Two decades ago, Andy Reid was an NFL coach leading a perennial Super Bowl contender with a young franchise quarterback.
Reid is at it again with the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, and the coach is thrilled to see similarly youthful leaders among the AFC playoff teams in what is the biggest quarterback age discrepancy between conferences in the divisional round since the AFL-NFL merger more than 50 years ago.
How big is the gap? Well, for starters, a pair of 40-somethings will face off in the NFC, with Tom Brady taking the snaps for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they visit Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Meanwhile, the elder statesman of AFC playoff quarterbacks is 25-year-old Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns.
"I think it's great for the game, this influx of new guys at the position," said Reid, who went to four consecutive NFC championship games, starting with the 2000 season, with Donovan McNabb his quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It's great for viewers, fans, cities. It gives these different cities an opportunity to compete," Reid added.
This past weekend, the Buffalo Bills won a playoff game for the first time in 25 years with 24-year-old Josh Allen at quarterback, while Cleveland ended an 18-year playoff drought behind Mayfield and humbled an old rival and a six-time Super Bowl champion by going on the road to beat the Pittsburgh Steeelers.
Reid and Mahomes — also 25 but 156 days younger than Mayfield — are a win over the Browns away from their third consecutive AFC championship game after the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years last season, with Mahomes the MVP of the title victory.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 24-year-old who last season was the NFL MVP, has his first playoff victory in hand, a road win over the Tennessee Titans, as the Ravens prepare to visit the Bills.
"My mother-in-law sent me something the other day saying I was the old guy," Mayfield said. "Somebody sent me just how close everybody is in age. It's pretty crazy to see between Josh and Lamar and obviously Pat. Pat's got the most experience out of all of us."
Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay's decision on a starter will determine whether all four AFC quarterbacks are younger than the NFC quartet. If it's John Wolford, the 25-year-old is 29 days younger than Mahomes; Jared Goff is 26.
One of those two will be countered 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers in a visit to face the Green Bay Packers, while Brees turning 42 on Friday means the meeting with the 43-year-old Brady on Sunday will make for the oldest pair of QBs, at 85 years, in any game in NFL history.
With Goff starting, the average age of the NFC quarterbacks is 37 years, 77 days, compared to 24 years, 344 days for the AFC group. The difference is 12 years, 98 days, which the NFL said is the biggest since 1970.
"I just think we've got a very good group of guys that came into the league around the same time, so it just kind of ended up that way," Bills receiver Cole Beasley said. "Also they ended up in pretty good situations with a lot of talent around them that helped. That's important, too."
While the AFC quarterbacks are similar in age, the opposing offenses in each divisional game are anything but the same in style. The Chiefs are No. 1 in passing and total offense this season while featuring the dynamic skills of Mahomes, the 2018 season MVP. Mayfield's offense leans on a running game in which Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt share carries.
The Ravens have the league's top rushing attack, in large part because of Jackson's skills outside the pocket, and are last in the NFL in passing. Buffalo's Allen quietly compiled MVP-type numbers for the league's third-best passing attack.
The NFC matchups are more about the résumés.
With Goff included, all four quarterbacks have started a Super Bowl, and Brady, Brees and Rodgers each has won a title. Brady has a record six championships, as well as the all-time playoff lead in games (42), wins (31), passing yards (11,769) and touchdowns (75).
Brady and Brees are 1-2 in career yards and touchdowns passing with the playoffs included. Combined, they have thrown for more than 175,000 yards and 1,250 touchdowns going into the first playoff game matching quarterbacks in their 40s.
"It speaks to the two guys that are playing," Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. "They take great care of themselves and are two of the best that have ever played the game. Whether they're 25 or 43 and 42, it's spectacular when those guys play."
The Buccaneers have leaned heavily on Brady — in his first season in Tampa Bay after spending his first 20 in the NFL with the New England Patriots — as they finished the regular season second to the Chiefs in passing. While Brees missed four games with rib and lung injuries, the Saints counted on him much less than in the past with Alvin Kamara in the backfield and Taysom Hill sending Brees to the sideline occasionally as a run-first QB.
The Rams and the Packers have the most balanced offenses among the remaining teams: Green Bay ranks ninth in passing, eighth in rushing and fifth overall; Los Angeles is 13th, 10th and 11th.
Still, there's no question Rodgers' playmaking holds the key to success for receiver Davante Adams (18 touchdown catches this season) and running back Aaron Jones (1,104 rushing yards, nine touchdowns).
The Rams, on the other hand, won a regular-season finale to reach the playoffs and a wild-card game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks with the QB spot in flux because of injuries. A dominant defense led the way.
Now Los Angeles is the outlier in the NFC divisional round. Sure, Goff got his first two playoff victories on the way to a Super Bowl appearance two years ago. Brady, Brees and Rodgers? Try 50 playoff wins combined.