FIVE ROOKIES TO CRASH NFL OPENING WEEK
As many as five rookie quarterbacks will start the 2012 NFL season opener. That is a record. This is a further indication that not only college football is becoming a better training ground for pro-style quarterbacks, but also the win-now attitude in the NFL no longer allows extended timetable to groom young leaders.
Even Dan Marino, the most prolific passer in NFL history, didn’t get to start his first NFL game until Week 6 of his rookie season in 1983. Troy Aikman did start the season opener as a rookie in 1989, but had to endure lots of growing pains in a 1-15 season.
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How will this year’s rookie QB class do? Here’s an early forecast:
Andrew Luck (selected No. 1 overall, Indianapolis Colts) – Luck is the most NFL-ready rookie QB since fellow Stanford alum John Elway, and he gave plenty indications of his skill and maturity in the preseason. The Colts still have a lot of issues everywhere on the team, but quarterback is a position they won’t need to worry about for 10-15 years as long as Luck stays healthy.
Robert Griffin III (No. 2, Washington Redskins) – RG3 surged to beat out Luck to win the Heisman late last season, but as a passer he’s not quite Luck’s caliber. What Griffin lacks in polish, though, he might be able to make up with his pure athleticism. The former Baylor Bear also has better talent around him than Luck does, and coach Mike Shanahan is a known quarterback guru.
Ryan Tannehill (No. 8 Miami Dolphins) – After veteran David Garrard suffered a knee injury, it was no surprise to see Tannehill beat out incumbent Matt Moore for the starting job. Miami is clearly in a rebuilding mode under a new coaching staff, which includes Tannehill’s coach Mike Sherman at Texas A&M. But he’ll have very few reliable targets as the team’s best receiver, Chad Johnson (formerly Ochocinco), was cut early during camp.
Brandon Weeden (No. 22, Cleveland Browns) – How much time does a quarterback have to establish himself? How about a year. Last season rookie Colt McCoy seized the Browns’ starting job halfway through the season but he lost it just like that in training camp. Weeden is no ordinary rookie, however, as he’s 28 years old and has been slinging it in Oklahoma State’s pass-happy offense.
Russell Wilson (No. 75 – third round, Seattle Seahawks) – By far the most surprising member of this rookie quintet is Wilson, who led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl last season. Under 6 feet, Wilson is shorter than your prototypical quarterback. But his footwork and awareness impressed Pete Carroll enough for Wilson to beat out a pair of veterans for the job.
How will these rookies do? We should probably temper our expectations. Last year, five rookie quarterback started during the season and they went a combined 23-38 in those games – and that was the most wins in history by a rookie class.