Lap it up Daniel Jones. Take in the intoxicating elixir that was a stunning debut in the NFL and enjoy all the fanfare, praise and plaudits that come with it.
There are rough debuts in sport. There are adequate but instantly forgetful debuts. There are good debuts and there are great debuts. And then there is Jones’ debut. A 22-year-old rookie – and rather unheralded – quarterback thrust into the hostile away environment of Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium. Replacing a franchise legend in two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning and with his team down 28-10 at half-time.
In his first start after Manning was benched following two insipid defeats to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, Jones completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards with a 112.7 passer rating and two passing touchdowns along with 28 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Moreover, Jones led the Giants back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Buccaneers 32-31 and became the seventh rookie quarterback in NFL history (since 2010) to have a game-winning drive in their first career start. Insane.
But also Daniel Jones, take caution. Because a stellar start in the wild west of the NFL does not mean you’ve made it. Not at all.
Jim Kelly, Kurt Warner and Dan Marino ended up entering the Hall of Fame having each tossed three touchdowns in their first start, but Todd Marinovich and Anthony Dilweg (who?) also threw three.
Todd Bouman (Eh?), Eric Hipple (a real player) and Marcus Mariota are the only quarterbacks in the past 50 seasons to toss more than three scoring passes in their initial NFL starts, and their paths haven’t exactly led to fame and fortune either.
Here, we take a look at six players who shone on their NFL debuts, and went from strength to strength. We also look at six players who slinked off into obscurity, or worse.
ANQUAN BOLDIN (drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2003)
Boldin wasn’t even the highest-drafted rookie wide receiver on his own team when he caught 10 balls for a record 217 yards and two touchdowns in his Cardinals debut (Arizona took Bryant Johnson in the first round) – a 42-24 loss to the Detroit Lions.
It was a rookie record for a debut. Boldin went on to have a solid if not spectacular career in the league, although he won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012.
He also had a stunning debut at the end of his career for the San Francisco 49ers, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 34-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers, a few weeks short of his 33rd birthday.
ADRIAN PETERSON (drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007)
Named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in his debut season, Peterson’s path to stardom all started with a scintillating debut, rushing for 103 yards in the Vikings’ opener and adding a 60-yard touchdown catch in a 24-3 grounding of the Atlanta Falcons.
Peterson rushed for 1,300 yards and 12 TDs on the season and became a warrior for the Vikings over the next decade, winning the league MVP in a 2012 season that saw him agonisingly fall just nine yards shy (2,097) of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season all-time record of 3,006.
Now in Washington he is eighth on the all-time rushing list with 13,380.
OTTIS ANDERSON (drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979)
The No8 pick of the 1979 draft still holds the mark for the highest rushing total in an NFL debut, gaining 193 yards on the ground, from just 21 carries. Having been drafted by the then St. Louis Cardinals in 1979, Anderson went on to amass 10,273 rushing yards during a 13-year career. His tally is 30th highest in history.
Anderson went on to become a big part of the New York Giants’ first two Super Bowl triumphs in 1986 and 1990 – he even earned MVP honours in Super Bowl XXV where he rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown as the Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19.
FRAN TARKENTON (drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1961)
Veteran George Shaw started the 1961 season opener for the Vikings – the first in the franchise’s history – but when he was injured and replaced by rookie Tarkenton, the first steps to the Hall of Fame were trodden.
The University of Georgia alum immediately threw a touchdown pass, later added two more, and also had a rushing touchdown. Wow.
By the time he retired, Tarkenton owned every major quarterback record, and his 47,003 passing yards are still 12th most among quarterbacks, with his 342 touchdowns equal ninth, though he’ll be shunted to 10th the next time Aaron Rodgers tosses one.
MARSHALL FAULK (drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1994)
Another Hall of Fame career that was probably even carved out before he played his first professional game – but his debut certainly demonstrated how much of a force Faulk would become in the NFL.
He immediately proved himself a worthy draft pick (he went No2 overall in ’94), scampering for 143 yards and three touchdowns in his first game with Indy.
The entire Colts team had rushed for just four touchdowns in the entirety of the 1993 season so Faulk was kind of a step up.
Won a Super Bowl in 2000 with the Rams – in the same year he won the league MVP, while claiming Offensive Player of the Year three years running.
CAM NEWTON (drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2011)
The man with the Superman celebration put up a superhuman effort on debut, throwing for a first-game record 422 yards and two touchdowns in defeat to the Cardinals. He also ran for 18 yards and a touchdown. It’s not like the Panthers were a team that could really air it out either – they only threw for over 200 yards once the previous season.
Newton broke all sorts of rookie records, shattering Peyton Manning’s first-game stats for passing yards by 120. He broke 4,000 for the season, the first rookie quarterback to do so. He also ran for 14 TDs, more in a single season than any QB in history.
A fine 2015 season was capped with an MVP and leading the 15-1 Panthers to the Super Bowl 50 – where they lost to the Denver Broncos.
THE BAD… AND THE UGLY
MARCUS MARIOTA (drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2015)
With No1 pick Jameis Winston on the other sideline for the Buccaneers, No2 pick Mariota made history in the 2015 season opener, going 13-for-15 with 209 yards and an incredible four touchdowns. That was a rookie debut record and he recorded a perfect 158.3 passer rating, making Mariota the only QB to ever do that in his first game.
It hasn’t quite panned out though for Mariota, 25, since. He’s still in the NFL, is still in Nashville, but is also still stuck in first gear.
Fans and analysts are no closer to knowing whether or not either can be true franchise quarterbacks than they were in the Spring of 2015.
CADILLAC WILLIAMS (drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005)
With a first name like Cadillac, and picked at No5 in the first round of the NFL Draft, it’s fair to say Bucs fans were expecting a Rolls Royce of a career from Williams. And they got it… initially. The Auburn running back rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown in his debut – a 24-13 win against the Vikings.
He lit up the first few weeks, winning three successive Rookie of the Week awards. And then Cadillac turned into a Fiat Punto. In his next four games he had a total of just 82 yards on 45 carries.
He eventually broke down entirely, persistent injuries blighting Cadillac’s next seven seasons as he never quite got his career in gear.
TODD MARINOVICH (drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990)
With the Raiders already securing a playoff spot in Marinovich’s rookie season he made his debut in Week 17, throwing for 243 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-21 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Marinovich had garnered attention long before his NFL entrance. His father Marv was a former Raider but his career failed to fire due to over-training and focusing on bulking. He subsequently became a trainer and is said to have started working on his son’s physical conditioning as early as one-month old. As a baby, Marinovich was reportedly only fed fresh vegetables, fruit and raw milk.
Marinovich flickered briefly but only lasted one more year in the NFL before battling drug and legal issues for decades. He threw just five further TD passes in his career and was named at No4 on ESPN.com’s list of the 25 biggest sports flops in 2004.
BILLY SIMS (drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1980)
The No1 pick in the 1980 draft roared into life for the Lions on debut, pouncing for three touchdowns from 153 yards rushing in a 41-20 blowout of the LA Rams. Sims rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and scored 13 touchdowns in both.
He might well have gone down as one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs, making the Pro Bowl in 1980, 1981 and 1982, But a devastating knee injury suffered midway through the 1984 campaign ended his career.
He spent two years attempting to rehabilitate his knee before retiring in 1986.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III (drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2012)
Great things were expected of RG3 after being selected at No2 in the 2012 draft, and greatness came soon too. In his debut in New Orleans against one of the favourites for the Super Bowl, RG3 threw for 320 yards and two passing touchdowns as well as rushing for 42 yards in a 40-32 win against the Saints.
He amassed over 3,000 yards and threw 20 touchdowns as he led Washington to their first winning season and playoff appearance in five seasons on his way to picking up the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
After that, greatness sadly faded as debilitating injuries and concussions led to a loss of form and an eventual move to the Cleveland Browns.
KAREEM HUNT (drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017)
As we’ve seen from this list, plenty of players announced themselves to the world with explosive debuts. But Hunt did so on the biggest stage in football, the Kickoff Game, against the biggest team in football, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, who the Chiefs beat 42-27.
Hunt said hello to the NFL with 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Along with Faulk and Sims, it’s the only three-touchdown performance on debut.
However, since then, Hunt has gone from hero to zero, cut by the Chiefs last November after a video of him in a violent altercation with a female in a hotel was released.
If you’re a football (US not UK) enthusiast then you’ll know your time outs from your touchdowns and your NFC (National Football Conference) from your AFC (American Football Conference).
The road to Super Bowl LIV (54 to the layperson) has begun and, for the next five-and-a-half months, football (US) fanatics will be going crazy following their teams, attending tailgate parties and living and dying by each game week’s fantasy team decisions.
Thinking of getting into gridiron? Lucky for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide – well, more like an idiot’s guide – to how the more casual NFL fan might ease themselves into their first season.
Think of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the Lionel Messi of American football – or the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Wide receiver Antonio Brown, meanwhile, is the bad boy Neymar figure, having instigated a litany of off-field drama this summer.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is like Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, a revolutionary and born winner, while the Arizona Cardinals are Huddersfield Town – the worst team in Europe’s top five leagues last season – of the 32 NFL franchises.
So if you’re a football fan looking for a team to support across the pond, here’s our ‘which team to support’ guide for the NFC.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Who they’re like: LEICESTER
The Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL and have a Hall of Fame quarterback, but are most remembered for one fairytale triumph following tragedy – and their one and only trip to the Super Bowl, in 2009.
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005 but Super Bowl XLIV four years later helped heal it. The Superdome, the Saints’ home, housed around 30,000 residents after the devastation, with the disaster fortifying an already strong bond between city and supporters.
There was no tragedy underpinning Leicester’s Premier League triumph in 2015/16 – just utter bewilderment. The Foxes were terrific under Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri’s tenure, a real triumph for team spirit and the collective over flashy individualism.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Who they’re like: LIVERPOOL
Two current shining lights. But despite brimming with talent on both sides of the ball and led by charismatic coaches, the Reds and Rams still have to rise higher.
Liverpool claimed a stellar sixth European crown last season, having fallen in the final the previous year. But it’s been three decades since they lifted a top-flight domestic title and the Premier League crown is what they value highest of all.
Like the Rams, who were poor in Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots last season, anything other than the big one will be deemed a failure for Jurgen Klopp and Sean McVeigh this term.
Who they’re like: TORINO
For the points-shy Bears, see Torino – who had one of the best defences in Italy last year, but one of the worst attacks. The Bears conceded a league low 283 points in 2018 but just don’t inspire on the other side of the ball, while the stars of Mitch Trubisky and Andrea Belotti are falling as sharply as they rose.
Despite being the joint fourth most successful side in Serie A history (seven titles), Il Toro (The Bull) are tormented by the other team from Turin… Juventus.
A grizzly fact for the Bears – while they’re the only NFL team in Chicago, they share the city with the NBA’s Bulls, led by the legendary Michael Jordan during a dominant spell in the 90s.
Who they’re like: MANCHESTER UNITED
Two titans who still attract big names, make big headlines and generate big bucks, but are increasingly having to fall back on past successes as their empires crumble.
United’s fans are the new Liverpool in that all they have to harp on about is their glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson. United’s equivalent across the pond are the Cowboys, a huge team with a shimmering past – Dallas have dazzled in five Super Bowls, including winning three in four years during the early 90s.
It’s been 23 years since their last appearance though, while Red Devils disciples have suffered amid the dastardly rise of rivals.
Who they’re like: REAL MADRID
The Patriots may be the flu others just can’t seem to shake, but the Seahawks have been among the best of the rest in recent years – lifting the Lombardi in 2014. They’ve slipped off the pace in recent seasons, having lost several star components of the their legendary ‘Legion of Boom’ defence that was so dominant during the team’s prime.
The likes of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Malcolm Smith were Seattle, much like Cristiano Ronaldo was Real Madrid – chasing down records for fun and instrumental to their success – which included three successive Champions Leagues.
Still among the elite teams, but both have plenty to prove this season.
Who they’re like: WOLVES
Two teams on the up and who are suddenly in fashion to follow. The Eagles came from relatively nowhere to win Super Bowl LII. Second-year coach Doug Pederson’s play-calling was both gritty and glorious while unheralded second-string quarterback Nick Foles was instrumental as he won the MVP.
Wolves have not won a major trophy since the 1960 FA Cup but are on the rise under Nuno Espirito Santo and his Portuguese revolution. Having only climbed back into the Premier League last season they wowed in finishing seventh – their highest top-flight position in over 40 years – as well as reaching the FA Cup semis.
Who they’re like: ATLETICO MADRID
If you’re a Vikings or Atletico fan right now, you’re undoubtedly happy, right? Your team is among the best in the business. Atleti are more than just holding their own in battling the two superpowers of Spanish football, city rivals Real, and Barcelona. The Vikings made the NFC Championship two seasons ago.
And yet, despite possessing undoubtedly talented teams, loaded in defence and attack, they have a habit of choking on the big stage.
Los Rojiblancos lost two Champions League finals to Real in three seasons. The Vikings share a thoroughly wretched record with the Buffalo Bills of having appeared in and lost four Super Bowls.
Who they’re like: TOTTENHAM
Does your team promise so much without delivering, or crumble when the pressure gets too intense? If so, avoid following the Falcons – the Tottenham of the NFL.
Spurs haven’t won a top-flight English league title in almost 60 years while Atlanta have never tasted Super Bowl success.
The 2015/16 Premier League title was Tottenham’s for the taking, with only the Foxes in the fight. But they fluffed their lines, eventually even north London rivals Arsenal pipped them to second.
The Falcons were flying in Super Bowl LI, pummelling the Pats 28-3. But they froze and fell to earth, surrendering their 25-point lead before Brady did his thing and New England won in overtime.
Who they’re like: SAINT ETIENNE
Today they’re owners of a moniker drastically out of touch with a rapidly changing, multi-cultural world. The Redskins name sadly appears here to stay, and the team were a mainstay of the Super Bowl for a decade in the 80s and 90s – appearing in four and winning three.
They’ve had just eight winning seasons in the ensuing 27 years though and last won a playoff game in 2005.
Historically, Saint Etienne are one of the most successful clubs in French football. Les Verts have lifted a joint-record 10 Ligue 1 titles alongside Marseille, but their last triumph was 39 years ago. PSG didn’t win their first until five years later.
Who they’re like: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
Plenty of similarities, including coming from nowhere in recent years and being unable get it done on the big stage despite having stellar players in their stable.
Carolina have lost two Super Bowls since being created in 1995. Cam Newton is one of the best quarterbacks of the modern era yet hasn’t won the big one. The Panthers also couldn’t pounce when they possessed Steve Smith – with the eighth most receiving yards in NFL history – in their ranks.
PSG have pulverised their domestic rivals since Middle East investment arrived. And yet despite buying Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani they haven’t even made the last four of the Champions League.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Who they’re like: BARCELONA
If you want entertainment in the NFL, a cold corner of Wisconsin is where you have found it in recent years.
Aaron Rodgers – the best quarterback in the NFL for the last decade – led the Pack to a fourth Super Bowl in 2010 and with the likes of Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams to sling the ball to in recent years, ‘Cheeseheads’ have had little reason to feel cheesed off.
Then Rodgers missed nine games in 2017 and Green Bay posted their first losing season in nine years. With Lambeau Field as iconic an arena as the Camp Nou, Rodgers as mercurial as Lionel Messi and the Packers the great entertainers, the comparison to Barcelona is easy.
Both teams are elite yet seem unable to perform without their main man on song.
Who they’re like: BURNLEY
With Burnley closely linked to manufacturing and aerospace and Detroit known as the centre of the US automobile industry, you’d expect both teams to be at the cutting edge of their sports too.
Sean Dyche’s Clarets are about as unfashionable a team as there is in the Premier League, the same goes for the Lions – one of only four teams never to reach the Super Bowl.
The Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers, meanwhile, have all reached the pinnacle of ice hockey, basketball and baseball. Burnley too are in the shadow of neighbours, with Manchester duo United and City, Liverpool and even Blackburn and Bolton more revered in Lancashire.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Who they’re like: MONACO
One of American football’s most colossal and storied franchises, the Giants have claimed four Super Bowls. But they definitely punched above their weight with two surprise wins in 2007 and 2011 over the Patriots.
The 2007 win is considered one of the showpiece’s biggest shocks with the 16-0 Pats the first team to complete a perfect regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Monaco can relate, having made a shock Champions League final appearance in 2004, while their 2016/17 Ligue 1 triumph was a triumph for David over Goliath (PSG).
Both now dwell in the doldrums – Monaco narrowly avoided relegation last season – with star players like Kylian Mbappe and Odell Beckham Jr departing.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Who they’re like: AJAX
Ajax’s vibrant young stars wowed Europe last season and looked like they might emulate the exciting young class of 95’ that beat AC Milan in the Champions League final. Frenkie de Jong, Mathijs de Ligt and Co fell short and have since scarpered.
The Buccaneers, who found found Super Bowl treasure in 2002, have seen many players mutinied this summer, too.
Just like the Dutch giants they have been asset stripped. Linebacker Kwon Alexander set sail for San Francisco, slot receiver Adam Humphries traded Tampa for Tennessee, DeSean Jackson flew back to the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick jumped ship and swam to the Miami Dolphins.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Who they’re like: AC MILAN
History is all this duo have lived off recently with both falling on hard times.
The 49ers – named after the prospectors who flooded northern California during the Gold Rush – are steeped in rich Super Bowl success, having claimed the game’s most valuable prize five times. Only Real Madrid (13) have won more European Cups than Milan’s seven and only Juventus hold more Serie A titles (35-18).
Both are slowly returning to prominence by putting faith in youth, with Niner Nation dreaming of a maiden winning season in six years. In the Rossoneri’s 1-0 win over Brescia this term, nine of Marco Giampaolo’s starting XI were 25 or under.
Who they’re like: WEST HAM
Far from the worst team in the league – as the bequeathing of the No1 spot in this year’s NFL Draft would suggest the Cardinals are – but not too much is expected either.
Arizona are significantly weaker than their NFC West rivals the Rams – who made the Super Bowl – the ever dangerous Seahawks and rapidly improving 49ers.
In much the same way, West Ham are small fry compared to their big fish London rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.
The Cards have the Heisman Trophy-winning Kyler Murray under centre and some comparisons may also be drawn to fledgling England star Declan Rice – both should have bright futures ahead of them.
Tom Brady was coy Friday when reporters questioned the New England Patriots quarterback about his tweet concerning the officiating in the game between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
During the game, Brady tweeted “Too many penalties. Just let us play!!!!” He followed that tweet with another one a few minutes later, saying “I’m turning off this game. I can’t watch these ridiculous penalties anymore.” However, he chose to say he was “pro-refs” when questioned.
According to ESPN, there were 15 penalties in the first half of that game called by referee Shawn Hochuli’s crew, eight of which were for holding. There were 20 penalties in total for the game, including declined penalties; no flags were thrown in the third quarter.