Expert Analysis


4 min read

C.J. Stroud Is Rare Rookie QB Who Could Lead Texans To Super Bowl

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud
Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) jogs off the field after a 2024 AFC wild card game against the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to play well in the playoffs. The game moves at a different speed, and defenses know how to make them uncomfortable. The pressure of these games proves to be too much for young quarterbacks, and it usually takes multiple years before they are ready for the moment. 

But C.J. Stroud isn’t your average rookie quarterback, and the Houston Texans aren’t your typical young team. 

That is terrible news for the rest of the playoff teams. 

Historic QB Performance

As a two-point home underdog, the Texans faced one of the most ferocious defenses we've seen in several years. The expectation among most was if the Texans would prevail, they would need to win on the back of their defense. 

In fairness, Houston’s defense played well above its head and scored two touchdowns, but the game was already decided before either interception. 

Stroud put together one of the best performances by a rookie quarterback in their first career playoff start. In the first half alone, Stroud threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Texans to 24 points. That was the most passing yards by a rookie quarterback in a half since 1991 — and it might be even longer if play-by-play tracking data was available. 


As good as those stats were, Stroud could have had an even bigger first half if not for a deep miss to Nico Collins and a 25-plus-yard drop by Dalton Schultz. 

Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik did a great job of getting Stroud on the move early, helping him into a rhythm. His best throw came on a rollout to the right when Stroud threw the ball across the field to Schultz for a touchdown. The combination of arm strength and touch on this throw is so impressive.

Controlling the Blitz

There was no doubt Stroud was the best player on the field from the first play. He threw confidently and precisely, torching the best pass defense in the league. The Cleveland Browns threw everything at him, including several exotic blitzes.

None of it impacted Stroud. 

Every time the Browns blitzed, Stroud found ways to beat them. Give credit to Collins and Brevin Jordan, who helped make the Browns pay. But Stroud’s ability to get them the ball on time allowed them to make big plays. 

Stroud led the Texans to a win with a passer rating of 157.2. That is the third-best postseason passer rating ever (minimum 20 attempts). The only performances that bested Stroud’s were Peyton Manning in 2004 against the Denver Broncos and Josh Allen in 2022 against the New England Patriots.

Stroud used a combination of deep throws and passes at the line of scrimmage to control Cleveland’s blitz. It was a fantastic game plan by Slowik and an even better execution by Stroud and the Texans. 

Super Bowl Contenders?

Stroud has passed just about every test the NFL has thrown at him. He has won back-to-back win-or-go-home games, and if you removed his game against the New York Jets when he left with a concussion, Stroud would have posted five consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 106. He completed at least 72 percent of his passes in four of those five games. 

To say he’s playing at an elite level would be quite an understatement.

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Texans won the AFC South and will be among the AFC's final four teams. The Texans can make a run in a conference with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson because they have a quarterback who can go toe-to-toe with them. 

They have an improving defense that might be the second-best remaining in the conference, behind the Baltimore Ravens.

Will the Texans run through the AFC and play in the Super Bowl? It seems unlikely, especially with how young they are on defense and the inexperience of their rookie head coach. But this might be the best rookie quarterback we’ve ever seen and arguably the Coach of the Year in DeMeco Ryans. 

The Texans are built for playoff success and will be a hard out for whoever they face the rest of the way. Stroud and the Texans will be a problem in the AFC for a long time, and they might be the most dangerous team in the conference.