Historically, teams that miss the playoffs often feature new management, first-year coaches, and rookie quarterbacks. There’s been a huge reverse in this trend recently as three out of the four notable rookie quarterbacks have lead their teams into the post-season; two of them with relative ease. Minus Ryan Tannehill, who had a noticeably lower level of talent around him, these quarterbacks were not only able to win games, but were able to become the flat-out leaders and faces of their franchises.
Andrew Luck, RG III, and Russell Wilson are creating a new blueprint for immediate success in the NFL. They are proving that the ceiling for a rookie quarterback is not simply limited to the way they play and that they can take their teams as far as their attitude and leadership skills will take them.
You might describe these guys as anti-Ryan Leafs. Remember Mr. Leaf before the 1998 draft? His rocket arm, great size and immense potential had him neck and neck with Peyton Manning for the No.1 overall pick. Although many argued that Leaf had more potential and raw talent than Manning, the Colts smartly chose Manning with the first pick based on his professional pedigree and strong personality. Even though Manning didn’t have the instant success in his rookie season that these 2012 rookies are having, he quickly developed into an MVP in the next few seasons while Leaf’s career was spiraling out of control.
Their personalities are precisely what sent them on their diverging career paths. Manning hunkered down and earned the respect of his teammates with quiet confidence while leading them to an AFC east title in his second season. He involved himself in many positive community events and was the model citizen that any parent would feel comfortable letting marry their daughter. Leaf on the other hand was off alienating his entire team with his antics and blowing off film study to play golf. He was the problem child that just didn’t want to listen to anyone. If there was ever a perfect example of how personality can trump talent, this is and will always be the standard for this discussion.
As Manning was beginning his career, this year’s rookies were just starting to develop the skills that would make them NFL quarterbacks themselves one day as tweens playing Pop-Warner football. As fans of professional football, there’s no doubt these future rookies looked up to Manning as a role model and blueprint for their dream of making it in the NFL. In particular, Luck has done such a great job at emulating the Manning personality that Colts fans can think of the 2011 season as a fluke nightmare that won’t likely reoccur for another decade or so. The basis of the Colt’s success this year comes down to the fact that they simply replaced a highly-intelligent, poised quarterback with good character with a rookie who had the exact same characteristics. And Manning paved the way for this seamless transition. Every rookie must now realize that beyond talent, the one thing that can make a quarterback have instant success is a great attitude and the ability to lead men with more experience.
In today’s NFL, the personality of starting quarterbacks is scrutinized more than ever. Even when a guy like Jay Cutler leads his team to a 10-6 record, it’s his gloomy expression on the sidelines and his interactions with teammates that get the brunt of the attention. The personalities of these 2012 rookies are entirely derivative of Manning’s and that is why they have enjoyed the early success that surpasses even what Peyton could do in his first season. They are expanding on the standard set by Manning that a rookie can be such a natural leader that he can bypass the two, three-year development process of most highly-touted young quarterbacks and immediately lead his team to a Super Bowl. Who knows if we will ever see a rookie quarterback lead his team to an NFL championship, but this year’s class has set the bar higher than any other in recent memory. Who knows how high the bar will be set next?