Ask any New Orleans Saints fan what they fear most and you’ll likely hear about a rookie quarterback. And it’s understandable to get that reaction.
Robert Griffin III traumatized an entire generation of Saints fans back in his 2012 rookie debut, torching a defense they had spent all offseason talking up as a tighter, more professional unit with Steve Spagnuolo replacing Gregg Williams. Griffin threw for 320 yards and scored a pair of touchdown passes in his first career start, also cruising for 42 yards against a Saints defense that looked too old, slow, and undermanned to challenge him. His squad won the day 40-32.
Then it seemed to happen again when the Saints met Jalen Hurts in 2020. Hurts only threw for 167 yards and a score in that matchup, but he shredded a run defense that had been the team’s strength for years — totaling 106 rushing yards on the day in a tough 24-21 win. He ended a yearslong streak of games played without allowing a 100-yard rusher on his own.
And that only strengthened the narrative that the Saints struggle to defend rookie quarterbacks. It makes sense on paper between those highlight performances and the assumption that a lack of NFL game film can limit how the defense can prepare for these young passers. But the stats tell a different story. The Saints have a stronger record against first-year quarterbacks than you may think.
Per Statmuse researching, the Saints went 2-1 against rookie quarterbacks last season (falling 20-10 to Kenny Pickett’s Pittsburgh Steelers). They’re 15-6 against those first-year passers since 2017, when cornerstone defenders like Marshon Lattimore arrived joined the team. Take it back to Sean Payton’s first year on the job in 2006 and you’ll find that the Saints are 39-19 against rookie quarterbacks. How’s that for a busted narrative?
We’ll have to wait and see whether that streak of success continues against Bryce Young and the Carolina Panthers next Monday night (as well as the many fresh-faced quarterbacks lined up against New Orleans this season). But Saints fans should have some confidence that their team’s defense is going to show up for this matchup just like they have in the past.