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The NFL's most-anticipated QB debuts


Tim Tebow is making his 2011 starting debut for the Broncos -- a move that some in Denver have been clamoring for all season. I mean, there were billboards and everything. Tebow did make three starts in 2010, but this seems for real, and not just in a late-season "Hey let's make this season interesting" kind of way.

And the hyperbole is that this might be the most anticipated quarterback debut ever, though I find that a bit of a stretch.

With that in mind, I will look at the six most-anticipated quarterback debuts in league history. We have eliminated the guys such as Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning who became starters from the first day. We are looking at guys who had to spend some time on the bench before getting their chance.

But first, here are a few who deserve a mention, but not for the reasons that you would believe.

Dishonorable mention: Cade McNown

Don't hide your faces Bears fans, you all wanted McNown to take the reins for the Bears from the first day. That is understandable when the other option is Shane Matthews. McNown made his first start against the Eagles in Week 6 of 1999 and actually was not horrible (255 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions). He was horrible the following week against the Buccaneers (9 of 23 for 83 yards and an interception). McNown's career lasted only two years in Chicago.

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Dishonorable mention: JaMarcus Russell

Fess up, Raiders fans -- you wanted Russell to make his debut. There were way too many dudes running around in Russell jerseys in Southern California for you to deny it. Russell started against the Chargers in Week 17 of 2007, and was respectable (23 of 31 for 244 yards, a touchdown and interception). It was the rest of his career that was rather forgettable.

Kirby Lee/US Presswire

Honorable mention: Jim Kelly

Kelly started every game for the Bills during his rookie season in 1986, but like Warren Moon, his NFL debut was held off by a two-year stint with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL (1984-85). Kelly was the 1984 USFL MVP.

National Football League

Honorable mention: Warren Moon

While it is true that Moon was the starter from his first day with the Oilers, he did spend six years in the Canadian Football League before getting his first chance at NFL action.

National Football League

6. Carson Palmer, Sept. 12, 2004

Palmer did not play a single snap during his rookie season in 2003, sitting behind Jon Kitna. The Bengals not wanting to play Palmer? That seems like kind of a shock. Palmer finally got his chance in Week 1 of the 2004 season, and played pretty well, passing for 248 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a losing effort to the Jets. Palmer now makes another anticipated debut as a member of the Raiders this week.

David Drapkin/Associated Press

5. Steve McNair, Dec. 17, 1995

McNair was selected by the Oilers with the third pick of the 1995 draft, but spent most of his rookie season backing up Chris Chandler. McNair got his first start against the Jets, throwing for 198 yards and a touchdown to lead the Oilers to a 27-13 win. McNair also started the following week, but did not make another start for the Oilers until later in the 1996 season. He opened the 1997 season as the starter and never looked back.

David J. Phillip/Associated Pres

4. Eli Manning, Nov. 21, 2004

Here is something people forget: Kurt Warner had led the Giants to a 5-4 record (good enough for the playoffs) before the team inserted Manning into the starting lineup, essentially giving up on the season. Manning completed 17 of 37 passes for 162 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in his first start, a 14-10 loss to the Falcons. The Giants would go 1-6 down the stretch with Manning leading the team and miss the playoffs.

Michael Kim/Associated Press

3. Michael Vick, Nov. 11, 2001 (Falcons); Sept. 19, 2010 (Eagles)

Vick has made a pair of highly anticipated debuts. Vick saw limited action behind Chris Chandler in 2001 before getting his first start against the Cowboys. Vick threw for just 32 yards, but the Falcons did win. Vick also made another highly anticipated debut last season when -- one year after returning to the NFL after doing time in prison -- he started for injured Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. Vick passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions to claim the quarterback spot for the Eagles.

Associated Press/US Presswire

2. Roger Staubach, Nov. 11, 1971

The Cowboys waited a long time for the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner who delayed his NFL debut while serving out his obligation to the United States Naval Academy. Staubach made his debut with the Cowboys in 1969 (even starting one game). But Staubach never truly grasped the job until his start in St. Louis -- he had previously been in a quarterback platoon with Craig Morton that featured the quarterbacks rotating after every play. Staubach made the most of his start, throwing for 199 yards and a touchdown, established himself as the man and eventually led the Cowboys to a win in Super Bowl VI against the Dolphins to start his Hall of Fame career.

Charles Bennett/Associated Press

1. Philip Rivers, Sept. 11, 2006

The Chargers acquired Rivers to be the quarterback of the future following a swap with the Giants during the 2004 NFL Draft, but that future was put on hold as Drew Brees played so well. The Chargers allowed Brees to walk away as a free agent after the 2005 season, which opened the door for Rivers, who wasn't asked to do much in his starting debut, throwing for 108 yards and a touchdown in a 27-0 win over the Raiders. Rivers has since become one of the most well-regarded quarterbacks in the NFL.

David Stluka/Associated Press



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