Over the weekend, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly won the NFL's Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards, while Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson finished in second and third place respectively in the voting done by the Associated Press.
As the Seattle Times' Danny O'Neil reported:
Seattle’s draft class was panned in April. In January, though, Seattle had two of the top six rookies according to Associated Press ballots.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner was runner-up in Defensive Rookie of the Year to Luke Kuechly of Carolina, the No. 9 overall pick. Kuechly received 28 first-place votes, Wagner 11. Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward finished third with six first-place votes.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was third in votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Robert Griffin III of Washington won the award, receiving 29 of 50 votes. Andrew Luck of Indianapolis received 11 votes, Wilson received 10.
The balloting by 50 designated voters concluded before the start of the postseason. Voters selected one winner. There were no second and third-place votes in balloting.
While I'm not shocked that RG3 won the offensive award, I was a little surprised Kuechly beat out Wagner. In both votes what really has me scratching my head is the margin by which RG3 and Kuechly won.
On the offensive side of the coin the competition was fierce between not only the No. 1 and No. 2 selections in the April draft, but the man chosen 70-plus spots following them.
If you're a fan of the underdog, you will be hard-pressed to find a better story than Russell Wilson this season or most others. The undersized third-round draft choice took the city of Seattle and the NFL by storm in a story that now reads like a cheesy Hollywood script.
The fact of the matter is that it was really a fairly lengthy process that began last spring and took shape over the better part of the season. Wilson painstakingly won over his coaches, teammates, fans and eventually the entire league by taking on all comers and proving the critics wrong every step of the way.
Yet choosing among RG3, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson isn't as easy as you might imagine.
All three players led their teams to the postseason. Meanwhile, Luck threw for over 4,000 yards, Wilson tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes and RG3 threw for over 3,000 yards and ran for nearly 1,000 while winning the NFC East the final week of the season after starting the year 4-6.
As much as I love Wilson, I can understand the appeal of RG3 and how voters were amazed by him from the very beginning to the very end.
Who could forget RG3's Week 1 performance when he went to New Orleans and won with a dazzling display of dominance by attacking through the air and on the ground. Fast-forward to the regular-season finale at home against the Cowboys with the division title up for grabs when Griffin once again got the job done with the help of fellow rookie Alfred Morris at running back.
By the way, where were the ROY votes for Morris? A sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic rushes for 1,613 yards with 13 touchdowns while helping his team to the playoffs and his teammate wins in a landslide while he doesn't get a single vote from the 50 writers?
It all leads me to believe that Griffin's knack for drama is what has the media and fans spellbound. It also leads me to believe it's part of why he stayed in the wild-card game against the Seahawks well past the point he should have.
Griffin's failure to understand the limits of his own body could cost him dearly some day if he's not more careful...that's if it hasn't already.
Wilson, on the other hand, perhaps because he has been reminded throughout his life about his limitations, seems to have a solid grasp of what he should and shouldn't do on the field of play.
That maturity came through against the Redskins as he rallied the 'Hawks back on the road and leads me to wonder how many voters would have changed their vote if they had the chance now?
On the defensive side, Wagner was a second-round pick joining an already solid defense, but asked to help shore up what was arguably the team's weakest point at linebacker.
Following the departure of veteran David Hawthorne via free agency, Wagner was drafted with the hopes of taking over the middle linebacker spot after the top middle linebacker in the draft was selected just a few spots ahead of the Seahawks' first-round pick.
Whether the 'Hawks would have drafted Luke Kuechly is something we will probably never know, but with the Carolina Panthers grabbing him at No. 9, the brain trust of head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider adjusted accordingly and eventually found their man in the middle in Round 2.
From the very start Wagner looked like a keeper; in fact I went as far as considering him the team's most important rookie all the way back in May. Knowing what we know about Russell Wilson now, this sounds laughable, but at the time it made sense...at least to me. Similar to Wilson though, Wagner started right away and week after week grew before our eyes.
A position that going in to the season looked like a potential liability soon became a strength, with Wagner always at the center of the action while leading the team in tackles playing alongside second-year man K.J. Wright and veteran Leroy Hill.
With that said, did Wagner deserve to win given his contributions to the Seahawks this season?
In fairness to Kuechly, I have to say that I was impressed with his performance given I didn't see him making much of an impact going back to the draft. I figured he likely peaked at the Combine.
In Carolina this season Kuechly posted 165 tackles and took over the middle linebacker spot after veteran Jon Beason went down for the season with an injury early in the season.
At the same time I don't see how Kuechly got 28 first-place votes versus only 11 for Wagner.
At times like these I can imagine some fans crying about an East Coast bias within the media, but I'm not sure how much I buy that here given the fact that the Seahawks had four first-team All-Pro selections this year.
Perhaps in both cases Wilson and Wagner's success was seen as a byproduct of an already solid roster built by Pete Carroll and John Schneider?
Once again, we will probably never know, but by now Wilson and Wagner are likely accustomed to the critics looking past them. Either way I like to think both slights will be stowed away and some day used as motivation for Wilson and Wagner, who seem the kind of players who may forgive but will never forget.
Winning rookie of the year may be nice, but I hope that both men have their sights set on something far more grandiose over the course of time, while helping lift the Seahawks to a level that no one will be able to deny them with a popular vote...a Super Bowl championship.
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