NFL QBs with the Best First Five Games to Their Career

Again this year, we have two rookie quarterbacks who started from game 1 of the season. Last year when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco started, they had unprecedented success, at least in a year where there were two rookie QBs starting (not to mention rookie head coaches as well). This year, we have Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford, each starting from game 1 with rookie head coaches as well. I was curious how well Sanchez and Stafford match up against other QBs that started very early in the season. Because of this, I went to Pro-Football-Reference.com‘s Player Game Finder and queried on players’ 1st 5 games of their rookie season, with greater than or equal to 80 attempts and a passer rating of 65 or above (sorted by passer rating). Here are the players that I came up with.

Player Year Tm G W L T Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A
Ben Roethlisberger 2004 PIT 4 3 1 0 57 88 64.80% 744 5 4 91.3 8.45 7.55
Bruce Gradkowski 2006 TAM 4 1 3 0 47 81 58.00% 429 4 1 83.8 5.3 5.73
Dennis Shaw 1970 BUF 5 1 4 0 65 104 62.50% 1063 4 7 81.5 10.22 7.96
Jim Kelly* 1986 BUF 5 1 4 0 81 138 58.70% 1127 6 6 81.4 8.17 7.08
Steve Beuerlein 1988 RAI 3 1 2 0 42 91 46.20% 675 5 2 80.6 7.42 7.53
Rick Mirer 1993 SEA 5 3 2 0 89 135 65.90% 883 2 4 76.9 6.54 5.5
John Fourcade 1987 NOR 3 2 1 0 48 89 53.90% 597 4 3 75.9 6.71 6.09
Jim McMahon 1982 CHI 4 2 2 0 55 90 61.10% 695 5 6 75.9 7.72 5.83
Matt Ryan 2008 ATL 5 3 2 0 71 131 54.20% 863 4 3 75.3 6.59 6.17
Mark Sanchez 2009 NYJ 5 3 2 0 75 134 56.00% 916 5 5 74.1 6.84 5.9
Chris Weinke 2001 CAR 5 1 4 0 108 179 60.30% 1130 5 6 74 6.31 5.36
Ken Karcher 1987 DEN 3 2 1 0 56 102 54.90% 628 5 4 73.5 6.16 5.37
Warren Moon* 1984 OTI 5 0 5 0 66 139 47.50% 1022 4 3 72.9 7.35 6.96
Dieter Brock 1985 RAM 5 5 0 0 69 119 58.00% 907 4 6 72.4 7.62 6.03
Scott Tinsley 1987 PHI 3 0 3 0 48 86 55.80% 637 3 4 71.7 7.41 6.01
Jeff Garcia 1999 SFO 4 2 2 0 53 84 63.10% 551 2 4 70.1 6.56 4.89
Charlie Batch 1998 DET 3 1 2 0 50 94 53.20% 543 2 2 68.7 5.78 5.24
Archie Manning 1971 NOR 5 2 2 1 40 86 46.50% 613 5 5 65.7 7.13 5.67
Matthew Stafford 2009 DET 4 1 3 0 79 139 56.80% 894 3 6 65.5 6.43 4.92
Joey Harrington 2002 DET 5 1 4 0 67 129 51.90% 810 5 6 65.1 6.28 4.96

As we may expect, there is a mixed bag of some of the all time greats, like Warren Moon, Jim Kelly and Ben Roethlisberger (ok, I may be getting ahead of myself there 😉 ) along with some notable disappointments, like Rick Mirer, Joey Harrington and Chris Weinke. There are also several guys who were good to even very good at times: Jim McMahon, John Fourcade, Jeff Garcia, and Charlie Batch. So where do Sanchez and Stafford fit so far? Well, Sanchez’s numbers so far are very similar to Matt Ryan’s from last year. There are a lot of parallels between Sanchez and Ryan. Both play for former defensive coordinators who want to run first and play defense. Both are known for their poise and leadership. The main difference is that Ryan was a 3 year starter and 5th year senior at BC while Sanchez was a 1 year starter and a true junior at USC. But, both seem to have poise beyond what most rookies show.

Matthew Stafford’s numbers so far are most similar to Joey Harrington’s. That can’t be encouraging to Lions fans, but, of course, it’s too soon to start thinking badly about Stafford. Harrington may have been ok if he had a reasonably talented team around him, and so far, I think the improvement at the front office will make the biggest difference for Stafford down the road.

One name noticeably missing from this list is Joe Flacco. Although the Ravens won his first two starts, they went on to lose the next three, and he really didn’t start playing that well until later in the season. He does make the next round of QBs queried by passer rating (from 50 to 65). But, he does have some good company in that list: Carson Palmer, Drew Bledsoe, Kyle Orton, Joe Namath, Peyton Manning, and Jim Plunkett. There are also the forgettable names, like Tim Couch and David Carr. So far, Flacco looks like he’ll be among the memorable names rather than the forgettable ones.

Again, not much in the way of analysis on this post. I just basically wanted to satisfy my own curiosity and thought some of you may also be interested in these rankings as well.

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