EDIT: I know we've had a lot of debate about this subject already, and will continue to do so, but VikingsForever has done a very nice job with this one, so it's time to move it here. - Chris
To start or not to start, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to wait
To learn and prepare
Or to take arms against a sea of doubters
And by playing prove them wrong
Usually people find Shakespeare to be rather confusing. However, I think it is quite possible that he is talking about some dude called Christian Ponder (well, I did change a few words here and there). Shortly after drafting him, Frazier seemed to make it pretty clear that he thought starting Ponder on week one would be the most ideal option. However, because of the prolonged lockout, in recent statements he has appeared to have backed out of this stance and is now considering bringing in a veteran quarterback to mentor Ponder.
Whether a rookie quarterback benefits more from starting right away or backing up a veteran qb is a very interesting question. It's a decision the Vikings will be forced to make in the near future if the season does start on time. To figure out if it is a good idea to start Ponder right away, I decided to take a look at all the quarterbacks who had ever won a Superbowl and see how there careers started. The stats from this search were very interesting.
- 15 (52%) did not start any games in their rookie season e.g. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Joe Montana
- 14 (48%) Played at least one game their rookie season e.g. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning
- Of the 14 that played, 8 (28% of all the QBs) started their first game e.g. Peyton Manning, John Elway
Yes you are reading the stats right, though there have been 45 Superbowls, only 29 quarterbacks have won one, which makes for a rather small sample size. I thought about expanding my search to include quarterbacks who made the Superbowl and lost, but then I would have to include Rex Grossman, which made me change my mind.
Looking at the first two stats it appears as if there is an even divide between the starters and the sitters. However, of the 14 quarterbacks that started during their rookie season only 8 of them started the first game. It can be noted then that 72% of Superbowl winning quarterbacks did not start the first game of their rookie season making a nice case that sitting and learning might be a good idea after all, even if it is just for a short time. Now, lets move on past these stats and look at the pros and cons for starting or sitting.
Sitting and learning
Aaron Rodgers is the poster-boy for the sitting and waiting camp, after being behind Favre for the first three years of his career he went on to win the Superbowl in his third year as a starter. Though vastly overrated by most of the media you have to admit that he did turn out to be a pretty decent qb. Though the argument can be made that Favre wasn't a good mentor, at least by watching Favre, Rodger could learn what not to do at the end of a close game, i.e., throw gut wrenching interceptions.
Pros of sitting:
1. gives the quarterback some time to adjust to the pro game.
2. Helps him build up his confidence before he gets a start.
Cons of sitting:
1. If the quarterback turns out to be bad, the team will have wasted several years on him instead of knowing their need to find a different qb right away.
2. The quarterback misses out on valuable game experience.
Starting during rookie season
Though Peyton Manning went 3-13 his rookie year he set records for the most touchdowns and passing yards by a rookie. The recent trend for rookie quarterbacks has been to throw them out and let them sink or swim. Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Mark Sanchez all lead their teams to the playoffs their first season making a strong case for those who believe a rookie should be the day one starter or at least have significant playing time as a rookie.
Pros of starting:
1. Lets the team see if the rookie can actually play well, allowing the team to move on to someone else if he can't.
2. Gives the rookie valuable game experience, letting him learn from his mistakes.
Cons of starting:
1. The rookie could get sacked 76 times and have his career screwed up.
2. Could be overwhelmed by the pro game and lose confidence.
However there is a third option, and before you start wondering how a rookie could both sit and start at the same time let me explain it.
Personally, I think the answer to the age-old debate over whether or not to start a rookie quarterback is
42 that If you are a quarterback good enough to win a Superbowl, (and that is really the only kind worth having) you are going to play well irregardless of whether or not you start the first game of your rookie season (or any of your rookie season for that matter). If you're good, you are good, if you aren't you are not. We just have to make things so complicated sometimes don't we.
On a side note,just remember, Peyton Manning went 3-13, Aaron Rodgers went 6-10, a "successful" rookie (or first) season can't be compared to a "successful" season for someone like Tom Brady. So don't spaz out if Ponder doesn't lead us to the Superbowl during year one, that can wait till year two. Anyway, make sure to vote on when you think Ponder should make his first start.