Which Football Quarterback Would Win At Chess?
We take a look at the best week-three NFL quarterback matchups, and guess who would win on the field and the chessboard.

Which Football Quarterback Would Win At Chess?

| 102 | Fun & Trivia

Football is sometimes called "chess on the gridiron." And by sometimes, I mean I just called it that.

But the game is actually often compared to war, which is the most common metaphor for chess. And if football is war, the quarterback is the field general.

As week three of the NFL season begins tonight, we look at five marquee quarterback matchups to see not only who is best on the field, but also who would win a head-to-head chess match.

The rules: Each quarterback brings his existing mental faculties and competitive spirit, but gets five hours of chess lessons with the coach of his choice to prepare. For fun, let's imagine the chess match is played live at the 50-yard line of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, with 65,000 screaming fans at halftime of the upcoming Super Bowl.

Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., the site of our fictional chess games.

Here are the selections for the best week-three matchups. Let us know your picks in the comments.

1. Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans) vs Gardner Minshew (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Marcus Mariota: 

Marcus Mariota, Photo by Chipermc via Wikipedia.
Marcus Mariota. Photo by Chipermc via Wikipedia.

Mariota is a Heisman Trophy winner and a college football legend from the University of Oregon who is struggling to find his footing in the NFL, with mixed results so far. He is undeniably talented, but success in the faster pace of the pro game has eluded him. Plus, he is from Hawaii, which doesn't seem like the ideal climate to sit indoors and study chess.

Gardner Minshew:

Minshew, who looks like he was transported here straight from the heyday of the 1970s, is the latest meme-backup-quarterback-turned-savior, in the vein of Tim Tebow and his Jaguars predecessor, Nick Foles.

With his heroics in time-pressure last week against the Texans, obvious leadership abilities and reports that he warmed up for practice this week in nothing but a jock strap, Minshew seems like a sure bet. 

Who would win on the chessboard: Are you kidding? Minshew would win at every known game, and some unknown games.

Who will win on the field: Minshew and the Jaguars in a close game at home. 

2. Tom Brady (New England Patriots) vs Luke Falk (New York Jets)

Tom Brady:

Tom Brady. Photo via Shutterstock.
Tom Brady. Photo via Shutterstock.

Brady is pretty much the consensus GOAT (greatest of all time) quarterback, with so many Super Bowl rings (six) he has to move one of them to a second hand. His resume is too long to even give an overview here, but he seems to have optimized his life both on and off the field. Brady is the rare four-time Super Bowl MVP who is married to a model making twice his income.

Besides, Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, both notoriously hypercompetitive, would probably invest in a supercomputer cluster of Lc0 and AlphaZero neural nets to prepare for the match. Just don't ask them the air pressure of the machines running the engines.

In terms of longevity with regard to chess, Brady is the Vishy Anand of football, an ageless wonder playing at the top of his game for decades while the AARP applications pile up in his mailbox.

Luke Falk:

Luke Falk. Photo by Chipermc via Wikipedia.
Luke Falk. Photo by Chipermc via Wikipedia.

I'll be honest, until this week I did not know Luke Falk existed. I am still not 100 percent sure. As the Jets' third-string quarterback, he is a 22-point underdog to Brady and the Patriots.

Falk is from Utah and has two sisters in a country music band called simply "Falk." While those are impressive credentials, we'll have to go with the proven field general in Brady in this match, both on the chessboard and on the field.

Who would win on the chessboard: Brady for his competitiveness, experience, genius and work ethic.

Who will win on the field: Brady and the Patriots might beat the Jets by 100 points for all we know.

3. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) vs Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)

Matthew Stafford:

Matthew Stafford. Photo via Shutterstock.
Matthew Stafford. Photo via Shutterstock.

Stafford is a lifelong winner. He was the first overall draft pick in 2009 and he signed a $135-million contact two years ago, making him (at the time) the highest-paid football player in history.

Stafford, while an above-average player for a decade, has not reached the pinnacle of NFL success. He was a Pro Bowler just once (in 2014) and has not won a playoff game in his career. When the pressure is on, Stafford has tended to fold.

Carson Wentz:

Carson Wentz. Photo by Keith Allison via Wikipedia.
Carson Wentz. Photo by Keith Allison via Wikipedia.

Carson Wentz is a highly regarded quarterback for the Eagles. Two years ago, he was on his way to an MVP-caliber season before tearing his ACL in December 2017. The Eagles rallied around Nick Foles to win the Super Bowl, so Wentz already has a ring in his young career.

During the offseason, Wentz is a dedicated wilderness hunter. The patience and precision required for that activity would surely come in handy on the chessboard.

Who would win on the chessboard: Wentz stays calm under pressure to get the point in chess. 

Who will win on the field: Wentz and his injury-riddled receiving corps squeak out the win thanks to the raucous hometown Eagles fans.

4. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams) vs Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)

Jared Goff:

Jared Goff. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikipedia.
Jared Goff. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikipedia.
Goff is another first overall draft pick on this list, and he really blossomed under the tutelage of Rams' head coach Sean McVay last season. Goff and McVay are known for their innovative offensive schemes, which might help Goff in his preparation for the chess match.

Baker Mayfield:

Baker Mayfield. Photo via Shutterstock.
Baker Mayfield. Photo via Shutterstock.

Baker Mayfield was also a first overall draft pick and the anointed savior of Cleveland. Last year, as a rookie, Mayfield led the "Factory of Sadness" to its first victory in 635 days. It was a big deal in northern Ohio.

Expectations are higher now for the Browns and Mayfield in his first full season as a starter, and while Mayfield is undoubtedly a talented leader and good decision-maker, we have to give the edge to Goff in chess.

Who would win on the chessboard: Goff is the more creative schemer and pulls out the win on the 64 squares. 

Who will win on the field: Mayfield leads the home Browns to an underdog victory to become even more of a legend in Cleveland. 

5. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) vs Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)

Lamar Jackson:

Lamar Jackson. Photo via Shutterstock.
Lamar Jackson. Photo via Shutterstock.

This is the quarterback matchup everyone wants to see—at least on the football field. There are no two quarterbacks with better starts to the 2019 season than Jackson and his opponent, Patrick Mahomes. These two might battle all season for the league MVP title, but on Sunday they will have a showdown of their undefeated teams for the early-season lead.

Jackson made waves last season as a rookie by running the ball more often than any starting quarterback in history, leading some to question whether he had the ability to excel in the more-complicated downfield passing game. Jackson answered those doubters with five touchdown passes in week one this year, showing pinpoint accuracy and excellent decision-making.

Patrick Mahomes:

Patrick Mahomes. Photo via Shutterstock.
Patrick Mahomes. Photo via Shutterstock.

Since earning the starting job for the Chiefs last season as a second-year pro, Mahomes has treated the league like his personal copy of the Madden NFL video game, racking up unbelievable stats and scores in his MVP season last year. This year has been more of the same, even with the loss to injury of his best receiver, as Mahomes leads the league in passing yards and is tied for lead in TDs with seven (along with Jackson).

Both these players are excellent athletes, competitors and leaders of men. Both are creative on the field and would likely be formidable chess players in our thought exercise here. But Mahomes has been on another level, more akin to a force of nature than a football player. He is that good. Edge to Mahomes.

Who would win on the chessboard: Mahomes draws on his supernatural talent and multi-sport experience (he was a promising baseball prospect) to win in the game of chess.

Who will win on the field: It might be a pinball-machine type of game, with more than 50 points scored, but Mahomes and his talented supporting cast win.

Which of these quarterbacks do you think would win at chess? Let us know in the comments. 

For more on football players playing chess, check out the former NFL player John Urschel's popular chess Twitch channel. 

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