The days of Aaron Rodgers spending three years on the bench as Brett Favre's apprentice or Carson Palmer sitting out his entire rookie season behind Jon Kitna in Cincinnati are mostly in the past.
While some point to the success Patrick Mahomes has had in Kansas City since spending almost his entire rookie season on the bench behind Alex Smith, rookies are being thrown into the fire quicker than ever. The differences between the pro and college offenses have narrowed and teams try to take advantage of having a starting quarterback on a cheaper rookie contract.
Since the rookie wage scale was put in place before the 2011 season, 30 of the 32 quarterbacks drafted in the first round — all but Jake Locker and Jordan Love — started at least one game as a rookie. Twelve of those started the opener and nearly two-thirds (21 out of 32) got their chance in the first four games of the season.
There is no clear pattern of success when it comes to when to start a rookie quarterback. Andrew Luck stepped in right away to turn Indianapolis into a playoff team. Josh Allen and Justin Herbert off to good career trajectories after making their first start in Week 2. But other early starters such as EJ Manuel and Sam Darnold didn't have the same sort of success.
While Mahomes and Lamar Jackson won MVPs in their second year after waiting until the second half of their rookie seasons to start, others like Johnny Manziel and Locker didn't appear to benefit from the time on the sideline.
“Each situation has its own situation,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I look at ours, I learn from everything through my own experience and just reading about football and watching it over the years. That’s why we all develop our opinions. But just like the perfect play call or the perfect throw, you don’t know until the end of it. Stuff is adjusting at all times and you’ve got to always be ready to adjust and do the best with opportunities you have.”