Take a look at this group of five unnamed starting quarterbacks in the National Football League: Combined record: 11-16. This group has thrown 57 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
Now take a look at another group of five unnamed starting quarterbacks in the NFL: Combined record: 13-16. This group has accumulated 31 touchdowns and 31 picks.
So while the first group has much better statistics, the second group has combined for more wins.
Group 1: Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Tony Romo, all considered elite quarterbacks. This group includes MVPs, multiple Pro Bowl appearances and seven Super Bowl rings.
Group 2: Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden, all of them selected in April’s NFL Draft. This group includes a Heisman Trophy winner, four first-round picks and a third-rounder.
Yeah, it’s been that kind of a year in the NFL but it’s just the continuation of a trend.
Once upon a time, rookie quarterbacks didn’t start in the league. If they did, it was because the team was just so bad there were no other viable options. There was a pair of rookie starters in the NFL in 1961. Fran Tarkenton led the expansion Minnesota Vikings after leaving the University of Georgia and Norm Snead left Wake Forest University and immediately became the No. 1 quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
Results? Not so much. Tarkenton and the Vikings were just 3-11. The Redskins behind Snead limped to a 1-12-1 mark.
The Cleveland Rams in 1945 made NFL history, winning the championship behind first-year head coach Adam Walsh and rookie quarterback Bob Waterfield.
That’s significant because it was 63 years before it happened again. And when it happened again, it happened twice.
In 2008, the Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs behind rookie coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco while the Atlanta Falcons did the same with coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.
In 2009, it happened yet again, this time with Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets turning the trick.
Peyton Manning set the statistical bar for rookie quarterbacks with his 1998 season for the Indianapolis Colts, when he threw for rookie records of 3,739 yards and 26 touchdowns. Of course, he also threw 28 interceptions and the Colts finished 3-13.
There have been other standout rookie quarterbacks through the years. Greg Cook of the 1969 Cincinnati Bengals set a record for the highest quarterback rating ever recorded by a rookie with 88.3, a mark that is still the second-best ever registered by a first-year player. He threw for 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions despite missing three games with a shoulder injury that would cut his career short.
Dan Marino of the 1983 Miami Dolphins shattered the passer rating mark for rookies with his 96.0 rating. He threw for 20 touchdowns and six interceptions and led the Dolphins to the AFC East title. Unlike Cook, Marino stayed good, retiring as the NFL’s career leader in yards and touchdown passes (marks later broken by Brett Favre).
Other rookie standouts included Charlie Conerly of the 1948 New York Giants, Rick Mirer of the 1993 Seattle Seahawks, Johnny Unitas of the 1956 Baltimore Colts, Joe Namath of the 1965 Jets and Bob Griese of the 1967 Dolphins.
The taboo about rookie quarterbacks began to turn around with the great draft class of 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Marino and Jim Kelly, future Pro Bowlers Ken O’Brien and Tony Eason and the requisite bust (hey, someone had to be the one, right?) in Todd Blackledge.
Cam Newton broke Manning’s rookie yardage record in 2011 with 4,051 while also running for rookie QB all-time highs of 706 yards and 14 touchdowns
But now? Rookie quarterbacks are all the rage. Five teams—Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami , Seattle and Washington—all opted for first-year players at the team’s most important position.
Griffin is on pace to rewrite the record book. Through six games, he has a quarterback rating of 100.5 and is on pace to rush for 1,011 yards and 16 touchdowns while also throwing for 3,581.
In an age where offenses continue to become more spread-oriented, quarterbacks are having an easier time making the transition from college ball to the pro ranks. And the five rookies who are starting in 2012 have obviously come to play.