Washington Redskins' RGIII Is the Unquestioned NFL Rookie of the Year

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Washington Redskins' RGIII Is the Unquestioned NFL Rookie of the Year
Robert Griffin III hopes to add to his collection of championship hats. (Nick Wass/AP)

As a Washington Redskins columnist, I try hard to be objective, but there are a handful of reasons I'm picking Robert Griffin III to be this season's unquestioned NFL Rookie of the Year.

By now, we all know that RGIII went from winning the Heisman Trophy to becoming the savior of a proud but suffering franchise. He went from humble rookie to a unanimous choice for Redskins team captain. Griffin juggled various duties as a runner, passer and marketing machine. And he went from eager young star to the division title-winning field general of an innovative offense that took the NFL by storm.

Most Redskins fans would add that up and consider Griffin a slam dunk for the league's most prestigious award for rookies. But RGIII is faced with perhaps the stiffest competition the league has ever seen.

It's so fierce, the other rookie QBs have bloggers and columnists lobbying for them all over the internet.

The Colts' Andrew Luck replaced a legend in Indianapolis, while Russell Wilson snatched the starter's role in Seattle from a free agent who was signed to be "the guy."

Luck doesn't wish to be compared to Peyton Manning, but he sure played like him. Meanwhile, Wilson is friends with fellow Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn, but he shouldn't feel sorry for his backup. 

The horse race for Rookie of the Year honors heated up in the season's final week. (Getty Images)

Another point worth mentioning is the influence Luck and Wilson had on their team's turnarounds. 

Luck took a two-win organization in 2011 to 11 wins and a postseason-berth in 2012. Wilson beat back critics who said he was too undersized to succeed and improved his team's win total from seven last year to a playoff-clinching 11 this year. He also defeated some of the league's top teams along the way, including those led by by veteran stars Tony RomoAaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford.

So, why should RGIII get the nod over these two well-deserving rookies?

One convincing reason was his ability to mesh with other Redskins newcomers, like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Griffin also played a dynamic role in flipping Washington's record from 5-11 to 10-6.

But for a better perspective, let's take the final stats of all three rookie QBs into account.

Passing Yards:  Luck (4,374; Rookie Record), Griffin (3,200), Wilson (3,118)

Rushing Yards:  Griffin (815; Rookie Record), Wilson (489), Luck (255) 

Passing TDs:  Wilson (26; Tied Rookie Record), Luck (23), Griffin (20)

Rushing TDs:  Griffin (7), Luck (5), Wilson (4)

Interceptions/Fumbles Lost:  Griffin (5/2), Wilson (10/3), Luck (18/5)

Total Turnovers:  Griffin (7), Wilson (13), Luck (23) 

Sacks:  Griffin (30), Wilson (33), Luck (41) 

Passer Rating:  Griffin (102.4; Rookie Record), Wilson (100.0), Luck (76.5)  

Completion Percentage:  Griffin (65.6), Wilson (64.1), Luck (54.1)

4th Quarter Comebacks:  Luck (7), Griffin (3), Wilson (3)

Out of the ten categories above, RGIII won seven of them to Luck's two.

Meanwhile, Wilson wasn't much of a winner or a loser. With 26 scoring strikes, he won the category for passing touchdowns and tied Peyton Manning's NFL record for most by a rookie QB. But Wilson was runner-up to Griffin or Luck in seven of the other nine categories. Nevertheless, he has supporters, including NFL Network analyst and former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick.

Wilson's versatility could pose a problem for Washington in Sunday's Wild Card game at FedEx Field. (Seahawks.com)

"When they were picked No. 1 and No. 2, [everyone knew that] Luck and RGIII were were going to be the starters from day one," said Billick, via NFL.com. "Wilson came in as an unheralded third-round draft choice, under the assumption that Matt Flynn was going to be the starter. For him to take control of the team, I don’t know if he’s deserving of it, but it’s certainly a compelling story." 

Luck's record-shattering year was quite compelling as well. His 11 wins are the most by a rookie quarterback taken No. 1 overall in the draft. His 627 attempts are 34 more than the previous rookie mark set by St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford.  Luck's 4,374 yards were better than the 4,051 Carolina's Cam Newton threw for last year.

And according to IndyStar.com, Luck set rookie records for most 300-yard games (six), most yards passing in a game (433 vs. Miami) and tied Peyton Manning's NFL record for most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime with seven. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger held the previous rookie record of five in 2004.

Luck and his teammates welcomed back coach Chuck Pagano on Sunday. Pagano's leukemia is now in remission. (Google Images)

But Andrew's luck will run out among voters because of his underwhelming passer rating, low completion percentage and 23 turnovers. "Luck struggled with accuracy for at least five weeks," points out NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Rosenthal also agrees with me that the award should belong to RGIII.  

We're talking about a guy who set rookie QB records for yards rushing and passer rating. He was the catalyst of an offense that finished first in the NFL in rushing (with 162 yards per game), first in average passing yards (7.87) and first in yards-per-play (6.18). Griffin also led the Redskins to their first division title since 1999, their first postseason appearance since 2007 and just their second home playoff game ever at FedEx Field.

He also didn't have the luxury of playing in a pro-style offense like Luck did in college. 

During NBC's Sunday night telecast of Washington's 28-18 win over Dallas, I couldn't help but take note of what Chris Collinsworth had to say about Griffin's intelligence, work ethic and ability to soak up a system that coaches Mike and Kyle Shanahan created just for him. 

"RGIII didn’t have a playbook in college," Collinsworth explained. "He didn’t know a route tree. Mike and Kyle didn’t care. They said we’re going to teach him and let him audible from Day 1."

And that gave Griffin the freedom to share the ball with others as he saw fit. The greatest beneficiary of this was Washington's other sparkling rookie, Alfred Morris, who's Griffin's personal choice for NFL Rookie of the Year. 

It's hard to argue with Griff's opinion because Morris was the league's biggest surprise in 2012. Drafted last April in the sixth round, Morris finished off a record-breaking season with a finale for the ages. Morris gutted the Cowboys defense for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries, en route to breaking Clinton Portis' franchise record for rushing yards in a season. Almo finished with 1,613 yards, compared to Portis' 1,516 in 2005. 

But some have argued that Morris has been the beneficiary of Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme that made stars out of numerous backs under Shanny in Denver. That may be true, but I believe Morris' success also stems from Griffin's unique ability to keep defenses on their heels.

There's no question that the read-option style offense turned Washington's running game upside down. Griffin and Morris accounted for nearly 90 percent of the Redskins' rushing yardage. In 2012, Washington ranked No. 1 in the NFL, with their 162-yard per game average. That's a startling improvement over 2011, when the Skins ranked 25th (100.9) and 2010, when they were 30th overall (91.3).  

If they could, Griffin and Morris would probably be happy to share the Rookie of the Year Award. But Morris prefers to stay under the radar and lets the charismatic Griffin shine instead.

Sunday night game balls were well deserved for Washington's rookie phenoms. (Google Images)

“I’m never a star. I’ll never be the star, said an unselfish Morris, via CSNWashington.com. Other people may think I’m a star, but I’m just Alfred. I’ve been the same since way back when and I’m not going to change. When I walked in, nobody knew who I was and I’m still going to be that guy. I couldn’t change, even if I tried.”

Morris' entire postgame interview was one of the most honorable ones I've heard, but I have sentimental reasons to predict RGIII as the overwhelming favorite for the ROTY Award.

Remember when the Redskins were reeling with a record of 3-6? Mike Shanahan showed his frustration by stating that it was time to evaluate players with seven games left in the season. The comment drew criticism, but in hindsight it was the perfect tool for lighting a fire under the Redskins.

Instead of throwing in the towel, the team regrouped over the bye week and looked to their 22-year-old quarterback to save them from the abyss.

“Everybody stepped up big and changed their mindset after the bye week," said RGIII, in his postgame press conference, via CSNWashington.com . "It was one game at a time and we took that cliché to the max because we knew we had to win every game. We couldn’t rely on anybody else to try to help us get into the playoffs and win our division and we went out and did that.”

DeAngelo Hall expressed how proud he was of RGIII, but told him "we still have a long way to go.” (Nick Wass/AP)

Griffin also accepted his new designation with open arms.

“Just because of your age, doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader," added Griffin. "The team showed me that when they voted me captain."

We’re young, we’re talented, we’re athletic, whatever you want to say, but the one thing that you can never account for is a man’s character."

And with character and resiliency, RGIII helped lead one of the most improbable seven-game win streaks in NFL history.

Now, all Griffin has to do is finish with three playoff wins, the Rookie of the Year Award and a shot at the grandest prize of all.     

 

Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo BillsWashington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage 

Unless otherwise noted, all player, coach and game information are courtesy of Redskins.com and the National Football League. Game day and postgame quotes are courtesy of NBC's Sunday Night Football and CSNWashington.com. Additional information and statistics were obtained from WashingtonPost.com, RealRedskins.com and WashingtonExaminer.com.

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