The year of the rookie phenoms
NFL rookies carried their teams out of mediocrity and into the playoffs
By Dylan Gehlbach
Last year, Cam Newton broke onto the scene with the Carolina Panthers and handily won the Rookie of the Year vote in the NFL. Had he began his NFL career this season, he may not have finished in the Top 3 among voters.
With Last-Rookie-QB-Standing Russell Wilson’s Seahawks falling in the final seconds to the Atlanta Falcons, it seems like a good time to talk about the tremendous performances from Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III this season.
It isn’t every year that a rookie quarterback joins an NFL team and cements himself as the franchise quarterback for time to come. This year, it appears that not one, but THREE have done just that, taking their once-mediocre teams to the playoffs.
The Indianapolis Colts were gambling when they sent Peyton Manning away and placed all faith in their draft pick from Stanford, Andrew Luck. This gamble paid off, as Luck led the team with the worst record in the 2011 season (2-14) to the playoffs in his first season.
The Colts improved nine wins behind Luck thought Luck had a below average Passer Rating of 76.5 percent, ranking 26th among quarterbacks this season.
Though Luck could be inconsistent at times as a rookie, he carried the team in the 4th quarter. Among Luck’s heroics were late touchdown passes to win against teams like Green Bay and Detroit. Of the ten games that the Colts played decided by seven or less points, the Colts were 9-1 with a clutch Andrew Luck running the offense late.
Robert Griffin III
The Washington Redskins had sky-high hopes for the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, trading away important pieces in order to land Griffin III as the second overall pick in the draft. Like the Colts, the Redskins’ gamble was rewarded. The former Baylor Bear had a record-breaking season with the Redskins.
The once 5-11 Redskins made huge strides in the 2012 season with Griffin at the helm. The team improved to 10-6 to win the NFC East for the first time since 1997, a year after a last place finish in that division. The Redskins made the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
RGIII was phenomenal in his first NFL season, ending with the third best passer rating in the league at 102.4% a rookie record, while posting another record for rookies with a rating of 158.3% in a single game.
Russell Wilson was nowhere near as hyped as Luck and Griffin III. Out of Wisconsin, Russell Wilson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round and came out firing.
In 2012, the Seahawks, as well as the rest of the NFC West, made huge improvements. The Seahawks went from a 7-9 record in 2011 to an 11-5 record this year, just finishing behind the San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1).
Russell Wilson also broke the former rookie Passer Rating record with a rating of 100%. While receiving less attention than Luck and Griffin III in the early-goings of the season, Wilson was almost definitely having the best season of the three at the halfway point. Wilson threw for an amazing 26 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions.
Wilson led his Seahawks past the Redskins in the Wildcard round of the playoffs to lose a 30-28 game in Atlanta on Sunday in the NFC Divisional Round despite throwing for 385 yards on the day.
It is easy to make a case for any of these three stellar quarterbacks to be named Rookie of the Year on January 29th. Andrew Luck turned the worst team in the NFL into a playoff team. Robert Griffin III had a record-breaking season. Russell Wilson was the exceptional type of quarterback that nobody expected him to be, almost leading the Seahawks past the #1 seed in the NFC in the playoffs.
But it isn’t really important which of these quarterbacks wins the award. The best part of all this is getting to watch them play on Sundays for years to come.