I posted this in a comment thread, but thought that maybe it really deserves a fan post for some additional thoughts. There is a kind of Internet wisdom going around, based it seems on some of the rookie QB successes lately in the NFL, that you just go ahead and start rookies. You let them take their lumps, so the thinking goes, and if they have a bad season you just chalk this up to growing pains.
This guy wanted to find out if 1st year performance for a QB indeed was predictive of success ceilings, so he took every 1st year QB with 200 attempts and grouped them according to an Expected Points metric called NEP. Geno Smith landed in the dreaded Tier 4 Group, the worst, along with his predecessor. See the study for all the quarterbacks in all 4 tiers.
This is what he says about this tier of negative performances:
We could probably call this tier the "I have no business starting in the NFL" tier, but I supposed "Tier 4" works. Essentially, this one’s filled with failures, though, to be fair, not every quarterback in this tier was a top one coming out of school. The only player to win a playoff game out of this group was Mark Sanchez, and, well, we know that story.
The max Passing NEP in Tier 4 was scored by the aforementioned Sanchez, coming in at -68.36. Funny enough, replacement Geno Smith is there right behind him. Either Rex Ryan is horrible at managing quarterbacks, or the Jets are just that bad at picking them through the draft. I’ll go with both.
This isn’t good news for a guy like Smith though. It looks as though, essentially, if a rookie quarterback hits this -68.00 Passing NEP, you can’t really expect much in terms of a future. Though someone like Bruce Gradkowski wasn’t exactly highly touted out of school, half of these players were drafted in the first or second round of the NFL Draft. In other words, these guys weren’t just bums who stayed bums.
If indeed Geno comes to be successful he’ll be bucking a trend that 1st year performances seem to indicate future success (or failure). His conclusion:
This is by no means the end all to grading whether or not a signal-caller will succeed, but it certainly can’t be ignored. For instance, Jets fans should be worried about Geno Smith. The fact that he had such a low Passing NEP total during his first season doesn’t bode well considering how other players with that type of production did over the long run.
The same could almost be said for E.J. Manuel or Mike Glennon. Of course each situation is unique, but given history, quarterbacks who’ve performed the way they did during their rookie season typically have been nothing better than passers who make the playoffs, at most, every once in a while.
The bottom line is that excusing a rookie campaign and saying that a quarterback was "just showing growing pains" may not be valid. That is, unless you want mediocrity for a franchise.
Now, I for one think that there have been indeed extenuating circumstances in Geno's rookie season. We all know them. The breakdown of the OL, RBs and TEs as blockers. The lack of targets. Coming to a new NFL offense, etc, etc, etc. But for those that are of the "Take Lumps" theory, this study might point to something else. Perhaps it isn't just the case of rookie QBs performing poorly because they aren't very good, and then this shows itself in what unfolds. It could also be that once you go through a negative rookie season you can start to become distorted, unless you have something special. Think about Davis Carr here, the guy with the worst rookie season of the bunch. This guy was pretty much ruined, in all likelihood. There are of course historic exceptions. Troy Aikman had a very rough rookie year, but he did possess one of the most accurate arms in NFL history...he had a skill set to really build on. The same could be said, even to a greater degree, about Elway, who was infinitely blessed.
Geno finds himself statistically in very bad company. And while there are excuses, there probably were excuses for a lot of these guys (including Mark Sanchez). Bad rookie seasons can mean a lot of things. It can mean you just don't have the talent. But it could also mean that you are taking a beating that is going to limit you, or that the franchise just inherently doesn't know how to manage young QBs. It does suggest, in a limited view, that if Geno ends up becoming a playoff regular he will be breaking a trend.
Personally I don't think it a good thing for a young QB to just take his lumps. Bad habits can be developed, and confidence is an important quantity.
I think that what really goes against the "take his lumps" thinking is that while it seems likely that many good QBs have been ruined, or at least distorted by early failure, it would appear much less likely that good QBs have been ruined by sitting. We are beyond that now, with Geno going through a poor rookie year. It remains to be seen if he can do what no other tier 4 QB has been able to do.
And while I am of the party that thinks that Geno had a bad hand dealt to him, any Geno supporter will have to answer to the reality that during that 3 game stretch he performed pretty much worse than any QB in NFL history (there are only a few footnote exceptions). Yes, your OL falls apart. Yes, your favorite receiver is out. But we are talking about NFL history, a history filled with adverse circumstances. Yet still all those assailed QBs didn't reach the extended depths of ineptitude that Geno did. During those 3 games Geno just couldn't make the small plays, the mental adjustments, to keep "bad" from becoming "historically bad". And that is troubling. One could argue that that very low floor is what ended up pushing Geno into tier 4, and that floor may be the thing that keeps him from becoming a playoff QB in the end.