It used to be that teams drafted QB’s for the future. Except in the rarest of occasions, rookie quarterbacks spend their first few seasons in the NFL being “groomed.” Grooming meant learning the pro game from a veteran signal caller and the Quarterbacks Coach, as well as a whole lot of clipboard holding and bench warming.
But times have changed.
Perhaps this shift began in 2008, when Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan led their respective teams to the Playoffs in their rookie season. But last season’s freshman QB crop may very well have altered the way sides look at filling their QB position forever.
Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill all had impressive first seasons; while he wasn’t a rookie, first year starter Colin Kaepernick really needs to be thrown into this discussion as well.
Midway through this 2013 campaign, it’s time to take a look at how these guys are faring in their 2nd go around:
Statistics are through Week 8 of the 2013 NFL Season
Before we go into player by player grades and analyses, keep in mind that any way you shake it, none of these franchise QBs are anywhere close to the top ten statistically in the league.
Andrew Luck: Grade A
The two things that stick out for Andrew Luck so far this season is that while he is throwing for fewer yards per game than he did in 2012, he is taking much better care of the ball, subsequently throwing more accurately. He is giving up far less interceptions and fumbles.
Not only has Luck’s completion percentage improved by over 6 points, his QB rating is up to 91.3 from 76.5. He also has nearly as many rushing TDs through 7 games as he did all last season.
Luck has been clutch when he needed to be this season and overall, has probably grasped the most improvement from his rookie season.
By all traditional metrics, Luck is the most likely out of this bunch to have a long, consistent, and successful career.
Russell Wilson: Grade B
It’s hard to give a B to a guy that’s led his team to (7-1) for the first time in franchise history, but several of those victories fall squarely on the shoulders of perhaps the NFL’s best defense.
Statistically, Wilson is looking about the same as he did last season. His accuracy has slid a few percentage points, but like Luck, he is throwing less INTs. That being said, he has already lost 5 fumbles through 8 games, compared to only 3 in all of 2012.
Wilson’s leadership and innate ability to make plays and find a way to win are his greatest strengths, but he still needs to be more consistent in the passing game. Broken play scrambles are great for the highlight reel, but not the kind of scheme that you build a championship football team around.
I like Wilson. I like Wilson a lot. I believe that when it’s all said and done he will go down as the greatest Seahawks quarterback of all time. But for all the preparation and hard work that he is famous for, there is no question that there is plenty of work to be done on his pocket passing if he is going to truly be a dynasty type franchise QB year after year.
Colin Kaepernick: Grade B
Kaepernick’s first campaign heading into the season as the start has been a mixed bag. Both his QB rating and completion percentage have dropped, plus he’s had a couple of dismal outings.
Similar to Wilson, he needs to be more consistent in the passing game. CK has only 3 games with multiple TD passes, and 3 games with none. That being said, he is still displaying how dangerous he can be with his feet as he has run for 3 TDs on 294 yards.
Kaepernick’s 49ers are (6-2), so again it’s hard to find too much fault with a guy who is winning ball games. After all, that is the only stat that really matters. But it is certainly safe to say that he has digressed more than he has progressed, especially as defenses have started to figure out how to defend the read-option.
Few will doubt Kaepernick’s physical tools. He is dangerous on the ground and has a rocket arm. My question revolves more around his mental toughness. Right now, while the 49ers are good, he looks great, but throw Colin onto a mid-level team and I could see him crumbling under the pressure and adversity.
Ryan Tannehill: Grade B-
7 weeks into the season Tannehill has nearly thrown as many TDs as he did all last season. Then again, he’s got more INTs than he did at this point last year as well.
Overall his progress looks decent, with the exception that his team has a losing record after heading in the season with high expectations. But Tannehill kept the score close in all 4 of the Dolphins’ losses except one, so the (3-4) start is not cause for major concern.
I’d really like to give him a straight B here, too, but it would be a little too politically correct to award everyone the same score. Plus, finding a way to win is what truly great quarterbacks do, and so Tannehill needs to win more before he gets full credit for his accomplishments.
Robert Griffin III: Grade C+
C+ will seem a bit harsh for a guy coming off reconstructive knee surgery, but RGIII is without question the most disappointing player in the NFL so far in 2013. Sure, this disappointment stems from perhaps unrealistic expectations, but reaching for unrealistic expectations is what these guys get paid to do.
When you watch Griffin play it is clear that he is not himself. It’s not one factor, but a combination of changes in both his physical and mental presence out on the field. Last year he was a game changer, and this year he’s at best a game manager.
Credit defensive coordinators for slowing down the pistol, but at the midpoint of the season RGIII has yet to score a rushing touchdown, and he’s got more than one outing with 0TDs and multiple turnovers.
Only time will tell if Griffin will be able to adapt his game and truly become the star that he was billed to be prior to blowing out his knee in the Wild Card Round of the 2012 Playoffs.
In a league with a shortage of franchise quarterbacks, I believe Griffin will have a job for years to come, but my gut feeling is that by the time he retires he will be looked at as a “good” and not a“ great” QB.
I’d like to quickly look at a young QB that’s not getting nearly the same attention as the aforementioned crew: Andy Dalton.
In his 3rd season Dalton is 4th in the league in total passing yards, and has 16 touchdowns to go with 7 interceptions. He’s also got the Bengals sitting atop of the AFC North at (6-2).
He may not be as “sexy” of a pick for TV commercials and endorsements, but he is quietly working his way into being one of the league’s top quarterbacks.