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August 7, 2009

Will He Start in Week One?

As NFL training camps are in full effect, there are several questions concerning ex-Georgia Bulldogs: When will Knowshon finally sign with Denver? Will Thomas Brown make the Falcons roster? And, most importantly, what are the juicy details as to these photos of Matthew Stafford and his "friends"? Well, some may feel a bigger question regarding the NFL Draft's #1 selection might be if he will start out of the gate at New Orleans on September 13th. Stafford is apparently on the fast track to becoming the Lions eventual starting quarterback but if he'll start in week one is the question.
Another question: Had a Georgia Bulldog quarterback drafted into the NFL start for his team in week one of his very first season? I could only think of one possibility--Quincy Carter for Dallas in 2001. So, I decided to end my brief hiatus as a "research/stat geek" and started back on duty.
Since the inception of the NFL Draft, there have been 11 Georgia quarterbacks drafted prior to Stafford's selection in 2009. Of these, only six saw playing time under center in their rookie seasons but two of those started for their teams in week one. A breakdown of these 11 Georgia quarterback draftees and their NFL rookie seasons:
  • D.J. SHOCKLEY (2006- 7th round, 223rd pick by Atlanta): Injured for his rookie season, Shockley has primarily remained the Falcons #3 quarterback and has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game.
  • DAVID GREENE (2005- 3rd round, 85th pick by Seattle): Seattle's #3 quarterback during its Super-Bowl season of 2005, Greene recently decided to retire following a four-year NFL career without seeing any playing time.
  • QUINCY CARTER (2001- 2nd round, 53rd pick by Dallas): Carter started his first NFL game to open the 2001 season for Dallas. Granted, against an excellent Tampa Bay defense, Carter was horrid in his initial professional appearance, throwing for only 34 yards on 9 of 19 passing and two interceptions, in a 10-6 loss. Carter would start seven more games as a rookie and 34 times in a four-year career, including all 16 for the 2003 Cowboys, who went 10-6 and made the playoffs. The steady demise of Carter's football career and his life, in general, has been well documented.
  • ERIC ZEIER (1995- 3rd round, 84th pick by Cleveland): Zeier sat behind Vinny Testaverde in Cleveland before finally starting in game eight of his rookie season in 1995. In a 29-26 victory at Cincinnati, Zeier completed 26 of 46 passes for 310 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and even rushed for 44 yards on eight carries. Zeier started the next three games for the Browns, losing all of them. In five seasons with two franchises, Zeier played in 28 games (12 starts) and passed for 3,520 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
  • WAYNE JOHNSON (1989- 11th round, 296th pick by Indianapolis): Although a starter for only one season at Georgia, Johnson was big and strong-armed and thought possibly to be fit for the pros. Nevertheless, he would never make an appearance in an NFL game.
  • MATT ROBINSON (1977- 9th round, 227th pick by the Jets): Rookie Robinson started on just one occasion during his first season--the Jets' 11th game against Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense. Robinson was just 7 of 19 passing for 80 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, and replaced by Richard Todd in a 23-20 loss. Robinson would be the Jets starting quarterback a year later and Denver's in 1980.
  • LARRY RAKESTRAW (1964- 8th round, 112th pick by Chicago): After being drafted following his senior season of 1963, Rakestraw did not play in the NFL until 1966, appearing briefly in just one game. Rakestraw did start the season-opening game for the Bears in 1967, completing 7 of 13 passes for 89 yards and one interception in a 41-13 loss. Starting just three more games over two seasons, the Bears losing all three, Rakestraw retired following the 1968 season.
  • FRAN TARKENTON (1961- 3rd round, 29th pick by Minnesota): In the first game ever in Vikings history, Tarkenton did not start for Minnesota but wound up being the game's standout player. Relieving teammate George Shaw, Tarkenton completed 17 of 23 passes for 250 yards, four touchdowns, and rushed for a touchdown in a 37-13 win over Chicago. The rookie quarterback's performance led to his starting the following week against Dallas. Tarkenton could not duplicate his initial performance as he struggled against the Cowboys, completing just one-third of his 24 passes for 117 yards and two interceptions in a 21-7 loss. The poor outing would be one of only a few in a brilliant, 18-season career. Tarkenton still remains one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and likely Georgia's best player ever, quarterback or otherwise, in the professional ranks.
  • CHARLEY BRITT (1960- 3rd round, 25th pick by LA Rams): Britt, who was Georgia's starting quarterback during its 1959 SEC championship season, was drafted as a quarterback but never played the position in the NFL. Playing exclusively at defensive back, Britt intercepted 14 passes in five seasons, including five (one returned for a touchdown) as a rookie in 1960.
  • ZEKE BRATKOWSKI (1954- 2nd round, 17th pick by Chicago): "The Brat," who left Georgia as the NCAA's all-time leading passer, started in Chicago's first game of the quarterback's rookie season. Bratkowski, still today, holds the three-season record in college football for most interceptions thrown (68) and continued the trend in the NFL when he combined with teammate George Blanda to toss six interceptions against Detroit. The pair did pass for 345 yards and Bratkowski threw a first-quarter, 64-yard touchdown but the Bears were defeated soundly by the Lions, 48-23. Bratkowski was immediately benched but started the final four games of the '54 season--all Chicago wins. Zeke would later be the LA Rams' primary quarterback in 1961 and 1962 but is best known for his backup role to Bart Starr on the championship Green Bay teams of the 1960s and his extended assistant-coaching career in the NFL.
  • JOHNNY RAUCH (1949- 1st round, 2nd pick by Detroit): Drafted by Detroit, Rauch played for the New York Bulldogs/Yanks in 1949 and 1950, passing for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns coming off the bench. Rauch finally got his first start in the season opener of 1951 but he and the Yanks were crushed by the LA Rams, 54-14. New York passed for only 63 yards while opposing Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin threw for 554 yards and five touchdowns. Rauch was ejected from the game late in the first half for throwing a punch. He would start the next two games for the Yanks--both losses--but was playing for Philadelphia by the end of the year. The professional playing career of Rauch, arguably Georgia's greatest quarterback of all time, ended in disappointing fashion after only three seasons but he would become a head coach in the league from 1966-1970.

If Stafford does become only the third Georgia quarterback to start in week one of his rookie season, let us hope, as Bulldog faithful, he has better results than his two predecessors--Zeke Bratkowski and Quincy Carter. Stay tuned...


Dawgitty said...

I know Preston Jones was on the Falcons roster at one point, but I don't think he ever got to play in a regular season game.

Anonymous said...

How about Andy Johnson who was our quarterback in the early 1970s. According to the New England 1982 media Guide, "Andy maybe listed as a runningback, but he was the NFL's most accurate passer last year thanks to the halfback option play employed by the Patriots... he completed seven of nine passes for 194 yards and four TD's including two pass completions to QB Steve Grogan and another to QB Matt Cavanaugh...

Patrick Garbin said...

Guys, thanks for your comments.

Dawgitty: Not sure if Jones ever made the Falcons roster but he definitely was on their practice squad for at least a couple seasons. He was not drafted, however, and I only listed those taken in the NFL Draft.

Anon: Andy was taken in the 5th round of the '74 draft as a runningback. Interestingly, the seven completions for 4 TDs the guide speaks of would be the only passes Johnson completed his entire 7-season career in the league.

Thanks for checking out the blog!