Robert Griffin III. Andrew Luck. Russell Wilson. Three rookie quarterbacks all having solid seasons. But who’s been the best so far?
Andrew Luck has the best record. The Colts are 8-4, a year after only winning two games, although they've played an incredibly weak schedule. Indianapolis only has one win over a team that currently has a winning record, a Week 5 victory against the Green Bay Packers.
Luck has thrown for significantly more yards than Griffin and Wilson, albeit on far more attempts. He’s also tied for last in the NFL with 16 interceptions, only one less than the 17 touchdowns he has thrown, and is ranked No. 29 in the league in passer rating, behind Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker, three second year players who don’t exactly have stellar reputations.
With two matchups remaining against the division leading Houston Texans, and cupcake games against bottom feeders Jacksonville and Tennessee, Luck is all but guaranteed at least a 10-6 record and a spot in the playoffs.
Not too many rookie quarterbacks lead their teams to the playoffs, and Luck is set to do so with an average rushing attack (18th in the league in rushing yards per game) and a pretty bad defense (21st in yards per game).
In the end, professional sports are all about winning, and Luck, who has been incredibly clutch, is doing that better than any other rookie quarterback. So does that make him the best?
Luck was the first pick in the draft. Robert Griffin III went second overall. Russell Wilson was the No. 12 pick … in the third round. Considered by many to be too short to make it in the NFL as a starting quarterback, despite a very successful collegiate career, Wilson fell all the way to No. 75 in the NFL draft.
Third round picks usually aren’t expected to make big impacts as rookies, especially when they play the most important position in the game, and even more so when they are drafted by a team that just spent big money on a free agent that plays the same position.
Wilson wasn’t supposed to start. Matt Flynn, Aaron Rodgers’ former backup in Green Bay, was given a three year, $19.5 million deal, with $10 million guaranteed, to play quarterback for the Seahawks. And yet Wilson beat out Flynn in the preseason, earning the first team job, and relegating the former LSU player to the role of an expensive backup.
And how has Wilson done since winning the job? He’s led his team to a 7-5 record, including wins over the Packers (the replacement refs were so bad, they made Carl Lewis and Rosanne Barr look like Marvin Gaye), the New England Patriots and most recently, a comeback victory against the Chicago Bears. Wilson has thrown for the most touchdowns of any rookie quarterback (19), has a 95.2 quarterback rating (good for seventh in the league) and has only thrown eight interceptions.
Wilson also plays for a much better team than either Griffin or Luck. The Seahawks rank seventh in the NFL in rushing and have one of the best backs in the game in Marshawn Lynch. Seattle also has the fourth best defense in the league. And let’s face it, Wilson’s only won six games, the replacement refs gave him the other.
With a 7-5 record, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks would be in the playoffs if they started today, and he does have good numbers. If Seattle was 6-6 though, as they should be, then, because they are 0-3 in their division, they would be on the outside looking in.
So is Wilson the best rookie quarterback?
No. Wilson is not the best rookie quarterback in the NFL this season. And neither is Andrew Luck. That distinction belongs to Robert Griffin III, or as teammate Fred Davis calls him, Black Jesus. Griffin has the worst record of the three rookies (though at 6-6 he isn’t far behind), but the hottest team, as the Redskins have won three in a row, largely due to the superb play of RG3.
In the past three games, all wins over division rivals, Griffin has thrown nine touchdown passes to only one interception. All in all, Griffin has 17 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, which ties him with Tom Brady for the least in the NFL among quarterbacks who have started every game.
Griffin also ranks third in the NFL in passer rating (104.4), fifth in completion percentage (67.1, which is slightly better than Wilson’s 63.4 and significantly better than Lucks’ 55.5) and second in yards per attempt (8.2), all of which he’s done while missing his best two receivers for most of the season.
Of course what makes RG3 so dangerous, is that he combines phenomenal passing ability with world class speed and athleticism. Griffin has run for 714 yards (a record for rookie quarterbacks with four games still to play) and six touchdowns.
There has quite possibly never been a quarterback in the league with Griffin’s abilities. He is as fast as any player in the game, but unlike most other running quarterbacks, he can throw the ball as well as anyone in the league.
With four games remaining, Griffin and the Redskins have a good chance of catching the Giants and making the playoffs, despite the 29th ranked defense in the NFL. If that happens, you can forget about the Rookie of the Year award, RG3 may very well win the MVP.