At the midway point of the NFL season, the five rookie quarterbacks who are starting for their teams have done quite well. However, only one has a winning record and that is Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts at 4-3. The Miami Dolphins are 4-3 with Ryan Tannehill, but he was injured in Sunday’s 30-9 victory over the New York Jets. This makes a little sense in that Luck was the number one overall pick ahead of Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, who was the other highly touted quarterback in the draft.
When looking at past draft history, whenever there has been two or more highly touted quarterbacks the one drafted first has usually had a better NFL career.
Going back to the merger in 1970, the first time this happened was in 1971. The top three quarterbacks were Jim Plunkett of Stanford, Archie Manning of Mississippi and Dan Pastorini of Santa Clara. Plunkett was drafted first overall by the New England Patriots. Manning went second to the New Orleans Saints. Though he did not win in New England, Plunkett won two championships with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. Manning never made it to the Super Bowl.
In 1983 there were five quarterbacks ranked highly. The first chosen was another Stanford product John Elway by the Denver Broncos. The number two quarterback picked was Todd Blackledge of Penn State by the Kansas City Chiefs with the number seven choice. Elway took Denver to five Super Bowls and won two. Blackledge was out of the NFL by 1989.
In 1993 it was Drew Bledsoe of Washington State drafted by the Patriots ahead of Rick Mirer of Notre Dame who was taken by the Seattle Seahawks at number two. Mirer got off to a fast start with Seattle, but it was Bledsoe who had a good career and led his team to a Super Bowl in 1996.
Then there was 1998. The Colts drafted Peyton Manning of Tennessee ahead of Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. Leaf was drafted number two by the San Diego Chargers. Everyone knows this story. Manning has gone on to set records and win a championship. Leaf was out of football by 2001.
Peyton’s brother Eli Manning was the first player chosen in 2004 out of Mississippi. Phillip Rivers of North Carolina State was the second quarterback taken at number four by the New York Giants. The teams traded quarterbacks and Manning ended up in New York. In eight years Manning has won two Super Bowls while Rivers has yet to make it to the big game.
The only time when the number one quarterback has not panned out in what was considered a deep class of signal callers was 1999. That was the year Tim Couch of Kentucky was drafted number one by the Cleveland Browns. Couch really had no chance of succeeding as the Browns were an expansion team. Donovan McNabb of Syracuse went second to the Philadelphia Eagles and had a much better career than Couch. NcNabb took the Eagles to a Super Bowl in 2004.
We shouldn’t be too surprised that Luck is ahead of Griffin III or any of the other rookie quarterbacks in wins so far. He is only doing what a number one pick is asked and that is win games.
We also should not assume that Luck will have a more successful career than Griffin III or the others. The book on all of their careers still has yet to be written.
However, if past history is any indication, it is Luck who we will be talking about 15 years from now as the best of this group.