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Matt Leinart

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 12, 2006

If you're reading this blog, you probably know that Matt Leinart made his first NFL start this weekend. Experts have been raving about Leinart, and one could justifiably gush about how impressive it was to pass for 250 yards and a couple of touchdowns in his first professional start. It's slightly less impressive, although equally accurate, to say that his performance ranks about as good as the debuts of former NFL quarterbacks Mike McMahon and Chad Hutchinson. It's a lot less impressive to note that he looked worse than Chris Weinke, Steve Matthews and Ryan Fitzpatrick did in their respective first starts.

There have been 105 quarterbacks to enter the NFL since 1995 and throw more than 20 passes in a single game. I don't have complete games started data, so I had to use "over 20 passes" as a proxy for "NFL start". This is going to be both overinclusive (say, Philip Rivers in week 17, 2005, throwing 22 passes in relief) and underinclusive (say, Philip Rivers throwing 11 passes in week 1, 2006, his first actual NFL start). But for the most part, the list is going to consist of QBs making their first start. Instead of writing out "in his first NFL game with over 20 pass attempts", I'm going to just say "in his first start", but now you know what I mean.

Let's divide this up into rookies and non-rookies. Sixty-eight of the 105 quarterbacks started their first game during their rookie season. The rookies averaged 4.73 adjusted Y/A as a group in their first games starting, while the non-rookies were a bit higher at 5.45 Y/A. You'd expect this of course, because a year of seasoning should prepare any QB to do well in his first start. You might think that the rookies as a whole were more talented (and that's why they started as rookies), but even if true, that doesn't seem to be enough to compensate for the steep learning curve.

The "round" column shows which round the quarterback was drafted in, with undrafted QBs designated by a "U". Note how few first round quarterbacks top the list, but several are featured at the bottom. (This list is slightly different if you read this blog before 11:00 today; thanks to JKL for the corrections.)

name			round	year	team	att	pyd	ptd	int	AdjY/A
Ryan Fitzpatrick	7	2005	ram	30	310	3	1	9.83
Drew Brees		2	2001	sdg	27	221	1	0	8.56
Chris Weinke		4	2001	car	22	223	1	1	8.55
Patrick Ramsey		1	2002	was	34	268	2	0	8.47
Jim Miller		6	1995	pit	28	262	1	1	8.11
Jeff Garcia		U	1999	sfo	33	243	2	0	7.97
Quincy Carter		2	2001	dal	26	194	1	0	7.85
Jim Sorgi		6	2004	clt	25	168	2	0	7.52
Aaron Brooks		4	2000	nor	22	187	2	1	7.36
Shaun King		2	1999	tam	37	297	2	1	7.35
Steve Matthews		7	1997	jax	35	252	0	0	7.20
**Bruce Gradkowski	6	2006	tam	37	245	2	0	7.16
Mike McMahon		5	2001	det	25	165	0	0	6.60
**Matt Leinart		1	2006	crd	35	253	2	1	6.51
Chad Hutchinson		U	2002	dal	24	145	1	0	6.46
Craig Whelihan		6	1997	sdg	29	206	2	1	6.24
Steve Mcnair		1	1995	oti	27	203	1	1	6.22
Kerry Collins		1	1995	car	32	234	1	1	6.22
Jeff Brohm		0	1996	sfo	30	176	1	0	6.20
Luke McCown		4	2004	cle	34	277	2	2	6.09
Tim Couch		1	1999	cle	24	134	1	0	6.00
Eric Zeier		3	1995	cle	46	310	1	1	5.98
Akili Smith		1	1999	cin	41	221	2	0	5.88
Ben Roethlisberger	1	2004	pit	22	163	1	1	5.82
Koy Detmer		7	1998	phi	36	185	2	0	5.69
Jon Kitna		0	1997	sea	37	283	1	2	5.49
David Carr		1	2002	htx	22	145	2	1	5.45
Craig Krenzel		5	2004	chi	25	168	1	1	5.32
Cade McNown		1	1999	chi	33	255	1	2	5.30
Rex Grossman		1	2003	chi	30	157	0	0	5.23
David Garrard		4	2002	jax	26	135	0	0	5.19
Danny Kanell		4	1996	nyg	27	128	1	0	5.11
Brock Huard		7	2000	sea	34	172	0	0	5.06
Peyton Manning		1	1998	clt	37	302	1	3	4.78
Doug Johnson		0	2000	atl	33	233	1	2	4.64
Michael Vick		1	2001	atl	30	176	0	1	4.37
Charlie Frye		3	2005	cle	24	138	1	1	4.29
Chris Simms		3	2004	tam	32	175	0	1	4.06
Moses Moreno		7	1998	chi	41	153	1	0	3.98
Doug Nussmeier		4	1996	nor	35	171	1	1	3.89
Tim Hasselbeck		0	2003	was	30	150	1	1	3.83
Ryan Leaf		1	1998	sdg	31	192	1	2	3.61
Kyle Orton		4	2005	chi	28	141	0	1	3.43
Anthony Wright		0	2000	dal	25	119	0	1	2.96
Byron Leftwich		1	2003	jax	36	231	1	3	2.94
Donovan McNabb		1	1999	phi	21	60	0	0	2.86
Tony Banks		2	1996	ram	33	174	1	2	2.85
Kurt Kittner		5	2003	atl	29	115	1	1	2.76
Henry Burris		U	2002	chi	22	50	1	0	2.73
Kyle Boller		1	2003	rav	43	152	1	1	2.72
**Vince Young		1	2006	oti	29	155	1	2	2.59
Matt Schaub		3	2004	atl	41	188	0	2	2.39
Eli Manning		1	2004	nyg	37	162	1	2	2.22
Matt Lytle		U	2001	car	25	126	1	2	1.84
Charlie Batch		2	1998	det	40	160	0	2	1.75
Danny Wuerffel		4	1997	nor	32	132	0	2	1.31
Dave Ragone		3	2003	htx	23	71	0	1	1.13
Jake Plummer		2	1997	crd	40	195	2	4	0.88
Joey Harrington		1	2002	det	35	182	2	4	0.63
Jonathan Quinn		3	1998	jax	27	88	1	2	0.30
John Navarre		7	2004	crd	40	168	1	4	-0.05
Billy Joe Hobert	3	1995	rai	37	162	0	4	-0.49
Jim Druckenmiller	1	1997	sfo	28	102	1	3	-0.82
Alex Smith		1	2005	sfo	23	74	0	4	-4.61

In Bouman's first start, Randy Moss caught seven passes for 158 yards and a score. The next two QBs on the list played on the Martz-led Rams. On the other side, did you notice that two 49ers QBs round out the list? It's harder to make fun of Alex Smith now, but his NFL debut was as bad as it gets.

Interestingly enough, Matt Leinart's performance against the Chiefs wasn't even the best by a rookie QB...in his first NFL start...this weekend. That's right, Toledo's own Bruce Gradkowski had the tenth best performance on the list. But Gradkowski didn't even have the best first start by a Tampa Bay rookie QB in the last ten years...that threw 37 times. As good as Gradkowski looked, it's hard to top Shaun King's 297 passing yards in 1999. (Although technically, King's first start came the week before, but he only attempted nineteen passes.)

What about non-rookies making their debut? Here are the 37 performances by a non-rookie QB (but that entered the NFL after 1994) in his first NFL "start".


Rob Johnson 4 1997 jax 24 294 2 0 13.08
Todd Bouman U 2001 min 31 348 4 1 11.06
Jamie Martin U 1998 jax 23 228 2 0 10.78
Marc Bulger 6 2002 ram 21 186 3 0 10.29
Jake Delhomme U 1999 nor 27 278 2 1 9.37
Trent Green 8 1998 ram 25 208 2 0 9.12
Carson Palmer 1 2004 cin 27 248 2 1 8.26
Billy Volek U 2003 oti 41 295 2 0 7.68
Tim Rattay 7 2002 sfo 21 138 2 0 7.52
Brian Griese 3 1999 den 40 270 3 0 7.50
Tony Graziani 7 1999 atl 22 152 1 0 7.36
Tom Brady 6 2001 nwe 23 168 0 0 7.30
Bobby Hoying 3 1997 phi 38 276 0 0 7.26
Todd Collins 2 1996 buf 44 309 1 0 7.25
Chad Pennington 1 2002 nyj 34 281 0 1 6.94
J.P. Losman 1 2005 buf 28 170 1 0 6.43
Marques Tuiasosopo 2 2003 rai 28 224 0 1 6.39
Alex VanPelt 8 1997 buf 24 177 2 1 6.33
Daunte Culpepper 1 2000 min 23 190 0 1 6.30
Paul Justin 7 1996 clt 22 128 1 0 6.27
A.J. Feeley 5 2002 phi 30 181 0 0 6.03
Kurt Warner U 1999 ram 44 316 3 2 5.82
Jesse Palmer 4 2003 nyg 26 140 1 0 5.77
Chris Redman 3 2002 rav 34 218 1 1 5.38
Brooks Bollinger 6 2005 nyj 28 149 0 0 5.32
Damon Huard U 1999 mia 42 240 2 1 5.12
Ken Dorsey 7 2004 sfo 32 205 0 1 5.00
Steve Stenstrom 4 1998 chi 25 154 1 1 4.76
Kelly Holcomb U 1997 clt 30 181 0 1 4.53
Spergon Wynn 6 2001 min 39 218 0 1 4.44
Stoney Case 3 1997 crd 33 222 0 2 4.00
Travis Brown U 2001 buf 33 201 1 2 3.67
Sage Rosenfels 4 2004 mia 38 264 1 3 3.66
Ray Lucas U 1999 nyj 30 137 1 1 3.40
Philip Rivers 1 2005 sdg 22 115 0 1 3.18
Cody Pickett 7 2005 sfo 21 102 0 1 2.71
Matt Hasselbeck 6 2001 sea 34 178 0 2 2.59
Josh McCown 3 2003 crd 32 150 0 2 1.88
**Andrew Walter 3 2006 rai 27 162 0 3 1.00
Clint Stoerner U 2001 dal 23 177 1 4 0.30
Kordell Stewart 2 1996 pit 21 77 0 2 -0.62

That's right, Bill M.: before Rob Johnson became a Buffalo legend, he turned in the best performance of any QB making his first NFL start in the last eleven years. Twenty of twenty four, 294 yards and two TDs will be tough to top, especially in a win.

I was curious how it would look if we broke it down by draft round. The results are a bit surprising. Below are the totals for all 105 quarterbacks.


Round Att Yards TD INT AY/A
1 784 4825 25 36 4.41
2 296 1851 8 12 4.70
3 434 2430 7 20 3.69
4 339 2246 12 12 5.39
5 109 629 2 2 5.13
6 264 1780 10 5 6.27
7 334 1965 11 7 5.27
8 49 385 4 1 7.76
U 583 3926 27 21 5.58
3192 20037 106 116 4.97

I'll let you guys comment on what's a pretty surprising split. Lastly, if you have six minutes to spare, you won't regret checking out some interesting footage of Matt Leinart.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 12th, 2006 at 5:27 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.