The Cincinnati Bengals and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow are living out their worst dreams.
Burrow, the all-world signal-caller and future of the Bengals, will miss the rest of this season with a knee injury. The No. 1 overall pick in April, Burrow was on pace to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and possibly make the Pro Bowl.
Burrow isn’t the first No. 1 overall pick in recent NFL memory to suffer a season-ending injury in his rookie season. If the Cincinnati Bengals want any optimism, two of those players later had sustained, Pro Bowl-caliber careers.
Joe Burrow’s rookie season is over
This was always the worst-case scenario for Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now, Burrow will miss the rest of this season with a torn ACL and MCL. Given when the injury occurred and the severity of the issue, one has to wonder if Burrow will be the Bengals’ starting quarterback when the 2021 NFL season opens.
Former Texans quarterback David Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, escaped injury that year despite being sacked 76 times. Burrow wasn’t as lucky this year.
Joe Burrow had a stellar start to his NFL career
Arguably the worst thing about Joe Burrow’s injury is that he was putting together a stellar rookie season.
Burrow completed 65.3% of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns on 3.8 yards per carry, although he fumbled nine times.
That rookie season came to a premature end, and the Cincinnati Bengals have to hope Burrow regains his momentum whenever he returns to the field.
Burrow isn’t the first No. 1 overall pick with a season-ending injury
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford could possibly relate to Joe Burrow.
Detroit drafted Stafford, an elite quarterback from Georgia, with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. Stafford went 2-8 that season and completed 53.3% of his passes for 2,267 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
Stafford suffered a serious injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder that November, and he also missed the season finale with a knee injury. He didn’t play another game after December 6.
Stafford also missed most of his sophomore season with a shoulder problem.
In the 146 games between the start of the 2011 season and Week 11 of the 2020 campaign, Stafford completed 63.2% of his passes for 40,804 yards, 254 touchdowns, and 120 interceptions.
Stafford has led the Lions to three playoff appearances and made the Pro Bowl after the 2014 season.
Like Stafford, Jadeveon Clowney — the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 — disappointed as a rookie. Clowney only had three tackles for loss and no sacks in four games. Clowney battled a knee injury all season before he had microfracture surgery that December.
From 2015-19, Clowney had 32 sacks, 68 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, four defensive touchdowns, and made three Pro Bowls.
Neither is a perfect comparison to Burrow’s current situation. More than anything, Burrow compares best to Robert Griffin III, the ex-No. 2 pick who tore his ACL and MCL in January 2013.
For various reasons, including mismanagement on the team’s part, Griffin never returned to his electric rookie form. The Cincinnati Bengals should hope Burrow doesn’t walk down a similar path.