Since rookies generally struggle — or sometimes don’t play at all — we decided to take a look at quarterbacks in the combined second and third seasons of their career.
Despite missing eight regular-season games over the last two seasons (not to mention five in the postseason), Carson Wentz still is one of just 17 quarterbacks in NFL history to throw at least 50 touchdown passes in years two and three of his career. Wentz has thrown 54, which would project to 72 over his second and third seasons if he played full seasons. Only Dan Marino (78) has thrown more than 72.
There are some thoroughbreds on this list (Marino, Peyton Manning, Otto Graham); some workhorses (Jeff Garcia, Matt Ryan); and some mules (Aaron Brooks, Blake Bortles). They are ranked by TD passes thrown in Seasons 2 and 3.
Notes: Team W-L is team’s record in games started by this quarterback. … GP is games played, GM is games missed. … Mahomes’ third season will be in 2019. He had the most prolific second season of any quarterback ever. … Marino, Warner, and Graham are Hall-of-Famers. Manning will be eligible in 2021. … Tom Brady had 46 touchdown passes (and one Super Bowl ring) in his second-third seasons.
All-time leaders in combined Seasons 2 & 3 in …
Minimum 20 games played
Notes: Prescott was picked 135th overall in 2016. Wentz was No. 2. … Bulger succeeded Warner as the St. Louis Rams quarterback, but could never match his success. The Rams were 1-2 in postseason starts with Bulger. Warner took St. Louis to two Super Bowls.
Minimum 500 attempts
Notes: Albert played for San Francisco in the AAFC in 1947-48. He and Graham were co-MVPs of the league in 1948. Graham was the MVP in ’47. … Unitas led the Baltimore Colts to championships in 1958 and 1959. The 1958 overtime win against the New York Giants is widely considered one of the great title games in NFL history. … Foles played with the Eagles in 2013-14. He was a third-round pick in 2012. Two years ago, he led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl title, after stints with the St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Minimum 500 attempts
Notes: Kaepernick took San Francisco to the Super Bowl that followed the 2012 season. He’s been knee-deep in controversy the last several years, however. … Bet you didn’t expect to see Jason Campbell on this list. … Russell Wilson took Seattle to the Super Bowl in 2013 and 2014. He probably would have won both if not for an inexplicable goal-line interception in Supe 49.
How guys who threw at least 50 touchdown passes in their combined second and third years fared in their fourth season, which is what Wentz is entering:
Dan Marino, Miami, 1986: The Dolphins went just 8-8, but Marino (44 TD passes) was still first-team All-Pro.
Jeff Garcia, San Francisco, 2002: Pro Bowl season highlighted by a 24-point comeback against the Giants in the playoffs.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis, 2015: He missed nine games with injuries and was just 2-5 in the seven he did start.
Kurt Warner, St. Louis, 2001: He went 14-2 and was the NFL MVP but was upset by the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Derek Carr, Oakland, 2017: He was just 6-9 as a starter.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati, 2014: He went 10-5-1 and lost in the playoffs (again), though he was without star wide receiver A.J. Green.
Jared Goff, L.A. Rams, 2019: He is entering his fourth season, coming off a Super Bowl appearance.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati, 2007: He threw for a then-franchise-record 4,131 yards, but the Bengals defense was bad and Cincy won just seven games.
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2001: The Colts defense was even worse, giving up more than 30 points per game during a 6-10 campaign. Manning put up numbers (also 4,131 yards), but it was the only losing season of his career besides his rookie year.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville, 2017: It was the best season of his career; he mostly managed games and nearly took the Jags to the Super Bowl. He went 3-9 last year and is now with the Los Angeles Rams backing up Goff.
Aaron Brooks, New Orleans, 2003: He had a decent year (24 TDs, 8 INTs), but the eternal memory will be John Carney’s clanking an extra point after a miraculous touchdown in Week 16. New Orleans finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
» YouTube Video: An epic touchdown and the gaffe that ruined it all
Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati, 1987: He went 3-9 with 16 TDs and 19 picks. But at least he honored the players’ picket line during this truly bizarre season.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami, 2015: He was 6-10 and had three consecutive games in which he fumbled the ball through the opposing end zone for a safety. The third time was against the Eagles, when he was sacked by safety Walter Thurmond. That’s some accomplishment.
Otto Graham, Cleveland, 1949: The Hall of Famer led the Browns to their fourth consecutive AAFC championship. Following the season, Cleveland merged into the NFL, where Graham would win three more titles.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City, 2020: He is entering his third season overall and just the second in which he will be the starter. Scary.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta, 2011: The Falcons went 10-6, but the offense slumbered during a 24-2 wild-card loss at the Giants. New York went on to win the Super Bowl. Ryan finally won a postseason game in his fifth season and should have won the Super Bowl after the 2016 season.