Robert Griffin III looks up at the scoreboard during the Washington Redskins' season finale against the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday
With three first-year quarterbacks experiencing unprecedented success in 2012, it becomes difficult to decipher who truly deserves the honors. Closer examination, however, reveals that Robert Griffin III is the clear-cut favorite for the NFL Rookie of the Year award.
Sure it's tough to ignore the fact that Andrew Luck passed for more yards than any rookie ever.
Obviously we can't discredit what Russell Wilson has done in such a short time in Seattle.
But the numbers don't lie.
And a thorough analysis of multiple factors will show why Robert Griffin III should be this year's NFL Rookie of the Year.
Before we get into the thick of things, let's take a look at how the three main candidates stack up to each other statistically.
This comparison of rookie quarterbacks from NFL.com makes the picture a bit clearer
Here is the breakdown.
Robert Griffin III's quick release helps him complete a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the season finale at FedEx Field in Week 17
Coming out of college, everyone knew that Robert Griffin III possessed that explosive, big-play ability that made NFL scouts giddy.
We all knew the kid could throw. We knew he could run.
But what we didn't know was how truly polished RG3 was as a passing NFL quarterback.
And with 16 games in the books, Robert Griffin III's final numbers show why he was one of the most efficient quarterbacks not just among rookies, but in the entire league.
When looking at (contending) rookie quarterbacks, RG3 led the way in completion percentage, average yards per completion, first down percentage, and passer rating.
I'd say that's pretty good company.
Robert Griffin III breaks free for a long run during a Dec. 3 game against the New York Giants
Unlike many traditional quarterbacks running ability, Robert Griffin III's legs actually serve as a complement to his arm.
Not the other way around.
The entire time he has been in D.C. he has insisted that he is a pass-first quarterback. Now, RG3 has the numbers to back that up.
Perhaps that makes the quarterback's rushing totals all the more impressive.
Injuries and all, Robert Griffin III finished with 815 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground.
Both numbers led rookie quarterbacks in 2012 and his new style may have revolutionized the game of football forever.
His ability to read NFL defenses has been remarkable and arguably unprecedented for a first-year quarterback as the Redskins continue to utilize the QB option and pistol formation effectively.
Until opposing defenses find a way to stop RG3 and Washington's league-leading rushing attack, it might be increasingly tougher to find room in Robert Griffin III's trophy case.
Josh Morgan catches an RG3 Fumble and takes it into the end zone for a touchdown against the New York Giants on Dec. 3
Even when he does make a mistake, it seemingly never hurts the Washington Redskins.
In fact, the team's first quarter touchdown against the New York Giants on Dec. 3 epitomized Robert Griffin III's season when the quarterback's lost fumble miraculously fell into the hands of Josh Morgan yards short of the end zone.
But luckily, Mike Shanahan and the rest of the Redskins' coaching staff haven't often had to hold their breath as they did that evening against the Giants because their rookie sensation, RG3, has protected the ball more effectively than any other rookie quarterback in recent memory.
Robert Griffin III's five interceptions were the fewest among starting quarterbacks across the entire league in 2012.
And though he didn't amass the attempt totals that guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers did, RG3's 8.1 yards per attempt and 65.6% completion rate show us that the rookie's success isn't merely a product of short and easy pass plays.
Add his two lost fumbles to the equation and you are looking at someone who quarterbacked a team with the fewest turnovers (14) across the entire NFL.
As a rookie.
What more could you ask for?
Andrew Luck attempts to make a tackle after throwing an interception during a Dec. 2 game against the Detroit Lions
The very component of Robert Griffin III's impressive rookie season that was just used to defend his case as Rookie of the Year can be used to argue against Andrew Luck's.
Arguably the most important and telling statistic in professional football can't be undervalued when evaluating this phenomenal group of rookie quarterbacks.
Of course it is expected for first-year players to make mistakes.
Growing pains are expected.
But when guys like Robert Griffin III come into the league and immediately take control of an offense without turning the ball over hardly at all, it makes it tough for guys like Andrew Luck to walk away with the Rookie of the Year award.
Sure, the 4,374 passing yards are extraordinary. Any time you break records held by Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, you're certainly doing something right.
However, Luck's 18 interceptions were tops amongst all rookie quarterbacks in 2012.
It might be a product of the high volume of pass attempts thrown Luck's way in his rookie campaign, but the number is high nonetheless.
His completion percentage was more than 10 points lower than that of RG3, and Luck's passer rating of 76.5 fell more than 25 points short of Washington's rookie.
Russell Wilson tries to evade pressure during a Dec. 30 game against the St. Louis Rams
Russell Wilson has defied all odds with his unbelievable rookie season for the Seattle Seahawks.
Overcoming criticism that he was too short to play the position, the Seahawks' quarterback rewrote the unwritten rules of the NFL.
But lost in the overwhelming excitement that has surrounded the high-scoring team in recent weeks is the foundation that was in place prior to Wilson's arrival.
Perhaps the quarterback's lack of size was a blessing in disguise.
Because Seattle's win total in 2011 (seven) was equal to that of Washington and Indianapolis combined.
While Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III walked into situations riddled with question marks, Russell Wilson had a bit more stability to lean on.
Sidney Rice and Marshawn Lynch served as viable and experienced weapons on offense while Seattle's ninth ranked defense in 2011 returned a majority of starters.
The only edge that Wilson holds over RG3 rests in touchdown totals (30-27).
And though the objective of the game is to score the most points, such a number isn't significant enough for Wilson to surpass Robert Griffin III in this year's Rookie of the Year voting.
Robert Griffin III celebrates a touchdown with Logan Paulsen during a Dec. 30 game against the Dallas Cowboys
In what has been arguably the most exciting race in NFL history, this year's Rookie of the Year competition has yielded several deserving candidates across the league.
Andrew Luck's record-breaking 4,374 passing yards would have likely locked up the honor in any other year.
However, Russell Wilson's 26 touchdown passes and Robert Griffin III's complete resume make the decision tougher than ever.
While guys like Doug Martin and Alfred Morris—who would likely be front runners in most other years—sit on the outside looking in, football fans across America are struggling to decide which of the three unprecedented rookies is most deserving.
Closer examination, however, will show that the race may not be as close as originally perceived.
Yes Andrew Luck's story in Indianapolis is remarkable, turning a two-win team into a legitimate playoff contender. Russell Wilson's emergence as an undersized superstar has been great.
But with Washington's win this past week against the Dallas Cowboys, all three candidates enter the playoffs with momentum.
And only a complete analysis of the numbers will shed light on the fact that Robert Griffin III should be honored as this year's NFL Rookie of the Year.
His 815 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground complement RG3's unbelievable completion percentage, average yards per attempt, and passer rating.
His rookie-low five interceptions make Russell Wilson (10) and Andrew Luck (18) look like turnover machines, and Robert Griffin III's clutch performance on the biggest of stages has made many across the league forget what he truly is...