There has been some hand wringing amongst some in our fan base about Cam Newton's sophomore season. It has gotten so bad that some have suggested that if the opportunity presents itself we should even consider drafting Geno Smith in next year's draft. So out of curiosity I decided to go back and look at 10 HOF QBs to find some perspective of their first few years as starters in the NFL. The QBs I chose were: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Terry Bradshaw.
I will just summarize what I learned and I can talk a little bit more specifically about each QB if someone wants to know about it.
With one lone exception every QB had at least one season of significant regression in their first few years as a starter. When it happened vary from QB to QB. Some it was their 2nd season as a starter while others it was season 3 or 4 as a starter. But with the exception of Tom Brady, every QB had a significant dip in production at some point in the first few years of their careers. This leads me to believe that with the QB position it isn’t so much a matter of “progression” or “regression”, but more of a typical variance of young QBs learning what it takes to be consistent in the NFL.
I also found that no QB had a steady “progression” to QB prominence. In other words I could find no example of a QB steadily getting statistically better every year until they reached their highest levels. Instead what I found was statistical volatility until eventually the numbers would even out or significantly spike and then become fairly stable on a year to year basis. The magic number varied some but as far as the “game slowing down” for QBs, statistically it appears to happen between years 4 and 7 of a QB’s career. That is typically when you would see a QB’s season to season statistics somewhat stabilize (there is always spikes and lulls but they just aren’t as dramatic as their first few years). John Elway was the only one that didn’t really follow this pattern as his numbers were very volatile all the way through his 10th season as a starter but then they became incredibly consistent his last 6 years as a starter (when he also happened to win his 2 Super Bowls).
I guess my main point is that with Cam Newton or any young QB the idea that a QB progresses consistently year to year is just not historically accurate. However, as with these 10 QBs there comes a point where the volatility year to year will end and we will have a consistently good QB. It is a matter of when, not if.
So now I will list all 10 QBs and mark their season of “regression” and their turning points and which season as a starter those things happened. I you want me to expound on why a certain season is a “regression” or “turning point” just ask and I will explain why I think that. I was going to summarize each of them but it just would have made this post too long and I didn’t want to overload the fragile minds of most Huddlers.
Tom Brady: Regressive year: 2003 3rd year as starter (admittedly a huge stretch here). Turning point: 2007 7th year as starter
Peyton Manning: Regressive year: 2001 4th years as starter. Turning point: 2003 6th year as starter
Eli Manning: Regressive year: 2007 4th year as starter Turning point: 2008 5th year as starter (although you could make a case that actual turning point was in 2007 during the playoffs)
Drew Brees: Regressive year: 2003 2nd year as starter. Turning point: 2004 3rd year as starter and had another turning point to HOF status in 2009 his 7th year as a starter
Ben Roethlisberger: Regressive year: 2006 3rd year as starter Turning point: 2009 6th year as starter
Joe Montana: Regressive year: 1982 2nd year as full time starter Turning point: 1983 3rd year as full time starter
Brett Favre: Regressive year: 1993 2nd year as starter Turning point: 1994 3rd year as starter
Dan Marino: Regressive year: 1985 3rd year as starter Turning point: 1986 4th year as starter although I could argue it was actually 1990 9th year as starter.
John Elway: Regressive year: 1985 3rd year as starter and even worse in1992 10th year as starter Turning point: 1993 11th year as starter
Terry Bradshaw: Regressive year: 1973 4th years as starter Turning point: 1975 6th year as starter (he was also terrible in 1974 but the Steelers still won the Super Bowl)
- I had to choose a “regressive year” for Tom Brady, but it should be noted that in 2003 he went 14-2 and won a Super Bowl so it is a big time stretch to call it regressive, but there was a statistical dip for him that year and they had the best defense in the NFL that year. There is however, a distinct “turning point” for Brady where he took his game from really, really good to ridiculous and historically good.
- A few notes and then I will stop
- Eli Manning also won a Super Bowl in his “regressive year” but if people recall earlier that very same year some of his own teammates questioned him and the NY media was wondering if Eli was the long term answer in NY.
- Dan Marino’s “regressive year” was actually pretty good. The main reason is because his 2nd year as a starter was record breaking and he had no where to go but down. However, he did throw 18 less TDs, 4 more INTs, and his completion percentage dipped by 4% so I would consider that a significant statistical regression
- Some people might note that some of the QBs had really good seasons before their “turning point”. The “turning point” is more about when a QB became statistically consistent more so than when they had their best years. For instance John Elway had several good years before his 11th season but his year to year statistics were very volatile. His last 6 seasons however were extremely consistent and very good every year. That is why I deemed that his “turning point”
- Aaron Rodgers was not a part of this because he didn't start until his 4th year in the league which is consistent with around the time QBs start to "get it" so he didn't seem to be a good comparative sample to these QBs and Cam Newton.
I do agree with much of the point that you are trying to make. However, your statistics and examples are pretty weak. Using years where their stats dipped slightly....yet they lead their teams to SB wins as "regressive" years is WAY over reaching to try and make your point.