Wait Might Not Be Long Based on the Past

Past rookie experiences suggest several reasons Bears rookie QB is likely to play but the impact is anyone's guess
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The drumbeat began with Justin Fields selection and the faint cries are rapidly become louder.

Fans will want to see Fields starting in Week 1 or shortly thereafter. It will need to be thereafter.

Those who think this will happen, that Matt Nagy's promise to develop a passer is garbage or camouflage for his real plan, are merely deluding themselves.

Nagy said the key is, "...making sure that he’s getting reps, where he’s getting them, how’s he getting them, where’s the extra work coming in, the film study." 

Fans want the reps in games, coaches want it in practice or preseason.

Nagy was part of the Kansas City experience with Patrick Mahomes and he didn't play until Week 17 of his rookie year, only a token start in a meaningless season finale before Alex Smith started a playoff loss. Then Mahomes took over to begin Year 2.

It goes beyond this, however. Starting first-round quarterbacks in Week 1 has become less and less common over the years as teams have studied how passers perform when they get on the field and are unprepared.

From 2011-13 6 of 9 first-round quarterbacks selected started on opening day. Since the 2014 draft, only six of the 23 quarterbacks taken in Round 1 have started opening day.

So the trend and Nagy's background strong lend themselves to Fields watching Andy Dalton playing on opening day regardless of the clamoring of fans and "analysts."

Fields is already an anomaly as a first-round quarterback selected by a playoff team, anyway. Only Jordan Love, Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen from among the 32 quarterbacks drafted in Round 1 over the last decade went to teams that made the playoffs the previous season.

There is more bad news for the rush-the-quarterback crowd, but first the good news from their perspective.

They shouldn't need to wait long into the season to see Fields play.

There have been only three first-round quarterbacks in the last decade who had to wait as long as Mahomes to get a start. Besides Mahomes, there was Jake Locker and he started the opener of Year 2, and Love, who hasn't played yet but could start the opener if Aaron Rodgers carries on his grudge against the Packers.

The average starting point for the other 29 first-rounders taken was Week 3, or 3.4 to be exact. It's Week 4, or 4.3, if you take into account Mahomes' Week 17 start and Locker's start in his 18th NFL week.

So the Mitchell Trubisky experience with Mike Glennon and starting in Week 5 wasn't entirely out of the norm. Actually, it was the norm.

The only reason to expect Fields to ride the bench almost the entire season would be for Dalton to take the NFC North by storm or the Bears to regain their dominant 2018 defensive status, and time seems to have eroded chances for either. 

Dalton hasn't quarterbacked a playoff team since 2015 and the Bears 2018 defense is half gone. They're missing 50% of the top 12 players on that defense, the coordinator and every position coach. There are six holdovers and new coordinator Sean Desai is a disciple of the system used then, but has never been a coordinator and wasn't even a position coach in 2018.

The remaining bad news?

If Fields is playing. things are not going well for the Bears and it's unlikely he'll be performing at a level among the league's top passers.

Of the 30 over the last decade who started as rookies, only Robert Griffin III, Lamar Jackson and Andrew Luck quarterbacked teams into the playoffs as rookies. Of all the quarterbacks who played their first year at all, only Luck, Griffin, Mahomes, Paxton, Tua Tagovailoa and Jackson played for teams who had winning records their rookie years.

Only eight of the 29 managed to achieve quarterback ratings in their first seasons as high as Mitchell Trubisky's career passer rating of 87.2.

And even Mahomes didn't play well when he did get on the field as a starter as a rookie. In that one game he did win as a rookie starter, Mahomes had a touchdown pass, an interception, played to a sub-par passer rating of 76.1 but did give a glimmer of hope with an average of 8.1 yards per pass attempt.

In short, the percentages say Fields will likely play sooner than Nagy says, will play because the season isn't going well and will not be an immediate smash success. Who knows what that will mean for the future of Fields, or the coaching staff and GM Ryan Pace for that matter?

When quarterbacks wind up starting is largely subjective but the general trend is making them wait at least several games and not throwing them in Week 1.

Patience is a virtue for fans when it comes to watching their rookie quarterback.

First-Round Rookie QBs 

(Last 10 Years)

PlayerTeamWeek of 1st Rookie StartRookie Starting RecordRookie Passer Rating

2020

Joe Burrow

Bengals

Week 1

2-7-1

89.8

Tua Tagovailoa

Dolphins

Week 8

6-3

87.1

Justin Herbert

Chargers

Week 2

5-11

98.3

Jordan Love

Packers

Has not played

-

-

2019

Kyler Murray

Cardinals

Week 1

5-10-1

87.4

Daniel Jones

Giants

Week 3

4-12

87.7

Dwayne Haskins

Washington

Week 9

2-5

76.1

2018

Baker Mayfield

Browns

Week 4

7-8-1

93.7

Sam Darnold

Jets

Week 1

4-9

77.6

Josh Allen

Bills

Week 2

5-6

67.9

Josh Rosen

Cardinals

Week 4

3-10

66.7

Lamar Jackson

Ravens

Week 9

6-1

84.5

2017

Mitchell Trubisky

BEARS

Week 5

4-8

77.5

Patrick Mahomes

Chiefs

Week 17

1-0

76.1

Deshaun Watson

Texans

Week 2

3-3

103.0

2016

Jared Goff

Rams

Week 11

0-7

63.6

Carson Wentz

Eagles

Week 1

7-9

79.3

Paxton Lynch

Broncos

Week 5

1-1

79.2

2015

Jameis Winston

Buccaneers

Week 1

6-10

84.2

Marcus Mariota

Titans

Week 1

3-9

91.5

2014

Blake Bortles

Jaguars

Week 4

3-10

69.5

Johnny Manziel

Browns

Week 14

0-2

42.0

Teddy Bridgewater

Vikings

Week 4

6-6

85.2

2013

E.J. Manuel

Bills

Week 1

4-6

77.7

2012

Andrew Luck

Colts

Week 1

11-5

76.5

Robert Griffin III

Washington

Week 1

9-6

102.4

Ryan Tannehill

Dolphins

Week 1

7-9

76.1

Brandon Weeden

Browns

Week 1

5-10

72.6

2011

Cam Newton

Panthers

Week 1

6-10

84.5

Jake Locker

Titans

No rookie starts

-

-

Blaine Gabbert

Jaguars

Week 3

4-10

65.4

Christian Ponder

Vikings

Week 7

2-8

70.1

 

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