Didn’t think I’d actually watch Netflix’s new 8-part Quarterback miniseries, but I got sucked in. The series follows Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Mariota throughout the 2022 season both on and off the field. I haven’t seen Hard Knocks so I don’t know how it compares in terms of tone or content, but this felt like a comprehensive and revelatory look at the many challenges of being an NFL quarterback.
Being able to follow these men into their personal lives let us see the human side of their commodified, cloistered personas. Fighting through injury. Getting benched. Reckoning with losses and legacy. Subjecting themselves to a brutally physical game then going right home to do bedtime with their young kids. It’s stuff we know happens but don’t see when they’re on a fantasy football roster.
It also provided a stark contrast with another quarterback-centric Netflix documentary I watched while in the midst of it. Johnny Football charts the rise and fall of Johnny Manziel from a high school phenom to high-drafted NFL bust. Manziel’s sudden college stardom masked a lot of problems with his behavior and work ethic—things Manziel now rather candidly owns up to.
Watching his process (or lack thereof) compared to the other Netflix QBs revealed just how rarified the air is for successful NFL players. Mariota and Cousins are statistically rather middling compared to their peers, but compared to Manziel they’re like elite, MVP-level performers. (Like… Patrick Mahomes.)
My relationship to football has changed a lot over the years. I’ve gone from dutiful Packers follower and fantasy league commissioner to barely having watched the playoffs. I enjoy a good game as much as any other sports fan, but I’ve moved past them having any influence on my life. Quarterback scratched the itch of appreciating the game while also learning more about its participants. Whether a second season will remain as illuminating now that the novelty has worn off is TBD.