Why Quarterback is the Sports Documentary We Need

One of the recurring lines in the first season of Netflix’s series Quarterback is “You like that?” The line was first uttered by a fired-up Kirk Cousins as he led the then-Washington Redskins back from 24 down to win 31-30 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cousins enjoys the line, and even recently re-used for the team breakdown after the game when his now-Minnesota Vikings came back against his old team, Washington, 20-17, during the 2022 regular season.

In this series we go into the personal and professional lives of Cousins, Marcus Mariota, and current MVP Patrick Mahomes. The series was executive produced by Peyton Manning, who knows what it’s like to be an NFL quarterback and was dedicated to telling a story that everyone could understand. While we get to relive the 2022 season through the eyes of these men, the documentary breaks new ground for the NFL in getting really personal (for better or worse).

It Takes a Team

One of the first messages that comes through clearly is that while the QB gets a lot of focus and attention, with good reason, it takes a team to win a football game. That team isn’t just the offense and defense that takes the field. It’s the trainers, the people in the front office, the janitors, the people who work on game day, and many others that help the team focus on training and playing the game.

It Takes Work

Great players make it look easy when they perform on game day. But behind that facade is a lot of work, from physical training, to practice with teammates, to memorizing plays (there’s an entire segment in which we see Mariota’s wife calling out plays to him and having him repeat them back and recall exactly what the play is), to participating in charity events related to causes each of the players are particularly passionate about.

You Will Be Hit

If you’ve never pondered it before, you’ll be reminded throughout the series of the fact that the QB is the only player on the field who play after play is in danger of getting a real and painful hit. Yes, there are definitely more rules than ever about roughing the passer, but that doesn’t stop the legal hits from coming, and they come all season long.

You Face Disappointment

The end of the series reveals what anyone who had already followed the regular season knew: Mariota lost his starting job in Atlanta and will be backing up Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia; Cousins accepted the 2023 Bart Starr Award for outstanding character, integrity, and leadership on and off the field, but the award was given on the day before the Super Bowl, and Cousins mused that one day he wants to be there on Super Bowl weekend as part of one of the teams playing; Mahomes, having been knocked out of the playoffs the previous year, came back, played hurt, and led his team to victory.

What all of the men displayed was character in their ups and downs: they had determination to keep pushing forward despite disappointment. Perhaps most poignantly, in his Bart Starr speech, Cousins noted that “one day football will end,” and that he wanted his life to be about so much more than just a sport, despite how much the sport has given him.

Family Matters

All three of the quarterbacks have children and two of the wives were pregnant during the filming of the season. It was impressive to see that even during the season, when every single day counts, the men found moments to sneak away with their children, to remind them that they were loved. In fact, in the final episode, after a difficult loss, Cousins still read a story to his son and sang and prayed with him before bed.

So why is Quarterback the sports documentary we need? It reminds us that these millionaires are people too and that the players who might give the NFL (and their spouses) black eyes aren’t the only representatives of the sport. Young kids (and adults too) who watch the series will come away edified and inspired by the real-life examples of people who work hard, love their families, give back to their communities, deal with disappointment, get hurt, play anyway, and lead people.

And that’s precisely the sort of example our country needs at the moment.

Quarterback is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer here.

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