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    NFL Rookie QBs Who Were Put in Impossible Situations

    Which NFL rookie QBs were surrounded by the worst supporting casts? PFN counts down the most impossible situations for rookie quarterbacks in league history.

    Not every rookie quarterback enters the NFL with the same level of support.

    While some first-year passers are lucky enough to be immediately surrounded by pass-catching weapons, strong offensive lines, and talented defenses — like the Chicago Bears’ Caleb Williams this season — other rookie QBs are dealt the short end of the stick.

    Which rookie NFL quarterbacks faced the worst situation upon joining their new team? Pro Football Network is counting down the list.

    Ranking the Worst All-Time Situations For NFL Rookie QBs

    Honorable mention: Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (1989); Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (2005); Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (2014); Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (2016); Sam Darnold, New York Jets (2018)

    8) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (2018)

    Although some quarterbacks on our list didn’t work out in the long run, Josh Allen was a success story. Today, he’s widely considered the NFL’s second-best signal-caller behind Patrick Mahomes.

    However, Allen was an incredibly raw prospect coming out of Wyoming in 2018. The Buffalo Bills had snuck into the playoffs the year before but had purged their roster before making Allen the seventh overall pick.

    Three starting-caliber offensive linemen — Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood — left during the offseason, as did wideouts Deonte Thompkins and Jordan Matthews, who played over 450 snaps in 2017. Running back LeSean McCoy was entering his age-30 campaign in 2018 and about to fall off a cliff.

    Allen finished 32nd among 33rd qualifiers in adjusted net yards per attempt while working with receivers like Zay Jones, a washed-up Kelvin Benjamin, rookie UDFA Robert Foster, and tight end Charles Clay.

    But he made things work on the ground, ranking first among quarterbacks in rushing TDs (eight) and second in rising yards (631). Allen’s 59.6% rushing success rate would’ve ranked second in the NFL if he’d posted enough attempts to qualify.

    7) Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (2014)

    Unlike Allen, Derek Carr had a solid offensive line with the 2014 Oakland Raiders. The club’s front five included standouts like tackle Donald Penn and guard Gabe Jackson, ranking eighth in PFF’s pass-blocking grades.

    But that’s where the praise ends.

    Carr’s coaching situation was especially poor. While Greg Olson is a respected offensive voice who was eventually re-hired by the Raiders, then-head coach Dennis Allen was in over his head and ultimately fired before the end of Carr’s rookie season.

    The second-round pick’s weaponry wasn’t much better than his staff. Oakland posted the NFL’s worst rushing EPA and success rate in 2014. Carr’s best wideout was James Jones, who was probably better off as a WR3 than a WR1.

    Carr threw 99 targets to second-year TE Mychal Rivera, who was out of the NFL after the end of his Raiders contract. Other Oakland pass catchers, such as Andre Holmes (who eventually joined Allen in Buffalo) and Kenbrell Thompkins, were hardly inspiring.

    6) Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers (2023)

    The Carolina Panthers hired Frank Reich as their head coach in 2023, hoping the quarterback guru could shepherd No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young through his rookie campaign.

    Instead, Carolina’s offensive production was so poor that Reich couldn’t even make it through his debut season. Amidst rumors that he might’ve wanted a quarterback other than Young at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft, Reich was fired after a 1-10 start.

    MORE: Which No. 1 QBs Had the Best Weapons During Their Rookie Year? 

    Adam Thielen, Young’s 32-year-old WR1, got off to a hot start in 2023 but tailed off down the stretch, topping 80 receiving yards just once after Week 6. DJ Chark and Hayden Hurst suffered significant injuries, while Chuba Hubbard only became the Panthers’ starting RB because free agent addition Miles Sanders (four years, $25 million) faceplanted.

    Carolina took steps to buoy Young’s offensive surroundings during the 2024 offseason. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers OC Dave Canales, who helped revitalize Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield’s careers in recent seasons, is now the Panthers’ head coach. New wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Xavier Legette should help, while Carolina also spent heavily on guards to bolster its interior protection in front of the 5’10” Young.

    5) Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970)

    The 1970 Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t the same dominant Steel Curtain team the NFL came to revere near the middle of the decade.

    The 1969 Steelers had managed just one victory, enabling them to land Louisiana Tech QB Terry Bradshaw with the No. 1 pick in the following year’s draft. Head coach Chuck Noll continued to reshape the roster in 1970, trading leading receiver Roy Jefferson to the Baltimore Colts after back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns.

    Bradshaw was forced to split time with 1969 second-round QB Terry Hanratty and started just eight games. Running back Preston Pearson led the Steelers in attempts but averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Rookie wideout Ron Shanklin was productive, but other Pittsburgh weapons like Dave Smith and Dennis Hughes never panned out.

    Of course, Bradshaw eventually figured things out, winning four Super Bowls and an MVP award before being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    4) Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions (2002)

    While Joey Harrington might’ve been a bust regardless of where he landed, the Detroit Lions certainly didn’t help the Oregon product’s case.

    Az-Zahir Hakim was stretched as Detroit’s top wideouts, while other pass catchers like WR Bill Schroeder and TE Mikhael Ricks were nearing the end of their NFL runs. Running James Stewart eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground but ranked just 33rd in rushing success rate. The Lions’ offensive line was a problem for the entire of Harrington’s tenure.

    Meanwhile, Detroit’s coaching situation was malpractice. Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon’s units finished 29th or worse in scoring in four of his six seasons calling plays. Offensive-minded head coach Marty Mornhinweg’s .156 winning percentage is tied for third-worst in NFL history (min. 30 games).

    3) Tim Couch, Cleveland Browns (1999)

    Who’s tied with Mornhinweg with a .156 winning percentage? Chris Palmer, the Cleveland Browns‘ head coach for Tim Couch’s 1999 rookie season.

    While the Browns were technically an expansion team, they represented the NFL’s return to Cleveland after the city’s former team relocated to Baltimore after the 1995 campaign. As the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft and the face of the Browns’ revamped franchise, Couch was under immense pressure even before the season began.

    Things only got worse once Cleveland started playing games. RBs Terry Kirby and Karim Abdul-Jabbar averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry. Wide receiver Kevin Johnson was productive, but Irv Smith and Leslie Kirby were at the end of their careers. Darrin Chiaverini — the club’s third-most targeted pass catcher — wasn’t an NFL-caliber player.

    The Browns finished 31st on offense and 29th on defense. Palmer was fired after the 1999 campaign. Couch struggled for most of his career but took Cleveland to a playoff appearance after the 2002 season — only to break his leg in the team’s final regular-season game and be forced to watch from the sidelines.

    2) David Carr, Houston Texans (2002)

    The second member of the Carr family on our list, David Carr — like Couch — was drafted to an expansion team. The Houston Texans had the first pick in every round of the 2002 draft and could select players from other NFL teams via the expansion draft, but their roster was hardly anything to write home about.

    Houston used its top expansion selection on Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli, but he spent the entire season on injured reserve before retiring. Playing behind a weak offensive line, Carr set a new NFL record by absorbing 76 sacks in 2022.

    Carr eventually led the league in sacks in three of his first four campaigns. No quarterback in NFL history was asked as many times as Carr (208) over their first four years as a pro.

    Carr’s pass-catching corps was comprised of career WR3s like Corey Bradford and Jabarr Gaffney (Andre Johnson wouldn’t join the team until the following year’s draft). Running backs Jonathan Wells and James Allen each received 150+ carries while managing sub-33% rushing success rates.

    1) Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (2021)

    Unlucky enough to be paired with Urban Meyer in his pro debut, Trevor Lawrence’s supporting cast was nearly as poor as his head coaching situation.

    Zay Jones, a free agent import in 2021, led the Jacksonville Jaguars with 832 receiving yards, while Laviska Shenault chipped in with 619. TE Dan Arnold finished fourth among Jacksonville pass catchers in yards (324) despite being traded to the Panthers midseason.

    But Meyer was the true culprit. Nearly everything the three-time collegiate champion touched in the NFL turned into a disaster.

    He hired disgraced strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who was quickly forced to resign after reports of his racial discrimination at the University of Iowa emerged.

    KEEP READING: Ranking the Best QB Draft Prospects in NFL History

    After a September loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Meyer infamously stayed behind in Ohio and was spotted dancing with a woman who was not his wife. He reportedly held a staff meeting where he referred to his assistants as “losers.”

    Meyer was finally fired in December after kicker Josh Lambo reported that the head coach had kicked him while Lambo was preparing for a preseason game.

    The Jaguars subsequently replaced Meyer with Doug Pederson, who guided Lawernce and Co. to a playoff win in 2022. Lawrence — who’s posted consecutive 56.1 QBRs after a 39.1 mark during his rookie campaign — is now tied with Joe Burrow as the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback.

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