With apologies to fans of Russell Wilson, we are isolating Luck and Griffin in this presentation because they had the unique distinction of being drafted with the first two overall picks of the 2012 NFL draft.
In this presentation, we will break down a number of important issues that help us sort through this debate. Roster makeup, salary-cap issues, free-agency tendencies and overall strengths of the offensive and defensive units, coaches and ownership are some things we analyze.
We will also look at the individual strengths and weaknesses of the two quarterbacks.
Rosters of Redskins, Colts
There are some interesting similarities between the Redskins and the Colts. Not only did both teams draft their future franchise quarterbacks with the respective top picks, but both teams made a major commitment to becoming younger in 2012.
If you check out the Colts roster, you will notice that 11 rookies are still with the team: nine on offense, two on defense.
If you look at the Redskins roster, they also have 11 rookies on the team: eight on offense, three on defense.
When Peyton Manning left the Colts after a 2-14 season in 2011, you knew that they would be going through a major change this year. As the season has progressed, you have seen rookies step up like T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
In an article that Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Brian Goldsmith wrote back on Aug. 2, he discussed the drastic changes in Indianapolis:
Sixty of the 90 players in training camp are new to the team. In fact, when former Colts coach Tony Dungy visited on the first day of Colts practice, he only saw seven players from his 2006 Super Bowl team.
With all that turnover and so much unknown heading into training camp, it is an exciting time to follow the Colts. This is truly a team that is being built from the ground up, and the foundation is being laid right now.
The Redskins leaned heavily on free agency to make a splash in 2012, highlighted by their huge trade with the St. Louis Rams to acquire the rights to draft Griffin. Right after the blockbuster trade was announced, the Redskins quickly pounced in free agency to surround Griffin with some weapons.
Washington signed free-agent wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't strip away millions in salary-cap space for prior misdeeds, there is no telling who else the Redskins could have landed during this free-agency frenzy.
The total fine the NFL handed down was $36 million over a two-year period, and there is no doubt this limited what the Redskins could do. As it turned out, the offensive weapons Washington added in free agency would only have a limited impact this year.
Coming into Week 15 action, neither Garcon nor Morgan has gained over 450 yards in receptions. In fact, the leading receiver for Washington is veteran Santana Moss, who only has 468 yards on the year. What is interesting is that Moss' total is the lowest of any No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, and it's not even close.
One key move totally overlooked at the time was when the Redskins drafted Alfred Morris in the sixth round. The rookie is averaging 95 rushing yards per game and is third in the NFL in rushing with 1,235 yards. The strength of Washington's running game keeps defenses off-balance and prevents them from blitzing Griffin more often.
Similarities and Differences
When you look at the performance of the two rookie quarterbacks in 2012, you see some similarities and some major differences.
Both quarterbacks have established that they are the unquestioned leader on offense. They both are composed and don't get overwhelmed at playing in the NFL. Each rookie plays beyond their years; their maturity level is off the charts. They are both bright and are adept at handling pressure situations.
It is perhaps a coincidence that both have 18 touchdown passes on the year. What is not a coincidence is that both teams are in contention for the playoffs in 2012.
From a total QBR perspective, they aren't very far apart. Griffin is ranked No. 4 with a score of 71.3, while Luck isn't too far behind at No. 9 with a score of 67.4.
Where they differ greatly is in the traditional quarterback passer rating. Griffin is tied with Tom Brady for the top passer rating in the NFL at 104.2, while Luck is far down the list at No. 31 with a score of 74.5.
The biggest difference is that Griffin has thrown only four interceptions this year, while Luck has thrown 18. In addition, Griffin completes about 11.5 percent more of his passes than does Luck (66.4 to 54.9 percent).
A huge plus in Griffin's column is his ability to run with the ball. He has 748 rushing yards on the season after Week 14, good for 20th among all rushers.
RGIII averages an NFL-best 6.7 yards per rush, which is slightly ahead of C.J. Spiller (6.6). Griffin's 748 yards has already set the NFL all-time rookie rushing record for a quarterback.
From a Coaching Perspective
Griffin's head coach Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls with John Elway and has enjoyed a long NFL career of building strong offenses.
Luck's head coach Chuck Pagano comes from a defensive background and is a rookie head coach. Luck, therefore, has to rely on interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for guidance at the pro level.
Some people may not be all that familiar with Arians' NFL coaching experience, but he is seasoned. His resume includes stints with Kansas City (1989-1992), New Orleans (1996), Indianapolis (1998-2000), Cleveland (2001-2003), Pittsburgh (2004-2011) and then back to Indianapolis in 2012.
He was hired as the offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. He has been a position coach in the NFL for quarterbacks, tight ends, wide receivers and running backs. Arians has done it all.
Needless to say, both rookie quarterbacks are blessed to have an experienced offensive mastermind on board to develop their game as quickly as possible to be NFL ready.
When you think about the quarterbacks from a physical perspective, Luck is clearly the bigger athlete, while Griffin is blessed with the kind of speed you usually see at track meets. Luck is 6'4" and weighs 234 pounds. Griffin is 6'2" and weighs 223 pounds.
Due to his size, most NFL defenders are going to be bigger than Griffin, so he is taking a calculated risk whenever one of his runs ends up in a violent collision. We witnessed what can happen last week when Griffin hurt his knee against the Baltimore Ravens.
At the scouting combine in Indianapolis, Griffin ran the 40 in 4.41 seconds. That speed will help Griffin to elude NFL defensive linemen.
Analyzing the Defenses for Colts, Redskins
In analyzing the overall defensive units in Indianapolis and Washington, we note that both teams feature some very key veterans.
The Redskins are led by London Fletcher (37 years of age), DeAngelo Hall (29) and Cedric Griffin (30). The Colts are led by their pair of outstanding pass-rushers in Dwight Freeney (32) and Robert Mathis (31), assisted by veteran Cory Redding (32).
The old NFL axiom that you had to have a great defense to win a Super Bowl championship was blown out of the water last year at Super Bowl XLVI. The New England Patriots had the No. 31 overall defense, while the Giants weren't much better at No. 27 overall. During the regular season, the Patriots allowed 21.4 points per game, while the Giants allowed 25 points per game.
In 2012, the Colts defense is ranked 22nd overall, allowing 362.5 yards per game. The rush defense is No.18, and the pass defense is No. 20. Indy allows 25.3 points per game, which ranks it tied for No. 23 in the league with (guess who?) the Redskins.
The Redskins defense is ranked No. 28 overall, giving up 388.1 yards per game. The rush defense is their saving grace, coming in at No. 7. The pass defense is No. 31 in the league, and they allow 25.3 points per game, which ties them for No. 23.
If your defense gives up that many points, you have to have a top-10 offense to offset the damage done on the other side of the ball. Luckily, both teams have offenses ranked in the top seven in the league coming into Week 15.
Washington has the No. 5 overall offense in the league, due in large part to owning the No. 1 running attack in the NFL. They average 386.7 yards of offense per game, running the ball for 168.1 yards per week. The passing offense is No. 21, with 216.5 yards per game. They score 26 points per game, which is No. 8 in the NFL. They average scoring 26.4 points, which is No. 7 in the NFL.
Indianapolis has the No. 7 overall offense, gaining an average of 382.6 yards per game. The passing attack is No. 8 in the NFL, gaining 276.8 yards per game. The running game is No. 22, picking up 105.8 yards per contest. They average scoring 22.1 points per game, which ranks them No. 17. Their average is scoring 22.5 points per game, which ranks them No. 17.
As each of these organizations looks to the future, the Redskins will have to address the pass coverage issues. Washington's defense has more experience than the Colts, so either the Redskins will have to win it all soon or look to rebuild the defense over the next year or two.
The Colts just transitioned to the 3-4 defensive scheme this year under new head coach Chuck Pagano. They will have a better idea of who is not a great fit for the scheme when they head into the offseason. Some fine-tuning will be needed, and you can be sure that Pagano will snag more Baltimore Ravens free agents when they hit the market.
Speaking of Pagano, we don't know what the future holds for him. The "Chuck Strong" movement has been a clear source of inspiration for the Colts' surprising 9-4 record.
Is Pagano going to be healthy enough to return in 2013? Bruce Arians has done a masterful job in his absence, so the Colts seem to be in good hands no matter what happens.
Overall, the Redskins have lacked the franchise quarterback and megastar player to lead the offense for several decades. It could be argued that the last great quarterback in Washington was Joe Theismann, and he retired in 1985. Owner Daniel Snyder now has that marquee player in Griffin—a player he knows will fill the seats.
The salary-cap fine from Goodell will limit how much room the Redskins have available for free agency (they lose another $18 million in 2013). That will be a painful reminder to Snyder, who seems to live for making a splash every year in free agency.
On the other hand, the Colts seem to have found a way to limit their down cycle to just one losing season. They have quickly retooled thanks to the leadership and overall assets of Luck. By drafting so many key rookies on offense in 2012, it looks like the unit's key contributors will all be learning together on the job.
There is something to be said for that plan.
Indianapolis Wins Super Bowl Before Washington
- Andrew Luck is more of a classic pocket passer. He proved this year that he is mobile enough yet can make subtle moves within the pocket.
- The Redskins rely heavily on the option-read in their running game. Griffin is a skilled ball-handler, but defenses will spend enough time in the offseason to have a better plan designed to counter the scheme.
- The Colts have an advantage in terms of organization. The Colts have been accustomed to reaching the playoffs far more than they have been out off of the postseason. Business as usual.
- For the Redskins, they have only won one playoff game since 2000. They have more hurdles to climb as an organization, and that will take longer to develop. Washington, and Daniel Snyder in particular, loves to go after big-ticket free agents.
- For the time being, the NFC East is tougher than the AFC South. The Redskins face much stiffer competition with the Giants and Cowboys. The Colts only need to worry about the Houston Texans.
- Griffin risks taking too many big hits. There is no question that he has the slighter frame of the two rookies. As we have seen with other mobile quarterbacks (like Michael Vick), you can only escape for so long.
- Griffin was lucky that he wasn't hurt worse than he was when his knee hyperextended against Baltimore. Remember, he tore his ACL at Baylor and missed most of 2009 due to injury. That is one of my few reservations about Griffin.
Thanks for checking out the presentation, and we will see how much of this analysis holds up over the test of time.