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NFL Rookie Quarterback Trio: The Best Since 1983

In Sports on January 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Rookie QB's

Andrew Luck was considered such a “can’t-miss” quarterback prospect that the Indianapolis Colts were comfortable cutting ties with Peyton Manning (a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer) to make Luck their quarterback of the future.  Robert Griffin III (RG3) showed so much potential to be a dominant quarterback that the Washington Redskins gave up a second-round pick and two first-round picks to move up four spots to take him.  Russell Wilson wasn’t picked by the Seattle Seahawks until the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but if he were four inches taller, these three quarterbacks would have been the top three picks in the draft.  There are other rookie quarterbacks from the class of 2012 who may still be very successful in the future, but this quarterback class will be defined by the careers of Luck, Griffin and Wilson.  The NFL hasn’t seen a rookie quarterback draft class this good since 1983 (John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino).

Even with the parity that exists in the NFL today, few, if any, expected three rookie quarterbacks to lead their respective teams to the playoffs.

The Colts were coming off a disastrous 2-14 season a year after going to the Super Bowl, which showed just how valuable Manning was to the franchise.  They jettisoned head coach, Jim Caldwell, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl the season before.  They parted ways with a number of veteran players to make room for young players to rebuild as quickly as possible.  When new head coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with leukemia four games into the season, offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, took over as interim head coach for the majority of the season.  Needless to say, the odds were heavily stacked against the Colts.  With limited talent around him, Luck threw the ball 627 times (23 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions), and somehow led the Colts to an 11-5 record and an improbable playoff berth.

The Redskins had very high expectations for RG3, but even the fans in D.C. had to be surprised that he led them to an NFC East title in his rookie season.  After starting out the season 3-6, head coach, Mike Shanahan, was widely criticized for stating that the rest of the season would be about evaluating players for the future.  Given Shanahan’s statement, no one expected the Redskins to end the season with a seven-game winning streak.  With the division title on the line, the Cowboys had no answers for the hobbled RG3 in the final game of the season.  At full strength, there is no telling how good RG3 will be in the future.

The Seahawks signed free agent quarterback, Matt Flynn, to a three-year, $26 million contract before the 2012 NFL Draft.  When they used their third round pick on Wilson, it was certainly not with the intention of making him the opening day starter, but he won the job just the same with his pre-season performance.  At 5’11”, Wilson is far from the prototypical NFL quarterback, but what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in skill and intangibles.  Wilson didn’t receive the fanfare that Luck and Griffin enjoyed for most of the season, but when the Seahawks started dominating games late in the season, the world stood up and took notice of the “other” rookie quarterback.

If you watched this trio of rookie quarterbacks last weekend in the Wildcard games, you know full well that none of these quarterbacks looked like rookies.  None of them wilted under the playoff spotlight.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Each of these rookie quarterbacks shined in their playoff debuts.

The Colts were simply overmatched by the veteran Baltimore Ravens, but Luck proved that he will lead this team to many playoff games to come in the future.  The Redskins couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with the Seahawks, but then again, neither could most teams towards the end of the season.  If RG3 were healthy, this may have been a different game, but he showed flashes of brilliance before reinjuring his knee, which has now put his availability in jeopardy for next season.  Wilson was poised and determined in his first-ever playoff game, and many people believe that he and the Seahawks will upset the top-ranked Falcons this weekend.  Regardless of what happens with the Seahawks, Wilson has cemented himself as the quarterback of the future in Seattle, and has elevated himself into the conversation with Luck and Griffin for Rookie of the Year with his play this season.

Some will say that Luck deserves to be the Rookie of the Year.  Others will say it should go to RG3 or Wilson.  The bottom line is that all three are deserving of the award.

The quarterback class of 1983 went to 11 Super Bowls.  No one knows what will happen with this trio of rookie quarterbacks, but based on their performances this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if they enjoy similar success if they can remain healthy.

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