One may assume that having a veteran quarterback on the team would help an incoming rookie develop. Veteran quarterbacks offer a lot to incoming rookies as it pertains to knowledge and experience. In a previous interview with the 33rd Team, former Jets QB Mark Sanchez talked about the help he received from veteran backup Mark Brunell when he was a rookie.
“Brunell basically forced me into and had these like it/love it/hate it meetings where we kind of color code the call sheet,” Sanchez recalled. Sanchez brought the perspective of a former rookie quarterback who appreciated the fact he had veteran guidance.
But does having a veteran quarterback on the team improve a rookie’s QBR?
Though a veteran may provide experience and knowledge, some data supports that rookies can be successful on their own. If we take a look at the QBR for rookie quarterbacks who started at least seven games since the 2016 season, we find evidence that those without a veteran behind them found success. In this table, we define a veteran backup as a QB with at least five seasons played in the league.
This data set shows that rookie quarterbacks who have not had a veteran backup on average have a slightly better QBR. The absence of a potential quarterback controversy may be a sigh of relief for a rookie. The fact that a rookie quarterback would have the opportunity to take almost all of the first-team reps through camp and OTAs means they can build chemistry with the starters. This extra time can provide a better foundation going into the season and might not have been allowed with a veteran on the roster as a contingency plan. Also, the coaching staff has an even bigger impression on its young quarterback. There are less people trying to teach him how to run the offense and it is tailored more to the coach’s or player’s preference. Each of these reasons could have a big impact on how a quarterback performs as a rookie.
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were the first and second overall pick from the 2021 draft. Both will be entering training camp and possibly the start of the season without a veteran backing them up. According to this data set, statistically both of these young quarterbacks may have an advantage when it comes to first-year trends for their position. It will be interesting to see how their QBRs look in comparison to the other rookies this year.