Updated: Jul 24
Joe Burrow’s early success will change how NFL teams view young quarterbacks
Joe Burrow. Joe Burreaux. Joe Shiesty. Joe Cool. Joey B. Joey Franchise. Loser of the Super Bowl. Whatever you want to call him, Joe Burrow’s early success will change how NFL teams view their young quarterbacks.
After a historic Heisman-winning season at LSU, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Burrow first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. I saw glimpses of his franchise-changing potential when LSU won the SEC Championship, College Football Playoff semifinal and CFP National Championship, but I didn’t expect this ascension. In his rookie season, he finished with a 2-7-1 record before suffering a torn ACL and MCL. In his second year, he changed the trajectory of his career, team and other quarterbacks.
“He’s a cold-blooded killer out there dicing defenses,” Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah told reporters earlier this week. “That’s why I call him ‘franchise.’ He’s a franchise player, and he’s someone who can turn an organization around.”
To win in the National Football League, the quarterback position must be secure, and Burrow brought a calming presence to a franchise that hasn’t experienced success. He led the Bengals to a 10-7 record, finishing atop of the AFC North, winning three playoff games and reaching the Super Bowl. In his second season, Burrow threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns, and in the postseason, he threw for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns.
“(Burrow is) a fighter,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said via Zoom. “He’s one of the toughest guys I ever met. He’s got us to this moment.”
Although he and his team lost the big game, Burrow overachieved in his second season. He overcame a gruesome injury, a dreadful offensive line that allowed Burrow to be the most sacked quarterback. He overcame a head coach who entered the season on the hot seat and one of the cheapest owners in the NFL. The Bengals don't even have an indoor practice facility in chilly Cincy.
While other young quarterbacks can’t match Joe Burrow’s intangibles - leadership, poise, toughness and swagger, they can aim to repeat his on-field success through support from the team. Vegas Insider predicted the Bengals would win 6.5 games, and the Bengals exceeded those with flying colors. The team strengthened its offense by drafting wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1st round) and kicker Evan McPherson (5th). They bolstered their defense by signing defensive linemen Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi and defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple. But the number one reason the Bengals overachieved this season was Burrow.
“His whole persona is chill and poise,” Bengals wide receiver Tyler Body said via Zoom. “None of us was nervous or thought the moment was too big because we believed in him.”
Burrow’s early success will resonate throughout NFL offices. Teams will no longer expect quarterbacks to struggle their first two seasons and remain committed to them for another two-to-three years. The Bengals’ sudden turnaround will have teams figuring out how they can maximize their roster. Teams will expect these quarterbacks to make massive improvements, overcome dysfunction and hide their team’s weaknesses.
A note to Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and all the other young quarterbacks: You’re on the clock.
Derrian Carter is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in sports journalism, who is enrolled in MCO 598 – Opinion Writing in the Digital Age at Arizona State University. Email Derrian at: email@example.com.