By Steve Silverman
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This was supposed to the season that a couple of rookie quarterbacks named Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III took over the sport and became stars in their rookie year.
With the start of the NFL season just days away, Luck and RGIII just may be able to fulfill the expectations as they get ready to start for the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins.
However, they will have plenty of company. Three other rookie starters will also get the starts for their teams.
Five rookie starters means that the image of the young quarterback wearing his baseball hat backwards on his head and holding a clipboard as a requirement is gone forever.
Not every rookie quarterback is going to get an opportunity, but those who have the accuracy, arm strength, knowledge and confidence will get their opportunities to play.
Russell Wilson won the starting quarterback job over former Packers backup Matt Flynn when he passed every test ex-Jets head coach Pete Carroll put in front of him, beginning with his confident performance at rookie mini-camp in which he confidently handled every offensive snap.
There has been no slippage and he appears to be the real thing. Wilson is tiny by NFL standards – 5-11 and 206 pounds – but he moves around the pocket with ease and can make all the throws. He’s accurate, has more than enough zip on the ball and has that innate ability to read the defense and find the weak spot and exploit it.
Luck, RGIII and Wilson should have outstanding opportunities this year. Wilson’s Seahawks may be a bit more competitive than the Colts and Redskins, but both of those teams should exceed expectations.
The other two rookie quarterbacks have been very impressive this summer, but their chances to succeed appear minimal because their teams appear to be hopeless.
Brandon Weeden gets the call behind center for the Cleveland Browns. His size and strength made him the more impressive quarterback candidate over Colt McCoy and the 28-year-old Weeden was accurate when head coach Pat Shurmur put the ball in his hands.
Weeden has two problems working against him. The Browns have almost no talent at the receiver position and rookie running back Trent Richardson won’t be in top form for a couple of weeks as he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Additionally, Weeden spent several years trying to make it as a baseball player before he realized he couldn’t hit the curveball. Failed baseball players who try to make it as NFL quarterbacks have poor track records. Chris Weinke, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson are just a few of those who tried to return to football and didn’t tear it up.
Ryan Tannehill stood out to head coach Joe Philbin in Miami after veteran quarterback David Garrard’s knee injury. Tannehill played with confidence this summer, showed a strong arm but made typical rookie mistakes reading defenses. He was still better than anyone else the Dolphins had.
If Weeden’s team is bad, Tannehill’s team should be worse. The Dolphins are a team of no-names, particularly at the wide receiver position. Even if Tannehill does everything right, his receivers won’t get open.
Carroll admits that he has undergone a dramatic philosophical change since coaching the Jets and the Patriots. Instead of handing the rookie quarterback a clipboard and a baseball hat, the success of young quarterbacks turned him in the opposite direction.
“I’ve changed my attitude about it just based on the results of the guys,” Carroll told the Seattle Times. “Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan came out, and those guys, both in the same year, played great winning football. And Mark Sanchez found his way to do it.”
Add in Cam Newton and Andy Dalton last year and the case has been made. Rookie quarterbacks have a great chance to succeed.
The 2012 season just may see three of them – Luck, RGIII and Wilson – bring their team shockingly good results.
Is this year’s rookie quarterback class the best the NFL has seen in recent years? Sound off below and send your comments to @ProFootballBoy…