We are one week into training camp of the 2017 NFL season and the media covers the annual QB battles on certain teams frequently. We have interesting topics like Tom Savage vs Deshaun Watson or Mike Glennon vs Mitch Trubisky. We also have Cody Kessler vs DeShone Kizer – I just assume that Osweilers career is over after last season. Also annually, I keep asking myself the same question again and again: Why do we even discuss whether or not the first-round QB will start or not?
We keep listening to the old fashioned “That young guy isn’t ready for week one. Let him sit on the bench so he can learn from the starting QB and get used to the speed of the NFL”. How do young QBs get used to the speed of the NFL when they don’t actually play in the NFL? People also often bring up the argument of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, who sat as well during the first year(s). However, first of all, these were completely different situations. When Aaron Rodgers was drafted, he sat behind Hall Of Fame QB Brett Favre, the face of the Green Bay Packers. Whether you think of Favre being a simple Gunslinger or not, he was a big name over his career and it is safe to assume that the Packers had no choice but keep letting him start in the first place. Tom Brady was a 6th-round pick. It was one of the greatest stories in sports history. That isn’t an example of why sitting a young QB leads to success.
Secondly, there is no causality or correlation between sitting a young QB and him having a good NFL career afterwards. Have Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady been two of the best Quarterbacks of this century because they sat during their early years? Or are they two of the best Quarterbacks in this era because they are just good and just “have” it? Aside from Rodgers and Brady, how many Quarterbacks have established themselves as good and quality NFL starters after being a backup early in their careers? You won’t find many. Philip Rivers sat behind Drew Brees, another Hall Of Famer. Thirdly, if you use the arguments of Rodgers and Brady to spin your hypothesis about young QBs benefiting from sitting, you have to ask yourself a question: In retrospect, would you let sit Rodgers and Brady again for one to three years? Or would you want to explore their greatness rather earlier than later? With Drew Bledsoe at QB, the 2000 Patriots went 5-11. With Brett Favre at QB, the 2005 Packers went 4-12 and Favre threw 29 interceptions to 20 TDs. Wouldn’t you have wanted Rodgers to start immediately? Would you expect the same 4-12 season with Rodgers under center? You will honestly admit that starting Aaron Rodgers immediately would have been the smarter way with the benefit of hindsight.
Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco. Ten names. We can argue how good they are at this point of their careers, but no one ever questioned their immediate or atleast very early starts out of College. So why do people still question whether a young and high drafted Quarterback should start right away or not? What was the bargain of sitting Jared Goff for ten weeks? Of course, Case Keenum was bad but still better. But that offense wouldn’t have taken them anywhere anyway. So there was no reason not to evaluate your big future investment as early as possible.
Let us take a look at the 2017 season. Under HC Bill O’Brien, the Texans have had a bad track record of starting QBs. Since BOB took over, the starting QBs for the Texans named Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, T. J. Yates, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. All these names won’t be remembered as few of the better names of starting QBs in NFL history. And keep in mind that the media still praises Bill O’Brien as a “Quarterback Whisperer”, but nobody knows why. Despite having an elite defense and playing in one of the weakest divisions of the last couple years, the Texans only managed to sneak into the wildcard round twice and won one game against the Oakland Raiders with Connor Cook starting for the injured Derek Carr.
The Texans made an aggressive change at QB. They gave up a 2018 2nd-round pick so that the Browns acquire Osweiler’s contract and they traded up in the draft to take Clemson QB Deshaun Watson in exchange for their 2017 and 2018 1st-round picks. They paid a high price and mortgaged a bit of their upcoming future to get a franchise QB. During the first week of training camp, Tom Savage has been the starting QB for the Texans and O’Brien admitted that it’s his job to lose. Here is a quote from Bill O’Brien out of training camp:
“Tom is No. 1,” O’Brien continued. “But Tom also knows the situation – that he has a young guy there behind him that’s playing pretty well, too. Look, Tom hasn’t played a whole lot for us. When he has played, he has played pretty well and we have won. Not every time, but we have won a couple of times with him in there. So he has that confidence. But it’s not like he’s a three-year starter. He knows he has to earn it every day and continue to get better.”
Tom Savage has started two games for the Texans since being drafted in the 4th round in 2014 and the team went 1-1. Overall in three years, he completed 56 of 92 passes for 60.9% completions and 5.58 Net Yards Per Pass Attempt. He never threw a touchdown but threw one interception. Even though this is a very small sample size, this is a raw stat line that is pretty much equal to Brock Osweilers career stat line. Since Tom Savage was drafted, Bill O’Brien preferred the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Weeden over Tom Savage who couldn’t beat out these guys. And now Bill O’Brien names Tom Savage the No. 1 QB after trading up to grab a possible franchise Quarterback with the 12th overall pick. In which universe does this make sense? Here is another quote of the “QB guru” Bill O’Brien from April 4th:
“I think that there’s no substitute for experience,” O’Brien said, via ESPN.com. “So, I think it’s hard to ask a guy to come in straight from college and Day One he’s a starter on your team. But I know that there are some really good quarterbacks in this draft that we’re looking at, and we’ve met with a lot of them. We’re excited about continuing to get to know them. But, I just think for me as a general rule, that’s tough to start them as a Day One guy.”
Re-read that statement and think about it. Bill O’Brien says that there is “no substitute for experience” but his general rule is that it is “tough to start them as a Day One guy”. If there is no substitute for experience, why doesn’t he let his future franchise QB start right out of the gate? If there is no substitute for experience, why doesn’t he let Watson collect that experience by giving him the first team reps a young guy needs and the NFL experience he needs? If there is no substitute for experience, why does he give the starting job to a guy who attempted 92 passes and was outplayed by several bad quarterbacks during the last three years? It’s tough to assume that the offense with Watson is going to look worse than what we saw in 2016. To me, Bill O’Brien is not a QB guru. He is a coach who does not know what he is doing and is afraid to lose his job when his most recent QB deal doesn’t work out as expected. But from a Football standpoint, that isn’t a reason to sit Watson.
The Chicago Bears also made some surprising moves at QB this offseason. They signed Mike Glennon for $15M per year and traded up to take Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd overall pick. The Bears got shredded by the media but I actually like that move. The Bears went aggressive on the most important position that featured Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in Chicago last season. They still have $23M in cap space according to spotrac.com which ranks 7th in the league. Mike Glennon had 11 pass attempts since 2014 but in his first two seasons as a Buccaneer, he wasn’t bad. He can be an average starter in this league. Signing him made sense and drafting Trubisky made sense as well. The Bears can cut Glennon after 2017 without having any cap issues.
The Bears have a very good offensive line, especially with the interior featuring Josh Sitton, J.C. Tretter and Kyle Long. They got a run heavy offense with Jordan Howard as a quality playmaker in both running and receiving the ball and they showed off highly intelligent play-calling in 2016. The offense as a whole was just limited by Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley when it goes past first and second downs. Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky are in a very favorable situation. But, by drafting Mitch Trubisky, I expected Mike Glennon’s starting role to be burned. But on Monday, July 31st, Trubisky was practicing with the third stringers. Bears GM Ryan Pace admitted after the draft that Mike Glennon is the Bears’ starting QB.
The one glaring argument against Mitch Trubisky coming out of college was his lack of experience – he started 13 games at North Carolina. If Trubisky lacks experience (honestly, every QB coming out of College lacks experience) the proper handling of him can’t be to let him sit on the bench. He won’t get experience by sitting on the bench. He won’t adjust to the speed of the NFL or learn how to read coverages by sitting on the sideline and watching the game on the screen. He can only learn and develop by playing on the field and making rookie mistakes. Whether he does it in week 1 or week 10 doesn’t make any difference. The Bears are not in a “win-now” mode. They are a team in transition with a favorable offense to put a young QB in. Let Trubisky start!
The two other young QBs that get talked about are DeShone Kizer (Browns) and Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs). While the latter played in an Air Raid offense, it is highly possibly that the Chiefs wasted two first round picks on him. There was never an Air Raid QB that had a successful NFL career. Or atleast a few good seasons. Recent examples are Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden and Jared Goff. You wouldn’t want to have any of them on your team at this point. To be fair, Griffins career has been plagued by injuries and he atleast had a great first season. Andy Reid runs a very easy offense for QBs to thrive in with many screens and short passes. It is favorable for Alex Smith because he is not the guy who takes shots downfield. He will always prefer the checkdown over a wide open Tyreek Hill downfield. In that offense, he can give Pat Mahomes a shot. Even though I understand that the Chiefs’ goal isn’t anything less than the playoffs and they think that Alex Smith is still the best option they have. That might be right, especially when we consider that Mahomes is an Air Raid QB.
The Browns are re-building. They have a very good supporting cast on offense with a very good offensive line, more than solid receiving options and a great offensive-minded HC who calls intelligent plays and puts his QBs in favorable situations to succeed. There is not a single reason not to start Kizer in week one of 2017. You can’t put Osweiler or Kessler in there, you just can’t. The Browns have to figure out what they got in Kizer and they won’t do that by sitting.
Even though I believe that young, high drafted QBs need to start sooner than later, I can understand arguments against Patrick Mahomes. I would still test him out during the season. But for Trubisky, Watson and Kizer, there is not a single reason to not let them start right out of the gate. You need to let your young QB start if you don’t have a legitimate reason short- or midterm.