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NFL playoffs: Are rookie QBs outliers or start of a new era?

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He points to New York Giant Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP who had a losing record his first season with the Giants (and one dismal game with a 0.0 quarterback rating) but showed flashes of brilliance. Or there was John Elway, who was “pathetic” as a rookie but could “still throw the ball quickly and was a decent runner."

Eventual Hall of Famer Troy Aikman went 0-11 in his first season with the Dallas Cowboys, throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. “And he looked bad doing it,” Tanier says. "There were questions then, but that quarterback would definitely be on the hot seat now.”

Better earlier

Today’s rookies have the potential to fare better earlier for two reasons.

One, the game’s sophistication has been trickling downward at a steady rate for many years. “Playbooks have expanded significantly at lower levels, and there’s an increasing level of professionalism at the high school level,” Tanier says. Head coach of a good high school football team is a full-time job, not done by someone who also teaches classes. 

“You have to go to the countryside to see them running a T-formation,” he says. “In high school, they’re already running no-huddle offenses and progression of reads.” 

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