Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, and the Expectations of Young Quarterbacks
Originally posted at isportstimes.com on July 26, 2013
The NFL currently has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young quarterbacks. The two drafts prior to 2013 saw the league add Andrew Luck, RGIII, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Blaine Gabbert to the list of starting NFL quarterbacks, all with varying degrees of success (or, in Gabbert’s case, no success). This influx of young quarterbacks is special in how many of them have experienced immediate success at the NFL level. Luck, Kaepernick, Wilson, RGIII, Dalton, and Ponder have all either won playoff games or at least led their respective teams to the playoffs. (Although it’s tough to say Ponder “led” the Vikings to the post season. Adrian Peterson mostly dragged him there.)
This is a relatively new phenomenon in the NFL. Gone are the days of Carson Palmer and Dante Culpepper riding the pine for one or more seasons as they learn the pro game (although Kaepernick did sit for a season and a half). If a quarterback has a rookie season similar to what Peyton Manning did in his first year, the local media and fans are calling for his head. The Browns drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round in 2012, and a year later draftniks were speculating whether or not they would take Geno Smith.
The NFL has always been a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and that has become especially true with young quarterbacks. But that shouldn’t lead people to dismiss players like Weeden and Tannehill. (You can go ahead and dismiss Gabbert. Seriously, how does that guy get picked in the first round? He plays like a Madden quarterback; just constantly floating back from the line of scrimmage, then turning and throwing the ball to the first defender he sees.) Ten years ago, if a rookie quarterback had a season similar to Weeden or Tannehill (Tweeden? Wannehill?), media talking heads would be all atwitter about the “potential” and “upside” on display. In 2013, media pundits are beyond skeptical of the Tweeden types.
The recent success of young quarterbacks has spoiled fans, media, and perhaps even some coaches as well. Guys like Tweeden should be judged not just against their contemporaries, but against quarterbacks from other generations as well. Quarterback is the hardest position to play in all of sports, and the jump in speed and complexity from college to the pro game is greatest at the QUARTERBACK POSITION (Trademark: Ron Jaworski).
This isn’t to suggest that Tweeden are on the verge of joining the upper echelon of quarterbacks; they both have a lot to improve on. Both of them displayed flashes of brilliance mixed in with mediocrity. Perhaps most importantly, they both showed they could be competent quarterbacks, which means a lot in the NFL. Just ask Jaguar fans.
Ultimately, both guys showed enough that they should be given more time to grow into themselves as playoff-caliber quarterbacks. Despite what we have seen the past two years, success in the NFL doesn’t always happen overnight. Tannehill and Weeden both have the natural ability and toughness to make it in the league, and hopefully the decision makers in their respective organizations give them the chance to shine.