NFL Rookie of the Year 2012: Breaking Down 3 QBs Leading Race for Award

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 10, 2012

It's terribly redundant to say that NFL franchises are largely dependent on who the man under center is.

The 2012 season has been unique, though, because in a quarterback-driven league typically headlined by experienced veterans, three first-year QBs have taken center stage in the Rookie of the Year discussion—some even generating faint MVP hype.

Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will forever be linked, since they went one-two in the NFL draft.

As impressive as Luck has been in the clutch for the Indianapolis Colts and how RGIII has been a total game-changer for the Washington Redskins, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks is certainly in the discussion. This power trio can rock on the field with their arms or legs, and have shone in key moments to guide their teams above the .500 mark through Week 14.

Here is a breakdown of these three special individuals, and a case for each of them to win the widely-coveted award of the league's top rookie.


Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Let's start with Luck, which is fitting considering his draft position. The Colts have no business being 9-4, considering the fact that they ranked at the bottom of most NFL power rankings in the preseason.

The team has no doubt rallied around the leukemia diagnosis of head coach Chuck Pagano, and it has been one of the most warming stories for an NFL team in recent memory.

Luck has been the ultimate catalyst of this magical 2012 run to date, which seems like something Hollywood produced. Sunday's 27-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans at home was the sixth fourth-quarter comeback of Luck's young career.

Here is the problem with voting him as the man for the Rookie of the Year: turnovers. It doesn't even make sense that the Colts have won nine games with all the mistakes Luck has made. After the Titans game, Luck's touchdown to interception record stood at 18-to-18.

Rookies make mistakes, sure, but it's surprising that Luck's haven't cost his team more, since the running game hasn't been consistent and the defense has not been able to force any turnovers.

On the other hand, there were no expectations for this franchise in 2012, and Luck has a very inexperienced supporting cast aside from star WR Reggie Wayne. In fact, without him, the situation would likely be much more dire for Luck and the Colts.

However, that's not to take away how well Luck has played when the game has mattered most.

At the end of the week, all that matters are victories. A completion percentage of just under 55 and a passer rating barely better than that of Mark Sanchez's tend not to matter when Luck makes up for many of the team's other shortcomings.

On a very young team, Luck has taken the reins as a prominent leader already—and is a big reason Indy is believing in the Colts as they appear headed for the playoffs.


Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

It will be interesting to see if Griffin's body can hold up to the punishment sustained through 13 career games. In Sunday's season-saving win over the Baltimore Ravens, RGIII was knocked out of a home contest for the second time due to injury. That's not a good trend.

However, the injury isn't as serious as it appeared to Griffin's knee, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter:

MRI on @rgiii's knee did not reveal any damage to his ACL or MCL, but there are no guarantees he'll be ready next week.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 10, 2012

Whether he plays next week or not—or beyond—Griffin has orchestrated a revolutionary offense thanks to his precocious abilities to throw from the pocket combined with incredible speed.

That has given play-caller Kyle Shanahan all sorts of liberty—fitting for the D.C. area—on how to utilize Griffin, primarily from the pistol formation. That's where RGIII is in shotgun but not as typically deep, with fellow explosive rookie Alfred Morris lined up behind him.

This has opened up running lanes for both Griffin and Morris, as well as opportunities to utilize Griffin's cannon arm to throw the ball downfield. RGIII already throws one of the better deep balls in the NFL, and is rivaled only by Panthers QB Cam Newton in averaging 8.3 yards per attempt.

Combine an outstanding 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and 748 yards rushing with six scores, and that makes a pretty strong case for Griffin as the winner for Rookie of the Year award.

But there's even more. The Redskins' secondary has been awful all year long, giving up tons of big plays and not getting critical stops to help the high-powered offense out. Yet that hasn't stopped Griffin and Co. from forming the top rushing attack in the league.

Barring the injury keeping him out, Griffin has to be strongly considered as the front-runner right now.

He needed a signature win, and did enough to accomplish that against Baltimore, even though Kirk Cousins made the throw and game-tying two-point conversion to push the team to overtime.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Entering training camp as the No. 3 QB behind incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and prized free agent acquisition Matt Flynn, not much was expected from Wilson.

He's used to overcoming adversity and far exceeding the expectations of others—and it all stems from his stature.

The consensus was that Wilson would not to be able to succeed as an NFL starter since he was under six feet, but the Seahawks snatched Wilson up with the 75th overall pick in this year's draft. Wilson has never looked back.

There were lumps early on, as Seattle trudged out to a relatively slow start to the year. Any concerns were laid to rest rather quickly thereafter. Thanks largely to Wilson's improvement, the Seahawks look like a legitimate playoff team.

But casting aside the laughable 58-0 blowout over NFC West foe Arizona on Sunday, the big turning point for Wilson was in Chicago against the Bears in Week 13.

After capping off a 97-yard touchdown drive by hitting Golden Tate for what appeared to be a game-winning TD, a desperation bomb by Bears QB Jay Cutler found favorite target Brandon Marshall. Kicker Robbie Gould pushed the game to overtime.

Wilson, as usual, was not discouraged. Instead, he responded by taking his team 80 yards on the first possession, using both his arm and his legs to devastate one of the league's premier defenses.

He finished by hitting Sidney Rice on a crossing route for the deciding touchdown, registering 293 yards passing and two TDs with 71 yards rushing on just nine carries.

Although he has had a lot of help from the likes of Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch, a scarily athletic defense and a spectacular home crowd, Wilson has had to make things happen on numerous broken plays throughout the year. That was all he did in those season-defining drives at Soldier Field—Wilson just made magic happen.

Wilson may get knocked for all the help he receives, and may not be as hyped for Rookie of the Year as his more highly touted draft classmates, but he's used to that.

Still, the argument has to be made for Wilson over the others. If bottom-line success weighs in as heavily as the numbers the QBs put up, Wilson's team has the best chance to make noise in the playoffs in 2012 for what it's worth—and his 20 passing TDs outnumber Luck and Griffin.

Bias in favor of the higher star power of Griffin or Luck will likely win out, but to this point in the year, Wilson is just as deserving to be labeled the rookie of the year.


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