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Should A Rookie QB Start or Sit Immediately?

Is it really better to sit or start your rookie QB?

NFL: AUG 03 Chicago Bears Training Camp Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In recent history, we’ve seen more and more coaches refusing to start their rookie quarterbacks in week 1, and with the Bears drafting Justin Fields this year, that got me thinking; is it better to start your rookie quarterback in week 1, or is it smarter to wait until you know they are ready? So I went back to the year 2010 and looked at every first-round quarterback and looked at if they had started or not and if that helped them out in the long run.

There are many outliers in this group because there have been a lot of quarterbacks that would have to start in week 1 by default, either because we already know how good they were going to be or by the fact that the team just didn’t have any other quarterbacks to play. These quarterbacks would be Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III. This year you could add Trevor Lawrence to that group. because everyone knows this kid is going to be great, and you could also add Zach Wilson just because the Jets don’t have anyone else.

But what about the other guys that started in week 1? Guys like Ryan Tannehill or EJ Manuel? Tannehill has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league, having played 6 seasons in Miami and having a 42-46 record. It was not until he arrived in Tennessee where people really started to respect him. After 8 NFL seasons, I think it is safe to say that starting Tannehill in week 1 was a very smart move, because he made a bad Dolphins team pretty average for 6 years.

The opposite can be said about EJ Manuel unfortunately, the only quarterback taken in the 2013 draft class was put into the starting lineup because the idea of sitting your young quarterback was not really utilized yet. Unfortunately for Manuel, he was not good, going 4-6 with only 11 TD’s and 9 INT but having an abysmal 38.2 QBR. Maybe Manuel’s career would have looked different if Manuel was not named the starting quarterback immediately.

Now to the quarterbacks that did not start in week 1. This has become very common over the past few years with Jared Goff back in 2016. Since 2016, only 4 first-round quarterbacks had started in week 1 being Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Sam Darnold, and Kyler Murray. I would not consider any of these 4 quarterbacks bad but the jury is still out on Darnold, we will see what he can do in Carolina.

Now to the guys who were told they had to start the season on the bench, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and of course Patrick Mahomes. Nobody really knew what these guys’ potentials were in the league and so they did not start in week 1. Now fortunately for Mayfield, Jackson, and Allen, they all got to play significant time their rookie season because of poor play by the guys who started in front of them. And of course, we all know the story of Patrick Mahomes, who started week 17 in his rookie year and was then given the starting job in his second season. He goes on to win MVP, in his third season he wins the Super Bowl, and in his fourth season he loses the Super Bowl, and he is considered the best player in the NFL. Mahomes is an outlier just because of how incredible he is.

You can make an argument that you should let your rookie quarterback start in week 1 and you can also make an argument that you should let your rookie quarterback sit and learn the system. However, I do not believe there is a right answer to this, it really all depends on the quarterback in question.

So what should our beloved Chicago Bears do? I personally believe they should be patient with Justin Fields and let Andy Dalton be the starting quarterback in week 1. But I also believe that Dalton should have a pretty short lease, once he begins to play poorly, I think Fields should have the opportunity to ball out because we all know that he will be the next quarterback for the Bears for the next decade... hopefully.


Alex’s summer internship at WCG is coming to a close, so we’d like to wish Alex the best in all his future endeavors!