The Delicate Decision: To Sit or Start Rookie Quarterbacks?

 Photo via USA Today

Every single year a few franchises get stuck with this decision, do you start your high draft pick at quarterback or do you let him sit and learn?  Whatever the decision is, it will be scrutinized for that season and probably years to come.  In this past draft, all the approaches were talked about by the media and implemented by the teams.  This is a lucky year because we had three high-profile rookie quarterbacks that all had different scenarios, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott.

Jared Goff’s Scenario

Jared Goff was the first quarterback taken off the board by the St. Louis Rams.  Their head coach, at the time, Jeff Fisher was an old fashioned coach with a ton of coaching experience under his belt from his years in Tennessee.  He decided to go with the approach of sitting Jared Goff for about the first 10 games of the season.  The reason behind sitting Goff was that they thought this team was ready to win now and they didn’t want to wait for Goff to learn from his rookie mistakes.  Nevertheless, that idea backfired.  They have been one of the worst teams in the league.  They have a very good defense, and an all-pro running back, but that did not help them win very many games this season.  They have no offensive line and nothing at the skill positions except Todd Gurley and an overpaid Tavon Austin.  Their season, in all reality, ended fairly early into the year and they still did not have their future at quarterback playing. I understand the idea of sitting your quarterback, but when you are out of playoff contention you have to play him.  It took them being 3-7 (6 game losing streak) before they decided to start Goff.  Ideally, they would have started him 1 or 2 games earlier, but it is hard to nitpick over a 1 or 2 game difference.  So, now we sit here with Goff sitting for over half the season and the team is 3-10.  Goff looks worse than Wentz and Prescott, but maybe they are just better football players.  It is hard to know for sure, but one thing that is for sure, is that the Rams wasted the first 10 games of the year.

The Philosophy Behind Playing Goff:

Usually, you would want to implement sitting a quarterback when they are either a project or the team around them is just horrendous.  However, I would not suggest using one of your top picks on a project at quarterback.  If they are drafted in the first round they should have enough skill to be able to start right away, so I understand the reasoning, but I think you should re-think your GM situation if that is the case with your team.  ***cough cough*** New York Jets and Hackenburg (2nd Round).  If the offensive line is so bad that the quarterback is going to get sacked every time he drops back and you are scared he will lose his confidence, then don’t play him.

The perfect example of why you should sit someone is David Carr.  The former 1st overall pick of the Texans had possibly the worst offensive line in NFL history and it absolutely destroyed his career.  I’m not saying he was going to be a superstar at quarterback, but who knows, maybe he would have been solid if he sat and didn’t play right away.

The one success story that is blown completely out of proportion is Aaron Rodgers.  Yes, he sat for a few years and turned out to be a great quarterback.  But how many other QB’s have been like Aaron Rodgers, and how many teams have been in that good of a scenario as the Packers.  A playoff contender every year, and a Hall of Fame quarterback playing in front of Rodgers.  Not to mention Rodgers was already a top draft pick with extreme talent.  Ideally, everything works out like it did with Rodgers, but I haven’t seen that scenario work out in any recent history.

Carson Wentz’s Scenario 

Carson Wentz was not supposed to start, but the injury to Teddy Bridgewater changed all of that.  The Eagles traded Sam Bradford and put Wentz into the starting lineup.  They only felt comfortable making this move because they believed in Wentz.  He started the season on fire, winning the first three games and only throwing one interception in his first five starts.  He looked like not only the real deal but an immediate success like we have rarely seen except for Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Dak Prescott, in recent memory.  Ultimately, the team isn’t going to the playoffs, but Wentz has shown promise and is gaining invaluable experience right now, even if the team isn’t poised for the playoffs.

The Philosophy Behind Playing Wentz:

Usually when you are taking a quarterback with a top pick your team is not very good, so they probably don’t have any realistic opportunity to win now.  Therefore, if you are going to lose games, then you might as well start your young quarterback to gain experience.  In addition, when you are drafting someone high you have to believe that he has immense skill and is going to be great, so it makes sense to play that player.  Also, like we have seen with Luck, RG3, Prescott, slightly with Wentz, and Matt Ryan, a young quarterback can immediately make a positive impact.  Even though it is rare, it still better than nothing because you are probably weak at the position.

Dak Prescott’s Scenario

Dak Prescott is a 4th round pick who was never expected to play, and only is out of necessity because the two quarterbacks in front of him got hurt. Kellen More broke his ankle in training camp and Tony Romo broke a bone in his back during a pre-season game against the Seahawks.  But ever since he started week one, he has played amazing football.  He has kept the turnovers to a minimum and with the help of the best offensive line in football and possibly the best running back, he has turned this offense into one of the best in the NFL.  He is an MVP candidate (I don’t believe he should be, but a lot of the other media does) at the moment, but his game Sunday Night against the Giants did not help his case.  However, he is a rookie quarterback and is having one of the best rookie seasons of all time.  They are 11-2 and have been the best team in football.  Overall, he is having an incredible season and is getting great experience for the future while still being able to win now.  His scenario is quite rare because of the skill around him and how well he has transitioned to the NFL, so there is not a ton that we can take from this experience.  However, it is an another example of a successful quarterback starting right away.

The Philosophy Behind Dak

There really isn’t a philosophy behind this scenario because they were not planning on starting him and they did not have any decision.  He goes under the category of playing right away, but he is not really gaining experience for the future because their future is now because they are Super Bowl Contenders.

You Gotta Play the Kid

I am a believer of playing the quarterback immediately.  If you don’t then they are going to go through their rookie slump and mistakes a year later, so you are just prolonging the rebuild period. Most quarterbacks are going to struggle their first year, except for the few every decade or so.  However, these quarterbacks playing now are gaining incredible experience like many successful quarterbacks in the past, like Derek Carr (struggled to be effective rookie year, but now is in the MVP discussion) , Peyton Manning (threw a huge number of picks his rookie year, but he panned out) , Cam Newton, and Bridgewater.  There has been a proven path for elite quarterbacks to have started immediately.  Of course, there are as many who have started immediately and have been terrible, but that has more to do with the quarterback himself rather than the philosophy.  Your quarterback is the future of your franchise, however well he does, is going to be how well your franchise does.  So unless your team’s offensive line is among the worst in NFL history, there is no reason to not play your franchise quarterback.  Put it like this, would you rather hire someone who has job experience or no job experience?  The answer is simple, why would you not give your quarterback extra job experience for when the team is well built around him a few years down the line and you are making that playoff push.


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