RGIII's ROY Hopes Dashed by Strong Class, Injury and Success of Teammates

Matthew BrownCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after Alfred Morris #46 scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins defeated the Dallas Cowboys 28-18. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Long after the winner has been named, the debate about who truly deserves to be the NFL Rookie of the Year this season will rage on. Robert Griffin III may be the odds-on favorite, but Seattle's Russell Wilson, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Washington's own Alfred Morris have more than a shot at the award.

Griffin's biggest obstacle in the award race is his injury, the strength of the draft class and the success of Kirk Cousins and Morris in his stead.

There is no discounting the sheer impact RGIII has had on the Washington Redskins organization. His record will show 9-6, but he owes one victory to Cousins, who came off the bench to lead the 'Skins to victory in Week 14.

Cousins appeared in three games, starting one, and earned two victories, including an unlikely fourth-quarter comeback to force overtime against the Baltimore Ravens.

Luck broke Cam Newton's rookie record for passing yards with 4,374 and led the Colts to an unexpected 11-5 record and a playoff berth just one season after they finished 2-14.

Wilson was supposed to be too small to play the quarterback position, but managed to nab the starting job and lead the Seahawks to an 11-5 record. He won the final five games of the season, where he scored 13 of his 30 total touchdowns.

He also tied Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 touchdown passes, and while the record book has the two tied for most touchdowns by a rookie quarterback, Wilson also adds four rushing touchdowns to that total.

RGIII's teammate, Morris, was drafted in the sixth round and was barely expected to make the roster with Tim Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster all vying for carries.

After a solid preseason showing, Morris not only made the active roster, but beat out Hightower and leapfrogged Royster for the starting job with Helu on IR.

He didn't simply occupy the position either. Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns and set the Redskins rookie and franchise rushing records for a single season. He capped of an impressive season with a 200-yard, three-touchdown day and finished as the NFL's second-leading rusher behind Adrian Peterson, who was only chasing a near 30-year-old record for most rushing yards in a single season.

Like the NFL's MVP award, the Rookie of the Year should be based on all-around impact rather than strictly statistical output.

After a decade or more of being in the league basement, making headlines for free-agent busts, coaching debacles and fan unrest, the Redskins turned into an unexpected beacon of hope for DC sports fans, and RGIII is the reason for it.

The issue is, however, that the Redskins were able to come back from the brink of defeat and beat the underachieving Cleveland Brown without Griffin.

When Griffin returned to action with a heavy brace, it was Morris who rushed for 291 yards and four touchdowns, while Griffin passed for 298 yards and two touchdowns.

Like the NFL's MVP award, there must be a certain irreplaceable quality in a player, and while Griffin may be a one of a kind, he isn't the sole reason the Redskins have won seven in a row en route to the playoffs.

The trio of Griffin, Luck and Wilson have a combined record of 31-16 this season. Griffin has just nine wins credited to him, while Luck and Wilson each have 11.

Statistically speaking, Griffin deserves all the credit he has received. He set NFL records for rookie passer rating, interception percentage and rushing yards. He took the NFL by storm, becoming the top-selling jersey for a single season and befuddling defenses with his mix of speed, athleticism and sharp passing skills.

The big "but" at the end of it all is that he missed a game, didn't finish two others and the Redskins didn't appear to be worse for the wear without him.

There is nothing that can take away from what Griffin has accomplished at the ripe old age of 22, but he's up against stiff competition. Competition that didn't miss any games or have reserves come in and get the job done in similar fashion.

If there is one thing that Griffin can do to pull ahead of his competition, it is to blow everyone away in the playoffs. If he can outgun Wilson in their playoff matchup and look better than Luck at the same time, his odds increase dramatically.

It isn't a slight of Griffin's value or performance in one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent memory. He just happened to be drafted in one of the most talented draft classes in recent memory.