Diverging paths for star Year 2 QBs

After standout seasons in 2012, some the NFL's young QBs are struggling. AP Photo, USA Today Sports Images

Nobody said it was easy to be an NFL quarterback.

A subpar debut demands quick improvement, or else the hook may be coming. Just ask Brandon Weeden. Last year's first-round pick has already lost his job in Cleveland to Brian Hoyer and now Jason Campbell after ineffective play.

Every team wants to groom a franchise quarterback, but sometimes mistakes are made to stunt that development. Miami's Ryan Tannehill lost some of his protection when left tackle Jake Long went to St. Louis. The Dolphins signed wide receiver Mike Wallace to a rich contract, but it's been a poor season so far, and Tannehill is the league's most sacked quarterback (41 times). It's hard to develop to your true potential in such circumstances.

On the other side of the coin, when there's instant success, the expectations just get higher. Last season, we had a "big four" of new quarterback starters who all dazzled us with their athleticism and record-breaking performances. Further, each led his team to the playoffs.

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson spearheaded the greatest rookie quarterback class in NFL history, while second-year backup Colin Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith in San Francisco and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. These four signal-callers were crowned the future of the NFL. Their dual-threat ability allows them to beat defenses from both inside and outside the pocket. Further, this new breed of athletic quarterback will become the prototype moving forward.

However, this season the big four are struggling to keep pace with what they accomplished in 2012, let alone breaking any new ground toward that next level. It's not so much a sophomore slump as it is the natural bumps along the road of progressing to legitimate greatness in the NFL.