How the NFL's rookie quarterbacks stack up side by side

12/4/12 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (right) and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (left) pose for a photo on the red carpet before the start of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY SportsNFL fans have had the privilege of seeing a rare feat this season - five rookie quarterbacks starting their teams' first 12 games, and most of them having success. Take a look at how the elite quarterbacks of present day started their careers: Peyton Manning went 3-13 as a rookie. Tom Brady got to play in garbage time once in his first season. Aaron Rodgers didn't get a start until his fourth year in the league. Meanwhile, this year's rookies are getting starts, putting up good numbers, and leading their teams to playoff races.

Two of the five rookie starters are definitely on a lower level than the other three, but we shouldn't take anything away from what they've been able to accomplish as such inexperienced signal callers. First, we have Ryan Tannehill, who drew a ton of criticism as the 8th overall selection in last year's draft. Those that were high on Tannehill even said that he was a raw prospect and would take some time to develop, but the Dolphins felt that he was their best option and started him right off the bat. He's led a team that went 6-10 last year to a 5-7 start to this season, and has Dolphins fans hopeful for the future. His numbers are far from impressive, with 2559 yards, seven touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, but that's in large part due to his inconsistency as a rookie. Tannehill has had an 86.0 quarterback rating or higher in half of his games this season. He still hasn't quite sold me long-term, but he's been better than I had expected so far.

Brandon Weeden of the Browns was another highly criticized pick, in large part due to his old age. Regardless, Weeden has led his team to a 4-8 record, which isn't very impressive, but when you consider that last year's team was 4-12, you have to think he's doing a decent job for a rookie. He's racked up 2820 yards - 2nd among rookies - and 13 touchdowns. He's improved the Browns' scoring output, and has the passing game no longer ranked in the bottom third of the league. With a scarcity of weapons to throw to, he's not doing too bad as a first year signal caller.
Dec 2, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) runs the ball against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. The Seahawks beat the Bears 23-17 in overtime.  Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Now we can get to the top rookie quarterbacks, who have been turning heads and making headlines ever since opening weekend. Russell Wilson is the most intriguing of the three, as he is a 3rd round pick that dropped in the draft due to his height at 5'11''. All he's done to prove his doubters wrong is throw 19 touchdowns (most among rookies) and only eight interceptions (half as many as first overall pick Andrew Luck) while leading his team to a 7-5 record, positioning them well for the playoffs. His 95.2 quarterback rating is 7th best in the league, higher than Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

Top pick Andrew Luck has been worth the hype, leading his Colts - who were 2-14 in 2011 - to an 8-4 record through the first three quarters of the season. His 3596 passing yards are good for 4th in the NFL, and he's racked up 17 touchdowns through the air. Probably his best statistic, however, would be his five game winning drives.

Regardless of how well he plays, Luck will forever be compared to Robert Griffin III, who has had just as impressive of a season. RG3's absurd 104.4 quarterback rating is 3rd best in the league, and he's already broken Cam Newton's rookie quarterback rushing record. He's thrown 17 touchdowns to only four interceptions, showing unprecedented poise and decision making for a rookie. He's led his team to three straight wins, putting them in playoff contention for the first time since 2008.

So, which one of these rookie studs is the best? Seahawks players will tell you it's Russell Wilson, but I'll have to disagree. Wilson has been fantastic, but the Seahawks are a team built on defense and the run game. They're ranked 4th in total defense, and 7th in rushing offense, allowing Wilson to game manage his way to victory. Wilson deserves a lot of credit for the Seahawks' 7-5 record, but as the signal caller in the league's 30th ranked aerial attack, he doesn't deserve too much credit.
Blog Photo - How the NFL's rookie quarterbacks stack up side by side
As for the top two picks, I have to go with RG3 over Andrew Luck. And no, I'm not just saying this because I'm caught up in the flashiness of the most electrifying quarterback we've seen since pre-dog-murder Michael Vick. I've always thought that Griffin had higher upside than Luck, but I didn't think he'd show it until a few years down the road. However, Griffin is proving to be one of the safest quarterbacks with the ball in the league, and when he does let it loose, he rips off big chunks of yardage. His yards per attempt average of 8.2 is second best in the NFL, compared to Luck's 7.1 yards per attempt, which ranks 17th. Griffin has thrown a fourth of the interceptions that Luck has thrown (Luck leads the NFL in that department). RG3's total touchdown to total turnover (interceptions + lost fumbles) ratio is 23:6, while Luck's is 22:21. The quarterback ratings say it all - RG3: 104.4, Luck: 76.1.

The argument can be made that the numbers don't matter, and that Luck is better because he has his team at 8-4 and likely to make the playoffs. Not so fast... Griffin's offense scores more points than Luck's, and turns the ball over less - it's not Griffin's fault that the Redskins can't pull off more wins.

Though the Redskins and Colts are 23rd and 24th in scoring defense, the Colts' number is skewed by a couple of blowout losses. The Colts' defense has given up an average of 18.6 points per game in their eight wins - that number would ranked 5th in the league if they maintained it through their four losses. They've held opponents to 20 points or less in six of their eight wins. Luck hasn't had to put too many points on the board to win football games.

The Redskins have given up 22.2 points per game in their wins (and that's dragged down by a 31-6 win over the Eagles), which would rank 17th in the league if they maintained it in through their six losses, so Griffin has had to do more than Luck to earn his victories.

One final note: Griffin has almost no weapons to throw to. Pierre Garcon has been pretty good when on the field and healthy, but he's only played in six of the team's games and has been gimpy in a few of them. Luck's No. 1 receiver is a surefire Hall of Famer, and the receiving options around him (Avery, Hilton, etc.) are better than a washed up Santana Moss and some guy named Leonard Hankerson.

Don't get me wrong, I think Andrew Luck is exceptional and is having a historic season as a rookie quarterback, but Robert Griffin III would be having a historic season even if he wasn't a rookie. I can't think of a quarterback who ever ran like Griffin does while maintaining a quarterback rating of 100+. What RG3 is doing is ridiculous, and he may have a worse record than Luck, but I think he's had a more impressive season. Plus, the Redskins are one game back of the NFC East leaders with three of their final four games are against teams that have .500 records or worse, so absolutely do not count RG3 out of the postseason.
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12/4/12   |   kobe_lova   |   62330 respect

Weeden is a great backup QB.

12/4/12   |   Jess   |   35086 respect

(Edited by Jess)

There are a few things that a lot of people don't realize though as far the Seahawks passing game is concerned. First, Wilson's stats would be a lot better had it not been for dropped passes early this season. I realize that it's not as bad as seasons past, and our receivers have improved dramatically, but there were a few games when Wilson was getting the ball right into their hands and they couldn't hold on. The phrases "in and out of the hands of ...." and "you've gotta make that catch..." gave me indigestion. Sometimes stats don't tell the whole story. Not to take away from our rushing game, but as our receivers started holding on and the OC opened up the playbook, Wilson started turning heads. That takes us to second - as Eric (gearhead) said in his article about the rookie QBs, they just recently took off the kid gloves with him and are letting him have a lot more control of what goes on out on the field. Maybe he needed them at first. Maybe that was exactly how they needed to work with him to progress as he has been, I don't know. I'm not going to say he doesn't make rookie mistakes - they all do. He frustrates me when he doesn't see a wide open receiver (sometimes because of his size, sometimes he just doesn't get to him in the progression before the pocket collapses, sometimes he's just got tunnel vision for one guy), and he did tend to panic and scramble a little early but he's getting better about that. 

As for our defense - they've given up several 4th quarter leads, a lot of big plays, and for some reason canNOT seem to figure out how to consistently stop a team on 3rd and long. I realize they're ranked high, but there are a lot of frustrations there too, and a lot of areas in which they can improve.