Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NFL Rookie Quarterback Party!

This week, Russell Wilson, the rookie quarterback for Seattle, was named the Week 1 starter for the Seahawks. He joins Indianapolis’s Andrew Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden as rookie signal callers starting the season opener. That means an astounding 16% of NFL teams are going into the season with their most important position never having taken a NFL snap.

Since the historic Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf draft back in 1998, there have only been 13 rookie quarterbacks to start the season opener, compared to five just this year alone. None of those previous 14 seasons had more than two rookies starting in Week 1. During this time frame, 39 QB’s were taken in the first round and only 11 started the opener, or 28%, compared to five of the first six QB’s drafted this year. Meanwhile some star quarterbacks held the clipboard their entire rookie seasons, like Daunte Culpepper, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers.

How did these brave young passers fare? Well, not surprisingly, they struggled. Of the 13 rookies who started the openers, only 5 or 38% of them had winning records for the season; 38% threw over 3000 yards, 23% threw more TD’s than INT’s, and only 15% had more than 20 TD’s. Unfortunately resting the prized QB does not seem to help either. Of the 37 rookies who started at least five games, only 37% had more TD’s than INT’s, 24% had winning records, 18% threw over 3000 yards, and only 10% had more than 20 TD’s.

Does this mean teams should shelter their face of the franchise to the film room all season instead? Not necessarily.  Some rookies clearly struggled and never recovered, like Leaf (3-7, 2 TD, 15 INT), Akili Smith (1-5, 2 TD, 6 INT), Jimmy Clausen (1-11, 3 TD, 9 INT) and David Carr (4-12, 9 TD, 15 INT). Meanwhile some were able to grow from their difficult rookie seasons like Eli Manning (1-6, 6 TD, 9 INT), Michael Vick (1-4, 2 TD, 3 INT) and Matt Stafford (2-8, 13 TD, 20 INT). Not all rookies stumbled out of the gate though as evidenced by Matt Ryan (11-6, 18 TD, 13 INT), Big Ben (14-2, 20 TD, 16 INT) and Joe Flacco (13-6, 15 TD, 15 INT).  But beware the early successes as well since some rookies careers did not take off after enjoying a solid rookie season like Jason Campbell (10 TD, 6 INT), Shaun King (5-2, 8 TD, 7 INT) and Vince Young (8-6).

Even though rookie quarterbacks are such a mixed bag, five teams are resting their future on them due to the ever shifting passing oriented dominance of the NFL.  Of the nine signal callers drafted in the past two seasons that started, only two of them did not throw more TDs than INTs and those two (McCoy and Clausen) have already had two 1st round draft picks take their place. Meanwhile last year, Andy Dalton (9-7, 20 TD, 13 INT) lead his team to the playoffs and Cam Newton (4,051 yards, 21 TD, 17 INT, 14 rushing TDs) broke all kinds of records.

With opening weekend only a week away, we will soon find out whether these rookie quarterbacks will make their coaches and GM’s geniuses or unemployed.  

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