Dan Orlovsky Wants Us All to Move On From 'Archaic' Idea That Rookie QBs Need to Sit on Bench
There were five quarterbacks taken on the first night of this year's NFL draft. However, only two are more or less guaranteed starting jobs from the get-go. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson have both essentially been handed the keys to their respective franchises and only injury stands in the way of a Week 1 start. Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones, however, all seem slated to be on the sidelines for at least the beginning of their NFL careers.
This is unusual in that teams who draft quarterbacks in the first round don't usually have a better option on the roster. It is certainly debatable if the Niners, Bears, or Patriots actually have that, but from the way training camp and preseason snaps have been dished out, the coaching staff of each team seems to believe the best way forward is to have the rook watch and learn for a while.
It's a modern-day reinforcement of the age-old idea that quarterbacks, in particular, benefit from a year of sideline study. There have been many QBs thrown into the fire from Day 1 and went on to very successful careers, of course. The general rule of thumb, though, has long been that rookie quarterbacks struggle in Year 1 and sometimes it's better to avoid the possible damage that comes from that first season by sitting out.
Dan Orlovsky hates this idea as the supporting argument for sitting someone like Fields, who everyone knows is the long-term answer for his team and has only a middling player ahead of him. He called the line of thinking "archaic" and would like us all to move on from it.
It's kind of tough to call it archaic when the best example ever of this strategy working came only four years ago. Patrick Mahomes might go down as the greatest justification for why sitting out a season works great. Tom Brady is another example but his situation wasn't the same; he sat for his first season because he was a sixth-round pick nobody ever heard of rather than a first-rounder who had more to learn. Mahomes clearly has all the physical talent in the world, and supposedly working behind Alex Smith in his rookie season let his mind catch up with his body and set the stage for an MVP season in Year 2.
We'll obviously never know if that's true or not. Mahomes is probably the exception to the rule, anyway. As mentioned above, it's rare for a team drafting a quarterback that highly to have a legitimate option ahead of him the following year. The Niners this season are the closest comp; Jimmy Garoppolo has his flaws but did lead his team to a Super Bowl the last season he was healthy and San Francisco isn't interested in having Lance work out his flaws in the regular season. The Bears and Patriots will have a bit harder time justifying why their rookie isn't starting if last season's outings from their projected starters (Andy Dalton and Cam Newton, respectively) are any indication.
At the end of the day, teams are always going to be cautious with these kinds of players because they're so important to the future. It's difficult to forget guys like David Carr, who was thrown into the fire from Day 1 and had such a bad time of it that it ruined his career. The risk-reward balance is out of whack for Orlovsky's argument in the eyes of the decision-makers.
If Fields becomes the second coming of Mahomes in 2022, then of course the Bears are going to regret making him sit behind Dalton for a year. But that is not likely no matter how good Fields might be and teams aren't going to assume any player will pan out that perfectly. That isn't going to change. Orlovsky's plea will continue to go unheard.