Stephen Ross, in an interview with Jeff Darlington of nfl.com, came out this week and said that the team was not going to rush Ryan Tannehill, and that he expected Matt Moore to be the starter for the opening game.
“I don’t think they’re going to rush (Ryan Tannehill) into anything,” Ross said. “He’s going to have to win the starting job. I think Matt Moore will probably be the starter, and I wish him the best.”
You might recall that before the draft, the rumors were that Stephen Ross was pushing the organization to take Ryan Tannehill with the 8th overall pick. A month later, after Tannehill has been in the organization and has participated in rookie mini-camp, Ross is now making reference that he just wants a franchise quarterback, and it could be Matt Moore.
“Whenever (Tannehill) is ready,” Ross said. “And if Matt Moore develops, so be it. We want a franchise quarterback.”
Not good. I know there can be lots of idle chatter, but why is the owner declaring that a career journeyman is probably going to be the starter right now? I am agnostic when it comes to sitting quarterbacks versus playing highly drafted quarterbacks. I’m not sure that either situation inherently favors a young quarterback, as they can gain experience learning the playbook in practice, and can hit the ground running later, or learn on the job. The only downside to starting early is the injury risk. It’s much safer holding a clipboard.
However, I do think that a young quarterback should play if they are the best option. If teams have the luxury of a good veteran quarterback, they can let the pupil learn for a season or more.
I went through all quarterbacks drafted in the first 20 picks from 1988 to 2007. Of that group, only 8 of the 33 started on opening day of their rookie year. Thus, most rookies didn’t start the season as the starter, and that fact alone should not be concerning.
It becomes concerning, though, when you differentiate between who those rookies sat behind. Before we get to the numbers, just think about it this way. If a rookie starts in week one over a career backup, that doesn’t tell us much other than the organization thought they were better than a career backup. They could themselves be basically a career backup, or an elite quarterback, or anywhere in between.
Conversely, knowing that a young player sits behind an established veteran starter merely means they, at a young age, are not viewed as the better option compared to the quality veteran. The outcome could still be a good player who becomes great in their prime, to a career backup.
Then there is the young rookie who does not start over the career backup or journeyman.
I divided the Top 20 picks by whether they started on opening day, sat behind a career backup or journeyman, or sat behind a quality long term starter. Career backups or journeymen are those that had one or fewer above average passing seasons (by Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt) on the minimum qualifying attempts. Quality starters all had 3 or more such seasons in their careers.
Here’s the breakdown of how many games the Top 20 rookies ended up starting in years 2 to 5, and their average passing performance (by ANYA+):
To put those ANYA+ numbers in perspective, those that sat behind quality long term starters played like Jay Cutler over the last five years on average, in years 2 through 5 of their careers. The “opening day starters” varied from Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman to Ryan Leaf and David Carr, but played like Jason Campbell or Matt Cassel on average. Those that sat behind journeymen? Their average performance in years 2 to 5 was more like Derek Anderson or Chad Henne.
Here were the list of Top 20 picks who did not start on opening day of their rookie year, behind a player who I classified as a journeyman.
- JaMarcus Russell (Josh McCown)
- Alex Smith (Tim Rattay)
- Ben Roethlisberger (Tommy Maddox)
- Joey Harrington (Mike McMahon)
- Tim Couch (Ty Detmer)
- Donovan McNabb (Doug Pederson)
- Cade McNown (Shane Matthews)
- Kerry Collins (Frank Reich)
- Heath Shuler (John Friesz)
- Trent Dilfer (Craig Erickson)
- Andre Ware (Rodney Peete)
That group of 11 includes Roethlisberger and McNabb. Then comes Kerry Collins. After that, Alex Smith and Trent Dilfer were “above average” for the group.
Right now, Matt Moore has zero above average seasons while throwing at least 224 passes. Maybe he’s another Drew Brees, and turns into a great starter. If he’s just a journeyman, though, it’s not a good sign that the owner is already saying a month after drafting a quarterback with the eighth overall pick that he is likely going to start.
[photo via US Presswire]