"Hey, Rookie! I'm coming for ya!"
The Cowboys' week two opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, recently announced that rookie third-round pick Russell Wilson will be their starting quarterback. The announcement means that there will be ten rookie or second year quarterbacks starting in week one, and according Scott Hanson of NFL Network, that doubles the old record of five in week one.
In Robert Griffin, the NFC East has one rookie QB slated to start, the other starting QBs all have at least eight years of NFL experience. Eli Manning has eight years, Tony Romo has nine and Michael Vick should have 11 but spent two of those in a federal penitentiary. In total, that gives the NFC East starting QBs 26 years of combined NFL experience, the second highest total of any division in the league. Only the AFC West, with a combined 37 years, has more NFL experience among their starting QBs.
At the other end of the spectrum, the AFC South features a rookie in Indianapolis, two guys entering their second NFL seasons in Jacksonville and Tennessee and 8-year veteran Matt Schaub down the road in Houston. Combined NFL experience: 10 years.
All of this got me wondering: How many young QBs will the Cowboys face this season? A lot, as you'll find out after the break.
Here's the Cowboys' 2012 schedule, including the projected starting QBs and their respective NFL experience in years:
|2||@||Seattle Seahawks||Russell Wilson||0|
|5||Bye Week||- -||- -
|8||New York Giants||Eli Manning||8|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Michael Vick||9|
|17||@||Washington Redskins||Robert Griffin||0|
The Cowboys will face six opponents whose quarterback is either a rookie or a second-year guy. Only one team in the NFC has more such opponents: The Bears, courtesy of having the AFC South on their schedule, have seven opponents quarterbacked by either a rookie or a second-year guy.
In the NFC East, the Giants and Eagles each face five young QBs, the Redskins only four. The Texans play against the most young QBs, with eight, as they face off twice each against Andrew Luck, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert.
The Cowboys' schedule above has an interesting stretch between weeks 11 and 14 where the Cowboys face three young QBs in four weeks. And with the way Michael Vick has attracted injuries the past couple of years, that could easily become five out of five if the Eagles are forced to play rookie Nick Foles.
Also, with Griffin on the schedule twice and games against the Browns and Seahawks, the Cowboys will probably face rookie QBs four times this season. In the entire league, only the Bills face rookies more often (five), and in the NFC, the Rams are the only team to also face rookie QBs four times.
Overall though, the fact that almost a third of the 32 starting QBs this year will have a year or less of NFL experience on opening weekend signals a change in the way the NFL operates. The days where teams would groom a young quarterback for a couple of years seem to be behind us. These days, young quarterbacks are thrown into the NFL waters immediately, and they either sink or swim. It's learning by doing instead of learning by sitting.
The football consuming public has a short memory. Last year, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton delivered exceptionally strong rookie seasons. So much so that the expectations for the young QBs in the league this year may be at the highest level they've ever been. So this is a good time to remember that Newton and Dalton were the exception, not the rule, and it's also a good time to reflect on the rookie seasons of some of the all time greats in the game:
- Peyton Manning: 3-13 as a starter, 22 TD to 28 INTs, 56.7 completion rate.
- Troy Aikman: 0-11 as a starter, 9 TDs to 18 INTs, 52.9 completion rate
- John Elway: 4-6 as a starter, 7 TDs to 14 INTs, 47.5 completion rate
This year, five rookies are scheduled to start at quarterback in Week 1, with NFL teams handing over the reins to rookie QBs in Indianapolis, Washington, Cleveland, Miami and Seattle. According to ESPN Stats & Information, never since the merger in 1970 have more than two rookie quarterbacks started on opening day.
It's not going to be pretty for those young QBs, and a good defense will make them pay their NFL dues. Let's hope the Cowboys are one of those defenses.
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