Well, there is nowhere to go but up for Johnny Manziel.
The Cleveland Browns' rookie quarterback made his starting debut in Week 15, and it was certainly forgettable. It was bad enough to lose while still in the playoff hunt and to be shutout 30-0 at home by in-state division rival Cincinnati, but the performance itself left plenty to be desired.
Running just 38 offensive plays, the fewest for Cleveland since its Week 1 return to the league in 1999 (28), the 22-year-old Manziel went 10-of-18 for 80 yards, was sacked three times, intercepted twice, and finished with a quarterback rating of 27.3. He had five carries for 13 yards.
"It’s the first game I’ve ever not scored a point in and been shut out,” he said on Monday. “I’ve played in a lot of games, I feel like, from high school through college and that one and never been shut out until then, so it was definitely tough.”
Cincinnati jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead as Manziel was 4-of-9 for 22 yards with his two interceptions coming in the first two quarters. Both interceptions came on passes longer than 15 yards, of which Manziel finished 0-for-4 on those attempts.
"I never felt overwhelmed or that it was too much for me," he said.
The No. 22 pick overall in May's NFL Draft, Manziel became the Browns' 21st different starting quarterback since the franchise returned, and the team's fifth to be shut out in his first start. He became the NFL's sixth QB in the last 20 years to be shutout in his first start, the first since 2010.
And while he called the experience "humbling," Manziel certainly was not the first first-round QB to be shutout in his starting debut. But if history is any indicator, bouncing back quickly is a rarity. Four other first-round QBs were shutout in their first starts as rookies. The four combined for zero touchdowns and six interceptions in their debuts. They returned the next week to combine for two TDs and nine interceptions, and all four lost again.
Johnny Football has two more regular-season games to get on track and potentially get his team into the postseason - a feat none of the other four first-round QBs on the shutout list were remotely close to doing as rookies.
FIRST-ROUND QUARTERBACKS SHUTOUT IN FIRST START
TOMMY MADDOX, DENVER, WEEK 12, 1992
Maddox lost 24-0 at the Los Angeles Raiders in his first start as a rookie. He went 11-for-26 for 127 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He lost at Seattle the following week, 16-13, throwing for 127 yards, his first TD, and another two interceptions. Maddox, who was out of the NFL from 1996-2000, did not start again until Week 4, 2002, a 32-29 loss at New Orleans. His first win as a starter came the next week when he completed 16-of-25 passes for 216 yards, one TD, and two interceptions to defeat host Cincinnati 34-7.
TIMM ROSENBACH, PHOENIX, WEEK 15, 1989
Rosenbach lost 37-0 against visiting Denver, going 2-for-8 for 14 yards with no TDs and no interceptions. He did no start again until Week 1 of the following season, a 31-0 loss at Washington where he was 20-of-39 for 228 yards with no TDs and four interceptions. It was not until Rosenbach's third career start, Week 2 of the 1990 season, that he scored a win. He went 11-of-19 for 116 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in a 23-21 win at Philadelphia. He went 5-11 as a starter in 1990, started no games in 1991, lost the first two games of 1992 and was out of football by the end of the season.
TROY AIKMAN, DALLAS, WEEK 1, 1989
Aikman started 11 games of the Cowboys' 1-15, 1989 season. His first came in Week 1 when he lost 28-0 at New Orleans, completing 17-of-35 passes for 180 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. He followed that with a 27-21 loss at Altanta, throwing for 241 yards on 13-of-23 passing with one TD and two interceptions. Aikman did not get a win until his 12th career start, which came in Week 1 of the 1990 season. He scored the game-winning touchdown, a 1-yard run, to defeat visiting San Diego 17-14. Aikman was 13-of-29 for 193 yards with the rushing TD, a passing TD, and an interception.
BOB GRIESE, MIAMI, WEEK 2, 1967
Griese lost 24-0 to visiting Kansas City, completing 11-of-22 passes for 101 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. He followed that with a 29-7 loss at the Jets the next week, connecting on 1-of-3 passes for four yards, no scores, and one interception. Griese did not get his first win until his sixth start of the 1967 season. He had the game-winning, 31-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to defeat visiting Buffalo 17-14, connecting on 17-of-33 attempts for 222 yards, the touchdown, and three interceptions. Griese was the only one of the four first-round QBs shutout in their first start to get a win in his rookie season.