Are Rookie Quarterbacks Set up to Fail?

I don’t know if it is all rookie quarterbacks. After all, every great NFL quarterback was a rookie once. However, it seems that many of these young signal callers leave college with tons of potential only to crash and burn in the pros.

Below is a list of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round since the year 2000.

Chad Pennington, Michael Vick, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, J.P Losman, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christain Ponder, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, E.J Manuel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch.

Jared Goff
Jared Goff, this year’s first overall pick, has struggled heavily this preseason. (Wikimedia Commons)

There are some really good quarterbacks in that group. However, there are several others that flamed out or turned out to be duds. It’s very hit or miss.

I chose to focus on the first round only because there are only two quarterbacks that weren’t chosen in the first round, but started their rookie year currently in the league (Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson).

Part of the reason is that these players come into situations where the team is not very good if they are spending a first round pick on a quarterback. A weak supporting cast can often cause these quarterbacks to struggle right out of the gate. There are several examples of this one. David Carr spent most of his career being battered behind an awful offensive line. Joey Harrington joined a talent-deprived team in Detroit on both sides of the ball.

The bigger reason though is that most of these quarterbacks end up not being pro ready, yet having to play right away because the team views them as the best option. The players who are in italics on the list above all played in at least 12 games during their rookie seasons. These young signal callers do not have the time to learn the intricate playbook and fully acclimate themselves to the speed of the NFL more often than not. This rushed development hinders the growth process in a young quarterback, which is arguably the most hyper-specific of an position in the league.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers had to wait three years before taking the starting job in Green Bay. (Wikimedia Commons)

Very few of these kids get what I will call the Aaron Rodgers treatment. There is no doubt that Rodgers is supremely talented, but his three years of sitting behind Brett Favre paid off in a big way with his capability to understand and command the offense from the first day he took the starting job. Even Eli Manning sat for half a season behind Kurt Warner before taking the reigns. You could probably have given J.P Losman five years to learn on the bench and he still would have been terrible, but a few years of development might have really changed the careers of guys like Mark Sanchez or E.J. Manuel.

Fewer quarterbacks are getting the chance to learn from the bench first. From 2000 to 2007, only seven of the 21 quarterbacks taken in the first round played 12 or more games during their rookie season. From 2008 to 2015, 14 of the 20 quarterbacks selected in the first round played at least games during their rookie season. That might help explain why it seems like the league is burning through quarterbacks at an incredible rate.

Being a first round selection really increases your odds of getting a big paycheck and starting for a team. It does not always correlate to success though.

Taking a look around the NFL, of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the league, 21 of them were first round selections (I’m not counting Goff here, as rumor has it Case Keenum will start in Los Angeles.) Four of them were second rounders, Wilson is the lone third round pick with a starting job. Fourth rounder Kirk Cousins is alone as well. No one starting now came from the fifth round but Tyrod Taylor and Tom Brady were sixth round selections. Ryan Fitzpatrick came from the seventh, while Tony Romo and Keenum were not drafted at all.

Ben_Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger is one of the most successful rookie quarterbacks of all-time, going 13-0 in games he started during the regular season. (Wikimedia Commons)

However, of those 32 guys, only 18 of them are entering their third consecutive year of being the starter for the team they are currently on. It just goes to show how much turnover there is in a three-year span at the quarterback position. There are some exceptions in the form of Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, but on the whole, these quarterbacks don’t have much job security. This also speaks to the lack of patience NFL teams now have to develop a quarterback before just throwing him onto the field. The level of turnover, especially in recent years, has been through the roof.

The reality is that there is no best way to groom young quarterbacks. However, it seems that when you try to force the majority of them to play during their first year, it becomes a very hit or miss process. For every Cam Newton, you also get a JaMarcus Russell.

This year might break the recent trend though, as none of the current rookies seem slated to start under center early in the season. Maybe, just maybe, that will give them a fighting chance to make it in this league.

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Goodell’s continued power struggle

Football is finally back, more or less, and with it has come a brand new controversy involving a number of NFL players. While what they are being accused of is not as stupid as Ryan Lotche’s situation, it still is not a good look for the players or the league.

Four players, James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neal, all are facing allegations of PED use stemming from a report by the now-defunct Al Jazeera America. The NFL decided they wanted to look into the issue, but the players seemed less than pleased to comply, maintaining that nothing had happened. Much of the report’s backing faded once the doctor at the heart of it recanted his statements.

Roger_Goodell
Goodell has the final say on all things regarding player discipline. (Wikimedia Commons)

However, the league still is insisting on meeting with the players, but the players all seemed unwilling to do so. Naturally, Roger Goodell responded by threatening to suspend the players.

No, seriously he did. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which runs through the 2020 season, Goodell has the power to act as judge, jury and executioner. Sounds unfair right? Well don’t feel too bad for the players.

This is their fault. Aaron Rodgers pointed out this week that the players have no one to blame but themselves for the amount of power Goodell has. They focused heavily on fewer padded practices and more mandatory days off to prevent injury during the 2011 negotiations. As a result, the league got to push a more stringent agenda regarding the powers of the league office and most notably Goodell.

The NFLPA is reportedly urging all of these players to take a stand against the NFL in this case to challenge Goodell’s power. However, it sounds like Peppers, Matthews and Harrison are all going to meet with the NFL in the coming days. Neal will not though as he is currently a free agent and theoretically has nothing to lose. The latest is that the NFLPA wants Neal to sue the league over the issue. There is no word on what Neal thinks of that plan yet.

New_York_Giants_vs_Green_Bay_Packers
Mike Neal (far right) played most recently for the Green Bay Packers, along side the also accused Clay Matthews. (Wikimedia Commons)

On the surface, it seems like the players truly have nothing to lose in meeting with the NFL if they have not taken PEDs. They would have their names cleared and avoid a possible suspension. However, this goes much deeper than that. It seems that a number of players, especially Harrison, are fed up with the way that Goodell wields his power. Taking a stand would be a point of pride in acting as if the allegations were beneath you and a challenge to the authority of Goodell.

Unfortunately, after the results of Deflategate, where Tom Brady ultimately will have to serve his four game suspension, players have seen just how far Goodell and the league office are willing to go to maintain this power struggle. It takes a lot of investment to oppose the NFL on an issue like this because of the potential length of the proceedings. Not to mention the NFL’s persistence. We all thought Deflategate was as good as dead when Brady avoided suspension last season, only to find that the league managed to slap him with it this year instead.

The underlying point is that this will continue to be an issue until after the 2020 season, when the CBA is renegotiated. The scary thing is, with how intense the league has been about maintaining absolute control in player discipline, you have to wonder how willing it might be to budge. And if that is the case, we could be looking at another NFL lockout at the start of the decade. The NFLPA is not willing to back down from this fight and continues to look to find ways to challenge this standard even before the CBA is up.

This will be the main topic of those negotiations and you can bet those arguments are going to be very heated.

Understanding Phelps’ dominance

Michael Phelps claims that he swam his last Olympic race Saturday night in the 4X100 medley relay. His teammates aren’t convinced of that though.

Michael Phelps
At age 31, Phelps has said that this was his last Olympics. (Wikimedia Commons)

I would love to see Phelps keep competing. After all, US swimmer Anthony Ervin just won a gold medal at age 35. That is how old Phelps would be when the 2020 Olympics roll around.

Let’s assume though that the greatest Olympian ever really is done. It is time to put into perspective what he has accomplished.

His gold in the relay gave him 28 medals from Olympic competition. He is far and away number one on the list of most awarded male swimmers of all time, with second belonging to current teammate Ryan Lochte. Lochte “only” owns 12 medals of his own. An impressive seven of those are individual medals, meaning he was not part of a team that won the medal. Phelps has 13 individual medals, more than Lochte has total medals.

Outside of the US, the competition isn’t even close. Ian Thorpe of Australia is the top-ranked, non-American swimmer in terms of total medals in history with nine. Phelps blows away all swimming competition, with most of it coming within his own country.

Let’s looking outside swimming though, at the Olympics as a whole. How well has Phelps done there? Well, it turns out that he leads that group too, once again by a sizable margin. Larisa Latynina amassed 18 medals during the 50s and 60s competing for the Soviet Union in gymnastics. Reminder, Phelps has 23 gold medals alone and 28 in total. He has 10 more medals than any other Olympic athlete in history.

In terms of finishing first, the gap is even more staggering. Latynina is tied for second with nine golds along with Americans Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis as well as Finland’s Paavo Nurmi. The fact that Phelps has more than double the number of golds of any other athlete in history should speak volumes about the level of his dominance.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, the New York Times reported that Phelps broke records so old, Jesus wasn’t even born yet when it was set. Phelps won his 13th individual gold medal in the 200 meter IM at Rio this year, which pushed him past Leonidas of Rhodes. Leonidas won his final Olympic medals in the year 152 B.C. That means that Phelps toppled a 2,168-year old record. Just consider that for a second. Done? Yeah, it still hasn’t really sunk in.

The modern iteration of the games hasn’t provided Phelps with any real competition either. Latynina along with fellow Soviet members Nikolai Adrianov and Boris Shakhlin all have six individual gold medals. However, Phelps only narrowly beats out Latynina in terms of total individual medals, by a count of 16 to 14. Still, in ever sense of the word, Phelps is the greatest.

Michael_Phelps
Phelps added six more medals, five gold and one silver, in Rio. (Wikimedia Commons)

This level of dominance is unprecedented. No one has ever had this kind of success in really any other sport. It is not that Phelps just wins these races, he also swims his way through qualifying and semifinal rounds before even reaching the chance to compete for a spot on the podium.

Phelps competed in 30 Olympic finals during his long career. He won a medal in 28 of them. That means that Phelps reached the podium in 93.33 percent of those finals and won gold 76.7 percent of the time. Overall, he competed in 63 Olympic events, including qualifying and semifinal rounds. He or his team finished first 45 times. Even if a medal wasn’t on the line, Phelps won 71.4 percent of the time in his career at the Olympics.

It is hard to really wrap your head around what Phelps has done in his Olympic career. The reality is we will probably never see anyone like him again. The only one who might come close is Katie Ledecky, but we have a long ways to go before we can start truly comparing their medals.

Guilty until proven innocent

It is hard to objectively watch sports. There is so much emotion involved, both positive and negative, that drives fans to have slanted views.

Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez will make his final appearance in a Yankee uniform Friday night. (Wikimedia Commons)

In the case of Alex Rodriguez, there are few people who do not have an opinion. There is a lot of love and hate surrounding him. I can’t say that I know many people who fall somewhere in between.

I will readily admit that I lean more to the side that hates him than loves him. I have my reasons, but that’s not actually what I am interested in talking about here.

A-Rod is one of the most polarizing players ever, and maybe the most in the last 25 years, for baseball. He has hit 696 home runs, won a World Series and been named AL MVP twice. He also has been caught using steroids multiple times, sued MLB and the MLBPA and lied about his use of PEDs. He is a flawed figure no doubt, but one that could really play baseball.

Tonight, this maligned, aging player will likely play in his last game as a professional. Certainly as a Yankee, but I don’t foresee too many teams being interested in him down the road. There has been a lot of talk about Rodriguez’s history and the reasons for the hate. Most of them center around his lack of cooperation when he was accused of using PEDs. He lied, he pointed the blame elsewhere, he threw his doctors and coaches under the bus. It certainly wasn’t a good look.

Rodriguez, with some help from Ryan Braun, has highlighted the development of believing athletes are guilty until proven innocent. And those are just the baseball guys. The cases of Ray Rice, Oscar Pistorious and Jerry Sandusky have contributed to this perpetuating doubt when a player is accused of breaking the rules or the law.

It has become the reality of sports. Tom Brady was immediately assumed guilty in his Deflategate scandal. Whether he was guilty or not, Brady was always in the position of needing to prove his innocence. From the second the question is raised, we all as sports fans jump to the conclusion that the player is guilty and we hold onto our doubt until they are completely cleared. And sometimes we even hold onto it after that.

We no longer will grant athletes the benefit of the doubt. We expect the athlete to complete explain himself or herself right away, otherwise face the wrath of our conviction.

And you cannot really blame the fans for this skepticism after what has happened with Rodriguez. He admitted to using PEDs in 2001 while with the Texas Rangers back in 2009. Then when the Biogenesis scandal was uncovered in 2013, Rodriguez tried to act like he had been duped. In the end, it turned out that Rodriguez was trying to cover everything up, leaving fans furious and with a feeling that they had been played.

Rodriguez tried so hard to beat the system and avoid the suspension associated with the actions he committed and that more than anything else has left sports fans jaded. It is one thing to break the rules or the law if you own up to it. It is another to break the rules or the law and then deny it ever happened and avoid the consequences. For all sports fans, that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Now, it probably isn’t fair to blame this all on A-Rod, but the reality is that he is the pinnacle point of this idea. Fans can no longer give players the benefit of the doubt, because of how far from the truth the athlete can be.

The Yankees were smart to sell

I’m baaack. And I’m talking about something that usually does not come up much on The Aftermath. It’s time to talk some baseball.

The MLB trade deadline has come and gone. There were some major moves in the week leading up to the deadline and one deadline day itself.

Brian Cashman
Yankees GM Brian Cashman restocked the farm system with his series of moves. (Wikimedia Commons)

One team found themselves in a very unfamiliar position and that was the New York Yankees. After two plus decades of being in the hunt and contending for titles, the 27-time champions decided to be sellers at the deadline.

We all know how Yankee fans feel. They should be in the World Series every year, winning every other. So this was a real shock to the system.

New York moved fireballer Aroldis Chapman and reliever Andrew Miller, gutting the bullpen. It also shipped off its most consistently productive bat in Carlos Beltran. And just went you thought Brian Cashman was done, he dealt Ivan Nova to Pittsburgh.

So the Yankees moved their closer, their 8th inning man, a solid starter and their best hitter. That is 100 percent waving the white flag in surrender for this season. However, this one year of selling could have New York as one of the top teams in the league by 2018.

Cashman converted those veteran pieces into at least 11 prospects all 25 years old and younger. That’s how you replenish your farm system in a short period of time.

For the last few years, the talk has been that the Yankees needed to find a way to reload. Jeter retired. So did Mo. A-Rod was suspended then saw his production slip. Texeria couldn’t shake nagging injuries. Neither can Ellsbury. The one thing all of these guys have in common is that they are or were at the tail end of their careers.

Aroldis Chapman
Chapman had 20 saves in 31 appearances for New York this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

Rodriguez will be gone soon and Texeria will be soon to follow. They need to replace each of them in the lineup and Tex at first base. They have some younger talent to build around in the form of Masahiro Tanaka, Dellin Betances, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorious.

Then you have some of the really young guys like Luis Severino and Greg Bird, this team starts to have a decent core. Add in the likes of Justus Sheffield, Clint Frazier, Dillon Tate and Gleyber Torres and suddenly the Yankees have one of the top farm systems in the majors. If these highly-touted prospects reach the potentially many expect of them, we could be looking at another long string of pennant-winning, playoff-bound, championship-caliber Yankee teams in the next few years.

For a team that almost never likes to sell, this was absolutely the right move. Baseball is very different from football, basketball or hockey. The draft is not a surefire way to build to success. There are so many prospects that come out every year in baseball and so many rounds to the draft that it is hard to build that way. Gathering up prospects around the league is the best way to do it.

New York likely will miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, an unprecedented run for the boys in pinstripes, but it comes in a year where the Yankees weren’t a lock to make the postseason anyway. At best, they were a wildcard team that likely would not have made it any further than the ALCS.

Bryce Harper
Rumor has it that Harper is high up the Yankees wishlist. (Wikimedia Commons)

On top of that, they had no future. They had two guys in Severino and Bird that they expected to come up soon and make an impact. Now they have close to a dozen. The future for this Big Apple squad is bright now.

 

So no, the Yankees are not changing their ways and becoming a middle of the road team, content to just compete for the playoffs every year. This franchise still wants to win titles. And now they have the means to do so.

Look out for those 2018 Yankees. And then when Matt Harvey and Bryce Harper become free agents in 2019, New York will truly be back to where it used to be.