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Tua, Daniel Jones Showing Why NFL Teams Need to Be More Patient with Young QBs

Brad Gagnon@@Brad_GagnonFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2022

Set Number: X164166

By no means am I guaranteeing that Tua Tagovailoa and Daniel Jones will become successful long-term NFL starters at the quarterback position, but there's also no denying that many wrote both off before they even took the field in 2022.

Yet, through two weeks, the 24-year-old Tagovailoa and the 25-year-old Jones stand among the eight highest-rated passers in the league.

At the very least, there's hope—especially for Tagovailoa after the 2020 No. 5 overall pick lit up the Baltimore Ravens in an incredible Week 2 comeback victory. Entering Week 3, he led the NFL by a wide margin with 739 passing yards, while Jones—a sixth overall pick one year before Tua came into the league—has completed 70.9 percent of his passes for a New York Giants team that has a serious shot at achieving a 3-0 start Monday night against the limping Dallas Cowboys.

For now, both Jones' Giants and Tagovailoa's Miami Dolphins are undefeated.

At the very least, this should serve as a reminder that if teams are going to invest considerable draft capital in a quarterback, they need to be patient.

The problem is fanbases—and human beings in general—are less patient than ever. We've got countless other entertainment options on demand, and three seasons of Game of Thrones beats the hell out of three seasons of Daniel Jones growing pains.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Plus, fast starts from recent sensations like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert have moved the goalposts for guys like Tagovailoa, Jones, and 2021 first-round signal-callers Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones.

There was a time when the league waited longer for young quarterbacks. And you don't even have to go back to when Peyton Manning led the NFL with 28 interceptions as a rookie in 1998.

Aaron Rodgers famously started zero games in his first three professional seasons, albeit with Hall of Famer Brett Favre in the driver's seat. Four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning was a complete mess in limited action as a rookie in 2004, though, and he didn't truly blossom until his fifth season. Philip Rivers didn't see the field much in his first two years and became an MVP candidate in Year 5. Reigning Super Bowl winner Matthew Stafford started just 13 games his first two pro campaigns, and Alex Smith had an impressive career despite struggling his first few years in San Francisco.

Now, there's a chance both Tagovailoa and Jones fade into oblivion. There's a chance both become stars. In all likelihood, based on the crapshoot nature of first-round selections at the sport's most critical position, one will pan out and the other will not.

But even if that middle-case scenario comes to fruition, it should serve as a lesson for the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots. Executives, coaches and fans associated with those five teams are likely already starting to fidget over their sophomore first-round passer, especially the first four on the list. But Trevor Lawrence was thrown into a near-impossible situation with the train-wreck 2021 Jags, Zach Wilson didn't have a lot more support with the '21 Jets, the injured Trey Lance will have just four starts under his belt at the end of his second season, and judging Justin Fields this early is also quite unfair based on the quality of Chicago's roster the last two years.

Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

What happens if Jimmy Garoppolo shines the rest of the season in Lance's stead? Does 49ers brass consider pulling the chute that quickly? You'd think not considering that Lance cost San Francisco three first-round picks as well as a third-rounder. So it's probably safe to say all four of those guys will at least get three years. You could argue they're each owed at least a fourth.

That might depend, to an extent, on what we see from Jones and Tua for the remainder of this season. And from there, the copycat dynamics will eventually trickle down to how the Pittsburgh Steelers handle rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett, who has yet to take a regular-season snap but will certainly gain some reps unless interim starter Mitch Trubisky suddenly turns it around.

Regardless, while it's not on brand for 2022, my advice to NFL decision-makers is to chill out. Let's wait. Wait to see how this season plays out for up-in-the-air young signal-callers like Jones and Tagovailoa, and beyond that, how future seasons play out for the likes of Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, Fields and Pickett.

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