Time and time again the NFL season comes and goes and time and time again the NFL season is plagued by struggling rookie quarterbacks (I'm looking at you Alex Smith). If one is on your favorite team, chances are, your team isn't going anywhere this season. Rookie quarterbacks that are forced to start due to injury or publicity are prone to being highly scrutinized and their play reflects that.
Their are several factors that influence the chances of these players to ultimately grow and succeed in the league. I'd say the absolute most important factor is the coaching. If a coach doesn't know how to accurately use his rookie quarterback, it could end up being disastrous.
When a head coach's team is led by a rookie quarterback, it is his responsibility to minimize the amount of throws his quarterback has to make, especially deep throws. Inexperienced deep throws lead to interceptions. Not everyone starts off making it look as easy as Peyton Manning.
Of course, it's not always the head coach's fault. A coach could call the perfect play and the quarterback could still easily fail if his offensive line isn't adequately protecting him. A rookie QB on his back is a disappointed man, one's whose confidence both in himself and his O line has just been rattled.
Confidence is key to the success of any quarterback. If he's constantly throwing interceptions or being sacked, his confidence won't exactly grow at the needed speed. Running plays mixed with short passes keep the pressure off the QB as well as slowly help them gain confidence. That confidence will later translate into more accurate throws down the field. Drafting a rookie for his cannon arm doesn't do you any good if every time he fires one off it lands incomplete or in the hands of a defender.
The more chances the rookie has to be on the field, the quicker his skills will develop. Practice makes perfect. If the defense manages to make a few extra stops a game, the rookie quarterback will have more chances to succeed, or fail depending on how you look at it.
Constantly changing offensive schemes will also lead to the destruction of a rookie. He will need time to adjust to his new scheme and the plays that go along with it. If every year it is changing, he will never fully grasp it and his chances to succeed will be hindered greatly.
The final key to the success of a rookie quarterback is faith. His team needs to have faith in him. His coaches need to have faith in him. The media needs to have faith in him and the fans need to have faith in him. Every rookie is going to have a bad day. No one is perfect. Right now, rookies are unfairly judged for their bad days and probably overly-hyped when they have a good day.
The fact is, rookies are going to be inconsistent. Only 1/20 actually blossom into what is expected of them. If they're given time and patience, their chances of succeeding increase. If they're hammered by the media and consistently booed by the fans, chances are they're play is going to reflect that.
Examples of this would be the play of Rex Grossman vs. the play of Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben started off as a super star, but not every game was perfect. Grossman, on the other hand, was an inconsistent interception machine. Big Ben was cheered even through the bad times, while Rex was booed all year round even though he had some great games.
In mathematic terms the formula for a successful starting rookie QB is as follows:
Patience squared x consistent support + proper coaching = successful quarterback
Note to the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens: If you want your rookie QBs to 'fly high', you would do well to use the above formula. To Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco: Good luck boys, you're going to need it.
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