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Why Joe Burrow’s turnovers are a good thing

The young playmaker is exploring his abilities.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers is one of the most gifted (arguably the most gifted) people to ever play quarterback. And what really sets him apart is his incredible touchdown to interception ratio, which is 6.3 to 1.3 for his career.

But even after sitting and watching Brett Favre for three years, Rodgers threw thirteen interception (2.3% of his passes, almost double his current rate) in his first full season back in 2008.

Peyton Manning, meanwhile, threw 90 interceptions his first five seasons (an average of 18 per year) and had at least 15 each year. Then, he never got to 15 again until his twelfth season. Many remember that Manning threw 28 interceptions his rookie year. But some forget he approached that number again in year four with 23 interceptions.

Even Drew Brees, considered one of the most accurate quarterbacks of all time, threw 31 interceptions to only 29 touchdowns in his first 28 games with the San Diego Chargers. He would, of course, end up 5.4% of his passes going for touchdowns to only 2.3% ending up as interceptions over his twenty year career.

All of this is to say that the greats—the quarterbacks who can carry an offense—went through what Joe Burrow is going through right now. In fact, his interception rate (3.8% of his passes) is below Manning’s rate in his first and fourth years (4.9% and 4.2% respectively) and below Brees’ rate in his third season (4.2%).

Most impressively, though, Burrow’s touchdown rate (7.0% of his passes) this year is far better than the second starting years of Manning (4.9%), Rodgers (5.2%), Brees (4.2%), and even Patrick Mahomes (5.4%).

Put simply: Burrow is making a lot of big plays. To do that in your second year means you need to be testing the limits quite often. And that is particularly important for someone in his position.

Make no mistake about it: the Bengals will need Burrow to be able to carry the offense in Cincinnati. This franchise, similar to Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers and Manning’s Indianapolis Colts, cannot be relied upon to surround Burrow with the kind of coaching and personnel that will allow him to simply be a “game manager,” or, a captain who gently guides a well-equipped and well-funded ship on a path already plotted out by expert cartographers.

Further, Burrow is precisely the kind of quarterback who takes every mistake and stores it in his long-term memory. Those disastrous consecutive interceptions against the Chicago Bears? He probably replayed that sequence 50,000 times in his head. The endzone pick by Denzel Ward against the Cleveland Browns? I wouldn’t be surprised if he thinks about it every single time he throws in that area until the day he retires.

We know that Burrow, a coach’s son, studies the game religiously and is as hard on himself as anyone. Allowing him to be aggressive, make the occasional mistake, and then fine tune those throws so that they result in big gains in the future is exactly what Zac Taylor and the coaching staff need to be doing.

For more on this discussion, watch our midseason review with team reporter Marisa Contipelli:

You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below:

Poll

How do you feel about Burrow’s interceptions?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    They’ve become a major problem
    (47 votes)
  • 14%
    He needs to settle down or the season will be lost
    (143 votes)
  • 42%
    I’m being patient for now
    (405 votes)
  • 38%
    They’re a good indication he’s being aggressive
    (366 votes)
961 votes total Vote Now