The 'second year leap' has become a familiar mantra amongst hopeful fanbases banking on improvement from their rookie quarterbacks. While there isn't any exact science behind this phenomenon, it has certainly gained momentum in recent years. Both Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Lamar Jackson (2019) are sophomore signal callers who ended up becoming league MVP.
This poses the question: what are the greatest jumps in improvement from year one to two in NFL history, and what did these quarterbacks do to elevate their game? Here are four of the greatest second year QB seasons in NFL history.
Peyton Manning (1999)
Perhaps the greatest to ever play the position, Peyton Manning's career didn't look Hall of Fame-worthy after one season. The Tennessee alum tossed 26 touchdowns and threw for 3,739 yards, the latter breaking a rookie record. However, he was also responsible for 28 interceptions, a dismal number that led the league and played a major role in giving the Indianapolis Colts a 3-13 record in 1998.
The next season, everything changed. The Colts reversed their record, going 13-3 and beginning a decade-long run of AFC contention with number twelve at the helm. Peyton threw for 26 touchdowns yet again, along with over 4,000 yards. However, he managed to drop his interception total all the way down to just 15 while standing tall against some of the NFL's best.
Like any legend, Manning made adjustments and assessed where his game needed improvement. While arm strength was never in doubt, his accuracy and decision-making skills clearly needed work. While part of his second-year success can be attributed to additional NFL experience, Manning boosted his completion percentage by over six points, and engineered a then-NFL record seven game-winning drives. Composure, leadership, and smart decision making were what allowed Peyton to succeed, more than any athletic talent he possessed.
Lamar Jackson (2019)
Going from a surefire HOF member to a third year starter may feel drastic, but Lamar Jackson changed football last year.
In 2018, Jackson was tasked with taking over a stagnant Ravens offense over longtime starter Joe Flacco. While Baltimore did make the playoffs, the Heisman winner didn't set the world on fire. Over seven starts, he threw for just 1,201 yards (around 171 yards per game) with a completion percentage under 60