One year after Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton took the NFL by storm, a host of first-year passers have come in behind him and shown that his quick ascension was no fluke. The days of a player like Aaron Rodgers apprenticing for years are over.
There just isn't time anymore for organizations to wait. They are hired and fired too quickly, and a second or third rough season can spell doom. That decision is a no-brainer if you are the Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck) or the Redskins (Robert Griffin III) and spent a high first-round draft pick on an elite talent. But it's less obvious if you are the Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson), Miami Dolphins (Ryan Tannehill) or Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden). How soon is too soon? That question seems old-fashioned now.
"I am absolutely blown away by the quarterback play of these rookies this year," ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said.
Wilson has the Seahawks at 6-4 entering this weekend's game against the Dolphins, who with Tannehill taking over are two wins away from matching last year's six. Cleveland is still just 2-8 -- but its ability to move on from 2010 third-round pick Colt McCoy, who started eight games as a rookie in 2010, shows how little time quarterbacks have to develop now.
It's an acceleration of a trend that started with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh (2004) and continued with Joe Flacco in Baltimore (2008), Matt Ryan in Atlanta (2008), Mark Sanchez in New York (2009), Matthew Stafford in Detroit (2009) and Sam Bradford in St. Louis (2010), among others.
"It's really a tribute to the way these guys are being coached not only at the NFL level, but also what's happened at the college level," Jaworski said. "They're throwing the football more. They're reading defenses more. And then you look at what they're doing in high school now with these summer camps, the 7-on-7s ... these players now are mature beyond years. They've thrown more passes. They've read more coverage. So it probably shouldn't be as surprising as it is that they've come to the NFL and played very well."
- Brian McNally