Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9:49 PM
One of the big stories of the new NFL season turned into a virtual horror movie for rookie quarterbacks making their regular season starting debuts. Even the most pessimistic of analysts weren’t expecting Brandon Weeden to be THAT bad for Cleveland against Philadelphia (and, even those who did lost their anti-Cleveland bets because the Eagles self-destructed!). And, those who thought Ryan Tannehill would struggle in Houston didn’t think the coaching staff would keep asking him to throw into traffic all day.
We talked about the new quarterbacks not too long ago as we were setting the stage for the NFL Preseason. Now that those five new starters have finally taken the field in games that matter, let’s run a quick report card as you transition from Week One reviews to Week Two expectations.
Worst Passer Rating in NFL: Brandon Weeden, Cleveland vs. Philadelphia
5.1 passer rating, 12-35-4-118 passing line, sacked 2 times, 2/13 team 3rd Down Rate
Next Opponent: at Cincinnati
Words fail to capture how bad that is. Quarterbacks playing in MONSOONS have posted better numbers than those. It is easily one of the worst single game performances the league has ever seen. Cleveland did manage to cover their spread of +9 in a 17-16 loss to Philadelphia. But, the only TD came on an interception return against Michael Vick. Weeden was finally playing against people his own age…who knew how to defend at a very high level…and he was exposed as being in WAY over his head. He still has the prototype body and arm for a quarterback. And, he’s mature for a rookie because he’s 28-years old. But, he’ll no longer be able to create illusions within a gimmick offense facing overmatched kids. Welcome to the big time Mr. Weeden! Perhaps he’ll be helped next week by facing an opponent coming in off a short week of preparation.
2nd Worst Passer Rating in NFL: Ryan Tannehill, Miami at Houston
39.0 passer rating, 20-36-3-219 passing line, sacked 3 times, 2/10 team 3rd Down Rate
Next Opponent: vs. Oakland
If not for Weeden, Tannehill would have posted the laughingstock performance of the day. Telling that quarterbacks from Texas A&M and Oklahoma State both found big trouble facing real defenses. The Big 12 tends to back off and let you complete passes, while the NFL only does that late in garbage time. Weeden never had a garbage time…which means that Tannehill may have had even worse numbers if his team hadn’t trailed 24-3 at halftime! If you watched “Hard Knocks” on HBO this summer, you saw a new head coach who seemed a bit overwhelmed by the task at hand…and a new quarterback who’s got football smarts but possibly not NFL caliber quarterback talent. Scouts keep falling in love with players who look like they should be great quarterbacks. They should have learned to adjust for context by now. Like Weeden, Tannehill gets to face a team dealing with a short week off a Monday Night game. Plus, Oakland has to travel cross-country.
5th Worst Passer Rating in NFL: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis at Chicago
52.8 passer rating, 23-45-3-309 passing line, sacked 3 times, 2/10 team 3rd Down Rate
Next Opponent: vs. Minnesota
Luck was the top draft pick this last summer, and those 300 passing yards show you why he has such a bright future. He was able to make some big plays while the first two guys we talked about were helpless. That being said, Luck threw three interceptions and was sacked three times…which means he still has a lot to learn at this level. Pac 12 defenses are also notoriously soft…which is one reason so many Oregon and USC quarterbacks have been disappointments on the pro level (maybe Matt Leinart can join Joey Harrington on FOX’s pre-game show next year!). Luck is very smart, but now must think even faster than he’s used to as he prepares for the Vikings.
6th Worst Passer Rating in NFL: Russell Wilson, Seattle at Arizona
62.5 passer rating, 18-34-1-153 passing line, sacked 3 times, 5/16 team 3rd Down Rate
Next Opponent: vs. Dallas
Wilson didn’t throw into trouble as much as the other guys, but he also did put up much yardage. This was a pretty big disappointment considering the bandwagon that had started for Wilson and this team in recent days. Having great energy and enthusiasm can put you over the top in exhibition games. When professionals start defending for real, they come after you with a much greater sense of urgency. Wilson learned that this weekend. By the standards of the others, he did well avoiding turnovers and moving the chains. He wasn’t facing a playoff threat though…so his numbers may have looked uglier vs. the likes of Philly, Houston, or Chicago. Throwing for 153 yards on 34 attempts isn’t anything to get excited about. Passer rating knows that, so Wilson ranks sixth worst in the league heading into a home game against rested Dallas.
BEST Passer Rating in NFL: Robert Griffin III, Washington at New Orleans
139.9 passer rating, 19-26-0-320 passing line, sacked 1 time, 4/15 team 3rd Down Rate
Next Opponent: at St. Louis
Wow! You probably saw the highlights, so you know that Griffin was sharp with the ball and made some big plays. Right now you’re only hearing the good news (and there was a lot of it for RGIII in this game). Let’s point out for future handicapping purposes all of the following:
*New Orleans is known to allow yards in the air because the gamble for turnovers
*Washington was only 4 of 15 on third downs, which is a negative
*Griffin is from the Big 12, and one game doesn’t mean that’s not an issue
*Cam Newton had a huge September last year before trending downward to normalcy
There always seems to be an adjustment period for NFL defenses whenever a dual threat quarterback gets a starting job. Griffin is in the honeymoon stage of that adjustment period. If he follows the path of his predecessors…that means at least a few good games…and maybe even a few good years…before his legs go and he’s just another passer. Let’s hope for better than that if you’re a football fan. As handicappers, you have to be realistic as you invest your money. The immediate future is bright based on this performance. Let’s see what he does against the Rams next week in a natural letdown spot off a big upset.
There were several notable surprises in the first weekend of NFL action that handicappers must adjust to. Projected NFC powers Green Bay, Philadelphia, and the NY Giants all had notable struggles (with only Philly dodging the upset bug). Projected darkhorses Seattle and Detroit also failed to impress…which means things could get very interesting very quickly in this conference! Over in the AFC, form tended to hold for the contending favorites. Maybe that was just a lull before an upset storm this week.
Games we’re most focused on this week for serious play in the NFL:
*Chicago at Green Bay Thursday (look for our stat preview that day here in the Notebook)
*Baltimore at Philadelphia
*Dallas at Seattle
*NY Jets at Pittsburgh
*Detroit at San Francisco (SNF on NBC that we’ll preview here Sunday)
*Denver at Atlanta (MNF on ESPN that we’ll preview here Monday)
Start building your bankroll for all of this weekend’s pro and college action with some Wednesday Night baseball. Game-day selections in all sports go up a few hours before first action for credit card purchase. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Wednesday is a great time to take care of business for seasonal packages since there’s not any football that night to worry about. The schedule is about to get frantic again, so take care of business now!
We’ll check in on the rookie quarterbacks periodically throughout the season here in the NOTEBOOK. We knew they’d be a big story. We just didn’t expect that kind of horror story in the first week for four of the five!