NFL's 5 rookie QBs are winning at record rate


NFL's 5 rookie QBs are winning at record rate

MIAMI (AP) As a rookie starter, Ryan Tannehill learns on the job, and since the season began he has become better at stepping forward in the pocket, throwing past tall pass-rushers and avoiding passes into coverage, especially at crunch time.

Even his slide improved. The Miami Dolphins quarterback was gently scolded by a teammate during the exhibition season for his brazen scrambling, and Tannehill now tries to hit the ground before tacklers arrive.

``He understands his value to the team, and how he needs to be able to play the next play for us,'' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman says.

All five rookie starting QBs in the NFL have showed their value this season. They're not only playing, but winning - at least some of the time. Last week the quintet of Tannehill, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson went 4-1.

``That's a little different from what people would assume would happen to rookies,'' Sherman says.

The one-week victory total tied for the second-most by first-year starting quarterbacks since 1970, according to STATS LLC, supporting the argument that this crop of new QBs ranks with the best ever.

But wait. The record of five victories in one week was set in 1974 by this group: Jesse Freitas of San Diego, Larry Cipa of New Orleans, Larry Lawrence of Oakland, Mike Boryla of Philadelphia and Tom Owen of San Francisco. Each ended up in obscurity, not in the Hall of Fame.

So are these 2012 guys really fancy passers, or merely a passing fancy?

To judge their potential, a more meaningful statistic might be their 13-16 record going into Wilson's game with Seattle against San Francisco on Thursday night. That .448 winning percentage won't get anyone to the playoffs, but the rookies were nonetheless on pace to break the season record of 26 victories by first-year quarterbacks set in 2004.

That group included Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning, but also Craig Krenzel, Drew Henson and Ken Dorsey.

At the moment, the 2012 rookies look more like Big Ben than Ken, although all of the newcomers have been humbled at times.

``They're probably all dealing with the same issues - trying to play at a high level, and once they play at a high level, be consistent,'' says Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who is grooming Weeden. ``That's what they're grinding through. I think all rookie quarterbacks to some degree grind through the first season, and I see that from our guy. I think Brandon is grinding through it. He's having pockets of success, and then he's making mistakes, and I'm sure that's the case with all of them.''

Weeden threw two touchdown passes on his 29th birthday Sunday against Cincinnati to lead the Browns to their first win. He leads all of the rookies in passing yardage but also leads the NFL with 10 interceptions.

Weeden will go head to head with Luck on Sunday when the Browns play at Indianapolis. Luck, the No. 1 pick in the April draft, ranks next to last among all starting QBs with a completion percentage of 53.4 and has thrown seven interceptions.

``He's really, really trusts his arm, and sometimes it will get him into trouble, and sometimes it will make him look great,'' Browns cornerback Joe Haden says. ``When he tries to squeeze those passes into those windows, sometimes it's intercepted and sometimes it makes him look like Peyton Manning.''

Luck's potential was such that the Colts deemed Manning dispensable. Despite looking like a rookie on occasion, the former Stanford star has helped Indy to a 2-3 start, matching last year's win total.

``I see the guy that we all were hoping we could have drafted,'' Shurmur says. ``He's doing a really smart thing - he's throwing the ball to Reggie Wayne a lot, which confirms why he went to Stanford. He's obviously got the skill and ability to be an outstanding player.''

Among the rookies, Griffin has by far the best numbers, including the most highlight-reel plays. The Heisman Trophy winner leads the league with a completion percentage of 70.2, ranks second in yards per attempt and is on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

``You hear about how good these guys are coming out of college, but you don't really know until you get a chance to work with them,'' Redskins QB coach Matt LaFleur. ``He has lived up to every expectation that I have ever had for him. He's just doing a great job. He's got that sense of urgency - he wants to be great.''

Wilson is only rookie QB whose team is above .500, and he leads the group in touchdown passes. Tannehill has the Dolphins tied for first place in the AFC East at 3-3, while throwing for more yards in his first six games than any Miami rookie, including Dan Marino.

``He's got to be the best rookie QB out right now,'' rookie teammate Jonathan Martin says.

That's a slightly biased, probably premature view. To be declared the best of this bunch will require a lot more games - and wins.


AP Sports Writers Mike Marot in Indianapolis, Joseph White in Washington and Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.


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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."


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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

The Columbus Blue Jackets were the better team for large stretches of Game 5, but they ultimately weren't good enough. The Washington Capitals defended home ice for the first time this series and escaped with a 4-3 overtime win to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Blue Jackets to the brink.

Here's how Washington won Game 5.

A fluke bounce off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s back

Much was made coming into Game 5 of the fact that the road team had won every game to this point in the series. After winning two straight, it was imperative that for the Caps to come in and take advantage of the home crowd. But Columbus was the better team to start and scored a shorthanded tally for the game’s first goal. There was not much to like about the start…until a fluke bounce tied the game at one. Nicklas Backstrom had the puck behind the goal line and tried to feed it in front. Bobrovsky stuck his stick out to block the pass, but the puck had so much spin on it, it bounced up and off the netminder’s back into the net. A bad start ended up not costing Washington as the score was tied at 1 after the first.

The penalty kill

In the first two games of the series, the Caps gave up four power play goals on eight opportunities. Since then, Washington's PK has been lights out. The Caps gave up five power plays to Columbus in a penalty-filled contest, but killed off all five of them. Washington has not allowed a power play goal since Game 2, killing off 13 straight opportunities in the process.

A critical save by Braden Holtby

The Caps looked like they were out of gas in the third period. They held a 3-2 lead at the start, but yielded the game-tying goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand just 2:30 in and had to survive just to reach overtime. They were outshot 16-1 during that period. Luckily for them, Holtby was on point. All 15 saves Holtby made that period were critical, but none was better than highway robbery he committed on Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Considering how gassed the Caps looked that period, that goal would have been tough to come back from.

Nicklas Backstrom

There was no question who the player of the game was in this one. Backstrom scored the Caps' first goal off the back of Bobrovsky, then deflected in the overtime winner for his second goal of the game. But it goes beyond what he did on the ice. After the game, Barry Trotz said some of the team leaders stepped up in the locker room in between the third period and overtime. He would not name names, but did confirm Backstrom was one of those who spoke out.