NFL Impact Rookies 2009: QB
There's no denying the fact that thus far into the 2009 NFL season we've seen some outstanding play from two rookie signal callers, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford.
In order to better appreciate their accomplishments at the first quarter mark of the season, let's see how they match up with their rookie quarterback predecessors of the last ten years in the first four games of their respective initial seasons.
No.10 Joey Harrington (2002)
Contribution: 501 passing yards (125 per game), three touchdowns, five interceptions, 48% COMP, 53.3 QB Rating, one-three record.
By now we're all well-versed on the Joey Harrington failure story, but there was a time when he was viewed as a franchise quarterback.
His numbers in the first four games of his rookie season actually aren't too different from Matthew Stanford's: they have the same record and touchdown total.
The main difference is that Stafford has passed for nearly twice as many yards as Harrington at a significantly higher completion percentage.
No.9 David Carr (2002)
Contribution: 519 passing yards (130 per game), four touchdowns, six interceptions, 45% COMP, 49.7 Quarterback Rating, one-three record.
Harrington's draft classmate in 2002 ultimately shared a similar disappointing fate, but he was all the rage in Houston four games into his rookie season.
Really, the numbers aren't terrible for a first-year signal caller making his debut at the pro level, aside from the awful accuracy percentage that brings down his overall quarterback rating.
Of course, what the statistics above don't show is that Carr was running for his life on just about every snap behind one of the worst offensive lines in NFL history.
No.8 Joe Flacco (2008)
Contribution: 603 passing yards (151 per game), one touchdown, four interceptions, 58% COMP, 62.0 Quarterback Rating, two-two record.
First of all, let me point out that Flacco would go on to have one of the most successful rookie seasons at quarterback in league history.
His cool poise and big arm gave the Ravens' offense the spark they've lacked for years, and he's looked even better in his second year (where he's arguably an NFL MVP candidate at this point).
That being said, his first four games in the league were understandably a little shaky.
He didn't throw a touchdown pass until his fourth game, although he did scamper for a 38-yard touchdown in his first game as a pro.
No.7 Byron Leftwich (2003)
Contribution: 355 passing yards (118 per game), three touchdowns, three interceptions, 57% COMP, 74.8 quarterback rating, 0-three record.
The former Marshall standout was still viewed as the Jacksonville franchise's savior at this point.
His touchdown/interception ratio and quarterback rating both look impressive, until you realize that he wasn't even passing for 120 yards per game.
He is also the only player on this list who didn't record a single victory in the first four weeks of the season, but, hey, there's more to a team than the quarterback, right?
No.6 Matthew Stafford (2009)
Contribution: 894 passing yards (224 per game), three touchdowns, six interceptions, 57% COMP, 65.5 Quarterback Rating, one-three record.
The former Bulldog may have the same record in his first four games as Joey Harrington, but that's really where the comparison ends.
In the first four games of the season, Stafford has thrown for the second most yards of any rookie quarterback in the last ten years. He's also done it with a decent degree of accuracy (57%).
He suffered a dislocated kneecap in last Sunday's clash with the Bears, but hopefully he'll be able to get back on the field soon. The Detroit faithful have really started to rally behind this guy.
No.5 Trent Edwards (2007)
Contribution: 331 yards (166 per game), one touchdown, one interception, 67% COMP, 84.6 Quarterback Rating, one-one record.
Of all the players on this list, Edwards is probably the most difficult to assess because he only played in two of the first four games of his rookie season. Thus, his small sample could be the least indicative of his overall play.
That being said, he owns the highest quarterback rating (84.6) of any rookie signal caller in the last ten years to start a minimum of two games in the first four of his career.
Edwards also wins the accuracy prize, completing an impressive 67% of his throws.
No.4 Chris Weinke (2001)
Contribution: 934 passing yards (234 per game), three touchdowns, five interceptions, 62% COMP, 73.9 quarterback rating, one-three record.
Who could forget the former Seminole signal caller??
Weinke holds the record for the most passing yards (934) of any rookie quarterback of the last ten years in the first four games of his season.
That accomplishment is doubly impressive when you consider that he was also completing 62% of his throws.
The only reason he isn't higher on this list is because the three quarterbacks above him all had better records and Touchdown/Interception ratios.
No.3 Ben Roethlisberger (2004)
Contribution: 339 passing yards (113 per game), three touchdowns, three interceptions, 57% COMP, 77.4 quarterback rating, two-one record.
Much like Flacco's rating, this one comes with a bit of a disclaimer:
This study is focused exclusively on the first four games of these rookie quarterbacks' seasons. I am not saying that this two-time Super Bowl winner is third overall on this list, but merely that his play at the very, very outset of his career is comparatively.
Roethlisberger, of course, went on to have one of the best rookie campaigns in all of football, but he was honestly asked to do very little in these first four games as Bill Cowher preferred to rely heavily on his strong running game.
As you can see, the numbers for Big Ben are solid across the board, aside from the 113 average passing yards per game.
No.2 Matt Ryan (2008)
Contribution: 669 passing yards (167 per game), two touchdowns, two interceptions, 53% COMP, 70.7 quarterback rating, two-two record.
It's interesting to note that both Ryan and Roethlisberger, who statistically probably had the two best rookie years of any quarterbacks in the last ten years, started strong out of the gate.
There are other rookie quarterbacks who wowed when given their shot mid-season, but it really is a testament to these two players in particular that they were able to consistently sustain such a high level of performance over the duration of a full season.
Since a ranked list necessitates that I pick one over the other, Ryan gets a slight nod over Roethlisberger in these first four games because his team had to rely on him more to move the chains (167 passing yards per game over Roethlisberger's 113).
No.1 Mark Sanchez (2009)
Contribution: 744 passing yards (186 per game), four touchdowns, five interceptions, 57% COMP, 71.2 quarterback rating, three-one record.
I hate it when people champion a rising talent as "The Greatest (insert word) to Ever Play the Position!" That's why it was actually really difficult for me to rank this year's rookie standout atop this list.
But Mark Sanchez's production has been just too good to ignore.
A quarter into his first season, his numbers top Matt Ryan's in just about every category. He's thrown with better accuracy for nearly 80 more yards, two more touchdowns, and he currently owns the best winning record of this entire bunch (three-one).
That being said, he did struggle some against New Orleans' improved defense last week so only time will tell whether that was the exception to the rule or whether teams are starting to figure out the tendencies of this former Trojan.
One thing is certain: check back in four weeks and we should have a clearer picture of just who this Mr. Sanchez actually is.