David Carr is a rookie quarterback on an expansion team. He is not a first. Carr, the No. 1 pick of the expansion Houston Texans, is following in the cleat marks of Kerry Collins and Tim Couch. Collins was the No. 5 overall pick of the expansion Carolina Panthers in the 1995 draft, and Couch was the No. 1 choice of the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999.
Carr shares more than just roots with Couch and Collins.
Collins' head coach his first 3 1/2 seasons was Dom Capers, who is now Houston's head coach. Couch's head coach his first two seasons was Chris Palmer, now the Texans' offensive coordinator.
Unlike Couch and Collins, though, Carr will start his team's inaugural game. Carr, having completed 37 of 70 passes for 441 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a 59.3 rating in the preseason, has earned an introduction with the Texans' starting offense.
"I think they're doing the right thing by starting him from Day 1," Collins said, "but it's going to be tough for him. There are going to be bumps in the road, and his confidence will be tested. It's going to take time. He's going to experience something every rookie quarterback goes through, and he's going to learn some valuable lessons.
"Rookie quarterbacks have won only 26 percent of their starts since Phil Simms went 6-6 in his rookie season of 1979. Troy Aikman, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Joe Montana were a combined 14-32 in their rookie seasons, throwing 63 touchdowns and 64 interceptions, but they have a combined nine Super Bowl titles.
"You have to be in the game to learn," Couch said. "You can't learn holding a clipboard. You've got to be out there. Sure, you're going to make some mistakes, and you're going to have some tough times, but that's how you grow and gain experience in this league."
Palmer calls not starting Couch in the '99 season opener his biggest mistake in his two seasons at Cleveland. Ty Detmer started against Pittsburgh before being replaced by Couch with 10:48 remaining in a 43-0 loss.
In Week 2, Couch was the team's starter, and he finished his first season with a 2-12 record, a 55.9 completion percentage, a 73.2 quarterback rating, 56 sacks, 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
"The No. 1 thing I would tell David is just to be patient and don't put too much pressure on yourself," Couch said. "Everyone out there is going to put so much pressure on a No. 1 pick, expect him to do so much. Our situations are so similar, going to an expansion team, being the first pick and being the first player ever picked by that organization. He's got to remember why he was the No. 1 pick. Obviously, he's a very talented football player. He's got to just go out and be himself."
Collins, now in his fourth season with the Giants, saw his first action in Carolina's second game in 1995 and became the starter in Week 4. He was 7-6, the first rookie quarterback with at least nine starts to post a winning record since Dan Marino went 7-3 in 1983, and he completed 49.4 percent of his passes, had a 61.9 rating, was sacked 24 times and threw 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
"I know exactly what he's thinking," Collins said of Carr. "He's excited. He's nervous. This is going to be a real educational year for him. He's going to learn a lot. He's going to go through tough times. He's going to go through good times.
"The thing you have to do is just understand that during the tough times, there are better days ahead. What he's going through now is going to help him on down the line. I'm sitting here at year eight, and I'm glad I started playing when I did as a rookie. There were some moments when it was rough, and it certainly tests your confidence, and I'm sure he'll have those times, but in the long run, it's definitely the best thing."
Sept. 4, 02