In the movie "Backdraft," Kurt Russell plays a Chicago firefighter who routinely disappears to seek out the most impenetrable areas of a burning building in the way a child would disappear to survey the cereal aisle. After the film came out, firefighters roundly disputed its accuracy. Nobody just dives into fires the way Russell's character did, they pointed out. No real fireman would refuse a gas mask as did Russell's character while saying, "You get used to it," and breathing in air as black as charcoal.
NFL coaches can understand the same concept -- for them, those are rookie quarterbacks. You don't get used to it; you only survive it.
"Nobody wants to be in that situation," says Jim Mora Sr. "When you are, part of it is having a guy you believe in, but it's also has to be a guy you think can survive."
Mora is one of just eight NFL coaches in the past 41 years to start a rookie in all 16 games. Think about that: Only once every five-plus years will a rookie quarterback start and finish a season. Mora's experience is one reason: He went 3-13 with the 1998 Colts and watched rookie Peyton Manning throw 28 interceptions in the process. Only because he had an owner and GM who were willing to endure the burning building did he get a chance to stay the course. Few coaches, however, are allowed to play that hand.
But this is where it gets interesting, and it's why all four quarterbacks taken in the top half of Round 1 in this year's NFL draft -- Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder -- shouldn't just play in 2011 but should start every game,
for two key reasons: