The Jets probably want Geno Smith to start Week 1 against the Buccaneers. It really is not going out on a limb to say that. There might be six quarterbacks on the roster, but Geno is now the quarterback of the future. Mark Sanchez got his chance and failed. Tim Tebow was never going to get his chance. Greg McElroy looked like a career backup when he got his chance. David Garrard is a veteran stopgap. Matt Simms failed to become the quarterback of the future for his college team.
The only probable way Geno does not start the opener is if he is so not ready that the Jets could not possibly put him out there. Since he's the favorite, what should we expect from him. Obviously, it would be a reach to expect him to be Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees year one. If those are your expectations, temper them a bit. Geno probably will not be able to carry the team on his back.
He still should show something, right? What are reasonable expectations for a rookie quarterback? I've done a bit of statistical research on rookie quarterbacks over the last five years. I looked at all eighteen rookie quarterbacks who threw over 200 passes in their first NFL season in the last five years. I divided them into two groups, franchise quarterbacks and non franchise quarterbacks. I loosely defined a franchise quarterback as a quarterback good enough that there was no chance his team would think about drafting a replacement as a starting quarterback in the 2013 Draft. The others fell into the non-franchise quarterback group. The one exception was Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins weren't picking a replacement for him, but that is due less to his production than his upside and the fact they used a first round pick on him a year ago. By pure coincidence, there were nine in each group.
Here is what I found:
Average rookie franchise quarterback (Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson):
59.5% completion percentage
7.26 yards per pass
4.1% touchdown rate
2.8% interception rate,
83.2 quarterback rating
Average rookie non-franchise quarterback (Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles):
55.9% completion percentage
6.34 yards per pass
2.8% touchdown rate
3.7% interception rate
68.7 quarterback rating
Lest you think one or two guys on each side are skewing the averages, consider the following:
- Six of the nine from the franchise category completed at least 60% of their passes. Seven of the nine from the non-franchise quarterback completed under 60% of their passes.
- Only two quarterbacks from the franchise category averaged less than 6.9 yards per attempt. Only two quarterbacks from the non-franchise category averaged more than 6.9 yards per completion.
- Six of the nine from the franchise category had a quarterback rating over 80. None from the non-franchise category did.
- 3.1% was the lowest touchdown rate among franchise quarterbacks. That would have ranked second among non-franchise quarterbacks.
- 3.3% was the second worst interception rate among franchise quarterbacks. It was the second best among non-franchise quarterbacks.
- Eight of the nine franchise quarterbacks had a higher touchdown rate than interception rate. One of the nine non-franchise quarterbacks did, and even the one that did only had a barely positive 2.9% touchdown to 2.7% interception ratio.
- Every franchise quarterback had a touchdown rate of at least 3%. Two non-franchise quarterbacks did.
So what you can see is there seems to be a correlation between play as a rookie and play past the rookie year. You probably are not surprised. If you are better as a rookie, you are probably going to be better as your career goes on. Even if you take out the six 2012 rookies whose futures beyond their first season are unknown, the findings remain stable.
A guy who is good as a rookie stands a good chance to develop into a good quarterback. A guy who is bad as rookie is likely to stay bad.
So let's say for the sake of argument the Jets throw 500 times in 2013. That's a high end estimate a rookie but in line with the workload Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden got as rookies, more than Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco, and less than Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck. Marty Mornhinweg likes to throw. Rex Ryan likes to run. We'll split the difference. What would we expect from Geno Smith using these averages?
These are just rough estimates, but they can be used as benchmarks. If Geno's stats resemble the top, it will be an indication he is on path to becoming a top tier quarterback. If his stats resemble the bottom, the Jets should seriously consider taking another quarterback early in 2014.