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New Blood: Does the NFL have a problem coaching young quarterbacks?

As the NFL playoffs continue to rumble on, the majority of football teams are already looking to the offseason, and as heads roll in front offices throughout the league (among other teams, the 49ers, Bills, and Jets are all currently without head coaches), it seems a safe assumption that certain teams will also e undergoing major changes on the field too, and that seems most prominent at the quarterback position. And it seems that when it comes to overhauling QBs throughout the league, it seems around half of them (certainly half from Bucky Brooks’ list) are rather young. This raises an interesting question: do NFL teams have a problem with coaching young quarterbacks?

Looking at the current “elite” crop of quarterbacks in the league, it becomes clear that all of them other than Andrew Luck are seasoned veterans (think Brady, Manning, Rogers, Romo, and Roethlisberger). Obviously players who have been in the league longer have more time to prove themselves, but that ties into the problem coaches seem to have with younger players; they don’t get given that chance to prove themselves.

For evidence of this, look no further than the New York Jets, who appear to be in the market for both a quarterback and certainly for a coach, and their approach to playing Geno Smith, especially in his rookie year when Sanchez was still the backup. Now, Smith’s career stats certainly aren’t going to set the world on fire, but when watching him play, the thing that really stuck out was the limited time he actually spent on the field. He was a rookie on a pretty lacklustre Jets squad and would make rookie mistakes and would then sometimes get benched for the second half of a game while Sanchez came in. With young quarterbacks, it seems wiser to allow them to make mistakes, given they’ll need to adjust to not only an offensive system, but also the difficulty of playing professional football after college.

Another case of a team who are poised to kick a young quarterback to the curb are none other than the Cleveland Browns, who drafted the high-profile college player Johnny Manziel.

Personally, I’ve never been an advocate for Manziel at the pro level, but watching him flounder in the starts he was given (after Hoyer played some ugly games) and then reading that the Browns might be drafting a quarterback for the upcoming season illustrates that, perhaps in the wake of Andrew Luck’s success with the Colts (given that, like Peyton Manning before him, Luck essentially is that team), most coaches seem to expect their rookie quarterbacks, especially the ones drafted in the first round, to appear and revolutionise the team they’re on.

Of course, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, and veteran coaches and quarterbacks aren’t immune to that – just look at Bill Belichick answering “we’re on to Buffalo” to every question at a press conference after the Patriots loss to Kansas this season – but everyone seems to consider a first round draft pick to essentially be a ticket to the playoffs.

Perhaps it would be a bit extreme to say that NFL teams don’t know how to approach coaching young quarterbacks, it seems more that their expectations have been inflated by the understandable need for a franchise quarterback. Some teams will hold on to quarterbacks for years in the hope that they’ll develop into franchise calibre players, like the Bears with Jay Cutler, who also seem to be looking for a quarterback after this season and the “buyer’s remorse” that’s allegedly surrounded him this year. All in all it seems as if NFL coaches need to temper their expectations for young players; not every rookie quarterback can be Andrew Luck, after all.


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