When it comes to rookie quarterbacks in the NFL there are different philosophies in terms of how to get the most success out of them. Football is a team sport through and through, but no single player provides value to their team like a QB. It’s why it takes a historic effort for a player at any other position to win an MVP award. Because the position is so valuable it is in the best interest of any team that drafts a quarterback to invest highly and carefully in that player’s development. Sometimes a QB is drafted and is a total bust, but other times when they don’t achieve success in the NFL we are left to wonder if they just didn’t have the stuff or if they could have been successful had conditions or their developmental pathway been different.
Personally, I was always of the opinion that the best thing you could do was let a quarterback sit on the bench for a few years and learn the game. You get to develop slowly and away from the pressure and watch a veteran manage the actual game. It’s worked many times. Steve Young, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. These are hall of fame players and guys who didn’t start right away and had the benefit of watching great veteran QBs before ever actually starting an NFL game. Who knows what their careers would have been like if they were made the starter from day one of their first season. I looked at these guys and said this is how it should be. It’s worth being patient and letting a QB develop slower than rushing them into a starting role. Now I’m not so sure.
The season is only two weeks old, but the two highly touted rookie quarterbacks, Marcus Mariota, and Jamis Winston have both shown they can play effectively at the NFL level. Mariota had one of the best debut performances ever by a quarterback and actually leads the NFL in passer rating, and Winston while not as dominant still looks good and is coming off his first career win. Small sample size, but both look like they have the ability to be legitimate starters in the NFL.
Mariota and Winston are looking good and other recent examples like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have shown that a quarterback can be successful right out of college. If you’re ready to start why wait? That could be equally bad for a player’s development as rushing them. While these guys were ready right away there are plenty of examples of QBs that were not. EJ Manuel, Brandon Weeden, Akili Smith, all started right away and haven’t been successful.
So back to the question, do you start a quarterback right of college or give them a season or two to watch from the bench? Really I think there is no right answer. It depends on the player. A while ago I would have said it’s best to let them sit, but if you have someone like a Russell Wilson that has the skill level and game management abilities to start right away, why not put him in? He can win you games right now and will develop better actually playing. If there are signs a player isn’t ready than it’s foolish to rush them simply out impatience or wanting quick, short-term success, but if they are ready there’s no reason not to let them start. A talented quarterback is such a valuable asset, ultimately the coaching staff need make the decision that can lead to franchise talent or a waste of talent.