Let's see what rookie QBs can do
When you spend a bunch of money on a new car, you drive it. You don't put it in the garage and drive your old car until you think the new one's ready. You like the new car better than the old one, or else you'd have used that money on something else. But you didn't. You used it on a fast, shiny, beautiful new car. And what you do now is you drive it.
So consider this a common-sense plea to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings, all of whom drafted quarterbacks in the first round this year and insist they're not planning to make them starters right away:
Drive your new cars.
Get Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater on the field. Don't be afraid. You invested in these guys because (A) you needed help at quarterback and (B) you were excited about what they could offer. What's to be gained by waiting to see whether you were right?
If the fear is that playing a young quarterback too early puts his mental state at risk if he struggles, then I would reply: Fear is no basis for either a coaching or an organizational philosophy. If Bortles, Manziel or Bridgewater can't handle failure and use it as a means to improve, then they shouldn't have been first-round picks in the first place and they're not going to be franchise quarterbacks. Better to find that out as soon as possible.
And if the thought is that there's some benefit to be derived from sitting and watching before taking on the responsibility of actually playing, then I see the point but caution against assuming it applies to every situation.
"I think it just depends on whether you're ready or not," Giants quarterback Eli Manning told me Tuesday. "There's some value in sitting and watching and learning from a veteran, seeing how they prepare, seeing how they play, just getting a feel for the offense, what defenses do and the complexity of what's going on."
Manning was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft but served as the backup to Kurt Warner for the first nine games of that season before starting the final seven. While he looks back and sees the advantages, he's still glad he (A) got on the field in games before becoming the starter and (B) played for at least a portion of his rookie year.
"I think I had a pretty good deal, where I sat for a little bit but got some playing experience that first year," Manning said. "I think that was important, so you get some experience and kind of go through those ups and downs to get prepared for that following year."
I think I had a pretty good deal, where I sat for a little bit but got some playing experience that first year.Giants QB Eli Manning
That's the thing, right? If you're the Jaguars, you can talk about wanting to develop the rest of your team so Bortles has a better support system in 2015 than he'd have if he started right away in 2014. But the development of the overall team structure is going to take a step back if it has to make way a year from now for a quarterback with no NFL game experience.
It's also important to note that Manning's situation was unique in that the quarterback in front of him was a decorated Super Bowl MVP with a lot left in the tank as both a viable starter and a respected mentor.
"I think watching Kurt Warner, a guy who'd won a Super Bowl and been an MVP, and just how he prepared and how he got ready for each week, the questions he asked about the game plan, I think that was important," Manning said. "And I think obviously, every case, every team is different in terms of who the quarterbacks are and how much experience they have."
Exactly. No offense to Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder, but I don't see a Kurt Warner in front of any of these rookies right now. None of the quarterbacks who would start ahead of Bortles, Manziel or Bridgewater is the future of his team. Each of them played for his current team last year, and each of the teams in question decided it had enough of a need at quarterback to use a first-round pick on one. The Jags, Browns and Vikings already know what they're capable of doing with their holdover starters at quarterback, and they know it's not good enough.
So drive your new cars, fellas. Get them out on the road, open them up and see what they've got. There's nothing to be gained by leaving them in the garage and wondering how much faster you could be going if you had the guts to find out.