NFL Offensive Rookie Of The Year is normally not a big deal; the most recent draft class is not normal. The 2012 draft class that included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and the immortal Ryan Lindley is going to go down as one of the greatest quarterback draft classes of all time. A truly spectacular collection of signal calling talents, highlighted by 3 rookie seasons that completely defied expectations. All of Wilson, Luck and Griffin’s teams made the playoffs. They all have certain advantages and disadvantages relative to one another which makes the question of who deserves Offensive Rookie Of The Year so difficult. To understand the answer, all three must be analyzed on a case to case level.
The only 4,000 yard passer out of the bunch, Luck did more with less than both of the other quarterbacks. He took the Indianapolis Colts from a pathetic 2-14 to 11-5 with a cushy fifth seed in the playoffs. To say that he was great every game, however, just isn’t true. He did have spectacular games against the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in combination with seven 4th-quarter comebacks, which ties an NFL record; however, Luck also turned the ball over 18 times in comparison to Wilson’s 10 and Griffin’s 5. Wilson and Griffin had Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch carrying the ball for them and threatening defenses; Andrew Luck had Donald Brown and Vick Ballard. Despite being selected ahead of Alfred Morris in the draft, Ballard proved himself to be a relatively mediocre talent while Lynch and Morris are elite or near elite level running backs. Luck’s receivers outside of Reggie Wayne were either rookies in T.Y Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen or veteran retreads like Donnie Avery. It simply wasn’t a talented or polished offense outside of Luck and Wayne. The fact that they finished at 18th overall as a scoring offense is a mark against Luck as the OROY, but he is not to blame for all of it. Luck’s case for the award mostly relies on his late-game heroics and sheer volume in passing yards.
Those who will cast their ballot for Luck believe that quarterback is a position measured by intangibles as well as holding the belief that Luck had to carry much more of the load for his team, which resulted in a much lower completion percentage. Consecutive stinkers against Tennessee, Houston (the first time) and Kansas City really hurt his candidacy but even inside of that stretch, he submitted a convincing game winning drive. Certainly, a case can be made for the hairier-than-average young man, but not one built on efficiency.
Robert Griffin III
For their entire careers, Luck and Griffin will be compared to one another. 25 years from now, some pundit will probably be using OROY and whoever won it as proof that either Luck or Griffin (or Wilson) is better than one or the other. If this award was doled out based on pure breathtaking ability or magnetism, RG3 would win running away. His 76 yard touchdown run replayed more times on ESPN than a Tim Tebow soundbite. His near-perfect four touchdown game against Philly was like watching someone play Madden on rookie after they had spent a year playing on All-Madden. His 4,015 combo yards, while not as many as Luck, came in much more stylish fashion. Now, none of this is to say that Griffin’s numbers were hollow. He obviously turned it up when it mattered and lead his team to the playoffs. Kirk Cousin’s late game replacement against Baltimore and victory against Baltimore hurt RG3’s case a little bit, but nothing like Luck’s 18 interceptions.
Perhaps more than anything, RG3’s ability to take care of the ball lead to his candidacy. The Redskin’s had the number 4 overall scoring offense, putting them in the same class as the Patriots and Broncos. Griffin’s stinginess with turnovers and in-completions enabled this happen. Griffin consistently marched the team down the field and through use of a power running game and play action, was able to complete an obscene 65.6% of his passes. Numbers like that are unheard from most NFL quarterbacks, let alone a rookie. On sheer per game production, Griffin has a very strong case to win the award. He rushed for more touchdowns than Wilson and took care of the ball far better than did Luck. The parts of the Atlanta and Baltimore game he missed combined with sitting out the Cleveland game hurt his overall resume for the award, however. If he does deserve to win, it’s based on the 800 valuable rushing yards and the high completion percentage and low interception rate.
Anyone throwing this out in August would have been laughed at; those who stored Wilson away as their last draft pick in their fantasy draft (as one certain sports writer here did) was mocked for wasting a pick. Then, Wilson proceeded to deliver one of the most hyper efficient rookie quarterbacking seasons that the league has ever seen. Unlike Griffin and Luck, Wilson had to deal with severe playcalling handcuffs at the beginning of the season. Another than the anomaly in his first game against the Cardinals, Wilson didn’t throw more than 27 passes until week 8 against Detroit. In week 8, a light switch went off for Pete Carrol and he realized the rookie he had tossed out there could actually play. After that point, Wilson was on fire, throwing multiple touchdowns all weeks but 3, with one 4 touchdown performance against the league’s best defense sprinkled in for good measure.
Part of the problem for Wilson is that his defense and running back were so good, he wasn’t allowed to compile numbers the way that Griffin and Luck were. The Redskins were so bad on defense that RG3 had to play all 4 quarters and put up points. Wilson had multiple games over the last month where the Seahawks were blowing opponents out so bad that Wilson had his beanie on five minutes into the 3rd quarter. The Colts were always behind so Luck got to chuck the ball all game long. Even with less playing time, Wilson threw for less than 90 yards less than Griffin and only ran for one fewer touchdown. When Carroll finally started calling designed runs or mixing in some zone read options for Wilson and Lynch, he was rewarded with 179 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns in 3 games to the tune of 7.5 yards per carry. While not the amazing display the Griffin had, Wilson was both very efficient as a passer and athletic as a runner.
Final Verdict: It may be an unpopular opinion, but my choice for Offensive Rookie Of The Year is Russell Wilson. Rather than choosing one of the wonder twins, Wilson is the choice due to his play over the 2nd half of the season. Once the training wheels came off, Wilson became the best quarterback of the three. Luck had his dramatic comebacks and RG3 had his win-and-get-in game against the Cowboys, but Wilson quarterbacked a team that scored over 50 points two weeks in a row and demoralized the best defensive team in football on National Television. Swagger matters to this award and Wilson has it. Despite being very short for the position, he is so technically proficient and mentally astute at all aspects of quarterbacking, that he is the best out of the three at this moment. If my life depended on it and I had to have one of these guys for one game to win, Wilson would be the pick. He led a top 10 offense, completed 64% of his passes and made Pete Carroll look like a genius for benching a guy guaranteed 15 million dollars. Your 2012 Offensive Rookie Of The Year is Russell Wilson