When Josh Allen was declared the starting quarterback of the Bills entering Week 2 against the L.A. Chargers, there were only two rookie starters in the NFL. He and Jets QB Sam Darnold.
Two weeks later that number has doubled.
Both Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen were named starting quarterbacks for the Browns and Cardinals respectively heading into Week 4 action.
It marks just the fourth time in the Super Bowl era that at least four rookie quarterbacks will have started a game in the first four weeks of a season, joining the 2016 (four), 2012 (five) and 1971 (five) seasons.
“I just want to win football games. That’s it.” Bills quarterback Josh Allen
Mayfield was brought on last week for an injured Tyrod Taylor and subsequently earned the starting job after a 17-23 passing performance that led the Browns to their first victory is almost two calendar years.
Rosen, much like Allen, was inserted into the lineup due to performance issues at the position in Week 3.
The Cardinals rookie saw his first action with the game on the line last week. He was just 4-7 passing for 36 yards with an interception that effectively ended Arizona’s chance to win the game. But he too has been elevated to the top of the Cardinals quarterback depth chart.
"Looking at the situation and evaluating the film, evaluating the quarterback position, I’ve decided that Josh Rosen will be our starter going forward," said Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks. “I think he gives us the opportunity to be successful.”
So, in the final week of September four of the five quarterbacks taken in round one will be starting for their respective clubs. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson has seen game action, but Joe Flacco remains the starter for the Ravens.
Every head coach who has turned to their rookie signal caller knows the potential pitfalls involved when putting an inexperienced QB on the field.
“It’s all a process. He’s going to have some growing pains -- that happens as a rookie,” said Wilks of Rosen. “But you’ll see some great things from him as well.”
“We know that it is a long season – all kinds of things can happen,” said Jackson.
Proof of those growing pains have already been witnessed in the Jets’ Sam Darnold, who lit up the scoreboard in a Week 1 blowout win over the Detroit Lions, only to come back to earth against the Dolphins and Browns.
In his last two games, Darnold has completed just over 55 percent of his passes, but has one touchdown pass against four interceptions.
“The biggest thing I’ve been able to do with the tape is self-evaluate and most of the things I’ve done wrong the last two games are very correctable and that’s a good thing,” Darnold said. “So just letting the game come to me and understand what the defense is trying to do, get the ball in my playmakers’ hands and take what the defense gives me and when the shot is there, take the shot.”
“I think he’ll come out of this fine,” said Jets coach Todd Bowles. “Sam has the right mentality and work ethic to learn what he’s done wrong. Everything he learns from is through experience, so he’ll come out of it fine.”
Thus far, Mayfield has proven to be the most accurate, completing more than 73 percent of his passes, though he’s had just one appearance. Darnold has the most touchdown passes (3), but also the most interceptions (5), due mainly to the fact that he’s seen the most time on the field.
Allen leads by a wide margin in rushing yards and has the most combined touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing).
“There were obviously some good things for him,” said Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll of Allen’s most recent performance. “[He] was good with his reads for the most part and made some loose plays with his feet. I think his footwork is getting better, his eye control and getting the ball out on time is getting better, but there are some good examples of some things we need to clean up. [It will] continue to be a work in progress.”
Three of the four rookies QBs have road games this weekend. Allen and the Bills are at Green Bay on Sunday. Mayfield and the Browns are in Oakland. Darnold and the Jets play at Jacksonville. Only Rosen is home facing the Seahawks.
Allen likely spoke for his fellow draft classmates when he outlined what his focus is going forward.
“We’re still getting better and understanding what we can and can’t do as an offense,” he said. “I just want to win football games. That’s it.”