Rookie QBs could sit to start, but not long

The top rookie quarterbacks might not begin the season as starters, but they likely won’t go the whole season without playing.

There’s a funny thing about mid-August and the NFL. Franchises have spent three months convincing their fan bases that the quarterback they drafted is going to be the next big thing.

Now they’re saying “tap the brakes” to those same fans. The selling has taken a back seat to coaches trying to temper fan expectations – putting out a fire they were part of starting.

It was assumed that Blake Bortles would be thrown to the wolves immediately because No. 3 overall picks don’t sit that often. But the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff is maintaining (for now) that they want Bortles to sit the entire season and watch journeyman Chad Henne.

The Vikings have been able to successfully avoid a quarterback controversy by saying Matt Cassel is their starter and Teddy Bridgewater won’t play until his level of play is higher than Cassel’s. It hasn’t stopped the local or national media from continuing the hype that surrounded Bridgewater when the Vikings drafted him, but the Vikings are sticking to their story (for now).

The Johnny Manziel circus remains at full volume in Cleveland, but the Browns have downplayed his chances. Head coach Mike Pettine has grown tired of the constant badgering over his QB situation, resorting to saying that Manziel might not start the season because he is still trying to master the verbiage of the Cleveland playbook.

In Oakland, second-round pick Derek Carr was drafted to be the quarterback of the future and spend a year learning behind veteran Matt Schaub, but Raiders fans are already divided on their loyalties.

In all, 14 teams drafted quarterbacks in May. The top four taken are all expected to become their respective team’s starter within a short period of time. The other 10 aren’t viewed as being automatic starters, but there is upside to them, especially for guys like Tom Savage, who doesn’t have a lot in the way of competition in Houston, and Zach Mettenberger, who will wait to see if Jake Locker blows up or implodes in Tennessee.

The overblown hype of the quarterback class of 2014 has taken on a life of its own. Perhaps it was the two additional weeks before the draft when it moved back that gave the talking heads of the NFL the chance to pick apart the top draft prospects that helped create the culture of paralysis by over-analysis. The rookies have dominated the training camp headlines, even though it should be noted that only Jacksonville made a quarterback their first draft selection – both the Vikings and Browns selected defensive players and seemed content to let someone else draft their currently indispensable quarterbacks.

As the second week of preseason games starts tonight, the buildup to the 2014 season will continue to build momentum as the clock continues to count down to the start of the regular season three weeks from tonight. Along with it will come more speculation as to who will be the starting quarterback for the teams that drafted the prized rookie QBs from the Class of 2014.

One thing that can reasonably be said is that, by season’s end, it’s likely all four of the top rookie quarterbacks will be starters. It may not be in Week 1. It may be at midseason. But, by Christmas, it would be pretty shocking if any them hasn’t seen the field.

Perhaps it’s the media that has created the situation, pumping up the college players prior to the draft and making many of them sound like “can’t miss” prospects. They have planted the seeds in the brains of fans that the future for these guys is so bright that they will force their way onto the field and be the stars of the future – the next Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick.

The reality is that rookie quarterbacks are on a steep learning curve and will have their share of troubles. Even guys like John Elway and Peyton Manning struggled out of the gate, but they were drafted too high to sit. Apparently there isn’t one of those guys in the Class of 2014, but don’t be surprised if all four of the top guys (and may a couple of others) end up getting their first look at some point during the season.

The media created this monster. It’s now the job of the respective head coaches to deal with the aftermath – for better or worse.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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