The ongoing dilemma of the rookie NFL QB

When a team drafts a young QB and the fanbase and team brass are all giddy about their shiny new toy – it’s the same thing, all the time – that old familiar pressure if teams should play the rookie right away. Pressure of starting him and wrecking his confidence, as maybe he isn’t “pro-ready” or toss him in there, and find out what he’s made of under the gun. Baptism by fire – type of stuff. There is always going to be a concern as to when a team starts their rookie QB.

And then the fanbase is screaming for the exciting new QB to take over – so there is also the added pressure of the fans. Depending on their teams last season’s success (which is usually bad if they landed a top rookie QB name) – the fans are usually starving to see the new guy. No team drafts a QB in the 1st round to have them watch the game from the bench for a long time – let’s be honest. The expectation is that he is going to take over and be that guy for the team, at one point.
But when?

Another issue are the teams that are ready to win now. When a team has come off a solid or even decent season, and fell into some bad luck or maybe some injury concerns – but they have a steady QB playing for them – the fans get thinking it is time for a change. Then they want the new young stud to take over. Even if their current starter is solid and can make plays – but they start asking if they are going to make other players around him better? When a team has a team that can compete with what they have on the field, with a guy that has shown he can win games, I feel in that case, it’s best for the rookie and the team, to let the rook wait and learn from the sideline. Even if he was exciting in college and could turn out to be something special.

We also know, of course, about the flops. The ones that were disastrous mistakes. And odds are, some of the big name QBs drafted – will not become the superstar savior that the team had hoped for – or even significant players in the league. For example, there’s no shame in being a Blaine Gabbert-type player, by any means – but when the Jags drafted Gabbert in 2011 at the #10 spot, but I don’t think he or the Jags thought he would be on his 5th team at this point of his career, and never eclipsing more than 12 TD passes in a season.

A coach has to determine the best way to groom their guy – make that decision as to when they hand the reins over.
They have to have a process, and strong vision about the team’s direction, and brutally honest player evaluation.
They have to know where he is at in his development, how have they brought him along. And if the rookie gives the team the best chance to win – that is the guy who needs to be playing as soon as possible. A team wants to get a rookie QB comfortable quickly, and that is usually by running the ball – which will then open up the play-action. Play-action is always comfortable for a QB, especially a young one, so a team with a good RB in place, and a rookie QB can be a pretty promising start.

I still feel it usually takes a QB around 3 years to fully comprehend and have full command of an NFL offense, and even more-so an NFL defense. But, with that being said, it seems as if the young QBs seem to be more NFL ready anymore.
I think the guys playing in this day and age are playing in more complicated systems – making the transition earlier does not seem quite as treacherous as it used to be. I also think teams that draft these guys seem to be more flexible in their offensive gameplay to fit the skillset of the new QB. Something that wasn’t always the case years ago. Baker Mayfield was really fun to watch in his rookie season, he threw for 27 TDs, and in 2019, the 5-10 Kyler Murray showed Cardinals fans that he had something special to his game. Back in the day, it was always the player who had to learn to adapt to the team’s scheme. Teams seem to change things for the players far more frequently these days.

One will always make the argument that a team should let the rookie QB start in their 1st year – and then we can also make the argument that a team should let the rookie sit and learn the system. What direction should a team go in?

Many teams and fans are just waiting for their veteran QB to blow it on the field (which is awful – by the way) – so the coach can pull him for the rookie.
So why wait?
If a team has been struggling – throw him into the fire. I think usually, if the team is floating along in the bottom section of the league – the rookie may have a chance to play just as well as the vet QB, maybe even better. Especially when most know that the young guy is going to be the starter next year regardless – so why sit him? You don’t know what you have – until you get them on the field, in a real game.

If a team is coming off a bad season, and are muddling with a mid-level QB and no real aspirations make the playoffs – let the rookie QBs play, I think one way or the other, it will help the franchise in the long run. Throw the young QB out there to learn. Teams will find out if he has heart, and gumpshion, or will the sacks and mistakes break him?

If a team has a solid veteran NFL QB that can put TDs on the board and has a team on the brink – let the rook wait.
His time will come. People have to remember, like Mick Jagger once sang – you can’t always get what you want. If that rookie doesn’t pan out and become the player you wished for – you may be begging to have the “solid middling average QB” back holding the team together again every Sunday.

At least until the next new shiny toy comes along…

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