It’s entirely likely that what happened during the 2012 NFL season will never occur again.
We watched the two best seasons by rookie quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. And Andrew Luck wasn’t half bad, either.
Robert Griffin III was the best around, throwing for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in 15 games, while completing 65.6 percent of his passes and averaging 8.1 yards per attempt. He added another 815 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns.
Russell Wilson was the most poised, the most consistent and showed the greatest leadership coming out of the gate. He threw for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with 7.9 yards per attempt at a 64.1 percent clip. He ran for 489 yards and four touchdowns.
Luck has the most potential and the greatest set of tools moving forward. He also took on the most responsibility and was forced to complete the toughest throws. He threw for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, completing 54.1 percent of his passes and averaging 7.0 yards per attempt. He ran for 255 yards and five touchdowns.
All three players were named to the Pro Bowl, all of them took home player of the week and rookie of the week honors and Wilson and Griffin both earned Rookie of the Year awards, though Griffin won the trophies from the most reputable sources (AP, Sporting News and PFW/PFWA).
NFL analysts argued over who was the greatest player last season until their faces were the shade of Luck’s royal blue Colts jersey (not quite the shade of Wilson’s College Navy Seahawks jersey). But that debate is over (at least until “Greatest Rookie Quarterback Ever” lists start making their rounds again). The question now is who will have the better season in 2013, and the question for a later date is who will have the greatest career.
By Feb. 3, 2014, when Super Bowl XLVIII has made its way through the frozen tundra of New York City and East Rutherford, N.J., the answer to the former question will be Wilson.
Wilson is not coming off ACL surgery. He’s less prone to getting hurt than Griffin. And he was considerably better than Luck last season. It helps that Wilson has the greatest weapons around him, but that doesn’t tell the entire story.
During the course of Wilson and Griffin’s careers, the shorter, but not smaller, player has proven to be less injury prone. And while it would be natural to assume Luck’s numbers, and overall play, will improve in 2013 (especially since his college offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has taken over for the more risky Bruce Arians), that doesn’t mean that every poor decision or off throw that Luck made in 2012 will suddenly disappear in his sophomore season.
Of course, it helps that Wilson has Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice to throw to and Marshawn Lynch to take hand offs. It doesn’t hurt that Seattle has the best offensive line of the three teams, with Max Unger manning the front in the middle at center and flanked by Pro Bowler Russell Okung, protecting the left side of the line. Washington’s offensive line is above average, while Indianapolis’ was terrible last year, but should be much better after acquiring Donald Thomas and Gosder Cherilus.
Even if Griffin stays completely healthy in 2013, he’s possibly due to some regression. Washington relied on the read option heavily, and the Redskins didn’t help out the young quarterback by signing or drafting any impressive weapons for him to throw to. His best target remains Pierre Garcon, who couldn’t seem to get, or stay, healthy last year.
It’s also natural for a quarterback to need a full year to return to form after major knee surgery. Tom Brady was better in 2010 and 2011 than he was in 2009 and Carson Palmer never really fully recovered from 2006 surgery. (And neither of those players rely on their legs nearly as heavily as RGIII.)
For Luck, outside of a seemingly ageless Reggie Wayne, the Colts offense is filled with uncertainty. Darrius Heyward-Bey is boom or bust from week to week, Lavon Brazill is facing a four-game suspension and T.Y. Hilton, while impressive in his rookie season, was plagued by inconsistency. The Indianapolis offense will have to rely on Wayne and its second-year tight ends.
So while an impressive sophomore year may not mean that Wilson will have the best career of the bunch, it could go a long way towards Seattle competing for a Super Bowl title. And if Wilson is able to accomplish that feat in just his second year, there will be no doubt which signal caller had the better 2013 season.
Photo via Facebook/Seattle Seahawks from B/R