Is “three” the new “two” when it comes to quarterback development?
From the time Dan Marino was named 1984 NFL MVP in his second season until recently, quarterbacks were expected to make their biggest improvements in Year 2. But the delayed Year 3 breakthroughs of Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield have NFL insiders rethinking the timeline.
The Giants are selling the narrative that fits their plan after Daniel Jones regressed in Year 2. The hopeless alternative is that the window has closed after Jones’ 8-18 record, 62.2 percent completion rate, 221 passing yards per game, 35 touchdowns, 39 turnovers and 84.1 quarterback rating over two seasons.
But has the rule of thumb really changed? One former general manager who believes it has suggested any quarterback introduced to new coaches and a new playbook amid the pandemic-restricted practice rules of 2020 — as Jones was — should get a total do-over in 2021.
Since Father Time didn’t stop, The Post analyzed the first three-year trajectories of the 20 quarterbacks drafted with top-12 picks from 2010-18. Removing five who were bona fide stars after two seasons and five whose third year was a total wash because of missed playing time offers this mixed bag of expectations for Jones:
Josh Allen, Bills: The new beacon of hope for every franchise whose young starter struggled through two years. He completed 56.3 percent of passes and had a 78.2 rating after two seasons before he was united with receiver Stefon Diggs and those numbers jumped to an MVP-caliber 69.2 percent and a 107.2 rating.
Baker Mayfield, Browns: Their personalities couldn’t be less similar, but Mayfield is the best comparison for Jones because he showed promise as a rookie, experienced a coaching change and took steps backwards in his turnover-prone second season. He cut his interceptions from 21 to eight in his third season while improving his completion percentage and maintaining his yardage and touchdown output.
Jared Goff, Rams: His big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 was backed by an incremental improvement in Year 3, when he threw for 293 yards per game, made a second straight Pro Bowl and led the Rams to the Super Bowl. It’s hard to explain the downward spiral and trade to the Lions that followed this March.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: His third season with the Dolphins (66.4 percent completions, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) was the best of his six in Miami before he was traded to the Titans in 2019. There was a direct correlation to improved — but still below-par — pass protection.
No Clarity Gained
Sam Bradford, Rams: Followed up an Offensive Rookie of the Year season with a disastrous 1-9 season. Bradford’s third season resulted in a career-high 21 touchdown passes and then-best 82.6 rating — still not convincing enough.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars: Threw 35 touchdown passes in Year 2 and was a caretaker for Super Bowl contender in Year 4. But Year 3 revealed his true identity: Not enough big plays, careless turnovers and too much losing. The Jaguars ignored signs and offered a $54 million extension.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: He was a Pro Bowler as a rookie, won nine games as his second act and had a strange Year 3, when a career-best 92.2 passer rating was offset by a 3-10 record. It has all been downhill since then, including a 30-interception season before the Bucs gave up, allowing Winston to sign with the Saints in 2020.
Marcus Mariota, Titans: One of two quarterbacks listed here who had more interceptions than touchdowns in Year 3. As the league adjusted to his dual-threat capability, Mariota’s passer rating plummeted from 93.8 over two seasons to 79.3 and he held back a good team.
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears: After a 2018 Pro Bowl selection, numbers regressed across the board. Ultimate reminder that teams finally are forced to reveal true feelings in an uncertain situation when staring at a contract option before Year 4. Support for Trubisky suddenly dried up and competition (Nick Foles) arrived.
Sam Darnold, Jets: He went 2-10, with more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (9), and failed to make more than 13 starts for the third straight injury-plagued season. But the Panthers blamed the Jets’ coaching and poor roster because they traded for Darnold in April to be their starter.
Summary: Unless Allen and Mayfield are the very beginning of a new trend, their Year 3 breakthroughs present as outliers. Recent MVPs Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson suggest Year 2 is still the time for improvement.
The Giants’ best-case scenario is Jones’ Year 2 in coordinator Jason Garrett’s offense takes the place of his Year 2 in the NFL.