Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is entering relatively uncharted territory this Turkey Day. Even with the NFL adding a third Thanksgiving game in 2006, it has been very rare for a rookie quarterback to start on one of the league’s biggest stages.
RG3, the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft out of Baylor, returns to Texas to play the Cowboys for the first time in his NFL career this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Day football is as much a part of American tradition as the turkey and stuffing. Griffin joins a short list of first-year signalcallers to start on Thanksgiving, and the results have not been favorable.
Since Giants QB Kent Graham in 1992, only seven rookie QBs have started on Thanksgiving Day. Those seven rookies went 3-4, throwing four TD passes and 10 interceptions. Here’s a look back at the rookies’ performances on Turkey Day.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford / 2009 — The No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft, Stafford and the 2-8 Lions hosted Aaron Rodgers and the 6-4 Packers. Stafford got Detroit out to an early lead with a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, but it was all Packers from there. Green Bay rattled off 27 unanswered points, and Charles Woodson sealed the deal with a pick-six of Stafford, giving the Pack a 34-12 win. Stafford finished the game completing 20-of-43 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
Buccaneers QB Bruce Gradkowski / 2006 — Gradkowski became the Bucs’ starting QB in Week Three, and was 3-4 as a starter heading into a Thanksgiving Day meeting with the Cowboys. He completed only 10 passes in the 38-10 loss, throwing for 120 yards and two interceptions. Tony Romo had a great day, throwing for 306 yards and five touchdowns. Romo had fewer incompletions (seven) than Gradkowski had complete passes.
Bears QB Craig Krenzel / 2004 — The former Ohio State star had actually won 3-of-4 games after becoming the starter heading into Thanksgiving. Krenzel completed 5-of-10 passes for 46 yards before being replaced in the second quarter by Jonathan Quinn, who didn’t fare much better (10-for-21 with two picks) in a 21-7 loss to the Cowboys. Krenzel and Quinn have the sad shared trivia when it comes to that Thanksgiving contest — for both QBs, it was the final NFL game in which they played.
Cowboys QB Drew Henson / 2004 — In the Thanksgiving Day game to forget against Krenzel and the Bears, Henson got the start for Dallas, the only start of his NFL career — and it didn’t last long. He completed 4-of-12 passes for 31 yards and one interception, which was returned by Bears CB R.W. McQuarters for a touchdown. Vinny Testaverde replaced Henson after halftime in the 21-7 win.
Lions QB Joey Harrington / 2002 — As the purported franchise QB for the Lions, the No. 3 pick of the ’02 draft had a rough finish to his rookie season. Against the Patriots on Thanksgiving Day, Harrington completed 22-of-44 passes for 210 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. Tom Brady didn’t have a great day himself (18-of-30 passing, no TDs, one pick), but the Patriots won 20-12. LB Tedy Bruschi returned one of Harrington’s picks 27 yards for a touchdown. That loss was part of Detroit’s eight-game losing streak to end the season.
Cowboys QB Chad Hutchinson / 2002 — As part of the Cowboys’ dark days in the transition from Troy Aikman to Tony Romo, Hutchinson took over for Quincy Carter midway through the season. In a 27-20 win over the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, Hutchinson completed only 12-of-25 passes for 145 yards, but two of those 12 completions went for touchdowns. Hutchinson’s career ended after 2004, when he started five games for the Bears, ironically following their Thanksgiving debacle against Dallas.
Lions QB Charlie Batch / 1998 — Against his future team, the Steelers, Batch led the Lions to an overtime victory. He completed 16-of-23 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown in the 19-16 win. Batch actually left the game after injuring his neck making a block in the first half. Frank Reich replaced Batch, but the rookie returned in the second half. Batch threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Herman Moore, and helped move the Lions downfield in overtime to set up Jason Hanson’s game-winning 42-yard field goal.