It has been a rocky season for the Miami Dolphins. There were close games they gave away, a winning streak that caught everyone’s attention, and a losing streak that caused everyone to get back to business as usual.
Honestly, it has been the type of season one used to expect of a team led by a rookie quarterback.
That was before Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan made it to the playoffs in their rookie season, back before Andy Dalton led a four win team to a 10-6 record, and Cam Newton broke a new record every other week.
Now it seems as though this type of success is what is expected of rookie quarterbacks who are thrust into the starting position in their first year. If a team takes a rookie, and chooses to go forward immediately with him as their starter, the expectation is that the rookie will play at the same level as his contemporaries around the league.
This season saw the highest number of rookies at the starting quarterback position than ever before in NFL history. Now, in Week 13, there have been 7 rookie starters trying to lead their team to victories all across the league, and it may be the rookie bar could come back down from the stratosphere it has recently been set.
The cream of the crop has been exactly who everyone thought it would be, with the first and second picks in the draft doing what they were brought in to do. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have been sensational. They have both shown themselves to be the type of leaders a team can rally behind and give their unconditional support.
The jury is still out on the rest of the group.
Of everyone else, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks may seem to be the most impressive, but outside of a breakout game versus the New England Patriots, the rookie has been more of a complimentary option to the Seattle rushing attack. Still, Wilson and the Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill have shown the most potential, and both could prove to be the long term solution for their team.
Tannehill is hoped to be the future of the Miami Dolphins; a quarterback that can finally move the organization past the shadow of Dan Marino. His up and down performance is reminiscent of seasons past, when the rookie quarterbacks–the good ones anyways–would show flashes of what they could become, while also showing how much they had to learn.
Along with the Cleveland Browns‘ Brandon Weeden, Tannehill would be right on track if rookies were measured by the standards of 2007. Rookies were expected to come in and learn the game, win a few, lose more. Playoff hopes were not placed on the arm of the inexperienced, unless it was one of those rare few that were instant candidates for a spot in Canton. Up until 2008, not even those rookies destined for greatness were able, nor expected, to take their team to the promised land of January football.
The other two rookies, Philadelphia Eagles‘ Nick Foles and Ryan Lindley of the Arizona Cardinals, were not the first option for their coaches, and likely would not have seen the field this season were it not for injuries to their teams’ starting quarterbacks. The sad state of both teams, and the circumstances for each new starter, make it difficult to gauge their true skill, but to this point they look like the rookies of the past who were eaten alive by the league and spit out in tiny chunks of damaged pride and shattered confidence. Luck and Griffin are the exact opposite, they are what is driving up the standards set by their impressive predecessors.
Weeden and Tannehill may be as well, but they may take the traditional route of developing over a couple of seasons. The important thing is to remember there is nothing wrong with that.
The NFL world may be getting spoiled by the rookie success of the last five years, but great now does not necessarily mean the best later, and a trip to the playoffs as a rookie does not define a career.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.