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Old 11-10-2019, 01:23 PM
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Great quarterbacks with terrible starts


I'm watching the Giants vs. the Jets. So far, the Jets are dominating, but it's early in the game.

Anyway, both Darnold and Jones are meant to be franchise quarterbacks (Trubisky as well, I guess) and they've had terrible first (and second, where applicable) seasons. My question -- have there been great quarterbacks who started out with such terrible records?

The current crop of great quarterbacks (Brady, Brees, Rodgers, etc.) were already great when I started paying attention to football, so I don't know how they were at first. But, my question doesn't just have to be about current players -- how about Favre? Simms? Montana? ...and so on.

So, should I give up on the Jets, Giants, and Bears for the foreseeable future, or is there some history of quarterbacks that start out as bad as Darnold, Jones, and Trubisky and come back to become greats?
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Old 11-10-2019, 01:35 PM
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I'm watching the Giants vs. the Jets. So far, the Jets are dominating, but it's early in the game.

Anyway, both Darnold and Jones are meant to be franchise quarterbacks (Trubisky as well, I guess) and they've had terrible first (and second, where applicable) seasons. My question -- have there been great quarterbacks who started out with such terrible records?

The current crop of great quarterbacks (Brady, Brees, Rodgers, etc.) were already great when I started paying attention to football, so I don't know how they were at first. But, my question doesn't just have to be about current players -- how about Favre? Simms? Montana? ...and so on.

So, should I give up on the Jets, Giants, and Bears for the foreseeable future, or is there some history of quarterbacks that start out as bad as Darnold, Jones, and Trubisky and come back to become greats?
Quarterbacks are rarely great by themselves; they need good players and coaches around them.
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Old 11-10-2019, 03:39 PM
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Peyton Manning was 3-13 as a starter his first year. The next year, the Colts were 13-3. That's one example. Many others exist. I wouldn't give up hope yet (well, except for Trubisky).
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Old 11-10-2019, 04:34 PM
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Jim Plunkett might be a good example of a guy who carried huge expectations with him, but it took years for him to become successful in the NFL.

Plunkett won the 1970 Heisman Trophy while at Stanford, and was then the first overall pick in the 1971 draft, by the Patriots. He became their starting QB immediately (which was unusual in that era), and then floundered for four seasons in New England, and two more seasons in San Francisco.

After the 49ers cut him, Plunkett signed on with the Raiders as a backup. He became the starter in 1980, when Dan Pastorini broke his leg, and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory. He did much the same three years later, coming in as a reserve when Marc Wilson got hurt, and helping the Raiders win another Super Bowl.

There's lots of debate as to how "great" Plunkett was, overall, with the Raiders, but in a limited sample, he did very well.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 11-10-2019 at 04:35 PM.
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Old 11-10-2019, 04:43 PM
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But, my question doesn't just have to be about current players -- how about Favre? Simms? Montana? ...and so on.
It took Favre a few years to really figure things out -- after he became the starter in Green Bay in '92, he would show lots of flashes of brilliance, but was also mistake-prone, and tended to try to force things (he led the NFL in interceptions in '93). In those first few years, he drove his coach, Mike Holmgren, crazy, and came close to losing the starting job to Mark Brunell in '94.

But, at that point, Favre and Holmgren were able to get on the same page, Favre was able to cut down on his mistakes, and won three straight MVP awards from 1995 to 1997.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:29 PM
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From what I remember, Favre made mistakes (gutsy plays?) throughout his career, but yes, he became a hall of famer.

OK, I won't give up on the Giants yet, even though they lost to the lowly Jets. I won't give up on the Darnold either, even though he's 2 and 6 or 7. Here's hoping Trubisky and Nagy are both cut soon.
  #7  
Old 11-10-2019, 05:44 PM
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From what I remember, Favre made mistakes (gutsy plays?) throughout his career, but yes, he became a hall of famer.
To say the least. He made some amazing plays, that one wondered if anyone else could make, but even later in his career, one could tell that there were moments where he tried to win games all on his own, and that still often led him to try to force things, which would lead to turnovers.

Up through the point in '94 where he nearly got benched, he was barely throwing more TDs than interceptions. After that point, while he still threw more interceptions than Packer fans would have liked, he did cut down on them, and he did wind up being a tremendously successful quarterback.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:09 PM
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Steve Young had a strange initial experience out of college by signing with the USFL, then in a supplemental draft he was taken by the Bucs, who had him starting right away. The team was terrible for the 2 years he was there, (plus many years after). The Bucs got a #1 draft pick, and took Vinnie Testaverde, and traded Young to the 49ers, after declaring him a bust. Young was a backup to Joe Montana for around 4 years, but with some chances to play mixed in. Once the job became his, he was setting records.

The current trend to put rookie quarterbacks in early can be rough, especially when they are expected to single-handedly turn a team's fortunes around. Jones hasn't had first string receivers most of the year, and the running game was non-existent with Barkely out. Now Barkely is back, but not healthy. Oh, and the O-line...

Last edited by eschrodinger; 11-10-2019 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:16 AM
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Steve Young had a strange initial experience out of college by signing with the USFL, then in a supplemental draft he was taken by the Bucs, who had him starting right away. The team was terrible for the 2 years he was there, (plus many years after). The Bucs got a #1 draft pick, and took Vinnie Testaverde, and traded Young to the 49ers, after declaring him a bust. Young was a backup to Joe Montana for around 4 years, but with some chances to play mixed in. Once the job became his, he was setting records.

The current trend to put rookie quarterbacks in early can be rough, especially when they are expected to single-handedly turn a team's fortunes around. Jones hasn't had first string receivers most of the year, and the running game was non-existent with Barkely out. Now Barkely is back, but not healthy. Oh, and the O-line...
I personally never buy into the hype surrounding supposedly "superstar" rookie quarterbacks. N-E-V-E-R. Why not? Because in all the years I've been watching the N.F.L. the ONLY QB who came in as a rookie and set the league on fire that I can remember was Dan Marino. He's it.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:26 AM
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I personally never buy into the hype surrounding supposedly "superstar" rookie quarterbacks. N-E-V-E-R. Why not? Because in all the years I've been watching the N.F.L. the ONLY QB who came in as a rookie and set the league on fire that I can remember was Dan Marino. He's it.
Russell Wilson lit it up pretty well, going to the second round (at least?) of the playoffs in his rookie year. His wiki page mention him breaking other rookie records, held by Rothlisberger and Peyton Manning, so I guess they lit it up as well.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by racepug View Post
I personally never buy into the hype surrounding supposedly "superstar" rookie quarterbacks. N-E-V-E-R. Why not? Because in all the years I've been watching the N.F.L. the ONLY QB who came in as a rookie and set the league on fire that I can remember was Dan Marino. He's it.
Andrew Luck? Robert Griffin? Cam Newton? Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the Super Bowl his rookie season, but I can understand if you think he was mostly a tourist on the Bus.

Those are just the ones off the top of my head, but there have been plenty of stellar campaigns by rookie QBs, even if those same guys have had mixed success after that.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by racepug View Post
I personally never buy into the hype surrounding supposedly "superstar" rookie quarterbacks. N-E-V-E-R. Why not? Because in all the years I've been watching the N.F.L. the ONLY QB who came in as a rookie and set the league on fire that I can remember was Dan Marino. He's it.
So, I had to go look it up; Marino was certainly good as a rookie ('83) -- he started 9 games, went 7-2, and went to the playoffs and the Pro Bowl -- but it was in his second season in which he truly became a dominant player, and was named All-Pro.

Two more recent QBs who played very well as rookies (arguably, as good as Marino played as a rookie) -- and, in both cases got their teams to the playoffs -- were Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III.

Certainly, injuries meant that Griffin wasn't able to build on his rookie performance, and while Wilson is among the best quarterbacks of his generation, he's not on Marino's level (almost no one else is ), but IMO, both of them were at least as impactful as rookies as Marino was.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 11-11-2019 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 12:02 PM
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Brees struggled as a rookie with the Chargers. Over his first two seasons as a starter, he averaged 1TD/1INT a game, completion rate of 59%, and passed for less than 200 yards a game.
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Old 11-11-2019, 01:28 PM
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Troy Aikman was terrible his first year and not very good his second year (of course the rest of the offensive talent wasn't much to write home about those years either).
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Old 11-11-2019, 01:30 PM
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Bit of a selection bias going on, too.

A lot of great QBs had the benefit of sitting at least their first year.

Aaron Rodgers sat behing Favre for years before starting, so his first real start was in his 4th season.

Brady sat his entire first season and first game of his second.

Joe Montana didn't start until his 2nd season either.

If a team is starting a rookie at QB, they usually have serious issues that aren't the rookie's fault. Really, the question is if being put on a bad team can derail or even ruin what could have been a solid or even spectacular career. My suspicion is yes.

I think Andrew Luck fits this one. He was very good even in his first season but playing behind a questionable O-Line for a lot of it and took plenty of hits. Less talented QBs would have fared worse. He could probably have fought his way through a few more seasons, but he has been beaten up pretty badly.

I fear Deshaun Watson may be in the same boat. When he gets even average play out of his O-Line, he's up there with the best QBs in the league. But he's taken way too many hits (enough he had to take a bus to Jacksonville last season rather than risk the pressure changes on an airplane) and has had to scramble way too often because he's faced almost the most pass rush pressure of all NFL QBs the last few seasons.

Rather than focus on the QBs, it's probably more accurate to look elsewhere in cases like the Jets or Giants (or Dolphins or Bengals). The greatest QB in the world can only do so much with questionable skill position players or offensive line play. It's easy to point at the QB and often fair to do so but they're only a part of the story.
  #16  
Old 11-11-2019, 02:17 PM
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A lot of great QBs had the benefit of sitting at least their first year.
And, at least up until the early '80s, the conventional wisdom in the NFL was that it was far preferable to let a young quarterback (even a promising one) stay on the bench for a year or two, and learn the system and the pro game, before getting thrown into the fray.

At that time, if a team started a rookie, they were either desperate, had no choice, or were (possibly) overly optimistic about how ready those rookie quarterbacks were.

Today, with the amount of money (and expectations) tied up with rookie quarterbacks, especially those who were drafted in the first round, there's far more pressure to get them on the field early, despite the fact that many of them played in college offenses that bear little resemblence to their NFL offenses, and they face extremely steep learning curves.
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Old 11-11-2019, 02:56 PM
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Today, with the amount of money (and expectations) tied up with rookie quarterbacks, especially those who were drafted in the first round, there's far more pressure to get them on the field early
With the new rookie wage scale, it's cheaper than it was 10 years ago to sit a rookie QB. The new rookie wage scale set an effective cap. No first round pick is going to get a Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford rookie contract under the current CBA. The entire value of their rookie contract (including 5th year option for 1st round picks) is going to be less than 1 year of a veteran franchise QB, which wasn't the case before 2013.

That said, that puts pressure from the other direction - if you have a superstar QB on your hands, you want to maximize playing time while the QB is cheap. Seattle did this to great effect with Russell Wilson but they were also fully prepared to sit him behind Matt Flynn if he hadn't developed so fast.

Really, the pressure to put them on the field is because there is less overall patience now. Nearly all coaches are in "win now" mode from the very beginning. Very few are given the option to have a development season. So, a few losses is enough to put pressure to put rookies in an the off chance they'll be great from the start. Flores in Miami is a notable exception this year.
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Old 11-12-2019, 04:44 AM
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Johnny Unitas 9th Rounder cut by the Steelers and mediocre rookie season w/ Balt, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, Phil Simms was pretty much always in a battle or being benched his first 4-5 years, Warren Moon didn't get his NFL shot until he was 28 and then was pretty bad both in W-L and QB rating/INT/efficiency his first 4 years. Kurt Warner went from undrafted rookie cut by Green bay to AFL to grocery bagger to World league to eventually 3rd string QB for the Rams at 28.
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Old 11-12-2019, 07:53 AM
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No mention of Elway yet? I’m a little surprised. In his early years he struggled and also had flashes of brilliance. Then in his 4th, 5th, and 7th seasons his Broncos do make the Super Bowl, only to lose back to back, to the Giants and Redskins, and then the Niners in a 55-10 shellacking, still to date the most one-sided Super Bowl.

John Elway struggled early before finishing his excellent career with back to back Super Bowl wins in his 15th and 16th seasons.
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