- KC Joyner, NFL Insider
The NFL playoffs are often thought of as a proving ground where young quarterbacks showcase their talents against the best and in doing so solidify their reputation for greatness.
As uplifting as that type of scenario is, it should also be remembered that postseason contests are a zero-sum game in which quarterbacks on the losing end also have their reputations cemented.
No passer illustrates that last thought better than former Los Angeles Rams field general Jim Everett.
Everett came into the league with the highest of pedigrees, having been the third overall selection in the 1986 NFL draft. His career arc continued on an upward trend as he guided the Rams to three playoff berths in four seasons.
That positive reputation burgeoned even further when he led Los Angeles to consecutive road playoff wins at Philadelphia and the New York Giants in the 1989 wild-card and divisional rounds.
One team that wasn't buying Everett's ascension to greatness was the Rams' 1989 NFC title game opponent, the Bill Walsh-led San Francisco 49ers. Walsh is known for his offensive prowess, but he knew the key to success on defense was getting hit after hit on the opposing quarterback.
This tactic works against nearly all passers, but Everett proved especially susceptible. Niners defenders got after him all game long and it proved so effective that it eventually led to the infamous "Phantom Sack," where Everett fell to the ground without even being hit.
That single play not only ruined Everett's season; it also destroyed his confidence and wrecked his reputation. He was given a Pro Bowl berth the following season as a consolation prize but never again won a Pro Bowl/All-Pro nomination and never led another team to the postseason.
If there is any quarterback in this year's conference championship matchups who should take heed of the damage a single poor playoff showing can have on a reputation, it would have to be Jay Cutler.
In his career, Jay Cutler has faced a team with a defense that ranked in the top 10 in passer rating allowed 19 times. His composite passer rating for those contests is 69.2. The Packers were first in passer rating defense this season. Can this possibly end well for the Bears?