Last year, rookie quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton had stellar seasons after starting right away and other teams are looking to catch that same magic in a bottle.
Newton set records for rookie quarterbacks, throwing for more than 4,000 yards, throwing 21 touchdowns and rushing for more than 500 yards and 14 more scores. The Panthers increased their win total from two in 2010 to six last season.
Dalton, meanwhile, threw for nearly 3,400 yards and 20 touchdowns while leading the Bengals to nine wins and a surprise wild card berth.
Now other teams are looking to catch that same lightning in a bottle and make a quick turnaround behind a rookie quarterback.
Five rookies will be starting this year with five second year players also winning starting jobs.
The Seattle Seahawks went out and spent a lot of money on free agent QB Matt Flynn but then handed the starting job to rookie third round draft choice Russell Wilson who showed a lot of moxie despite standing just 5’11”.
The Dolphins have turned the reigns over to top draft pick Ryan Tannehill who will make his first start Sunday against Houston. Not much is expected from the Dolphins this year so rookie head coach Joe Philbin figures he has nothing to lose by turning to his future starter as quickly as possible.
The Browns have a new starting quarterback (again) and it’s rookie Brandon Weeden. Weeden beat out incumbent Colt McCoy in what wasn’t really much of a competition this pre-season. Weeden is not your typical rookie. He is almost 29 after spending some time playing minor league baseball for a few seasons. Weeden is more mature and perhaps more ready than most rookie quarterbacks, but he faces a situation where he has a rookie running back and a rookie starting wide receiver and a second starting wideout who is in his second year. He is also the Browns 11th opening day starting quarterback since 1999, a frightening show is instability at the game’s most critical position.
The other two rookie starters are the first two picks in this year’s draft: Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Washington’s Robert Griffin III. They were both expected to start from day one and neither disappointed. The two of them had solid pre-seasons and showed flashes of the talent that made scouts drool over them throughout the past few years. Griffin has more talent around him this year and may get off to a better start as a rookie but most scouts think Luck has the better long term potential. I wouldn’t be against either of them.
So just as the success of Dan Marino in 1983 led to many rookie QBs starting right away, Can Newton and Andy Dalton’s success leads present day NFL teams to try their hand at starting a rookie quarterback.
Will any of these rookies make a dramatic entrance like Newton and Dalton did last year and radically improve their teams right away? It is likely one of them will, even if historically, rookie QBs tend to struggle in the NFL. Today’s college signal callers are more NFL ready than they ever have been and it shows on the field. So today’s coaches are willing to let it ride on the arm of a rookie. We’ll see who the gamble pays of for this season.