Many quarterbacks struggle in their rookie years

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 15: Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is pursued by Ray Edwards #93 of the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Analyzing and breaking down the play of Blaine Gabbert is all the rage right now. All the cool kids are doing it.

In recent years sports blogging has taken off and the average NFL fan has transformed into an analyzing machine. Everyone has an opinion about every player and is quick to go to the computer to voice it. The easiest position to formulate an opinion about is the quarterback position and this has led to a tremendous amount of Gabbert analysis.

Everyone has created an idea in their head about the type of quarterback that Gabbert is and will be in the future, and is quick to look for any shred of game-day evidence to back their point and allow them to say "I told you so."

The culture of instant criticism has led me to wonder what the reactions would have been to the rookie seasons of some of the NFL's other quarterbacks had there been the same opportunity to hyper-analyze as there is today.

With quarterbacks like Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell and many more examples, there's always the chance that unsuccessful rookie years are just the first of many poor years to come for draft flops. There are also plenty of examples of quarterbacks who struggled their rookie season only to turn their careers around and rise to the elite tier of the NFL quarterbacks.

Here's a list of quarterbacks that struggled their rookie season and developed into good NFL quarterbacks (five of whom are now Hall of Famers).

Year Team Player Comp % Yds/G TD INT Record
1993 Patriots Drew Bledsoe 49.9% 191.8 15 15 5-7
1965 Jets Joe Namath 48.2% 170.8 18 15 3-5-1
1989 Cowboys Troy Aikman 52.9% 159.0 9 18 0-11
1979 Giants Phil Simms 50.6% 145.3 13 14 6-5
1983 Broncos John Elway 47.5% 151.2 7 14 4-6
1970 Steelers Terry Bradshaw 38.1% 108.5 6 24 3-5
1973 Chargers Dan Fouts 44.8% 112.6 6 13 0-5-1
2004 Giants Eli Manning 48.2% 115.9 6 9 1-6
1999 Eagles Donovan McNabb 49.1% 79.0 8 7 2-4
1985 Eagles Randall Cunningham 42.0% 91.3 1 8 1-3
2011 Jaguars Blaine Gabbert 50.6% 148.0 11 10 3-9

I'll reiterate what I've said over and over this season. Blaine Gabbert has struggled this years, but this isn't an unprecedented phenomenon. He joins a long list of quarterbacks that have had poor rookie seasons. In fact, his season looks a lot better than many players who went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Does that mean Gabbert is on a path to the Hall of Fame? No, far from it. However, it's impossible to rule out the possibility that he could become the franchise quarterback the Jaguars intend for him to be. Imagine if the Steelers had given up on Terry Bradshaw after his truly terrible rookie season. Imagine if Twitter and sports blogs existed for Steelers fans to talk about how much they want the Steelers to draft another quarterback.

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