How No. 1 QBs Fared As Rookies
Newton became the first rookie to throw for 400 yards in his first game, breaking Peyton Manning's record for most passing yards by a rookie on opening day. Newton was the first rookie to throw for over 4,000 yards and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Sam Bradford signed a huge six-year, $78 million deal after being drafted by the Rams. Bradford was named Offensive Rookie of the Year while establishing a number of rookie QB records. He beat Peyton Manning's records for completions (326) and attempts (590) by a rookie. Bradford became the third rookie in NFL history to start every game and pass over 3,000 yards, along with Manning and Matt Ryan.
''The last mini-camp in June, we're going to have an arms race,'' Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of the battle for the starting QB job between veteran Daunte Culpepper and rookie Matthew Stafford. Stafford won the job, becoming the first Lions rookie quarterback to be the starter at the beginning of the season since Greg Landry in 1968. Stafford played in 10 games and became the youngest quarterback to throw 5 touchdowns in a 38-37 win over the Browns on Nov. 22.
A lengthy contract holdout put Russell behind from the get-go as a rookie. He saw the field in four games, starting one. He started all but one game in 2008, going 5-10.
A knee injury and indecisiveness by head coach Mike Nolan led Smith to play in nine games as a rookie, starting seven. He went 2-5, then 7-9 in his second season.
After forcing a draft-day trade, Manning started seven games for the Giants, going 1-6. The unquestioned starter in 2005, Manning led the Giants to an 11-5 mark.
Palmer didn't play a single snap as a rookie, instead watching and learning from starter Jon Kitna. Palmer took over in 2004 and went 6-7. He broke out in 2005, going 11-5 and leading the Bengals to the playoffs.
Carr started all but five games for the expansion Texans in his first five seasons, including all 16 as a rookie (where he set a record for most sacks taken with 76). But Carr never led Houston to a winning record; he was released in 2007.
The Falcons were cautious with Vick, only giving him two starts as a rookie. They took off the training wheels in 2002 as Vick started 15 games, going 8-6-1 and making the Pro Bowl.
Couch took over as the team's starting quarterback in the second game of his rookie season and went 2-12. Things didn't get much better; he went 22-37 as a starter and was out of football by 2004.
In his rookie season, Manning passed for 3,739 yards with 26 touchdowns and set five NFL rookie records (including, dubiously, most INTs with 28). The Colts only went 3-13 but quickly turned things around in 1999, going 13-3 with Manning making the Pro Bowl.
Bledsoe started 12 games as a rookie and helped the Patriots improve from two wins in '92 to five wins in '93. The early baptism paid off as Bledsoe made the Pro Bowl and led the Patriots to the playoffs in 1994.
George's forgettable four-year run with the Colts began with a 5-7 record as a starter as a rookie, then a 1-15 mark in his second season.
Aikman finished his rookie season with an 0-11 record as a starter, completing 155 of 293 passes for 1,749 yards, 9 TDs, 18 INTs. Aikman and the Cowboys vastly improved in 1990, going 7-9, setting the table for a decade of dominance in Dallas.
Testaverde started four games as a rookie, winning exactly zero. He started every game but two for the Bucs over the next five seasons but never achieved a winning record.
After Elway infamously refused to play for the Colts, he was traded to the Broncos, where he started 10 of 11 games and went 4-6 as a rookie. The early playing time paid off, as Elway led the Broncos to records of 12-2, 11-5 and 11-5 over the next three seasons.
Bartkowski started every game for the Falcons as a rookie and won Rookie of the Year honors, despite a 4-7 record. He started all but two games for Atlanta over the next decade.
Plunkett started every game as a rookie for the Patriots, going 6-8. Interestingly enough, Plunkett would start every game for New England, and later San Francisco, from 1971 to '77, but didn't have a winning record as a starter until 1980 with the Raiders.
Bradshaw started eight of 13 games as a rookie, going 3-5. He didn't fare much better as a second-year QB, going 5-8, but improved vastly in 1972, when he went 11-3.