There are competing schools of thought on how to handle a rookie quarterback. Some players are projects who need to hold a clipboard for a year, or two, or three. Sometimes those projects become Super Bowl MVPs (see: Rodgers, Aaron) and other times they become career backups (see: Painter, Curtis).
On the other hand, some rookies are thrown into the fire right away, either because their team has no better options (see: Gabbert, Blaine) or because they are seen as good enough to play immediately (see: Wilson, Russell) or maybe both (look at: Luck, Andrew).
So this year’s crop of rookie QBs are all being handled different by their respective franchises. The Jaguars plan to sit Blake Bortles this season. The Browns are letting Johnny Manziel fight Brian Hoyer for the starting job. The Vikings appear to be pushing Teddy Bridgewater to challenge Matt Cassell. In all cases, each team doesn’t want to let their prized prospects get ripped apart without proper seasoning.
But one of the brightest minds in the game, Cris Collinsworth, made an excellent point about starting rookie QBs right away on “Mike and Mike” this morning:
Ever since the NFL instituted the rookie salary cap, teams are getting bargains on their top players. The Seahawks will pay their Super Bowl-winning quarterback a base salary of $662,434 this year; the Falcons will pay Matt Ryan $9,500,000, without his signing and option bonuses (amounting to a $17.5 million cap hit). And that’s the difference between staying competitive and realizing you’re dropping most of your money on a guy who’s simply above-average.
If a quarterback isn’t ready for the NFL, he isn’t ready. There’s no sense in throwing a guy out there only to watch him suffer along with the rest of the team. But if he is ready, coaches have little reason to hold back — a rookie contract is one of the best deals out there, and franchises will lose valuable contract years by letting a good player ride the pine while letting Chad Henne, for example, lead the team to a non-playoff spot.
Plus, if your other QB is starter-worthy, you may find yourself in a 49ers-esque situation.
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