. The heart, mind, and soul matter just as much as the arm -- and sometimes, even more.
What Does It Mean to Be an NFL Quarterback?
At any given moment, there are 32 men who are starting quarterbacks in the NFL (plus about twice-ish that number as backups). That compares to the QBs leading the nearly 900 college teams, and about 16,000 high-school teams. It's a vanishingly small percentage.
The QBs who step up to open NFL games on autumn and winter Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays are the elite of an already elite group.
While the job of NFL starting quarterback is one of the most visible in sports, and often paid at astronomical levels, it's also temporary and tenuous. A QB's success and continued employment depend on muscle, bone, and tendon, the guidance of coaches, and the protection and performance of his teammates.
And often, a QB's emotional well-being and mental toughness rest on the love of family and faith in God.
Who's Profiled in Netflix's Quarterback?
Season one of Quarterback -- executive-produced by former NFL QB Peyton Manning -- focuses on three men during the 2022 season: Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs (last year's Super Bowl champions), Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings, and Marcus Mariota of the Atlanta Falcons (he's currently the backup QB for the Philadelphia Eagles).
Their careers have taken directions both up and down (the Chiefs lost the first game of the current season, at their home stadium, to the lower-ranked Detroit Lions). But what they all have in common is being husbands, fathers, and Christians.
Over the course of eight episodes, NFL Films cameras follow the three in training and practice, spending time with wives and kids, and during games. For the serious football fan, there are discussions of sports psychology, physical conditioning, and game strategy, along with interviews with coaches and experts.
For those more interested in the personal side, there's an equal amount of the players just being husbands and dads, with insights offered from wives and other family members.
The Role of Faith in Quarterback
While all three men are vocal Christians (Mariota even attended Catholic school in his native Hawaii), it's Cousins -- at 35, the oldest and, by NFL standards, a grizzled veteran -- who voices it the most in the series.
Says Fansided, talking about Cousins in Quarterback:
Through the highs and lows, Cousins alludes to his faith, so it’s likely no surprise to learn that Kirk Cousins is a proud Christian and speaks about his faith openly in many forums.
In the show, Cousins mentions his faith on a number of occasions including in the final episode of the season at which time he accepted the Bart Starr award at the end of the season. During his speech, openly discussed his faith and the importance of his relationship with Christ in his life.
But all the QBS have talked about their faith in the media.
Just prior to the 2023 Super Bowl, Mahomes said:
“My Christian faith plays a role in everything that I do,” he said (video via FSPN). “I always ask God to lead me in the right direction and let me be who I am for His name. So it has a role in everything that I do. Obviously we’ll be on that huge stage in the Super Bowl that He’s given me, and I want to make sure I’m glorifying Him while I do it.”'
In 2015, just prior to his Heisman Trophy-winning season, Mariota said:
Being a football player, faith plays a huge role. When things start to get rough you find comfort in your faith. Knowing that no matter what, you can dust yourself off and be okay. And you know you do it for [God’s] glory. You do it for your teammates, your family, but also for His glory and to represent His name.
Parents should know that while Quarterback has no sex or nudity, and any violence is just what you'd see in an ordinary football game, players do drop the occasional f-bomb on the field (and they're not bleeped).
Nobody Can Throw the Ball or Take the Hit for You
It can be hard to sympathize with a famous athlete who makes millions of dollars a year. But football is a grueling, dangerous sport. Nobody makes it to a starting job in the NFL without physical pain, dedication, and sacrifice -- and nobody stays there without continuing to do the same.
A player may have a lot of money, many trainers and doctors and physical therapists, perhaps even a personal chef. But out on the field, none of these people can do it for him.
Quarterback discusses the toll the game takes, whether it's physical, psychological or spiritual. Every player knows that one hit, or even one foot planted wrong, can not only end a season but a career. On top of that is the chance of getting into trouble off-field.
Starting on Your Knees
As anyone who follows sports headlines knows, you don't have to be Christian, religious at all, or even an outstanding human being, to be a star NFL player. Nevertheless, many of the NFL's top performers are open about their reliance on divine support, on the field and off.
As former Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk -- a pro-life Catholic -- once told me, "The game will bring you to your knees, so you might as well start there."
Good advice -- not just in football but in life.
The Future of Quarterback
Plans are in the works for Quarterback season 2, but so far, plenty of QBs have said no, and only one -- Matthew Stafford of the Lions -- has said yes.
While Stafford generally keeps his views on faith to himself, he is, like his predecessors, a family man, sharing four daughters with wife Kelly.
Image: Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs/Netflix
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.