10 Rookie Quarterbacks Who Earned Starting Jobs [VIDEOS]
Over the weekend, at the end of the Washington Redskins’ rookie minicamp, head coach Mike Shanahan annointed Robert Griffin III the starting quarterback going forward. Griffin was the second pick of the 2012 NFL draft last month, and the Redskins are ready to hand him the keys to the team.
Whether the Redskins are making the right call putting Griffin front and center right away is left to be seen. Some rookies have had success on the field, while others faltered. Each of these players were crowned the saviors to turn a struggling franchise around. Here’s a look back at 10 recent ones and how their efforts turned out:
One of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Manning stepped in for the Colts right away in 1998 and started all 16 games that years and every other year through the end of the 2010 campaign. Just because he started, though, doesn’t mean he found immediate success. In fact, the Colts went 3-13 in 1998 with Manning throwing more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26). But with the team’s support behind him, Manning kept his starting spot, and he turned things around in 1999 leading the Colts to a 13-3 record, and he never looked back.
On the other side of the coin in 1998 was Ryan Leaf, who was supposed to bring San Diego to new heights. Unfortunately, things didn’t go that way, as the Chargers finished 5-11 and the defense led the league in yards allowed. Leaf went just 3-6 before being benched in favor of backup Craig Whelihan. Overall in his rookie seasons, Leaf threw just two touchdowns and 15 interceptions. After three years in San Diego, Leaf was gone, and by 2002 he was out of football entirely.
Weinke, 28, was the oldest player to win the Heisman Trophy, and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 2001 NFL Draft. But Weinke didn’t bring answers for the struggling franchise as they finished the year 1-15, including a then single-season record 15 consecutive losses. After that first year, Weinke lost his starting spot but remained on the roster for many years afterward. In 2006, he got another chance to start a game, which the team lost, but he did throw for 423 yards, setting a franchise record.
The Falcons took Matt Ryan in the 2008 NFL draft as a replacement for the jailed Michael Vick. Ryan was supposed to steer the organization back to winning and respectable days. And Ryan came through, helping the Falcons to an 11-5 record. His 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions weren’t impressive stats, but Ryan did enough to get the job done. He went to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2011 and is poised to be Atlanta’s leader for many years to come.
Like Ryan, Flacco arrived to great fanfare and triumph in 2008 when he led the Ravens to an 11-5 record. Baltimore was still very much a defense-oriented team, and Flacco’s serviceable job kept them scoring. In the years since, though, Flacco has propelled the Ravens’ offense to bigger numbers, and the Ravens have gone 12-4 the past two years behind Flacco. They lost in the AFC Championship game last year, but Flacco showed his ability to step up when the time was right, posting even better numbers than during the regular season.
After agreeing to take Stafford with the first pick of the 2009 draft, the Lions announced that he was the quarterback of the future. “This isn’t an internship or an experiment,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. But one man isn’t enough to turn things around for the Lions. Stafford went 2-8 and threw 20 interceptions. Just two years later, Stafford had righted the ship propelling the team to a 10-6 record and earning himself the 2011 AP Comeback Player of the Year, among other awards.
Sanchez was picked to be the Jets new gunslinger in 2009. Like Stafford, Sanchez also struggled. However, the Jets were still able to post a 8-7 record during his starts. That was enough for Sanchez to build on, leading the Jets to an 11-5 record in 2010 when he showed real signs of prowess. After a disappointing 2011 season, some Jets fans have called for Sanchez’s starting job. Even with a quarterback controversy brewing, the team signed Sanchez to a three-year contract extension in March.
A 7-9 record in a rookie campaign might not seem like a great success, but for Sam Bradford and the Rams in 2010 that was a great sign of improvement. Bradford did just enough to get by, throwing for 18 touchdowns while also tossing 15 picks, but his 3,512 yards were many more than what his supporters would have expected from him and the Rams’ pitiful receiving core. He set the record for most completions by a rookie and he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Yet Bradford ran into some setbacks last year, going just 1-9 as a starter as the Rams fell apart.
The first pick of last year’s draft, Newton took over the Panthers from the get-go. His 6-10 record is not exactly something to write home about, but Newton’s personal stats got the league buzzing. He set the record for most passing yards by a rookie quarterback with 4,051 and he also ran for another 706 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. How good was he? Newton was the runner-up to Calvin Johnson for the cover of Madden NFL 2013.
Few people at the start of last season would have predicted that Dalton would lead the Bengals to one of the league’s biggest surprise seasons. Behind Dalton, Cincinnati finished 9-7 and went to the playoffs. He showed leadership by leading his team to four fourth-quarter comebacks. Dalton went to the Pro Bowl, capping quite a season for someone not even taken in the first round.