Seeing Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco in the 2008 NFL Post Season made me wonder, just who are the best rookie quarterbacks in NFL history? It is hard to judge them by just their stats since the ones on great teams would have better stats. I also had trouble not just picking the ones I saw play. After some thought and yes looking at the stats from NFL.com, here is my list of the top 5 rookie quarterbacks of all time.
1 Dan Marino was the best rookie quarterback of all time in my humble opinion. He had a very fast release and put some heat on the ball. Marino as a rookie made the Miami Dolphins instantly better. Dan started 9 and played in 11 games in 1983, his first season.
Marino completed 173 of 296 attempts as a rookie quarterback. His 2,210 passing yards were ok but what set him apart was his touchdown pass to interception numbers. 20 passing touchdowns against 6 interceptions is amazing for a rookie quarterback.
2 Greg Cook was an instant hit in his first season (also the year I was born) during 1969. Cook played well before being injured, then returned later to keep playing well. Greg Cook completed 107 of 200 passes for 1,854 yards. In addition he threw 15 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions on a bad Cincinnati Bengals team. It is a shame that he only played two seasons due to injury.
3 Matt Ryan looks better as a rookie than anyone I have seen play (live) since Dan Marino. Ryan came in with a bad team with the Atlanta Falcons, playing for a rookie coach and trying to replace Michael Vick. Ryan earned his spot on the 5 best rookie quarterbacks of all time.
Completing 265 of 434 passes for 3,440 yards is a nice season for most veterans much less a first year guy. Matt Ryan has a 61.1 pass completion percentage and threw 16 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. Leading the Falcons into the 2008 NFL Playoffs showed his great skill at the position. As I write this Matt Ryan just set a rookie record with 20 completions in a post season game.
4 Joe Namath (AFL) played under a lot of pressure after signing a huge contract with the New York Jets. “Broadway” Joe could have hurt the AFL badly if he tanked but he didn’t and had a great season.
As a rookie in 1965 Joe Namath completed 164 of 340 passing attempts. Passing for 2,220 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions Namath showed flashes of his great future at the quarterback position.
5 Bob Waterfield joined the Cleveland (later Los Angeles and Saint Louis) Rams in 1945 and helped start a new passing era in Pro Football. Waterfield did throw more picks than scores 17 to 14. However he did pass for 1,609 yards and led the Rams to a NFL Championship. Not only did he play quarterback he also was a kicker and the punter on the team that season. Thus he makes my list of the top 5 rookie quarterbacks of all time.