There comes a point in a parent’s life when they expect a child to grow up, be responsible, and struggle. That struggle is necessary for just about every child to grow up, whether it comes to walking as an infant, riding a bike, or even driving a car. The child takes time to become an adult and there are many growing pains that the children must go through to stand on their own.
Players signed to their rookie contract are considered to be the same, especially at the quarterback position. With a number of offensive head coaches being hired with the belief that they can lead teams to wins on the arm of a young quarterback, teams often decide to put away the development process that quarterbacks must go through to succeed. There are many ways for a quarterback to stagnate from their rookie or sophomore season, and this article will detail why.
#1: Smaller surrounding cast
The popular narrative often paints Dak Prescott as a player who declined from his rookie season. However, the reality is that he revolves on the high-quality talent around him to make himself look better as a passer.
During his rookie season, Prescott was protected by 3 first-team All-Pro offensive linemen, was able to hand the ball off to a first-team All-Pro running back in Ezekiel Elliott, and had a matchup nightmare in Dez Bryant, another first-team All-Pro, to pose as a vertical threat to open the passing game.
When compared to the team today, Prescott is faced with a more pass heavy offense which relies upon a great but not spectacular offensive line, a running back who looks heavier and seems to not be as explosive as he was during his rookie season, and a great receiver in Amari Cooper who struggles against top-tier corners.
The point is, the situation is different. However, one thing that has remained the same is Prescott’s inability to make tight throws in coverage and even miss wide open receivers sometimes.
Jared Goff, the starting quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams, is currently experiencing somewhat of a decline as well this season. With their starting center in John Sullivan becoming a free agent and Rodger Saffold leaving for the Tennesee Titans, the Rams already experienced a weaker offensive line group, with 2018 draft pick Brian Allen not living up to expectation.
Some of Goff’s receivers missed games, and Todd Gurley was not used as much due to the arthritis injury, giving Goff a slightly smaller group of play-makers to work with, and it took Sean McVay to rescheming some of the team’s run game from outside zone to power running plays to get Goff to thrive in his usual play-action style from last year.
Without some of his valuable weapons on offense, the system-dependent quarterback has appeared to stagnate as a player, and in order to improve as a quarterback, Goff needs to learn the position with less around him, as he has plenty of talent around him to sling the ball to.
#2: Bad Coaching
When looking upon the differences between Mitchell Trubisky from his “Pro Bowl” caliber season last year, and the mediocre season that many see in him this season, the reality happens to be that Trubisky actually improved as a quarterback.
However, Trubisky’s improvement isn’t aided by Matt Nagy’s playcalling, which returns results of little to no gain on rushing plays, and sail concepts called on 4th and 23.
With the previous season being used to show Trubisky’s growth within a quick passing game, and as a quarterback capable of extending plays with his legs, Trubisky was forced to become an immediate pocket passer relying on unconventional playcalling.
Some of these playcalls require Trubisky to hold the ball for an extended period of time, and it does not help that the play of the offensive line has declined with an injured Bobby Massie and an injury-prone Kyle Long looking into retirement.
As the season progressed, Trubisky found play calling that better suited his play style, and his progression as a quarterback immediately resumed after he was surrounded with plays that utilized the strength of the offense.
#3: Knowledge of the Playbook & Film Study
If you haven’t heard the infamous story involving Jamarcus Russell in his rookie season, it is certainly a good one. In short, Russell was given empty tapes to “study” since his coaches didn’t think he was watching film. Russell said that he watched the tapes, and then the coaches told him that the tapes were empty.
While this may be an extreme example of how quarterbacks didn’t know the offensive playbook, NFL playbooks have only gotten more complicated with the league transitioning into a passing league. This only puts more pressure upon the quarterback to perform at a higher-level since there is simply more put upon their shoulders.
Patrick Mahomes II and Aaron Rodgers were some of the few quarterbacks who rode the bench for their rookie season. Allowing them a year to understand the playbook made it easier for them to grow afterwards, since they now had a strong fundamental grasp of the playbook.
Occasionally, there are rookies who get injured as well. After returning back from injury, they often return with a better game. Last season, quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Allen transformed their game after returning from injury.
Both were suddenly pushing passes down the field, and seemed like quarterbacks who have shown tremendous growth for that season. They used their injury to study their flaws as quarterbacks and grew from it, showing tremendous growth from their stages of infancy in the NFL.
Quarterbacks are the most important position in football. In order for them to build a strong base to grow, the teams that grow them must set them up for success on game day and struggle during the practice week.
Young quarterbacks must be exposed to challenges in the NFL, as opposing defenses will be knowledgeable of their flaws and will continuously attack their weakness until growth is shown. This transition from weakness to strength is what divides college football legends from franchise quarterbacks.