Week 1 came and went, and not surprisingly (to me, anyway) Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater all spent the day on the bench watching. Derek Carr played, and put up a competent stat line that anyone would take one look at and say “game manager,” because that’s what you ask a rookie starting week 1 to do.
And thus rages the controversy of whether rookie QBs should start right away or sit and learn.
Is there a right answer to this question? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
I could bludgeon you with examples on both sides of the argument.
There are, however, a few easy to lay out guidelines for how soon you should want to see your team’s precious QB of the future actually on the field.
If A Guy’s Can’t Miss, He’s Can’t Miss
This one is simple.
Peyton Manning led the league in interceptions starting right away. Big deal. He’s great. He’s all-time. A Hall of Famer.
Aaron Rodgers sat for several years behind Brett Favre. Big deal. He’s great. He’s gonna be all time. He’s gonna be Hall of Fame.
When it comes to the elite QBs, it doesn’t matter if they start or wait. They may not have success right away (besides Manning, Troy Aikman went 1-15 starting as a rookie) or they might be pretty much great right out of the chute (Dan Marino put up a passer rating of 96.0 as a rookie), but I challenge anyone to argue that the success of guys like Joe Montana, Drew Brees or John Elway has ANYTHING to do with when they started playing.
One Training Camp Isn’t Always Long Enough To Get Rid of Bad College Habits
Sometimes a whole career isn’t enough.
Ken O’Brien sat for a year and a half with the Jets but never learned how to get rid of the football. Michael Vick still doesn’t know how to slide.
But lots of times, guys with bad habits they learned in college can unlearn that stuff in practice without the pressure of having to go out and play the NFL game right away.
If you have a rookie QB who needs to work on his timing, his footwork, his mechanics and his ability to read defenses, practice is the best to learn that stuff.
Trying to learn it while acclimating to the NFL game is exactly what they mean by “Trial By Fire.”
There Is No Substitute For In-Game Experience
Whether a rookie starts right away or not, I personally feel that getting the kid some work late in the season is an invaluable way to get him ready to start in the NFL.
Unless you’re a playoff team and every game is do or die, weeks 12 and on are a great time to start your rookie QB (preferably against a team with a shitty defense) and see what he can do.
Nick Foles started 6 games as a rookie and didn’t look good at all. But when pressed into service next season, he looked seasoned and ready for the NFL in a way he had not the year before.
You can’t tell me those 6 games didn’t help produce his great season.
Not All QBs and Not All Offensive Systems Are Created Equal
All this means is that you have to consider what kind of offense a guy ran in college when you’re trying to calculate his NFL learning curve.
Did he run the wishbone? Yeah, that’s gonna take a while. Did he run the spread? A little less time, but still.
Similarly, you have to evaluate what kind of offense you’re asking the rookie to learn in the NFL, and whether he’s suited for it.
Not all QBs can run the West Coast, but the ones that can usually need half a season or more to learn it right.
If Your Team Is In A Rebuild, Then The Top Priority Is the QB
Let’s face it: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota aren’t good enough to win a Super Bowl right now even if Johnny Unitas was their quarterback. So don’t bitch and moan that the guy starting is some useless career backup retread who sucks balls. He probably is.
But what’s important is how your QB of the future can best get ready for success as an NFL starter.
Look at what happened to RGIII as a rookie. Shanahn pushed him too hard trying to make the playoffs, and now the kid is a frightened little titmouse who doesn’t know what to do with himself.
Is that what you want? IS IT?! Of course not.
Now go be patient and wait for your quarterback to get his chance to shine.