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Cardinals fans out of Tune?

There’s been a lot of love lately for 5th-round Cardinals rookie QB Clayton Tune. Is it warranted?

NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session
Future HOFer Clayton Tune?
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The start of the 2023 NFL season is still months away, but one of the main topics of conversation during that time for Cardinals fans will be who starts at QB in Week 1. Kyler Murray is obviously recovering from a torn ACL and isn’t expected to be available.

Erstwhile backup and occasional starter Colt McCoy is also dealing with injuries this offseason and it’s been widely speculated that he won’t be available either. The only other QBs on the current roster are JAGs David Blough and Jeff Driskel, plus fifth-round draft pick Clayton Tune.

That’s … not an ideal QB situation. Still, I admit I was surprised when I saw the results of the poll in Walter’s recent piece:

Over 50% of RotBers who voted in the poll think Clayton Tune should start in Week 1, as compared to less than 40% who think Colt McCoy should be starting. Are some of those Tune voters perhaps concerned about McCoy’s health? Undoubtedly. But 53% is still extraordinarily high for a 5th-round QB. And if you’ve visited the RotB comments section lately, you’ll see some folks who have basically already anointed Tune as the next great Cardinals QB. (I’m only being slightly facetious.)

That got me thinking about the recent history of late-round QBs like Tune. We all know the story of Brock Purdy from last year, and we’ll get to him. But, in general, how have those QBs fared in their rookie seasons? Did any of them start in Week 1 for the team that drafted them? Let’s look at the past 10 years of late-round rookie QBs and see what we can find out.

Late-Round Rookie QBs Since 2013

Quarterback Team Year Drafted Round Drafted Games Started First Game Started Wins Losses
Quarterback Team Year Drafted Round Drafted Games Started First Game Started Wins Losses
Zach Mettenberger Titans 2014 6 6 Week 8 0 6
Nathan Peterman Bills 2017 5 2 Week 11 1 1
Gardner Minshew* Jaguars 2019 6 12 Week 2 6 8
Jake Luton Jaguars 2020 6 3 Week 9 0 3
Ben DiNucci Cowboys 2020 6 1 Week 8 0 1
Sam Howell Commanders 2022 5 1 Week 18 1 0
Skylar Thompson* Dolphins 2022 7 2 Week 6 1 3
Brock Purdy* 49ers 2022 7 5 Week 14 6 0
Average/Total 4 Week 10 15 22

* The win/loss record includes games in which they threw the majority of their team’s passes, even if they didn’t start the game.

Notes of interest from the chart above:

  • Only eight QBs drafted in the 5th round or later since 2013 have started at least one game during their rookie season. Of those eight, only three started more than four games.
  • None of the QBs entered Week 1 as the starter. For the most part, these were all third-stringers or even lower on the depth chart. As far as I was able to tell, only the two Jaguars (Minshew and Luton) were the actual backup entering Week 1. (Which says a lot about that franchise at that time.)
  • On average, the first game these QBs started was in Week 10. I mean, 5th-rounders just aren’t drafted to play right away. The only one of these guys who didn’t start due to injuries was Howell, who started the final week of last season with the team eliminated from the playoffs. Most of these guys didn’t play until *multiple* injuries happened. (Which may be the case for the Cardinals...)
  • These QBs went 15-22 combined in games they started or threw the majority of the team’s passes, good for a 0.410 winning percentage. That’s a bit better than I thought it’d be, honestly.
  • But Purdy’s 6-0 record for the 49ers last season is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. That was a Super Bowl roster, which obviously isn’t applicable to the Cardinals. If you take out Purdy, the combined record falls to 9-22, which results in an ugly 0.290 winning percentage. Woof.
  • None of these guys has turned out to be a bona fide NFL starter. Most are JAGs at best. (Literally, for Minshew and Luton!) Minshew has had his moments in the league, but he’ll likely be backing up Anthony Richardson in Indianapolis most of the 2023 season. It’s too early to tell with Howell, but I’d be pretty surprised if he became a star. Purdy looked like he was on the cusp of stardom last season before suffering a major injury. Who knows if he’ll ever be the same.
  • This list doesn’t include the dozens of other late-round QBs drafted since 2013. Most of them only had a cup of coffee in the NFL, if that—many never even played a down in the regular season. The list is full of luminaries like Keith Wenning, Jake Rudock, Brad Kaaya, and Easton Stick. Real quarterbacks or auto-generated names from Madden? You decide.
  • Finally, names with Cardinals connections include Brett Hundley, Jeff Driskel, and Trace McSorley. Ryan Lindley from 2012 just missed the cut, and a couple years earlier was John Skelton in 2010.

So what does this all mean for Clayton Tune? Well, if he were to start in Week 1 against Sam Howell and the Commanders, he’d be the latest-drafted QB to start as a rookie in Week 1 since 1977, when someone named Randy Hedberg started Week 1 for the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were in the middle of an NFL-record 26-game losing streak.

The best Tune can probably hope for would be to emulate Gardner Minshew, who took over for an injured Nick Foles in 2019 and acquitted himself better than anyone could have anticipated. It’s far more likely that he’s more like the guy who briefly took over for Minshew himself, Jake Luton, or another JAG like Zach Mettenberger. But at least they played in the NFL, unlike the majority of these kinds of late-round QBs.

Of course, someone will likely cheekily point out that Tom Brady was a 6th-round pick. (But he didn’t really play during his rookie season.) Or that Johnny Unitas was a 9th-rounder. Or that Bart Starr was a 17th-rounder(!). Or that a then-nobody named Kurt Warner wasn’t even drafted. And they’d be right. But guys like those are massive, massive outliers (despite what some delusional Cardinals fans might say).

Besides, I just don’t think the team would start Tune in Week 1 regardless. If Kyler or McCoy are healthy, they’ll start. If neither is available, Blough and Driskel are still around. And there will undoubtedly be movement in the QB market between now and September. I just don’t see a scenario where Clayton Tune is the best option under center for us come Week 1.

The new regime will be trying to win games, create a new culture, earn back the goodwill of the State Farm Stadium faithful. Starting Tune when there are healthy veteran options available is akin to waiving the white flag on the entire season. Again, I just don’t see the new regime going down that route. These guys want to *win*, and I just can’t see Clayton Tune giving this team the best chance to win in Week 1 or really anytime this season.

So, yeah, I think some Cardinals fans are a little… out of “Tune” right now. A player like Clayton Tune is a fine dart throw as a developmental prospect, but he’s not the answer at QB in 2023. Or at least, not in Week 1 or anytime early on. If the season gets away from us like a lot of observers think it will at some point, sure, give him a shot in Week 8 or 9 or 10 or whatever if Kyler isn’t back or isn’t 100%. But he shouldn’t start until that point. No point in throwing the kid to the wolves right away.

Agree? Disagree? Have some gratuitous Clayton Tune praise? Vote in the poll and sound off in the comments.


What is Clayton Tune’s ceiling?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Multiple Pro Bowls
    (99 votes)
  • 10%
    Super Bowl within two years
    (22 votes)
  • 8%
    Future league MVP
    (17 votes)
  • 31%
    (64 votes)
202 votes total Vote Now