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Inexperienced quarterbacks

Posted by Doug on October 10, 2006

I got an email last week from a reader who was interested in knowing if 2006 should be called The Year of the Inexperienced Quarterback. The Titans, Browns, Bills, Chargers, Raiders, Bucs, Bears, Cardinals, and 49ers all look like they may be prepared to finish out the season with quarterbacks who, prior to this year, had no more than a handful of starts on their resumes. How rare is this?

The GS (games started) column in my database is not complete right now unfortunately, so I will estimate experience by looking at career passing attempts. Let's start with this list of quarterbacks since 1970 who (a) led their team in passing attempts and (b) had not thrown a single NFL pass prior to that season.


YR TM Green QB
==========================
1970 buf Dennis Shaw
1970 pit Terry Bradshaw
1971 nwe Jim Plunkett
1971 hou Dan Pastorini
1971 gnb Scott Hunter
1972 phi John Reaves
1973 sdg Dan Fouts
1973 buf Joe Ferguson
1974 sfo Tom Owen
1975 nwe Steve Grogan
1975 atl Steve Bartkowski
1976 sea Jim Zorn
1977 nyg Joe Pisarcik
1978 sfo Steve Deberg
1978 tam Doug Williams
1979 det Jeff Komlo
1979 kan Steve Fuller
1979 nyg Phil Simms
1980 mia David Woodley
1981 det Eric Hipple
1982 bal Mike Pagel
1982 chi Jim McMahon
1983 mia Dan Marino
1983 den John Elway
1983 hou Oliver Luck
1984 hou Warren Moon
1985 ram Dieter Brock
1985 cle Bernie Kosar
1986 buf Jim Kelly
1986 ind Jack Trudeau
1986 ram Jim Everett
1988 ind Chris Chandler
1989 dal Troy Aikman
1990 ind Jeff George
1991 pit Neil O'Donnell
1991 pho Stan Gelbaugh
1993 sea Rick Mirer
1993 nwe Drew Bledsoe
1994 was Heath Shuler
1995 car Kerry Collins
1996 stl Tony Banks
1997 ari Jake Plummer
1997 sdg Craig Whelihan
1998 ind Peyton Manning
1998 det Charlie Batch
1999 cle Tim Couch
1999 sfo Jeff Garcia
2000 min Daunte Culpepper
2001 car Chris Weinke
2001 dal Quincy Carter
2002 hou David Carr
2002 det Joey Harrington
2002 dal Chad Hutchinson
2003 jax Byron Leftwich
2003 bal Kyle Boller
2004 cin Carson Palmer
2004 pit Ben Roethlisberger
2005 chi Kyle Orton
2005 sfo Alex Smith
2006 oak Andrew Walter

As of now, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Bruce Gradkowski are not their teams' leaders in pass attempts. It's probable, but not certain, that at least one or two of them will be by the end of the year. On the other hand, Andrew Walter may be removed from the list if Aaron Brooks is given the job back when he returns. All things considered, I'd guess that 2006 will have two teams whose main QB had not thrown a single pass before the season started.

If you look at the list, you'll note that that is quite unremarkable. Since the merger, only two seasons --- 1987 and 1992 --- have failed to have a team whose leading passer had zero prior game experience. But 1987 had Detroit's Chuck Long, who came into the season with 40 previous pass attempts, and 1992 had Brett Favre (Packers) and Browning Nagle (Jets) who had combined for 7 previous attempts.

This next list shows the number of teams whose leading passer had fewer than 100 previous career attempts.


YR #
=======
1970 3
1971 4
1972 1
1973 3
1974 2
1975 2
1976 2
1977 1
1978 4
1979 4
1980 2
1981 3
1982 2
1983 4
1984 6
1985 3
1986 5
1987 1
1988 4
1989 2
1990 3
1991 4
1992 2
1993 5
1994 3
1995 3
1996 3
1997 4
1998 3
1999 7
2000 1
2001 4
2002 5
2003 3
2004 3
2005 4
2006 2

The 2006 number is definitely in flux. Right now, the two are Philip Rivers and Andrew Walter. As mentioned before, Young, Leinart, and Gradkowski might add themselves to the list and Walter might be removed. Still, even a four there seems unremarkable. Trivia time: name the 7 from 1999 (without looking it up of course).

Finally, let's take a look at the average number of previous career pass attempts by the league's starting QBs (again defined as the QB on each team who attempted the most passes).


YR AvgPrevAtt
================
1971 1198.6
1972 1299.7
1973 1303.6
1974 1394.4
1975 1360.0
1976 1211.9
1977 1319.0
1978 1252.9
1979 1361.9
1980 1412.6
1981 1622.2
1982 1654.6
1983 1419.1
1984 1332.9
1985 1266.4
1986 1201.2
1987 1432.6
1988 1235.8
1989 1451.9
1990 1581.3
1991 1516.7
1992 1569.3
1993 1705.5
1994 1903.3
1995 1999.7
1996 2092.5
1997 1809.9
1998 2071.4
1999 1598.5
2000 1456.2
2001 1402.0
2002 1478.5
2003 1609.0
2004 1639.1
2005 2013.2
2006 2154.6

Now obviously, these numbers are going to creep upward over time because teams are passing more than they used to. And again, a Young/Collins switch would decrease this average by about 160. A Leinart/Warner switch would decrease it by another 75. But Gradkowski/Simms wouldn't change it much at all, and Huard/Green and Walter/Brooks have the potential to increase it. With Favre, Bledsoe, Brunell, Manning, Plummer, McNair and Brad Johnson, if anything, 2006 looks like the year of the Graybeard Quarterback.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 at 3:22 am and is filed under General, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.