The race for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year is basically a two-horse race right now between the Colts’ Andrew Luck, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, and Robert Griffin III, whom the Redskins traded up to take with the second pick. The airwaves are loaded with the debate over who is more deserving. As one who has had the privilege of watching Luck since his first snaps at mini-camp, let me lay out the argument for why Luck deserves the award over RGIII.
Before getting into the argument, a brief disclaimer. First, I’m a Colts beat writer. Obviously I’ve watched a lot more of Andrew Luck than I have of RGIII. That obviously influences my opinion. Second, there are still four games left to play in the regular season. An awful lot can happen between now and then. With that out of the way, onto the argument.
Statistical Most who support RGIII as rookie of the year start right away spouting statistics, specifically RGIII’s QB rating of 104.4 which puts him behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning in the NFL. By contrast, Andrew Luck ranks 29th, just below Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker at 76.1. While Griffin’s completion percentage and interception numbers far outstrip Luck’s that doesn’t tell the entire story.
Luck has attempted the second most passes in the NFL, 503, tied with Carson Palmer and just behind Matthew Stafford. What do all three of these players have in common? An almost non-existent running attack which puts a greater burden on the quarterback to generate offense. Griffin has attempted only 325 passes, second fewest of any QB to start every game for his team. Only Seattle rookie Russell Wilson has attempted fewer passes. What do these two have in common? Each has a 1000 yard rusher in their backfield.
Not only that, but both RGIII and Wilson are known for their ability to run the football. That means when their pockets break down, they’re likely to scramble for whatever yardage they can pick up. While Andrew Luck has been far more nimble that Peyton Manning ever dreamed of being, he’s simply thrown the ball away on more than a few occasions rather than take a sack.
Luck is fourth in the NFL in passing yardage. Griffin is 19th, almost a full thousand yards behind Luck. When we look a little deeper, we see that Luck’s passing yards account for 73% of the Colts’ total offensive output. He’s also rushed for 216 yards and five touchdowns, giving him a hand in 77% of the Colts’ total yardage and 85% of the Colts’ touchdowns.
RGIII, by comparison, accounts for only 54% of the Redskins’ total offense with his passing. Even when Griffin’s prolific rushing numbers are added in, he accounts for slightly less than 70% of Washington’s total offensive output. He has been a part of 74% of his team’s scoring plays.
Supporting Cast The above numbers spell out Luck’s case fairly well. Simply put, Luck has far more of an offensive burden on him as a rookie than does RGIII. RGIII also has the benefit of throwing to Santana Moss, a 12 year NFL veteran, and Pierre Garçon who is in his fifth year. Having those veterans to depend on has made a huge difference in RGIII’s ability to succeed.
Andrew Luck has had the incomparable Reggie Wayne and… a bunch of fellow rookies. TY Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, all figuring out the NFL right alongside their quarterback.
Let’s not forget that Luck has been taking snaps behind an offensive line that a) has only played a fraction of snaps together as a starting unit because of injuries and b) considered second-year tackle Anthony Castonzo the “returning veteran” of the group. It’s also important to note that while Andrew Luck entered the NFL alongside a brand-new head coach and offensive system being implemented team-wide, RGIII had the benefit of being under Mike and Kyle Shanahan who have been with the Redskins since 2010.
Winning The most compelling argument for Luck’s winning Rookie of the Year is team record. The Colts stand 8-4 and poised to make the playoffs. No other number one overall pick has even led his team to a winning season! Not Aikman, not Manning, no one. There’s a reason for that and it has a lot to do with why the team had the number one overall pick to begin with.
Washington is 6-6 and could still make the playoffs, which would be quite a feat for RGIII. Still, Washington traded up from the number six spot to take RGIII number two overall. They didn’t make the playoffs last season, but they weren’t exactly the dregs of the NFL either.
Robert Griffin III is a very, very good football player. He may even win a Super Bowl some day. In this, his rookie season, however, there is one better among his peers. Andrew Luck has put together a historic rookie season, one which will be the benchmark for rookies for a long time to come.
Chuck Chapman is entering his second season as the editor and lead writer for Colts 101. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals for the Sports Media 101. Chuck and his family are originally from Ohio, but have settled in Central Indiana and become big Colts fans. You can read Chuck’s other writing about the Colts at www.colts101.com.
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