os Rookie first-round draft choices who are starting quarterbacks on first-year expansion teams. The Giants' Kerry Collins and the Texans' David Carr, who will duel Sunday in Houston, both have that line on their NFL resumes. But if it were up to Collins, no one would ever have to walk that line.
"It's not fun. It's not easy. Honestly, no rookie quarterback should play in this league," Collins said yesterday. "There were times as a rookie [with the Carolina Panthers in 1995] when I didn't want to run onto the field. Your confidence is really being tested. It would be nice to have the luxury to sit back and learn."
There's another similarity between the two quarterbacks: Dom Capers was the head coach in both situations. He acknowledged on a conference call to reporters this week that he has taken different tacks. "We brought in two veteran quarterbacks [Frank Reich and Jack Trudeau]. So when we drafted Kerry we thought that we would bring him along slowly," Capers said. "We played three games and didn't move the ball hardly at all. So we figured we might as well put Kerry in there and try to grow together."
Collins won seven of the 13 games he started the first season and 10 of 14 in 1996 when he led the Panthers into the NFC title game. Carr hasn't been so fortunate as the starter from Day One. He has been sacked an astonishing league-high 53 times for the 2-8 Texans. "When you take a quarterback No. 1, there is a reason," Capers said. "You know you're going to hit some bumps in the road when you first start out. We figured, why not just cut to the chase and bring him in here and make him the starter from the beginning."
Carr is holding up well to pressure from defensive linemen and offensive fans.
"He is the poster boy of that franchise. It's a big adjustment. But he seems to be handling it really well. He really seems like a kid who has his head on his shoulders," Collins noted, implying that wasn't the case early in his own career when he had drinking problems and eventually feuded with Capers, who cut him in 1998 after saying he had quit on his teammates. Both parties say the incident is behind them.
"Kerry has matured a lot," Capers said. "You measure a man by how he bounces back when he has been knocked down and Kerry has really bounced back."
Collins appeared to hold no grudges, either. "I have a lot of respect for Dom. After a period of time, you chalk it up to life and you move on," Collins said. "I know I learned a lot from the experience. Enough time has gone by that I have a good perspective about it. Part of life is growing."
Part of life is growing pains, too, and Carr is experiencing plenty of them behind an inexperienced offensive line. It has given him a chance to show off his legs as well as his arm. "Fast and a cannon," is how an appreciative Jason Sehorn described Carr. "He has by far the strongest arm we've played all year."
Carr has strong convictions as well. "The only way you can learn is to be there on the field and actually have the bullets coming right at you," Carr said. "I still feel like I am learning things, but I have played enough games where I don't have the rookie jitters."