With almost nothing baseball prospect related to write about until the offseason, Prospects2Pros has decided to multi-outfit the blog into a multi sport blog. Look, it’s the best way to use it, and if it helps keep me in practice especially while I have to wait through the non prospect activity that comes with October, then it’s all for the best. You don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. MLB.com doesn’t like it, MLB.com doesn’t have to sponsor it. I just feel that moving into different channels is certainly going to have a positive effect on my writing. And I have no doubt that there are plenty of multi-sport fans who peruse Reddit, MLB.com’s blog network, and so on and so forth. Heck, when I wrote for Bleacher Report, I covered both the Mets and the Jets, as well as the occasional outside sport team. My point is, there is nothing wrong about it, and if there is, it’s not illegal.
Moving on from my little rant, let’s get to the post at hand.
Last year’s NFL season saw the introduction of five very gifted quarterbacks who changed the paradigm that is what a rookie quarterback is expected to do. Andrew Luck shattered rookie records that had been just recently topped, en route to leading the Indianapolis Colts, who had finished with the worst record in the NFL, to a playoff berth. The same happened to former Baylor University star and Washington Redskins starter Robert Griffin III. He took a team that had continually been miring in coaching ineptitude and horrifically bad contracts, and lead them to a playoff berth, all while dealing with injury. Ryan Tannehill, a converted wide receiver out of Texas A&M, helped the Miami Dolphins, who haven’t had a continuous starter since Dan Marino, finish in second place in the AFC East, although granted, the AFC East is probably the weakest division in football right now. And if that’s not enough, there is considerable debate as to whether or not the Seattle Seahawks took the best quarterback in the draft in undersized Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who not only contributed to the re-strengthening of the NFC West as a power division, but actually took his team the farthest in the playoffs in his rookie class, that is, if you do not count Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, who ended up playing half the season and picking up where Alex Smith had left off.
Fans and the media were spoiled rotten by this group of talented gunslingers. Ratings went through the roof when their teams were on primetime TV. All in all, they signified the complete and total annihilation of the old system of sitting a rookie quarterback in his first season, a system that had continually gained in popularity until it reached a head in 2003, when Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer was benched for his entire rookie season, followed a year later by the benching of quarterbacks Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom made late season debuts.
Fast forward now, and we’re looking at what the media calls the weakest rookie quarterback class since 1996. In this year’s class is Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, from Florida State. Manuel, like his predecessor Christian Ponder, a 2011 draft pick, rose up draft boards with a decent senior campaign highlighted by an outstanding Senior Bowl performance, which rose his stock from a Day 2 pick to a top 16 pick. Also in this year’s class is Geno Smith. Smith graduated from the University of West Virginia and was chosen by the New York Jets in the second round of the draft. While the two names lack the notability that their predecessors have, they certainly have had their fair share of controversy. Geno came into what was dubbed by the media as a “circus” environment, supposedly left over from the 2012 season, when the Jets had such star studded names manning the quarterback position as Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, and even Tim Tebow, despite the fact that Tebow never started a game for the team.
The point I am trying to get across here is that Smith, Manuel, and any quarterback from the 2013 class is going to have a rough adjustment period. Sadly, what with the exploits of Luck, Wilson, and Griffin, they will not be given the leeway that they undeniably deserve. Manuel came into a losing culture, the Bills have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL. Despite spending money to improve the team last year, the Bills have no realistic shot at competing unless a miracle happens. Geno, unfortunately is playing in the media capital of the world, where results are expected now, and anything short is considered a failure in the minds of the fans, and the media. You look for instance at the 2013 preseason. Manuel had the poise to play well, but his season started out in doubt when he hurt his knee. Geno, on the other hand, was under the microscope. He had a solid, if unspectacular debut, then in week three, when actually exposed to a full game, he fell to pressure. Three picks later, as well as a safety, people were already clamoring that the season was lost, and even worse, when Mark Sanchez did come in, and got hurt, people latched on to the closest security they had, an undrafted free agent named Matt Simms, who did end up leading the Jets to victory, although 1. it was in the preseason, and 2. it was against third and fourth string football players.
Whatever happens this year to the rookie quarterbacks, you can expect a hard eye. Smith and Manuel are playing in the shadow of what could be arguably one of the best quarterback classes in years, and unless they manage to blow people out of the water, you can expect people to say that the teams that chose them should have waited or should tank and hope for a better quarterback next year. In my opinion, that is grossly unfair, and to that, I also point out that there are 17 weeks to determine what a quarterback can and can’t do.
Would you agree? Should the 2013 class not be judged against the 2012 class? Should the 2012 class be used as a measuring tool to indicate the potential of a quarterback? I leave the floor open to you.