With the Jets tabbing rookie Sam Darnold as their starter entering the 2018 NFL season, extending a decade-long streak of first-year signal-callers debuting in Week 1.

By Kaelen Jones
September 10, 2018

There were 13 quarterbacks selected in the 2018 NFL draft, including five chosen in the first round. Entering the season, only one rookie signal-caller has been named a starter for his club to enter the new season: the Jets' Sam Darnold.

On Monday night, Darnold started against the Lions, marking the 10th straight season in which at least one rookie QB has begun the year as his team's starter. The USC product joined a lengthy list of first-year players who emerged as their teams' starting option out of preseason.

Below, we take a look at the others who did so over the past decade, and how they've fared in their debuts and throughout their careers.


Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (First round, No. 3 overall out of Boston College)

Debut: Sept. 7, 2008 Result: W 34-21 vs. Detroit Lions Stats: 9/13, 161 yards, 1 TD

Since being drafted third overall by the Falcons in 2008, Ryan has remained Atlanta's starting quarterback. He's started 158 of a possible 160 career games through 10 seasons, and owns a 95-63 record (60.1% win percentage) as a starter. He missed two games in 2009 because of turf toe. Ryan also led the Falcons to Super Bowl LI.

Notable accomplishments: Four-time Pro Bowler; 1-time All-Pro; 2016 NFL MVP; 2016 AP Offensive Player of the Year; 2008 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (First round, No. 18 overall out of Delaware)

Debut: Sept. 7, 2008 Result: W 17-10 vs. Cincinnati Bengals Stats: 15/29, 129 yards; 4 rush, 37 yards, 1 TD

Like Ryan, Flacco has remained the Ravens starting QB since debuting as a rookie in 2008. He's started 154 of a possible 160 games, missing six games in 2015 after suffering a torn ACL. Through 10 seasons, Flacco owns a 92-62 (59.7%) record as a starter. Flacco led the Ravens to their second-ever Super Bowl title in 2013.

Notable accomplishments: Super Bowl MVP (XLVII), Super Bowl (XLVII) champion 


Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (First round, No. 1 overall out of Georgia)

Debut: Sept. 13, 2009 Result: L 45-27 vs. New Orleans Saints Stats: 16/37, 205 yards, 3 INT; 2 rush, 0 yards, 1 TD

Stafford has remained the Lions' starter since taking over as a rookie in 2009. Through nine seasons, he's started a 125 of a possible 144 games; he missed six games in 2009 due to various injuries, and missed 13 games because of a separated shoulder in 2010. Stafford has compiled a 60-65 record (48%) as a starter. In 2011, he led the Lions to their first playoff appearance since 1999, and guided them to two other trips in 2014 and 2016.

Notable accomplishments: 1-time Pro Bowler; 2011 AP Comeback Player of the Year

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (First round, No. 5 overall out of USC)

Debut: Sept. 13, 2009 Result: W 24-7 vs. Houston Texans Stats: 18/31, 272 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Sanchez played four seasons with the Jets prior to being released after the 2013 season. He was rostered by the Eagles, Broncos, Cowboys and Bears over the next four seasons, and is currently a free agent. Sanchez has a career record of 37-35 (51.4%) as an NFL starter. He helped the Jets reach back-to-back AFC Championship Games (2010, 2011). He last appeared with the Cowboys in 2016.


Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (First round, No. 1 overall out of Oklahoma)

Debut: Sept. 12, 2010 Result: L 17-13 vs. Arizona Cardinals Stats: 32/55, 253 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT

Bradford was a starter for four seasons with the Rams prior to being traded to the Eagles in 2015. After one season in Philadelphia, he signed with the Vikings and played with Minnesota for two seasons before signing with the Cardinals this past offseason. Bradford owns a career starting record of 34-45-1 (42.5%) in 80 starts. Throughout his career, Bradford has notably suffered numerous injuries, including a sprained shoulder (2009), a sprained ankle (2011), two ACL tears (2013, ’14) and a season-ending knee bruise (2017). The embattled veteran has remained a starting option for teams throughout, however, and will open 2018 as Arizona's starting QB.

Notable accomplishments: 2010 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year


Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (First round, No. 1 overall out of Auburn)

Debut: Sept. 11, 2011 Result: L 28-21 @ Arizona Cardinals Stats: 24/37, 422 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 8 rush, 18 yards, 1 TD

Newton has remained the Panthers starting quarterback since debuting in 2011. He's started 108 of a possible 112 games, and owns a 62-45-1 caeer starting record (57.4%). Newton led Carolina to Super Bowl 50.

Notable accomplishments: Three-time Pro Bowler; 1-time All-Pro; 2015 NFL MVP; 2011 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year; 2015 AP Offensive Player of the Year

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (Second round, No. 35 overall out of TCU)

Debut: Sept. 11, 2011 Result: W 27-17 @ Cleveland Browns Stats: 10/15, 81 yards, 1 TD

Dalton has remained the Bengals starting quarterback since debuting in 2011. He's started 109 of a possible 112 games; he missed three games in 2015 because of a fractured right thumb. He owns a 63-44-2 record (57.8%) as a starter. He led Cincinnati to five straight playoff appearances from 2011-15, including two AFC North division crowns.

Notable accomplishments: Three-time Pro Bowler


Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (First round, No. 1 overall out of Stanford)

Debut: Sept. 9, 2012 Result: L 41-21 @ Chicago Bears Stats: 23/45, 309 yards, 1 TD

Luck has remained the Colts starting quarterback since debuting in 2012. He owns a 43-27 career record (61.4%) in 70 starts. He's missed 26 games due to injuries, including all of the 2017 campaign, which he sat out due to a shoulder injury. Luck led the Colts to playoff appearances in each of his first three seasons.

Notable accomplishments: Three-time Pro Bowler

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (First round, No. 2 overall out of Baylor)

Debut: Sept. 9, 2012 Result: W 40-32 @ New Orleans Saints Stats: 19/26, 320 yards, 2 TD; 9 rush, 42 yards

Griffin served as Washington's starter for three seasons prior to being benched, then released following the 2015 season. He last appeared with the Browns in 2016, starting five games for the club. He signed with the Ravens this past offseason and is on Baltimore's roster entering the 2018 season. With Washington, Griffin started 35 games out of a possible 64; he missed 29 games due to various injuries, including a torn ACL, LCL and meniscus that forced him out for a majority of the 2013 campaign. He has a career starting record of 15-25 (33%).

Notable accomplishments: One-time Pro Bowler; 2012 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (First round, No. 8 overall out of Texas A&M)

Debut: Sept. 9, 2012 Result: L 30-10 @ Houston Texans Stats: 20/36, 291 yards, 3 INT

Tannehill has remained the Dolphins starting QB since debuting in 2012. He's started 77 of a possible 96 games; he missed three games in 2016 and all of the 2017 season because of a torn ACL. Tannehill owns a career starting record of 37-40 (48.1%).

Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns (First round, No. 22 overall out of Oklahoma State)

Debut: Sept. 9, 2012 Result: L 17-16 vs. Philadelphia Eagles Stats: 12/35, 118 yards, 4 INT

As a 29-year-old rookie, Weeden started 15 games, then five more in his second year prior to being released by the Browns. He's had stints with the Cowboys, Texans and Titans. His last appearance was in 2015 with Houston, where he was re-signed this offseason after his contract with Tennessee expired. Weeden owns a 6-19 career record (24%) as a starter.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (Third round, No. 75 overall out of Wisconsin)

Debut: Sept. 9, 2012 Result: L 20-16 @ Arizona Cardinlas Stats: 18/34, 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 8 rush, 20 yards

Wilson has remained the Seahawks starting QB since debuting in 2012. Entering the 2018 season, he had yet to miss a start in his career, appearing in all 96 regular season games through six seasons. He owns a 65-30-1 (67.7%) career starting record, and led Seattle to capture its first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

Notable accomplishments: Four-time Pro Bowler; Super Bowl (XLVIII) champion


E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills (First round, No. 16 overall out of Florida State)

Debut: Sept. 8, 2013 Result: W 23-21 vs. New England Patriots Stats: 18/27, 150 yards, 2 TD

Manuel started 10 games during his rookie season in Buffalo. He would start seven more games during his next three seasons with the Bills, prior to signing with the Raiders in 2017. Manuel made one start in Oakland, and after two seasons, was waived by the club after this preseason. He owns a 6-12 (33%) career record as a starter.

Geno Smith, New York Jets (Second round, No. 39 overall out of West Virginia) 

Debut: Sept. 8, 2013 Result: W 18-17 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Stats: 24/38, 256 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 6 rush, 47 yards

Smith was the Jets starting QB for two seasons before being demoted to a backup role for the following two years. He played one season with the Giants in 2017 and started one game, prior to signing with the Chargers this offseason. Smith owns a 12-19 (38.7%) career record as a starter through five seasons.


Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (Second round, No. 36 overall out of Fresno State)

Debut: Sept. 7, 2014 Result: L 19-14 @ New York Jets Stats: 20/32, 151 yards, 2 TD

Carr has remained the Raiders' starter since debuting in 2014. He's started 62 of a possible 64 regular season games; he missed the 2016 regular season finale after breaking his leg, then missed one game in 2017 because of a back injury. Carr owns a 28-34 (45.2%) record as a starter, and in 2016 guided Oakland to its first winning season since 2002.

Notable accomplishments: Three-time Pro Bowler


Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (First round, No. 1 overall out of Florida State)

Debut: Sept. 13, 2015 Result: L 42-14 vs. Tennessee Titans Stats: 16/33, 210 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

Winston has remained the Bucs starting quarterback since assuming the role in 2015. He's started 45 of a possible 48 regular season contests. He owns a 18-27 (40%) career record as a starter. In 2016, Winston led Tampa Bay to its first winning season since 2010.

Notable accomplishments: One-time Pro Bowler

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (First round, No. 2 overall out of Oregon)

Debut: Sept. 13, 2015 Result: W 42-14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Stats: 13/15, 209 yards, 4 TD; 2 rush, 6 yards

Mariota has remained the Titans starting QB since debuting in 2015. He's started 42 of a possible 48 career regular games; he missed four games in 2015 due to a sprained MCL, one game in 2016 because of a broken leg, and one game in 2017 due to a pulled hamstring. Mariota has a 20-22 (47.6%) career record as a starter. Last season, he led the Titans to their first playoff appearance since 2008. 


Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Fourth round, No. 135 overall out of Mississippi State)

Debut: Sept. 11, 2016 Result: L 20-19 vs. New York Giants Stats: 25/45, 227 yards; 2 rush, 12 yards

Prescott has remained the Cowboys starting QB since taking over the role in 2016. Prescott has started all 32 regular season games through two years. He owns a 22-10 (68.9%) record as a starter.

Notable accomplishments: One-time Pro Bowler; 2016 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (First round, No. 2 overall out of North Dakota State)

Debut: Sept. 11, 2016 Result: W 29-10 vs. Cleveland Browns Stats: 22/37, 278 yards, 2 TD

Wentz has remained the Eagles' top starting option since his debut in 2016. He's started in 29 of a possible 32 regular season games; he missed the final three games last year after suffering a torn ACL. Wentz owns a 18-11 (56.3%) record as a starter.

Notable accomplishments: 1-time Pro Bowler; Super Bowl (LII) champion


Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (First round, No. 12 overall out of Clemson)

Debut: Sept. 10, 2017 Result: L 29-7 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Stats: 12/23, 102 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 2 rush, 16 yards

Watson has retained his role as the Texans starting quarterback entering his second year in the league. Watson led Houston to a 3-4 record prior to suffering a torn ACL injury that ended his rookie campaign last year. 

DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns (Second round, No. 52 overall out of Notre Dame)

Debut: Sept. 10, 2017 Result: L 21-18 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Stats: 20/30, 222 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 5 rush, 17 yards, 1 TD

Kizer started 15 games for the Browns last season, missing one game after being benched. He went 0-15 as a starter in Cleveland. This offseason, he was traded to the Packers, and beat out Brett Hundley for Green Bay's backup gig during the preseason.


Sam Darnold, (First round, No. 3 overall out of USC)

Debut: Sept. 10, 2018 Result: W 48-17 vs. Detroit Lions Stats: 16/21, 198 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT


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