Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder are all starters for their team in their rookie season.
It’s a familiar story. An NFL team desperate for a rebuild drafts a quarterback early. Because of the amount of money he is being paid, they can’t afford for him not to be the starter. So he starts. This strategy has been successful recently with examples like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez.
Meanwhile, Jake Locker has been patiently waiting for his opportunity.
It finally came in week 11. Starter Matt Hasselbeck went down with an elbow injury in the second half with the Titans down big. The rookie led a comeback that would eventually fall short but he did start a quarterback controversy.
He completed nine passes for 140 yards on 19 attempts, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington and a huge fourth-and-17 conversion. He threw another touchdown and added an 11-yard rush.
Locker was the eighth overall pick of the draft and second quarterback taken (behind Newton). Had he left Washington early for the 2010 draft, he was widely expected to be selected first.
After the Titans drafted Locker, they signed Hasselbeck to a three-year contract. The 13-year veteran has been great for Tennessee, throwing for over 2,300 yards. Some think this is the perfect time to hand over the reigns to Locker but is just absorbing as much as he can from the experienced quarterback.
In the 2005 draft, Aaron Rodgers was still available with the 24th pick. The Green Bay Packers could not pass up on him, seeing the perfect opportunity to acquire an heir-apparent to Brett Favre.
Rodgers was only expected to be the backup for one season but Favre had other thoughts on his mind. He continued his career until his first fake retirement in 2008. After three seasons as the backup, Rodgers finally became the starter.
The results were magnificent. Rodgers has been one of the league’s top quarterbacks since he became the starter. While many teams are rushing their young quarterbacks into the starting role, it may be more beneficial to let them watch the game from a different perspective.
Ryan, Flacco, and Sanchez have had success in the league but their numbers each season are near identical. Their completion percentage and passer ratings have gone up and down inconsistently. They have showed little improvement from their strong rookie seasons. Rodgers continues to improve.
While it might be in the team’s best interest in the short term to start Locker now, it is in his best interest over the long term to continue his NFL education on the sideline.