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Steiner: Rookie Takeover (Oct. 23)

Peter Steiner | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

 

There is something naturally intriguing about rookies in the NFL. From the combine, to draft day and all the way through training camp, speculation surrounds the top rookies. And in a league dominated by the guys under center, no category receives more attention than the rookie quarterback.

This year a record five rookie quarterbacks started on oOpening dDay for their respective teams, providing enough hype for ESPN to finally put Tim Tebow in the backseat – well, sort of.

But gone are the days when a rookie quarterback would sit behind a proven veteran, learning the ropes and biding his time. While this system turned out some of the greatest quarterbacks today – think Aaron Rodgers – it also produced mediocre ones like Carson Palmer.

Now teams are starting their newest signal-callers fresh out of college because success in the NFL today requires a great quarterback. Each team is looking for a savior to lead them to the Promised Land – the NFL playoffs. With seven weeks in the books, it’s time to take a look at the success and failures of five rookie quarterbacks. They have all had their ups and downs, but here is how the newest NFL quarterbacks rank in their inaugural seasons:

 

5. Brandon Weeden

Before you judge Weeden too harshly, keep in mind that the 29-year-old quarterback plays for the perennially awful Cleveland Browns. In addition, his place at the bottom of the totem pole results more because of the solid play by the other four rookies than Weeden’s ineptitude. Weeden has the tools to be the Brown’s first franchise quarterback in ages and his potential has shone through at times, especially in the last two weeks when he threw for 495 combined yards and four touchdowns. But his mistakes override his successes and there is no ignoring the fact that the Browns are 1-6. The Browns should stick with Weeden though, because he may prove himself a worthy starter by season’s end.

 

4. Russell Wilson

The Seahawks surprised everyone by naming Wilson the starter over free-agent acquisition Matt Flynn. While they stand at 4-3, the Seahawks have struggled with their aerial attack, sitting at No. 30 in the league in total passing yards. Wilson led the Seahawks past the Patriots two weeks ago with over 300 total yards and three touchdowns and he also orchestrated the infamous “touchception” in the victory over the Packers in week three. But the former Wisconsin Badger was abysmal in his most recent start against the 49ers, throwing for only 122 yards without a touchdown. Despite his charisma and leadership as a rookie, Wilson has been too inconsistent in the passing game to rank him any higher. 

 

3.  Ryan Tannehill

The Dolphins are hoping their search for Dan Marino’s replacement finally ends with Tannehill. The quarterback from Texas A&M has proved worthy of the No. 8 pick in the draft thus far, leading the Dolphins to 3-3, with two of those losses coming in overtime. Although Tannehill only started 19 games at quarterback as an Aggie, his inexperience under center has been a nonfactor. While he has not received the attention of the two rookie quarterbacks ranked above him, Tannehill has had an impressive rookie campaign.

 

2. Andrew Luck

Of all the rookie quarterbacks, Luck stepped into the most difficult situation. Not only was he touted as the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft, but Luck was also expected to fill the rather large shoes of Peyton Manning in his first season. Overall, Luck has played well in his first seven games, especially considering he is working with a team that went 2-14 last season. But his inconsistency has also prevented him from reaching the top spot. For example, Luck led the Colts over the Packers in week five, only to lose to the Jets, 35-9, the following week. While Luck is the man of the future in Indianapolis, he is not the top rookie quarterback. Atop the rankings stands:

 

1. Robert Griffin III. 

Lofty expectations were placed on the Baylor graduate after the Redskins traded three first-round draft picks to select him, but “RG3” has all but exceeded those expectations. The dynamic quarterback has impressed the league with his ability to run and has already compiled over 2,000 total yards. Griffin’s best performance came in week four when he orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback against the Buccaneers. Although the rookie has also struggled at times, he has turned in the most consistent week-to-week performances compared to the other rookie quarterbacks. His highlight-reel plays and demeanor are just icing on the cake for the top rookie quarterback so far this season.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu

 

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.