NFL Teams are Setting up Their Rookie Quarterbacks to Fail

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Published October 4, 2018
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The Montclarion
New York Jets play the Washington Redskins on Aug. 16. Photo courtesy Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being only four weeks into the NFL season, four of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of last year’s NFL draft — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen — have already taken over as the starter for their respective teams. On the surface, this might not seem like an issue, and while it’s true that there is nothing innately wrong about giving these talented rookies a chance, it further emphasizes the startling trend of teams placing far too much pressure on them.

Among some of the annual traditions in the NFL, including nonsensical political turmoil, the blatantly obvious anti-player infrastructure and Justin Tucker murdering me in fantasy football, one of them is teams’ penchant for making preseason promises that they would ease their rookie quarterback into the starting job. This, of course, hardly seems to happen.

Take Darnold, for example. The New York Jets, in their infinite wisdom traded quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints after feeling comfortable enough that Darnold was the next incarnation of Joe Montana. Because of this, they handed him the reins for week one.

Darnold has struggled mightily to the tune of a 4:5 touchdown/interception ratio and a 57.5 completion percentage, a less than ideal set of numbers when you have the pressure of the New York media on you. Not having many reliable pass catchers, a viable defense or tolerable coaching does not help either.

Then there are the cases of Rosen and Allen, who were expected to be backups to two rather anemic signal-callers: Sam Bradford and Nathan Peterman. I won’t harp too much on the latter, since he has already been excoriated by fans enough, but it is football malpractice for Bradford to continue to start NFL games. In retrospect, it is hilarious to think that the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills actually thought that they would give their rookie prospects any kind of breathing room.

A lot of times, the problem is that teams’ successes are predicated almost entirely on their rookie quarterbacks. When a team as a whole is littered with lackluster talent and uninspired coaching staffs, it is a lot to ask for a player in their early 20s to come in and fix everything.

Many fans have become frustrated with the lack of preparation of the coach staffs:

Then there are teams like the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs with Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes, who have both taken the league by storm and look like potential MVP candidates in their young careers. The Chiefs let Mahomes sit a year out while the Rams surrounded Goff with incredible playmakers like Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Most importantly, they fired Jeff Fisher, who lasted about six seasons longer than he should have as an NFL head coach.

While there are certainly instances like Brock Osweiler, who turned out to be terrible despite how much time and support was put into him, they are too far in between. It is rare that a true guarantee at quarterback, no matter the team surrounding him, is taken in the draft. The last great example of that was Andrew Luck, who now looks like he is suffering from the same case of a team not being competent enough to support him.

This year’s class of rookie passers might end up being fantastic in the long run, but it seems that yet again NFL teams have backed out on their preseason commitment to ease them into the role. It feels like they are hoping for a lottery ticket. Some miracle or generational talent to walk through the door. Teams seem hellbent on rushing the process. They only want the quick solution, not the one that takes a lot more time and energy to pull off.

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