ALAMEDA — The day of the rookie starting quarterback is here. And it’s not going anywhere, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Two teams with vastly dissimilar recent histories will face each other Sunday afternoon, with the Raiders’ and Seahawks’ biggest similarity being that they both have starting quarterbacks in rookie contracts who have started since Day 1.
Since a new collective bargaining in 2011 brought budget-friendly contracts for players in their first four seasons, 12 quarterbacks have started 10 or more games in their rookie year.
Add two more quarterbacks who started in Week 1, and players in the two categories have made for more than one-third of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks. According to Carroll, that’s not going to change:
“I think it’s definitely the new way. … I really believe that the quarterbacks have been raised much better. They’re much more advanced at the time when they come out of college now. They’ve thrown the football so much more. The sophistication of the offenses that they’ve been around, the background that they’ve had through all of the preparation, the Elite 11, the quarterback camps and all that stuff, has just brought them to a different level.”
The Raiders drafted Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has posted respectable numbers in his first season with the Raiders: 152 completions in 249 attempts, a 61 percent completion rate, 1,517 yards, nine touchdowns and only five picks.
Russell Wilson, who was Seattle’s starter shortly after the day he was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft, finished his rookie season with 3,118 passing yards, a completion rate of 64.1 percent, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Carr is currently on pace for roughly the same type of quality season, and for a fraction of the cost that Oakland is paying backup quarterback Matt Schaub, his cap hit of $8 million is over eight times that of Carr’s.
There’s also an element of continuity for NFL front offices, or rather, a lack of continuity. Over the last 14 seasons, 23 head coaches have been fired during the regular season. Others meet the same fate at season’s end.
Because of this, it’s become commonplace for teams to utilize younger quarterbacks, attempting to save their own hides from the chopping block and hoping a young player can make them look a little smarter than their past has.
Of course, coaches have one objective, to win games. If quarterbacks aren’t performing, they deserve to be yanked. Those facts don’t change the number of rookie starters at the beginning of a season, though.
Carr shredded the Seahawks in the 2014 preseason and earned his job at the helm of the Raiders.
Playing the majority of his snaps against Seattle’s first team defense, Carr threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter of that game, putting a monstrous grin of the face of then head coach Dennis Allen.
It’s something that led Carroll to high praise of Carr:
“He played great against us and we’ve seen nothing but that, really since Tony (Sparano) took over. … He’s done a lot of marvelous stuff. I can see why they’re excited about him and they’ve demonstrated so much trust and confidence in him by just the nature of the style of offense that they’re willing to throw. He’s shown touch, he’s shown strong arm stuff, he’s shown way down the field stuff, he’s moving well and he looks very comfortable. He looks like a terrific prospect for the years to come and he’s on it right now, he’s got great numbers for the situation and I’m thinking he’s darn good.”
Carroll’s point on quarterbacks being coached up better was only backed by Carr, who said:
“The best quarterback camp I could have was my dad and my brothers, so that’s where I learned my stuff from. I had good coaches through high school who knew the game, who taught me really well. I had great coaches in college that knew protections, understood protections, understood coverage, and how to teach me those things.”
Carr didn’t make the Elite 11 quarterback camp, though he had an older brother who was an NFL starter by the time he was 12 years old. Carr’s older brother, David, quickly became a poster boy for why young quarterbacks shouldn’t start as rookies.
After being sacked on what seemed like every other play, David Carr threw nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his rookie season. David’s numbers progressively improved in the following four seasons that he started, but that didn’t quiet the slew of analysts who contested that, had he not started as a rookie, David would’ve played a long time in the NFL.
Between cap-friendly contracts and teams looking to make a change, rookie quarterbacks are more than a trend. They’re a new reality.