Almost everyone expected No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III to be heavy-hitters in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation come January, but few would have forecast No. 75 pick Russell Wilson sweeping in to steal the award.
That's completely possible at this point, because Wilson's team was a little more successful during the regular season than Luck's or Griffin's, and Wilson himself has done more for voters lately than any of his peer rookie quarterbacks.
I do think finishing strong is important, but I think a rookie's entire body of work has to be looked at when assessing whether he's worthy of an award like this one. And from a statistical standpoint, RG3 still has a clear edge over his rookie signal-calling counterparts.
But it's not all about statistics, right? And intangibly, Wilson loses some points to Griffin and Luck. Sure, the Seahawks won 11 games while Washington won 10, and sure, Seattle had a much stronger points-differential number (plus-167) than the 'Skins (plus-48) and the Colts (minus-30, despite an 11-5 record). But Wilson benefited from a much stronger defense than the units Griffin and Luck were forced to work with.
This is what matters most to me when it comes to a quarterback's ability to lead an offense: Led by Griffin, Washington averaged 27.2 points per game (fourth in the NFL) while Wilson's Seahawks ranked ninth at 25.8 and Luck's Colts ranked 18th at 22.2.
You know what also doesn't sound right? "Wilson's Seahawks." That is still a run-first team led by the defense. Before getting injured late, Griffin made more of an impact than Luck and Wilson did as a runner as well as a passer.
While they were able to win without him in Week 15, the 'Skins wouldn't have been competitive sans Griffin. Can you say the same thing about the Seahawks sans Wilson? I'm not so sure.
I don't want to punish Wilson too much for having better teammates, but that's a factor when it comes to analyzing who should win an award. Besides, I think he'd prefer no award and a stronger shot at a Super Bowl anyway. And I have no problem punishing Wilson for a slow start to his rookie season. The fact that he threw more interceptions in his first five games than RG3 threw all year has to be considered when comparing the two quarterbacks in terms of their effectiveness in 2012.
Luck complicates things, because his supporting cast is arguably weaker than Griffin's, and yet his Colts still made the playoffs and won one more game than the 'Skins did. He gets extra credit for that, as well as for his ability to lead the Colts in lots of tight fourth-quarter scenarios.
Officially, he had only one more fourth-quarter comeback (four) than Griffin and Wilson (three each, per Pro Football Reference), but all three were phenomenal time and again with games on the line. And again, Luck accomplished that with less to work with on offense and a weak defense. The Seahawks led the league with only 15.3 points per game allowed, while Indy and Washington both surrendered exactly 24.2 per outing.
Bringing individual stats back into it, it's almost impossible to give any of the three rookie pivots an edge when it comes to being clutch. Again, they all stepped up when called upon. Here's a look at how each fared in one-score games in the fourth quarter:
Griffin takes a backseat to Luck and Wilson in some of these categories, but it's a small sample size, and he's still a little more efficient than the other two. I don't think anyone has enough of an edge here to gain points in the race.
As far as advanced stats go, Griffin holds his ground again. Here's how each has fared on passes that have traveled at least 20 yards, as well as how each has fared while under pressure:
Griffin has also been the league's highest-rated quarterback against the blitz this season, which is amazing for a rookie. He might take more chances than 'Skins fans would like, but he's remarkable when facing heat. He's not asked to make as many big throws as Luck or even Wilson, but he is much more efficient on those passes.
In the original chart, Griffin has a clear edge, leading in eight of the 11 categories that measure a quarterback's success. He only lost two of those 12 fumbles, so he turned the ball over significantly less than his rookie quarterback counterparts. He rushed for far more yards per attempt despite having far more attempts, and he created far more yards per play than the other two men. His ratings and averages were all higher, and in terms of total touchdowns (27) he's only one back of Luck (28) and three back of Wilson (30).
Considering the support Wilson has had, his slow start, Luck's significantly inferior statistics and the fact that Luck and Wilson clearly don't have substantial edges when it comes to intangible factors, fourth-quarter performances and advanced stats, there's no way you can give the Offensive Rookie of the Year award to anyone but Robert Griffin III.