Credit the NFL schedule for ensuring that the debuts of rookie quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will get plenty of attention.
Winston and Mariota are the sixth pair of quarterbacks drafted 1-2 overall in league history. On Sunday, they will become the first to open their careers against each other when Mariota and the Tennessee Titans visit Winston’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So after all the debate and arguments over which Heisman winner should have been drafted first, Winston and Mariota get the chance to prove it on the field, something Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning and Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III never got as rookies.
It’s hard to predict what will happen. Quarterbacks previously drafted No. 1 and 2 went 5-5 in their inaugural NFL starts:
JIM PLUNKETT: The top overall pick out of Stanford went 6-8 for New England, and was sacked 36 times. The two-time Super Bowl champ with the Raiders also threw 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Plunkett beat his future Oakland team 20-6 throwing for 127 yards with two TDs and an interception in his opener.
ARCHIE MANNING: Now best known as Peyton and Eli’s father, Manning started the season opener as a rookie, going 16 of 29 for 218 yards with a TD and an interception as the Saints beat the Rams 24-20. Manning was sacked 40 times as a rookie, going 3-5-2. He had nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He started in New Orleans for a decade and then played in Minnesota and Houston, but was never on a team with a winning record.
DREW BLEDSOE: The New England rookie lost his opener 38-14 to Buffalo, going 14 of 30 for 148 yards with two TDs and an interception. Bledsoe had 15 TDs and 15 interceptions as a rookie. Bledsoe started for the Patriots for eight seasons before an injury in 2001 led to Tom Brady taking over the job.
RICK MIRER: Notre Dame quarterback started every game for Seattle — the only season Mirer started 16 games. Mirer went 6-10 with 17 interceptions and 12 touchdowns. Mirer lost his debut 18-12 to San Diego where he was 20 of 27 for 154 yards and an interception.
PEYTON MANNING: The debate whether to draft Manning or Leaf seems silly now, but Manning’s first year in Indianapolis wasn’t pretty. He went 3-13 with 28 interceptions and 26 touchdowns. He lost his debut 24-15 at home to Miami, with three interceptions. He is a five-time NFL MVP and has started three Super Bowls, winning one.
RYAN LEAF: Now considered a bust, Leaf won his first two games with San Diego, beating Buffalo 16-14 and winning on the road 13-7 at the then-Houston Oilers. Leaf started his first nine games and was 3-6. He started only 12 more games in a career that lasted just four seasons.
TIM COUCH: The Kentucky quarterback lasted only five seasons after Cleveland made him their choice to revive the franchise. Couch made his first start Week 2 when he lost 26-9 at Tennessee going 12 of 24 for 134 yards and a TD. Couch was 2-12 starting 14 of 15 games.
DONOVAN MCNABB: The Syracuse quarterback was 2-4 as a starter but saw only spot duty off the bench before his first start in Week 7. McNabb won 35-28 over Washington, though he did little with his arm (8 of 21 for 60 yards). He later led the Eagles to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl.
ANDREW LUCK: The Stanford quarterback rewarded the Colts’ faith by going 11-5 replacing Manning in Indianapolis. But like Manning, Luck lost his opener. He was 23 of 45 for 309 yards with three interceptions in a 41-21 loss to Chicago.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: RG3 beat Luck out for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and he won Washington’s opener 40-32 over New Orleans with a dazzling performance. Griffin was 19 of 26 for 320 yards and two TDs in that game. Now Griffin finds himself benched heading into his fourth season.