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  • Writer's pictureJoshua U.

NFL Playoffs: Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown

There is simply a phenomenon taking place in Houston, TX -- at least as far as it concerns the NFL.


C.J. Stroud and his mother, Kimberly Stroud.

C.J. Stroud and his mother, Kimberly Stroud.


C.J. Stroud, just 22 years of age from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, has enjoyed an incredible rookie season to this point. Historic, even. I'll personally go as far as to say unprecedented.


I mean, just based off of his body of work? There has never been a rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL that's enjoyed their opening act to the level that Stroud has. He has been equal parts consistent AND clutch throughout the year.


Texans QB C.J. Stroud came through with one of the best game-winning drives this season, in Houston's thrilling 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9. VIDEO CREDIT: NFL.


Now, I say that considerate of the fact that Stroud does not hold the all-time NFL rookie QB record for passer rating -- Dak Prescott does.


Nor does Stroud hold the all-time NFL rookie QB record for the most passing yards -- that'd be Indianapolis' former #1 overall pick Andrew Luck.


But, let's dive deeper into the numbers. Luck threw 18 picks in his rookie year, and that's not at all atypical of first-year quarterbacks. In fact, mistakes are to be expected from Year 1 guys, traditionally.


With that being said, Stroud remarkably tossed only 5 picks this year. To his 23 touchdowns.


And while we're comparing Luck's rookie campaign to Stroud's, let's also note that the actual winner of the 2012 NFL Rookie of The Year was not Luck: it was Robert Griffin III, who also tossed just 5 interceptions to his 20 TD passes (and we're not even including his incredible rushing work here).


The aforementioned Dak Prescott burst onto the scene in Dallas, following former longtime starting QB Tony Romo's inopportune career-ending injury in 2016. Dak boasted a 23/4 TD/INT ratio in Year 1, with a respectable 229 pass yards-per-game, winning the 2016 NFL ROY award. The aforementioned 'RG3' finished his rookie regular season in 2012 at a modest 213 pass YPG.


Here's where Stroud's silliness this season starts to shine through.


Stroud's YPG passing blew both Prescott's and Griffin III's out of the water, as C.J. finished at 274 pass YPG, which LED ALL QUARTERBACKS this year, including guys like Pat Mahomes & Josh Allen. BUT -- that's not a rookie record either. The Chargers' Justin Herbert holds the all-time mark. And Herbert passed for more yards total than Stroud did, rookie season for rookie season. And, Herbert threw 7 more TDs than Stroud, all in the same amount of games played.


Let me make one thing clear before I continue. 'Quarterback wins' is NOT a stat. It will NEVER be a stat. We all need to do our duty as football fans and bully anyone that tries to make it a stat. I'm talking old-school, stuff them in lockers type timing. With that being said...


Herbert found himself stuck on a 7-9 Chargers' squad by the time his rookie campaign came to a close -- again, little of which was his fault. Stroud, however: in his first ever NFL playoff game, against the team with the #1 rated defense across the entire league in the Cleveland Browns -- put on an absolute show.


The Houston Texans dominated the Browns in a 45-14 home victory to open the NFL's fourth annual 'Super Wild Card Weekend' -- a final score that was inflated by Cleveland old-man QB Joe Flacco and his TWO pick-sixes on consecutive third-quarter Cleveland drives.


Think it's more than safe to say that Joe's version of 'Linsanity' is now over.


On the other side, Stroud was brilliant. On Houston's opening possession, Stroud led the offense right down the field, but the drive stalled inside the 5, as the Texans settled for a field goal. After a Kareem Hunt TD plunge for Cleveland, Stroud led another scoring drive, resulting in a touchdown this time -- Stroud's first ever postseason passing TD, a 12-yard strike to breakout star wide receiver Nico Collins. Stroud followed that up with two more passing scores in the 2nd quarter, a 76-yard catch & run from rookie TE Brevin Jordan, and then a beautifully-lofted 37-yard pass to his other TE, Dalton Schultz, to give the Texans a double-digit lead that they wouldn't surrender for the remainder of the afternoon. Stroud's afternoon statistically: 16 of 21 on completions and attempts respectively, 3 touchdowns, zero interceptions -- good for the best passer rating by a rookie quarterback in any postseason game EVER.


Stroud is exactly what the doctor ordered for Texans' fans following the gross & unsettling exit of their former 1st-round QB selection & current Cleveland Brown Deshaun Watson, who wasn't available for his new employers for this game, resulting from his season-ending injury suffered in mid-November. Stroud, adversely to Watson, is a young man with unbelievable character and faith-based morality, and he isn't afraid to showcase it, either.


In posting a social media clip of Kathryn Tappen interviewing C.J. Stroud on the field following the Texans' big 45-14 victory over the Browns on Saturday, January 13th, NBC controversially edited out Stroud's gratitude for and mention of Jesus Christ, leading to accusations of religious censorship.

In posting a social media clip of Kathryn Tappen interviewing C.J. Stroud on the field following the Texans' big 45-14 victory over the Browns on Saturday, January 13th, NBC controversially edited out Stroud's gratitude for & mention of Jesus Christ, leading to accusations of religious censorship.


In the athletic/sport sense, Stroud has been on my personal radar for a while. I recall reading a story in 2021, when Stroud was enjoying his first year as a Div. I collegiate starting quarterback at Ohio State. The story's focus was on Stroud and his family's journey during the formative years of his life.


His father has been in Folsom State Prison since 2016, after pleading guilty to a drug-related kidnapping, robbery, and carjacking charge, under California's three-strikes law. This law states that if a person with 1-2 previous serious criminal convictions is found guilty of another, they fall subject to a mandatory life-sentence in prison, either with or without parole. Stroud's father is parole-eligible in 2054, which is... at least better than the worst case scenario. But also, needless to say, quite a ways away.


When trauma, pain, and anguish break into our lives, we're often left lying in front of a fork in the road, with a decision to make on which path we'll decide to take. One can either let their sorrows swallow them up, adopt a victim mentality and then go on to blaze a trail of self-destruction -- or, they can take full control & command of their narrative and apply themselves to the maximum to create a lasting, meaningful and positive legacy.


Stroud chose the latter. All he had done since the unfortunate sentencing of his father was boost his stock from a 3-star high-school recruit, to an award-winning, top-rated QB by the time he was ready to move on to college. Stroud committed to Ohio State University, and after he sat for the near-entirety of his true freshman year, redshirting behind then-starter and current Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields... all Stroud would go on to do? Put together two of the greatest college football quarterbacking seasons in the history of D1.


Both Stroud's redshirt freshman & junior seasons were prosperous beyond measure. His redshirt freshman season in particular was stuff of legend, reaching statistical heights that not even the greatest talents to ever step foot onto a football field had ever reached.


C.J. Stroud's two years as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback: 2x Heisman Trophy finalist, 2x Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, 2x Graham-George Offensive Player of The Year, Rose Bowl champion with Rose Bowl records at 573 yds passing & 6 touchdown passes, 2x First Team All-Big Ten, 8,123 total yards passing and 85 TD passes to just 12 interceptions.

C.J. Stroud's two years as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback: 2x Heisman Trophy finalist, 2x Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, 2x Graham-George Offensive Player of The Year, Rose Bowl champion with Rose Bowl records at 573 yds passing & 6 touchdown passes, 2x First Team All-Big Ten, 8,123 total yards passing and 85 TD passes to just 12 interceptions.


As sterling as Stroud's college resume is, it does carry some "black marks" on it. For folks that don't understand the fiercely bitter Ohio State/Michigan rivalry, just describing it as "fiercely bitter" doesn't even give it close to enough justice. It is arguably the greatest and most highly-regarded rivalry in American team sports. With that being said -- when a quarterback and leader as great as Stroud swings-and-misses twice at Michigan in his collegiate career -- that's viewed as a major problem. ESPECIALLY when both losses came by double-digit margins. In fact, you can point to these two games as the primary reason why Stroud wasn't AT LEAST a single-time Heisman winner while at Ohio State.


Nonetheless, Stroud moved on from the university ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, and, in a move that has aged like milk in heat, was bypassed by the owners of the #1 overall pick, the Carolina Panthers, who selected Stroud's long-time close friend and quarterbacking counterpart Bryce Young. That left Stroud all to the Texans, and we've already covered how fruitful of a marriage that's been thus far.


You rarely ever see a rookie come in and earn the respect of his peers, coaches, bosses, and fans as quickly and seamlessly as Stroud did, and that's a testament to the quality of young man that he is. Stroud is a devout Christian, and has not hesitated once to give all glory to God, nor thank Jesus Christ for all his unbelievable successes in Year 1 in the NFL.


Thanks to NBC, and their video editing team, that has somehow managed to birth a controversy.


I made mention of the Texans' big-time Wild Card victory over the Browns earlier in this piece. Stroud was the star of the show in the win (as per usual), so naturally NBC's sideline reporter (for this game, the job was Kathryn Tappen's) tracked down Stroud for a postgame, on-field interview. Tappen asked Stroud what his immediate emotions towards his record-setting performance were, and what the moment meant to him. On the live broadcast, Stroud gave thanks to Jesus once again. But in NBC's social media edited version of the interview, that portion of Stroud's answer was cropped out, and only displayed the part of Stroud's response where he showed appreciation to the city of Houston.



This has angered many, and have many calling for NBC to acknowledge and cop to claims of religious censorship. Former NFL star quarterback Donovan McNabb deemed NBC's actions "lame" and "disrespectful".


I'm not here to declare what it was or wasn't. I've just gotten myself familiar with these networks & media outlets enough to say that religious censorship is not something I would ever put past an NBC, or a CBS, or any other station. As a Christian myself, I've witnessed firsthand how uncomfortable -- and downright upset -- the sheer mention of the subject makes people at-large.


I suppose it's possible that the social media edit was made for purposes of time. In my experience working video edits, the philosophy often behind it is to include only the pertinent action and "trim the fat" everywhere else where possible.


Here's the issue as it pertains to Stroud's answer, though. He is synonymous with his faith. Nearly every single time he has stepped in front of a microphone this season after a victory, he has praised Jesus' name. That absolutely makes it pertinent information in response to Tappen's question. To cut that out -- a 3 second mention of Jesus before going on to the rest of his answer -- it does seem rather asinine. That alone makes it far more likely to me that the edit was made specifically to cut out Stroud's religious statement to make the clip more comfortable and consumable for the majority of social media users and NBC viewers. But, hey, that's just my opinion. Disagree with me if you like. Maybe you'll find more favor in Friendly-Athiest-dot-com's take on it.


The Friendly Atheist's take on NBC and C.J. Stroud

It's said that a major part of journalistic integrity is keeping an open mind to opposing opinions!


Whatever you decide to do, we all should acknowledge that Stroud & his postgame remarks, aren't going anywhere. If this season is any proof, Stroud has a long and prosperous career ahead of him. It's well-known, though -- how the NFL (Not For Long) can change players' fortunes and futures with one hit, or less dramatically, one bad season.


I'm confident in Houston's ability with Demeco Ryans at the helm, though, to keep a consistent and quality support system around Stroud to ensure sustained success for him & everyone else in the organization. A division title & playoff win in the first year of the new operation only boosts that belief. The Texans' season has since come to a crashing-halt & close, after their Divisional Round loss to the Super Bowl favorite Baltimore Ravens, but the future is still bright in H-Town.


Until next season, C.J.

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