What recent veteran vs. rookie QB battles mean for Justin Fields

Chicago Bears - Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 6
Chicago Bears, Patrick Mahomes
Chicago Bears (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Comparing the Chicago Bears QBs: Patrick Mahomes vs. Alex Smith (2017)

Week 1 Starter: Alex Smith

Patrick Mahomes’ First Start: Week 17

Alex Smith is actually the only veteran on this list that was never officially beaten out by his rookie understudy. In fact, Mahomes only got to start in week 17 because the Chiefs had clinched a playoff spot and opted to rest some starters. It wasn’t until after the 2017 season that the Chiefs traded Smith to Washington and named Mahomes the starter.

Patrick Mahomes wasn’t always a sure thing

It’s not that long ago fans and analysts were puzzled by the team’s move to trade up into the top 10 and take a quarterback when they already had a pro-bowl player at the position. It wasn’t just the fact the Chiefs took a quarterback that surprised people; it was also the quarterback they decided to take.

Instead of getting Heisman finalist, national champion Deshaun Watson, Kansas City went after the Texas Tech product whose film was more reminiscent of a backyard football team than an NFL offense. However, what Mahomes lacked in pro readiness, he made up for with his physical traits and football instincts. It was a bit of a gamble, but the Chiefs felt like Mahomes’ long-term upside outweighed the risks.

Despite being a top 10 pick, there wasn’t much pressure on Patrick Mahomes early on

The coaches understood that he needed time to adjust to the NFL, and with Smith at the helm, there was no need to rush anything. The biggest difference between this quarterback situation and the others mentioned is that the veteran quarterback played so well, there was no way the rookie could get the starting spot.

Smith finished the season with 26 passing touchdowns and five interceptions and made another pro bowl. Mahomes wasn’t ever going to start Week 1, but without the stellar play of his starter, he probably would’ve seen the field much sooner. This is an example of a perfect situation for a young quarterback.

Mahomes was able to sit out for a year and learn from a respected veteran, then lit the league on fire in his first season as a starter. Later examples will show that sitting a top 10 pick for their entire rookie season doesn’t usually make sense, but things couldn’t have worked out better for the Chiefs.