"If I had it to do all over again, I think I would have rather watched," Carr, now the Giants' backup QB, told FanHouse on Monday. "There were just so many bad habits I picked up that, if I'd seen another guy doing it, I don't think I would have."
Of course, Carr is quick to point out that his situation was much different from the one in which Sanchez and Stafford find themselves now. The Jets aren't among the preseason Super Bowl favorites, but they're a far cry from an expansion team just trying not to get its brains beat in every week. The Lions, coming off an 0-16 season, are a closer comparison. But both teams have veterans to whom the rookie QBs can go for advice, which may be the most important thing.
"In Houston, it was tough, being an expansion team. There just weren't a lot of guys who weren't coaches that you could lean on," Carr said. "You just used the guys around you, but they didn't know any more than you did."
Carr was coming out of college, where he and his Fresno State teams were dominant enough to make him the No. 1 overall pick in that 2002 draft. In college, Carr said, they practiced a couple of hours a day and then watched film for two or three hours.
"We thought that was a lot," Carr said.
In the NFL, it's not. And his rookie year, there was nobody around to tell him otherwise. So he basically just did the same things he did in college. Once he got on the field, it became clear quickly that it wasn't going to be good enough.
"The first NFL game I ever saw, I played in," Carr said. "There were so many things I wasn't prepared for. Just realizing how teams tried to attack you -- that's new. In college, we ran the same plays every week and the defenses basically did the same things. Here ... it's not like that."
Carr was the starter for five challenging years in Houston, racking up 59 touchdowns and 65 interceptions during his time there. He's not willing to say things would have been different for him if he'd had time to learn on the job, but he does recognize that the situation probably means as much as the quarterback does in these types of equations.
"Every time I see Ben Roethlisberger, I tell him how jealous I am," Carr said. "He walked right into the perfect situation."
Things have worked out pretty well here for Eli Manning, the man David Carr now backs up. Another top pick with huge expectations, Manning did not start right away for the Giants. He served as veteran Kurt Warner's understudy at the start of his rookie season in 2004, eventually playing in nine games and starting seven that year.
"As a rookie, I think it's important to play your first year, whether you start or not," Manning said. "Obviously I can't say how I would have done if I was the starter right away, but I know I wanted to come in there and play, learn from my mistakes. You'll never know if you're getting better or doing the right things unless you get into games."
That won't be a problem for Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford, who appear set to start their first NFL games Sunday. And just because it didn't work out for Carr in Houston, that doesn't mean he thinks those two can't pull it off.
"New York might be a little better situation," Carr said. "And Sanchez, he looks like he's a good player, and he's smart, says all the right things. I think he has coaches that are smart enough to know, if the group's good enough around the quarterback, you can put him in a position to succeed."
Sometimes that happens, and you're Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco. Sometimes it doesn't, and you're David Carr. Which will Sanchez and Stafford be? We'll get to start finding out soon.