Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sportsology: Prematurely burying rookie QBs

By Rick Morris

Our good pal Russ Cohen at Sportsology (fellow members of The 21st Century Media Alliance) made some very good points about rookie QBs in a recent column, which we replicate here. The only note that I would add is that most teams having issues with first and second-year QBs regressing recently have been turning them loose way too quickly. The sane instinct at the first sign of success is not to treat these passers as veterans, but to continue to bring them along slowly.

Now, on to Russ's excellent column:

Take It Easy On Rookie Quarterbacks
By Russ Cohen

While watching the Mike and Mike show recently on ESPN2, I heard some alarming statements from Tim Hasselbeck when he was analyzing Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez and how their rookie campaigns are going.

Thankfully, I didn’t hear his entire spot because this hatchet job was too much. Stafford had some amazing heroics and actually came back on the field after his shoulder was clearly killing him by avoiding the medical staff. As a result, he threw the game-winning touchdown and led the Lions to their second win. WOW! I was impressed. Hasselbeck was too, but after that quickly faded, he talked about how he has trouble completing short passes.

“Quite honestly, when I’ve seen him play, I haven’t been really impressed,” he quipped. “We see the live arm. I’ve seen him miss guys, wide open, so many times, for a guy who was a #1 overall pick You would expect him to make certain throws that he’s missed a lot of this year, quite honestly.”

So now Sanchez gets ripped for his interceptions and “ball security” that Hasselbeck said he didn’t want to say he called, but he did when he started talking about it. He had “concerns” in Week Two when he was winning. So what, he’s a ROOKIE. In Sanchez’s case, he never talked about the positives.

Mark Sanchez – His pass completion percentage is low, but for a rookie 52.1 isn’t too bad. Matt Hasselbeck was 52.2 last year. I’m sure this will improve over time. His ten touchdowns are two more than David Garrard, and just one behind Kyle Orton and Tim’s brother. Stafford has done better than Sanchez in both of those categories, but his team is pretty bad, so I give higher marks for sure.

What wasn’t talked about are the terrible play calls. How about that 4th and 1 call by the Jets against New England? Tony Richardson, who has 12 rushing yards all season (and three carries at the time), gained nothing. Or what about that dropped pass on third down, by Braylon Edwards, when the Jets were trying to get back into the game?

Sanchez has three rushing touchdowns, and that’s tied for the league lead, but that wasn’t mentioned. One other thing about Sanchez, he has made an awful lot of QB sneaks this year to keep drives alive, that takes guts, and he has guts. He will go out there and mix it up strongly. He has moxy, and he will be a solid NFL quarterback, I’d say somewhere between Richard Todd and Ken O’Brien.

So let's keep this in mind: these guys are rookies! This kind of criticism is too harsh, and quite frankly, it’s too easy because they are at the beginning of their careers. Forget about the money they make, or where they have been drafted, that means nothing when they are on the field.

Let's remember:
Peyton Manning had 28 interceptions in his rookie season.
I saw John Elway fall down out of the huddle in one of his first attempts in his first game.
Joe Namath’s rookie season pass completion percentage was 48.2%, he had 2,220 yards, Sanchez will beat that (I know it's a different era but Joe threw the ball a lot for back then). He had 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The numbers are similar, folks. I am not comparing the two, but nobody threw him under the bus in his rookie campaign.

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