Friday, November 2, 2012

Rookie Quarterbacks a New Trend in NFL?

Andrew Luck has helped Indianapolis transition
without too big of a fall-off from Peyton Manning.

                In April, two quarterbacks, still undrafted, had teams that already committed to putting the team on their shoulders and being starter from day one. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, or RGIII, were drafted with the first and second overall picks and were all but certain that they were the starters for their respective teams, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins. However, when week one rolled around, Ryan Tannehill had won the quarterback competition in Miami, Russell Wilson beat out a highly touted free agent pickup in Seattle, and Brandon Weeden got the support that a 28 year old rookie should warrant when his coach named him starter. For the first time in NFL history, five rookies would be starting at quarterback in week one.

It is no doubt that, despite some poor games and sad supporting casts, these quarterbacks are succeeding more than rookies have in the past. Luck (4-3) and Tannehill (4-3) are leading teams with winning records, Wilson has led game winning drives against the Patriots and the Packers (like it or not, the record shows that the Seahawks won). RGIII has taken the nation’s capitol by the heart in an election year that was certain to dominate headlines and Weeden is on pace for over 3,800 passing yards despite having just a 19.5 Total QB Rating (ESPN), second worst in the league.

Andrew Luck is stepping into the giant shoes left by Peyton Manning, who has moved to the mile high city and has thrived, and the Colts fans are welcoming him with open arms. With the help of a 362 yard performance in a win against the Green Bay Packers, Luck has accumulated 1,971 passing yards in just seven games, putting him on pace for just over 4,500 yards. If he does indeed meet this mark, he will have beaten Cam Newton’s 2011 record by over 400 yards.

The first overall pick in 2012 currently holds a 1-1 touchdown-turnover ratio. Among rookies, especially, this is a rare feat. Among his peers, Tannehill and Weeden have below 1-1 ratios and even my hometown quarterback, Michael Vick, has only mustered up a .77-1 ratio; among the worst in the league.

With a winning record and three games passing the 300-yard milestone, Indianapolis might not be far off from the success they had with Peyton Manning in his 14 seasons with the team, and city.

In Washington DC, RGIII is taking the city over. Though the Redskins (3-5) might not have a winning record, they are optimistic of the bright future their team has with this 22-year-old quarterback. Many compare the second overall pick to the first overall pick of last year, Cam Newton. Quick to dismiss the comparisons, Griffin told the press he would rather be compared to a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, who has a Lombardi Trophy to back him up. However, like Newton, Griffin is finding ways to score both through the air and on the ground. With eight passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns, RGIII is dissecting defenses while racking up yardage.

With over 2,200 total yards so far, RGIII has managed to hold onto the ball. Only three interceptions and two fumbles (on 70 attempts), the Baylor product boasts a 2.8 touchdown to turnover ratio. That number is better than any of his rookie counterparts and almost four times better than Michael Vick. Griffin, while completing 66.8 percent of his passes (fifth best in the league) has gone over the 90-mark in total quarterback rating twice including the third best game this season when he had a 97.6 against the Minnesota Vikings.

RGIII is running away with the Rookie of the Year
award through the first half of the 2012 season
The capitol has a much better outlook for the future on the football field than whoever might take the White House. Even better, whoever wins the presidency can be kicked out after four years. Nobody will be looking to kick RGIII out and he will last in DC longer than the president.

Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden were the remaining first round picks in April at eighth and 22nd, respectively. Each came into OTAs and training camp fighting for a job. With David Garrard and Matt Moore competing, Tannehill was able to earn the name of starter. Weeden had only to prove that he was better than Colt McCoy. It was likely that he would win the job considering he entered the league just a year and a half short of 30 years old.

Tannehill hasn’t lit up the stat sheet, only passing for 1,472 yards and his interceptions outweighing his touchdowns four to six. Even still, the Dolphins, with the help of a generous schedule, are 4-3 and behind only the Patriots.

Weeden doesn’t have the luxury that Tannehill does as far as weapons like Reggie Bush and Brian Hartline, who is in fact a weapon this season, on offense. At 2-6, the Browns have fought some tough teams including the Eagles, Ravens, and Giants. With young pieces like Weeden, Trent Richardson, and Josh Gordon in place, Cleveland’s future doesn’t look too poor. If they can find some strong defensive players and a few years to put everything together, by 32 Weeden might be leading a competitive team. The mistake for the Browns was putting a young, reguilding team on the shoulders of, by NFL standings, an older quarterback.

The final of the five rookie quarterbacks who started on opening day is Russell Wilson, also the only non-first-round pick of the five. Standing just 5-11, Wilson was told he would never make it at the quarterback position and he proved everyone wrong by standing out at Wisconsin and beating Matt Flynn for a job in Seattle. Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and a strong defense have led the Seahawks to a 4-4 record. Despite the ridiculed call of replacement officials in the week three win over the Packers, the Seahawks are .500 instead of 3-5 and Wilson already has two fourth quarter game-winning drives to add to his resume.

Wilson has thrown for ten touchdowns on the season and was seven yards short of a 300-yard, 3 touchdown, 133.7 rating outing against the Patriots in a week six win, his other game-winning drive. Wilson has come far from the third round pick that started the OTAs as the Seahawks third quarterback.
The NFL has evolved into a league that quarterbacks drafted high are thrown into the fire to survive or incinerate. College quarterbacks are more NFL-ready and are more and more being relied on in their rookie seasons to lead their team.

Vick has been praised by
Reid, but when Reid leaves,
does Vick?
With the success of five of the first six quarterbacks drafted, it is a wonder to who from this class might be the next to thrive. Brock Osweiler has a pretty decent job holding the clipboard in Denver behind Peyton Manning on the depth chart. The seventh quarterback drafted, Nick Foles, has been in the Eagles fans’ prayers to take over for Michael Vick who has turned the ball over 13 times in seven games.

The most used excuse for those justifying the non-benching of Vick is the fact that a rookie sits behind him. Well, rookies haven’t fared to poorly in 2012, or 2011 as starting quarterbacks. None of those rookies had an offense with names like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and Brent Celek on them or a defense with players like DeMeco Ryans, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Trent Cole on the opposite side of the ball. Vick’s 2010 Comeback Player of the Year Award has gathered some dust and seemingly so has the quarterback. The Foles Era may be looming in Philadelphia.

Read more of Brenden’s work on and follow him on Twitter @brendenp2011.

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