History Lesson: Titans Tough on Current QBs Drafted First Overall

Cincinnati's Joe Burrow is one of seven among current NFL players. Tennessee's record against the other six is exemplary.
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When it comes to his NFL education, Joe Burrow is not lacking for instructors.

The first overall pick in this year’s draft has a head coach, a coordinator and a position coach with the Cincinnati Bengals who all played the same position he does – quarterback.

“There’s a lot of different perspectives and a lot of different experiences that go into coaching myself,” Burrow said Wednesday. “And I pull from all of them. Three great coaches as well. I’m super excited to be working with them. I think it’s going to be a great partnership for many years.”

Nonetheless, there are some things he must learn on his own as he goes. Sunday, the Tennessee Titans hope to teach him some hard lessons, just as they have done with others who have been in his shoes.

Burrow is one of seven quarterbacks drafted first overall currently playing in the NFL. The Titans have played the other six a total of 12 times and have a 9-3 record in those contests. The only one they have not beaten is Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams (2016), who they faced in his second season.

A look at how current NFL quarterbacks who were drafted first overall have done against the Tennessee Titans:

PlayerYearvs. Tennessee

Alex Smith

2005

1-3

Matthew Stafford

2009

0-2

Cam Newton

2011

1-1

Jameis Winston

2015

0-2

Jared Goff

2016

1-0

Baker Mayfield

2018

0-1

Joe Burrow

2020

0-0

Absent from that group, of course, is Andrew Luck, the first overall choice in 2012. Luck retired suddenly prior to the start of last season and ended a seven-year career in which he went 11-0 against Tennessee as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.

It should be noted that Burrow, with 2,023 passing yards through his first seven games, is on pace to break Luck’s rookie record of 4,374 passing yards. He has completed two-thirds of his passes overall and has thrown for 300 yards or more five times – something no other rookie quarterback has done – for the 1-5-1 Bengals.

“I just get the ball to the open guy and let them do the rest,” he said. “We’re worried about wins around here. We’re going to start getting some wins and finishing these things off.”

Based on the current group, though, a victory against Tennessee (6-1) would be one for the history books. When the Titans and Bengals meet at Paul Brown Stadium (Tennessee’s first road game since Sept. 27), it will be the third time in a decade they have faced a quarterback drafted first overall during his rookie season. The first two did not fare well.

The last time Tennessee faced a quarterback drafted first overall during his rookie season was in 2015, when they squared off against Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Things could not have gone better for the Titans that day. Their rookie quarterback, Marcus Mariota (that year’s second overall pick), had a stirring debut in which he had more touchdowns passes (four) than incompletions (two) and produced a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Winston, on the other hand, was 16-33 for 201 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Tennessee won 42-12.

In 2011, the Titans routed the Carolina Panthers and that year’s first overall pick Cam Newton, who finished 23-40 for 212 yards with an interception. He was sacked a season-high five times, and Tennessee won 30-3.

Burrow, for the most part, has helped the Bengals keep it close. Four of Cincinnati’s five defeats have been by five points or fewer, beginning with a 16-13 defeat against the Los Angeles Chargers in his debut and – most recently – a 37-34 loss to Cleveland last Sunday.

“He's given them some options,” Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said. “They go on the ball. They give him some different plays. They've been in empty [backfield]. They spread you out, give the quarterback a chance to see the picture. He can scramble. He can run. … They have a lot of confidence in his ability to run with the football and get out of tough spots in the pocket. Seems to be able to keep his eyes downfield even when he's on the move. They're comfortable with where he's at in his development and they’re throwing for a bunch of yards.”

The yards will continue to add up with every game Burrow plays. So will his understanding of what it is to be an NFL quarterback.

“He’s going to be great for the next 15 years,” veteran Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said. “With him, it’s just getting that rhythm. … It’s always constant communication. Joe is going to be a great one.”