Cam Newton comes along, then he's followed by Robert Griffin III, and the world thinks it will be easy for every rookie quarterback coming into the NFL.
There's a reason rookie quarterbacks struggled for the first nine decades of NFL history. It's hard.
Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Miami's Ryan Tannehill, Cleveland's Brandon Weeden and Seattle's Russell Wilson all started Week 1 as rookies. They all lost.
Luck looked the best of the rookie quarterbacks, aside from Griffin. He also made rookie mistakes. He badly underthrew a pass for his first interception, which was picked off by Tim Jennings. He was intercepted three times in all. When he did get his first touchdown pass, the Colts were trailing 34-14. Still, it was a promising debut:
The other teams' starting rookie quarterbacks have to be a bit concerned that life will be difficult early in the season. Weeden was horrible. Even with Philadelphia's Michael Vick trying everything he could to give the game away, Weeden kept giving it back. Weeden completed just 12 of his 35 attempts for 118 yards and four interceptions. That's an almost unfathomably bad 3.4 yards per attempt. Cleveland lost by one point. A D-minus performance at quarterback might have given the Browns the upset.
The Browns didn't really have a great option to start the season other than Weeden, but the Dolphins and Seahawks picked their rookies over solid veteran options. While Matt Moore stood on the sideline, Tannehill threw three interceptions and had no touchdowns against Houston. He didn't lead one touchdown drive. The Dolphins' lone touchdown came on a punt return. But there's probably no turning back now, no matter how raw Tannehill is.
The same goes for Seattle. Wilson looked great in the preseason and Pete Carroll excitedly made him the starter over Matt Flynn, whom the Seahawks signed this offseason. Then the regular season began and opposing teams started blitzing. Wilson didn't find the same lanes and deep throws he had in the preseason against vanilla schemes. At halftime he had 59 yards passing and had led Seattle to three points. Wilson did rally a little in the second half, and made a nice play on the first touchdown of his career, buying time to hit Sidney Rice in the third quarter.
However, that was Seattle's only touchdown, and Wilson finished with just 153 yards on a lot of dumpoffs (he had just one completion of more than 16 yards) against an underrated but certainly not great Cardinals defense. Wilson does deserve credit for a gutsy final drive that — thanks to a couple pass interference calls — got the Seahawks inside the 10-yard line. But three straight incompletions by Wilson sealed the loss, and a winless day for the rookie quarterbacks other than Griffin.
There could be Griffin-like days for all of those rookie quarterbacks down the road, but there are painfully few who are great right away.