You could almost narrow the NFL Rookie of the Year contest at the beginning of the season. We all knew that there would be a serious microscope on RGIII and Andrew Luck. With the Colts choosing Luck over RGIII to replace the legendary Peyton Manning, the expectations were very high. Interestingly, one of the last times this much discussion occurred over two highly drafted quarterbacks was in 1998, when Peyton Manning was drafted over Ryan Leaf. Unlike the Manning/Leaf comparison, both young quarterbacks in this year’s spotlight have proven that they are worth the hype.
Only a few days ago, RGIII was listed by multiple sports writers as the favorite for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award. Yesterday, Andrew Luck firmly proved that he should be the favorite in this race, and that RGIII should be on the outside looking in.
The case for Luck’s Rookie of the Year award began at the beginning of the season. Luck took the reins of a rebuilding Colts team that had a very sparse sprinkling of talent. No one expected much at all this year from the rookie quarterback or the Colts. There is little question that RGIII took over a team with more talent (at least on paper). In the last 13 weeks, Luck has taken that lackluster team and brought them to the verge of a playoff appearance in his first season.
The stats for the two quarterbacks show that both have talent. Through 11 games, RGIII has amassed 2,497 yards passing, 642 yards rushing, and a total of 22 touchdowns. After this week’s performance, Luck has a total of 3,596 yards passing, 216 yards rushing, and a total of 22 touchdowns. (I know Luck has a week on RGIII, but I doubt RGIII will throw for 1,000 yards this week.) While Luck clearly holds the advantage in yards, he has thrown a dozen more interceptions than RGIII.
While the quality of the stats is debatable for fans of each quarterback, it’s the intangibles that make the case for Luck. During his rookie season, Luck has faced a new team, a new system, the pressure of winning over fans who have cheered for the best quarterback in football for the last 14 years (get over it Brady fans), and a head coach who had to leave the team to fight leukemia after only three regular season games. Even with these trials, Luck has led the Colts to an 8-4 season, setting records for passing yards in a game and the number of wins in a season by a rookie first pick. He has done this with five game winning drives in the fourth quarter. Including Sunday’s game winning touchdown pass with no time left on the clock.
This kind of leadership and poise in a quarterback is to be expected from good seasoned players. How anyone could see this from a rookie and still consider RGIII as the top contender for the award is inconceivable. Running for 400 more yards and throwing a dozen fewer interceptions doesn’t make one the Rookie of the Year if he can’t lead his team to wins. On the contrary, throwing for a thousand yards more than your competition, showing the poise of a seasoned quarterback, and truly leading your team to a winning record and playoff contention are what make one a great quarterback. Indeed, this is what makes Andrew Luck the Rookie of the Year.