The myth of rookie quarterbacks against the Bengals

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals will face a rookie quarterback this year; something that Cincinnati has traditionally struggled against. But their previous losses against teams with a rookie quarterback rarely has anything to do with the quarterback.

Since Mike Zimmer has been hired as the team's defensive coordinator in 2008, the Bengals are 7-8 against rookie quarterbacks. And Jets quarterback Geno Smith isn't just any rookie quarterback. Despite the statistical mediocrity, Smith has one intangible related to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

Smith has started seven games this year, winning four, and all four have featured a game-winning drive with two fourth-quarter comebacks. Dalton compiled four game-winning drives during his rookie season and has amassed a starting 24-15 record during the regular season heading into Sunday.

On the hand, three of the Jets four wins were against teams that aren't very good this year. Tampa Bay is a competent 0-7 this year and while the Atlanta Falcons are 2-4, their wins have been against the Rams and Buccaneers respectively. Both Cincinnati and New York have already defeated the Bills.

But it always goes back to the issue of rookie quarterbacks; like Joe Flacco in 2008, Mark Sanchez in 2009, and T.J. Yates in 2011 (all of whom beat the Bengals twice during their respective rookie seasons), Cincinnati has had their issues against them.

Was it because they were rookie quarterbacks?

Let's add some perspective here.

The Bengals were awful in 2008; let's scratch that out as a topic for discussion.

Cincinnati backed into the 2009 postseason and were crushed by New York's gathering momentum during the regular season finale and the postseason opener in Cincinnati. The Bengals were locked into their playoff seeding in week 17 against the Jets, withstanding an ice storm no less, while New York's rushing offense and defense crushed Cincinnati's pursuit for their first postseason win in nearly 20 years (at the time).

Yates generated 300 yards passing against the Bengals on Dec. 11, 2011, but Cincinnati maintained a 19-10 lead with 5:31 remaining in the game. The Bengals offense ran 10 plays in the fourth quarter for 22 yards, and the Texans, who had fumbled twice in the fourth quarter, strung together two scoring drives of at least 13 plays or more. While not trying to take anything away from Yates, the Bengals controlled the game until the very end when the offense and defense collectively collapsed.

Houston's defense, not Yates, wiped out Cincinnati's opportunity to win their first postseason game with three interceptions, one (J.J. Watt) returned for a touchdown.

New York brings a similar philosophy from their 2009 squad, using the run while relying on the defense to keep New York in games this season. However, the Jets have also been inconsistent on a win-loss roller coaster. Based on the first seven weeks into the season, the Jets haven't won nor loss back-to-back games; after beating the New England Patriots last week, the trend should have the Jets losing this weekend.

And that's reflective of Geno Smith's performances this year, writes Coley Harvey with ESPN:

As one would expect, Smith has performed much better in wins than he has in losses this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he is completing 60.8 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns in the Jets' four wins. He's also run the ball better in those games, gaining an average 6 yards per carry. In New York's three losses, on the other hand, Smith is completing 55.3 percent of his passes, has thrown seven interceptions versus one touchdown and is running for 3.6 yards per carry.

Two of New York's three losses this year have been on the road in Tennessee and New England (week two) while Nick Folk converted a 43-yard field goal as time expired in Atlanta three weeks ago. During those road games, Smith has completed over 60 percent of his passes; though secured more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) and a passer rating of 77.1.

Will the Bengals struggle against a rookie quarterback? There's arguments for most teams struggling against players with limited film in the league. On the other hand, the games that they've lost against rookie quarterbacks in the past isn't directly due to the quarterback being a rookie. It's the other factors, like a good running game or defense; two things that the Jets are doing well this year.

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