Analysis: Second-year starting QBs

Tarvaris Jackson

For every Peyton Manning or Vince Young who has success starting as a true rookie in the NFL, there is a Joey Harrington or David Carr, who simply never pan out with the team that drafted them. The more proven pattern for success with young quarterbacks is when they spend most of their first full season in the wings behind someone else, mostly holding the clipboard.

It is rare for a quarterback, no matter how talented or how early they were drafted, to step right in and start as a rookie.  Even John Elway took his lumps when he was thrown to the wolves as a rookie with the Denver Broncos before launching on his Hall of Fame career in the NFL.

Occasionally, a guy can survive being a starting quarterback right out of the gate.  Peyton Manning did okay.  And the early returns on Vince Young and Matt Leinart from last season appear promising.  But more often than not it ruins the player’s career.  It didn’t work for Harrington or Carr, and the all-time list of biggest quarterback busts is littered with guys that lost their poise, composure and self-confidence by being thrown into the battle with a poor supporting cast too soon.

Other times, a highly regarded prospect pines away for more than a season on the bench.  Two recent examples of that route would be Phillip Rivers and J.P. Losman, who have emerged as good players.  They are typically the exception.  Often times if the guy hasn’t started “demanding” playing time by then, he just isn’t going to make it.

The more common pattern for success can be tracked in the examples of 10 current starting quarterbacks in the NFL, who all essentially sat and watched or got limited playing time as rookies, then were handed the keys in their second season.

Our informal study tracks the development of Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Charlie Frye and Alex Smith.

As rookies, those 10 players averaged the following stats:  5 games played/3 starts, 89 pass attempts, 45 completions (50.6%), 488 yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 42.9.

Vikings’ quarterback Tarvaris Jackson’s rookie stats included:  4 games played/2 starts, 81 pass attempts, 47 completions (58.0%), 475 yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 62.5.

The amount of experience and the degree of success is remarkably similar.

In their second season, as a full-time starter, here’s what those same 10 quarterbacks averaged:  15 games played/15 starts, 470 pass attempts, 281 completions (59.4%), 3,160 yards, 19 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a quarterback passer rating of 80.6.

Those numbers certainly aren’t out of the realm of possibility for Jackson in 2007.  Improved offensive line play, an infusion of talent and wide receivers, and the addition of Adrian Peterson could provide Jackson with the supporting cast he needs to make the transition.

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