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Not every quarterback gets to be Ben Roethlisberger. In 2004, Roethlisberger enjoyed success never before seen by a rookie passer. That year, Big Ben won each of his 12 regular-season starts en route to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He followed that season up with an 18-year career that is bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Roethlisberger is an exception to the rule, however, as rookie quarterbacks typically struggle before ultimately finding their way. That may ultimately the case for Bryce Young, the 2023 No. 1 overall pick. Charged with leading an offense that was vastly out-manned most Sundays, Young went just 2-14 as the Panthers starter in 2023. Despite the losing and being sacked a whopping 62 times, Young still managed to throw more touchdowns (11) than picks (10) while completing nearly 60% of his passes. 

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With last year behind him, Young will look to join the following list of quarterbacks who overcame rocky starts to enjoy fruitful careers. Here's a look at our ranking of the best careers by a quarterback following a forgettable rookie campaign. 

10. Jared Goff 

  • Rookie season (2016): 5 TD, 7 INT, 54.6 completion percentage, 0-7 record as starter
  • Career: Three-time Pro Bowler, 2018 NFC champion

Goff was winless (0-7) in his seven starts as a rookie, but quickly found success after that. The following two seasons, Goff was named to two Pro Bowls, went 26-9 as the Rams' starter and led Los Angeles to the Super Bowl. Goff has enjoyed even more success in Detroit; he was named to his third Pro Bowl in 2022 and last year helped the Lions to get to within a game of the franchise's first Super Bowl. 

9. Josh Allen 

  • Rookie season (2018): 10 TD, 12 INT, 52.8 completion percentage, 5-6 record as starter
  • Career: Two-time Pro Bowler, 68-35 record as a starter 

Allen overcame a rocky rookie season to become of the NFL's top quarterbacks today. In 2020, after he leaned on John Brown and Cole Beasley during his turnaround 2019 season, Allen's game took off when the Bills acquired Stefon Diggs from Minnesota. During his four seasons with Diggs, Allen averaged 34.3 touchdown passes a season while continuing to serve as one of the league's most feared running quarterbacks. Allen will look to continue having success without Diggs, who is now on the Texans. 

8. Jim Plunkett 

  • Rookie season (1971): 19 TD, 16 INT, 48.2 completion percentage, 3-11 record as starter
  • Career: Two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, 1980 Comeback Player of the Year 

Plunkett's rookie season wasn't that bad. But his second year was even worse, with 25 interceptions and a 3-11 record as the Patriots' starter. The next several seasons followed suit, with Plunkett tossing a league-high 22 picks in 1974. 

It looked like Plunkett was doomed to be remembered as a bust before an injury thrust him into the Raiders' starting lineup in 1980. He then led the Raiders on an unexpected run that culminated in Oakland becoming the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl. Plunkett won a second ring as the Raiders' starting quarterback three years later. 

7. Eli Manning 

  • Rookie season (2004): 6 TD, 9 INT, 48.2 completion percentage, 1-6 record as starter 
  • Career: Four-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP 

Manning went 1-6 as a rookie after taking over for future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. While he largely struggled that season, Manning offered a foreshadowing of things to come against fellow rookie Roethlisberger and the Steelers, throwing two touchdowns and completing nearly 70 percent of his passes in a 33-30 defeat. 

Manning overcame his slow start to spend 14 seasons as the Giants' full-time starting quarterback. While his Super Bowl exploits are well known, an underrated aspect of Manning's career is his durability. His 222 consecutive starts is the third-most of any player in NFL history. 

6. Dan Fouts 

  • Rookie season (1973): 6 TD, 13 INT, 44.8 completion percentage, 0-5-1 record as starter
  • Career: Six-time Pro Bowler, four-time league passing champion, 1982 AP Offensive Player of the Year 

Fouts' forgettable rookie season has largely been, well, forgotten. While Peyton Manning has gotten a ton of flack for his rookie season (that included a still-standing rookie record 28 picks), Fouts' struggles as a rookie have largely flown under the radar. Until now, that is. 

Along with throwing more than twice as many picks than touchdown passes, Fouts went 0-5-1 as the Chargers' starting quarterback as a rookie. Fouts continued to struggle until his sixth season, when the Chargers hired future Hall of Fame coach Don Coryell. Fouts and Coryell went on to enjoy one of the most successful QB/coach partnerships in league history, as Fouts quickly mastered the "Air Coryell" offense while revolutionizing the passing game. A Super Bowl was the only thing missing during their memorable run together. 

5. Steve Young 

  • Rookie season (1985): 3 TD, 8 INT, 52.2 completion percentage, 1-4 record as starter 
  • Career: Seven-time Pro Bowler, two-time league MVP, Super Bowl MVP 

Young actually fared well during his two years as the Los Angeles Express' starting quarterback in the USFL. He was set up for failure in Tampa, however, as Young found himself scrambling for his life on seemingly every play. Young was able to get himself traded to San Francisco, where he spent half a decade as Joe Montana's backup before taking the league by storm for most of the '90s. He reached the summit in 1994, when he won league and Super Bowl MVP honors while also setting a Super Bowl record for touchdown passes (six). 

4. Brett Favre

  • Rookie season (1991): 0 TD, 2 INT, 0.0 completion percentage, zero games started
  • Career: 11-time Pro Bowler, three-time league MVP, Super Bowl champion 

Quarterbacks who largely spent their rookie seasons as backups weren't considered for this list. Favre, however, was the exception given how bad he played during his limited action as a rookie. His first career attempt was a touchdown pass ... to the other team in the form of a pick six. Favre later threw another pick without completing any of his four pass attempts. 

That offseason, Favre received a career-altering life raft from then-Packers GM Ron Wolf, who thought that the young, gunslinging quarterback had untapped potential. Over the course of the next 19 years, Favre ultimately proved Wolf correct. He retired at the end of the 2010 atop the career record board in passing yards and touchdown passes (Favre is also the most intercepted quarterback of all time). His streak of 297 consecutive games played will likely never be broken. 

3. John Elway 

  • Rookie season (1983): 7 TD, 14 INT, 47.5 completion percentage, 4-6 record as starter
  • Career: Nine-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, 1987 NFL MVP 

While Dan Marino enjoyed immediate success, his fellow rookie classmate, Elway, initially struggled before quickly finding his way. In his second season, Elway led the Broncos to a 13-3 record. Two years after that, Elway led one of the greatest drives in NFL history that culminated with a trip to the Super Bowl. Elway capped off his career a dozen years later as a Super Bowl MVP, after the Broncos finally complemented his talent with an equally talented roster. 

2. Troy Aikman 

  • Rookie season (1989): 9 TD, 18 INT, 52.9 completion percentage, 0-11 record as starter
  • Career: Six-time Pro Bowler, three-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP 

The irony here is that Aikman became the first quarterback to win 90 games over the course of a decade after going 0-11 as the Cowboys' starter during his rookie season. Aikman clearly got better, but Jimmy Johnson's quick reconstruction of Dallas' roster put Aikman in position to carve out a Hall of Fame career. He responded by playing at an elite level during the '90s while setting the Super Bowl career record for completion percentage. 

1. Terry Bradshaw

  • Rookie season (1970): 6 TD, 24 INT, 38.1 completion percentage, 3-5 record as starter 
  • Career: Four-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP, 1978 NFL MVP 

He's not the best quarterback on this list, but considering how bad his rookie season was and how the rest of his career played out, Bradshaw comes out on top. 

While he never got rid of his penchant for throwing picks, Bradshaw largely overcame his flaws while leading the Steelers to a record-four Super Bowl wins over a six-year span. He played brilliantly in each of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl wins, which was a big reason why he was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee.