Ranking the rookie quarterbacks – Week 1 edition
Washington’s Robert Griffin III was the only one who came out on the winning side as the Redskins beat New Orleans, 40-32. Of the other four, Andrew Luck of the Colts and Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins both lost by 20, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks lost by four and, of course, Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns went home with a one-point loss to Philadelphia.
As these five quarterbacks – four of whom were taken in the first round of the draft (with Wilson being the outlier) – will be linked together for not only this season but also their careers, let’s do a weekly ranking to see where each stands within their group.
1. Robert Griffin III, Washington. (19-of-26, 320 yards, 2 touchdowns, 139.9 quarterback rating). Griffin was clearly the best of the group on Sunday, with some in the national media practically ready to cast his bust for the Hall of Fame. According to the Redskins website, Griffin is the first player in NFL history to compile 300-plus passing yards, two or more passing touchdowns and no interceptions in an NFL debut.
And according to ESPN Stats & Information, Griffin began the game with six straight passes behind the line of scrimmage. On his seventh pass, Griffin threw the ball 18 yards downfield resulting in an 88-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon. After the first drive Griffin averaged 11.5 air yards per attempt and only threw it behind the line once in 20 pass attempts. On those passes, he was 13-20 for 285 yards.
“Robert did an unbelievable job,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told The Washington Post. “For him to play the way he did in his first game in the National Football League, with the poise that he played (with) and some of the throws that he made, and to execute the offense in this environment. … They threw a lot at us, very well-coached team. And to come away with the win and the way we played, it was a big plus for our guys.”
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle. (18-of-34, 153 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 3 sacks, 62.5 quarterback rating). The second-most hyped quarterback coming into the season based on his performance when the games didn’t count, Wilson had the Seahawks on Arizona’s four-yard line in the game’s final seconds (thanks to two pass interference calls and a bonus timeout the Seahawks did not actually have), but he proceeded to throw three consecutive incompletions to end the game.
According to game reports, Wilson failed to recognize blitzes and threw at times into “smothering coverage.”
“I thought Russell battled,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll told The News Tribune. “They pressured a lot, made it tough on us. But he hung in there, came back, and did a very nice job of getting back into the game in the second half.
“This was a great first game for him. It was not easy at any time, and he’ll have a better sense of what’s going to happen and the timing of it. He was very cool about it. He didn’t have any problem handling it. That was much like we’d expect.”
3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis. (23-of-45, 309 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, 3 sacks, 52.9 quarterback rating). The No. 1 overall selection in the draft had a rough debut against the Bears, getting sacked on his first pass attempt and threw a pick six on his second possession.
“I think trying to take a lot of learning experiences out of it,” Luck told the team’s website. “When you’re responsible for four turnovers, it’s hard to win, it’s hard to be productive as an offense. Three picks and a fumble for me, those are killers. A lot of credit goes to them for making those plays. Not too many fond memories, I think, of an opening loss.
“Definitely (I was) a little anxious, some butterflies. It takes sort of that first play to say, ‘I remember how to take a snap. Good. I can hand the ball off. Good, or whatever.’ So even after that first play you sort of realize it’s football, it’s what I’ve been practicing for in training camp and go from there.”
We’re sure the Colts are probably relieved this morning that Luck remembers how to take a snap from center.
“We’re going to go back and look at the tape and find all the things we need to correct,” said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. “It is a marathon. It isn’t a sprint by any stretch of the imagination. We know we have a long way to go.”
4. Ryan Tannehill, Miami. (20-of-36, 219 yards, 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 3 sacks, 39.0 quarterback rating). Tannehill looked like a quarterback who only made a handful of starts while in college. According to ESPN Stats & Information, all three of his interceptions were on throws of five yards or less.
“I felt like we hurt ourselves more than they really just stopped us,” Tannehill told ESPN. “That’s a good defense. So being able to move the ball on a good defense like that gives us some confidence. Obviously, we have to fix a lot of things and eliminate those turnovers. But I think it gives us a look at what we could be if we played to our full potential.”
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin seemed to like what he saw.
“There were some good throws in the second half. There were some good throws in the first half and he did some good things, there’s no question about it,” Philbin told the team’s website. “The good news was, again, when he came off to the side it wasn’t like he got so flustered to where he was like, ‘Oh my God, are they playing zone or man? Did they blitz?’ My experience with most interceptions has been into double coverage or a bad decision from a progression standpoint with the quarterback. That’s where historically I’ve seen most of those. Some are clearly bad throws but that wasn’t the case yesterday. It wasn’t like you saw a ton of bad decisions, so if you can glean some positives out of that that would be the positive.”
5. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland. (12-of-35, 118 yards, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 2 sacks, 5.1 quarterback rating). Weeden played his first NFL game like a rookie quarterback that could have used more time on the field in the preseason. He overthrew receivers, missed open receivers and forced the ball into tight coverage.
In other words, he looked like a rookie quarterback.
“I take a lot of pride in playing better than that and I put our team in some difficult situations,” Weeden told the team’s website. “ My hat’s off to this defense. Our defense gave us every chance to win and offensively, myself included, took away from that. So, obviously I’m down right now, I expect to play better than that, I think more of myself than that. I put ourselves in harms way, but I thought our defense played plenty good enough to give us a chance to win, but it just didn’t work out.”
Weeden’s quarterback rating, while almost comically low, was not the lowest in franchise history. Bruce Gradkowski posted a 1.0 in 2008, and Jeff Garcia (2004) and the immortal Don Gault (1970) put up 0.0 – the lowest possible rating. And according to ESPN Stats & Information, Weeden is just the third quarterback since the start of the 2008 season to attempt at least nine passes of more than 10 yards downfield and not complete a pass (he was 0-for-9). The other two were J.P. Losman in 2008 and Brodie Croyle in 2010.
Not the kind of company we like to see Weeden keeping.
“Brandon Weeden is our starter, and he’s gonna get better.” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said on Monday. “I think he’s got to look at this game and make the corrections. (I) told the team this, every error that happened yesterday is correctable and I think that’s the great news. We’re not looking at plays and situations that they can’t improve on. That’s where he’s at right now. He’s finishing that process of watching the game, which he had already watched by the time he got here today. Make the corrections, which will be very obvious to him, and of course we need to take care of the ball better.”
So, to sum up, everyone battled, everyone made some good plays and some mistakes, and everyone will learn from their first week.
For the sake of Browns fans, we better hope that is the case with Weeden.
(Photo by The Associated Press)