It would be hard to overstate just how significant it is for an NFL franchise when its young, inexperienced quarterback — or sometimes even its new veteran quarterback — gets off to a good start early in a season.
That’s why the Week 1 performances of players such as Brock Purdy, Jordan Love, Sam Howell and even, to a lesser extent, Zach Wilson were so important. It’s also why the victories for older guys in new places — such as Jimmy Garoppolo with the Raiders, Baker Mayfield with the Buccaneers and Derek Carr with the Saints were notable, as well.
There are several reasons why, in my experience, these performances matter quite a bit.
All the quarterbacks mentioned above are confident young men. You have no chance of getting to the NFL if you aren’t.
That said, there are varying levels of confidence, and a young, inexperienced player such as Love or Wilson might not have the same level of “swag” in the NFL as he did in college. Heck, at some point, there is probably some level of self-doubt that creeps in a bit for guys such as Carr and Mayfield, whose former teams and/or have discarded are coming off of down seasons. That’s just human nature.
But how a quarterback carries himself matters quite a bit. If the triggerman doesn’t have incredible belief in himself — whether in the huddle or just in the locker room — it is hard to imagine his teammates will.
Whether a quarterback knows it or not, even the body language can change a bit depending on his performance. Even if he didn’t necessarily play at a high level, I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a little more pep in Wilson’s step in the New York Jets building after he helped his team come from down double digits for a huge division win Monday night. The same goes for Love, who had to have entered the facility Monday with his chest out just a little bit after a stellar start to the season for the Green Bay Packers over the Chicago Bears.
Purdy is obviously confident, but coming off of a serious injury such as his surgery on his throwing arm after the NFC Championship game, there had to be some nerves on his part. So, to come out and play the way he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers is highly encouraging.
Perhaps even more important than how these new or young quarterbacks feel about themselves is how their teammates feel about them. I’ve been on teams when the new or young quarterback gets off to a rough start, which can be disheartening. It is a long season, and if you don’t believe in your signal caller and lack belief in the guy who plays the most important position in the sport, January can seem forever away.
“He plays with that swag that just bleeds all the way down to the rest of the offense, down to the rest of the team, that everybody can build off,” Aiyuk said. “Like I said, he has ‘it.’”
That’s why Howell getting a win or Carr playing the way he did in the second half is so critical. No matter whether their teammates believed in them or what they thought of them before the game, they now know that guy can get it done and be a big reason why their team wins.
And moving forward, that belief is gigantic.
This feeling extends beyond just the teammates. I’ve been on teams with really good quarterbacks and subpar ones, and it is hard to put into words, but there is a different feeling in the building when the quarterback plays well and helps the team get off to a good start with an early win.
There’s a palpable buzz that permeates throughout the organization, and I believe this is a big reason why the New England Patriots dropped off, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had immediate success when Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay.
Sure, his play inside the white lines was probably the biggest factor. But having a guy — “the” guy — under center allows coordinators to call plays a little bit more aggressively, will enable coaches to feel like they don’t need to be cautious in certain situations, etc.
It’s why, a lot of times, success begets success.
So, getting off to a good start is significant, and building upon that will only reinforce all the momentum from Week 1.
Of course, this is the NFL, and everything can all come crashing back down to earth in short order. But you’re in a much better spot if you start from a position of having faith in your new quarterback based on their production early in the season.
Ross Tucker is a former NFL offensive lineman who played seven seasons for the Cowboys, Bills, Patriots and Washington after graduating from Princeton University in 2001. He works as a color commentator for both CBS Sports and Westwood One in addition to hosting a number of podcasts, including the popular Ross Tucker Football Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @RossTuckerNFL.