Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin: One Year Later, Who Got the Better QB?

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Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin: One Year Later, Who Got the Better QB?
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Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were just the fifth set of quarterbacks to go No. 1 and No. 2 overall in the NFL draft since the 1971 season. They were, however, the first set to lead their respective teams to the playoffs in their rookie seasons. 

The question posed in the headline of this article was asked ad nauseum leading up to the 2012 NFL draft and immediately prior to this past season. 

Who got the better quarterback, Indianapolis or Washington? With a sample size spanning nearly a full calendar year, I will attempt to answer that question. 

First, let's take a look at how Andrew Luck reversed the fortunes of a franchise. 

 

Indianapolis '11 and '12 Splits Per Game (via NFL.com)
Year Points Total Yards Passing Yards Rushing Yards 1st Downs
2011 15.2 (28th) 286.8 (30th) 187.2 (27th)  99.6 (26th) 16.1 (31st)
2012 22.3 (10th) 362.4 (10th) 258.0 (7th)  104.4 (22nd) 22.5 (4th)

 

As you can see above, the Colts not only improved in every single offensive category from 2011 to 2012, they finished in the top 10 in each category outside of rushing offense. 

That's pretty amazing considering that 65 percent of their entire offensive output from skill-position players came from rookies. It wasn't like Luck joined a established group of players that carried him through a stellar rookie season. 

In total, Indianapolis averaged over seven points, nearly 80 yards and about six more first downs per game in 2012 than it did the previous season. The Colts scored 20 or more points 11 times in 2012, compared to just four times the previous season. In addition, they finished a robust 9-2 in those games (via Pro Football Reference). 

Using the statistics provided above, we can calculate that Luck represented nearly 71 percent of the Colts' offensive output this past season. That percentage perfectly illustrates him not relying on others to get the job done, which is what we see from most rookie quarterbacks. 

Robert Griffin III was another exception to the rule, shouldering a massive load in his first year as a pro.

 

Washington '11 and '12 Splits Per Game (via NFL.com)
Year Points Total Yards Passing Yards Rushing Yards 1st Downs
2011 18.0 (26th) 336.7 (16th) 235.8 (14th) 100.9 (25th) 19.5 (15th)
2012 27.2 (4th)   383.2 (5th)  213.9 (20th) 169.3 (1st)  21.3 (7th) 

 

The Redskins went from the bottom-third in rushing offense in 2011 to No. 1 overall this past season. While a lot of this had to do with the incredible performance of rookie running back Alfred Morris (1,613 yards), you have to believe that having a threat like RG3 in the offensive backfield played a larger role. 

The rookie quarterback accounted for 66 percent of Washington's entire offensive output, which is simply incredible considering that Morris tallied as many yards as he did on the ground. 

Overall, the Redskins finished in the top seven in the NFL in four of the five categories I listed above. They did, however, have a more veteran-laden offensive line and receiving core than the Colts. 

So, can Griffin truly take credit for those impressive leaps? More to the point, how do we measure RG3 against Luck considering the talent divide between their teams' respective units? 

When looking at who got the better quarterback, especially after just one season, it's important to crunch some more telling numbers. 

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Griffin ranked ninth among quarterbacks with a positive grade of 30.6, while Luck ranked 17th with a positive grade of 8.1. 

Most of this has to do with the fact that Washington's quarterback threw only five interceptions in 393 pass attempts for an average of one pick per 78.6 attempts. On the other hand, Luck threw 18 interceptions in 627 attempts for an average of one interception per 34.8 attempts. 

Luck did drop back to pass the second-most times in the NFL, behind only Matthew Stafford. For what it's worth, RG3 ranked 26th among regular starters in this category. 

It's no secret that the more times a quarterback attempts a pass throughout the duration of a game, the more likely it is that he will make mistakes. After all, the top four starting quarterbacks in terms of dropbacks also ranked in the top five in interceptions (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). 

If Luck had the type of balance that Griffin had on the ground, there is no telling what type of production we would have seen in terms of touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When looking at the type of protection each quarterback received up front, Washington's pass protection ranked 19th in the NFL, while Indianapolis was second-to-last, just ahead of the Arizona Cardinals (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). Overall, Luck was sacked 41 times compared to 30 for RG3.

Needless to say, Griffin had more time to pass and hit his receivers. This enabled him to progress to secondary reads more often than Luck. This also has a direct correlation to the abnormally high number of interceptions thrown by the Colts' rookie.  

Another outside factor that has to be taken into account is the number of dropped passes plaguing Indianapolis in 2012. By comparison, Washington didn't do much better in this category. 

Colts pass-catchers combined for 47 dropped passes throughout the duration of the 2012 season. That's one drop per 13.3 pass attempts. Meanwhile, Washington's skill-position players combined for 34 drops on 442 pass attempts for an average of one drop every 13 attempts (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required).  

One thing that I failed to mention above is rushing yards. Griffin led all quarterbacks with 815 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground. He also averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Luck tallied only 255 yards on the ground and scored five touchdowns. 

We already knew that Griffin was the more mobile quarterback of the two, so this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. That said, he puts himself at a greater risk for injury whenever he takes off running. 

Who do you think got the better QB?

Submit Vote vote to see results

It's really hard to come to a conclusion here, because both quarterbacks led their clubs to the postseason in a year that was widely considered the start of a rebuilding process. By weighing what each quarterback did to help his team win football games, though, Luck stands out just a bit more than RG3.

He was working with a much younger group of skill-position players, a weaker offensive line and a below-average defense, but managed to improve his squad nearly as much as his counterpart across the board.  

At this point, it looks as though the Colts secured the better overall quarterback.

 

Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.

Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.

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