Rookie of the year discussion
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
With the NFL regular season in the books and the playoffs kicking off, it’s that time of year when all those who don’t have a team in the post-season can start to focus on less important matters. One such matter would be rookie of the year. Though it’s been an outstanding season for rookies, there are really only three players who qualify for consideration: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson.
Before starting, I feel that Alfred Morris and Doug Martin have to be mentioned. While they have no chance whatsoever to win the award this year, their rushing totals (1,613 and 1,454 respectively) were good enough for top five in the NFL. Any other year, these two would all but be a shoo-in for, at the very least, first place attention. People continuously rag on Morris’ stats as being a by-product of playing with RGIII, but that argument rings hollow. I don’t care if your quarterback has jets strapped to his shoes, averaging over a hundred yards a game is an incredible feat. Warrick Dunn played with Michael Vick for several seasons and only ever came close to Morris’ numbers once (1,416 in 2005). As for Martin, it’s a surprise to me that he gets no recognition at all. Morris’ name gets brought up as “the other guy” and the proverbial fourth-place finisher, but Martin is simply ignored. There’s no reason for this. He played behind a battered and bruised offensive line with a struggling QB and only finished with about 150 fewer yards than Morris. If anything, Martin should be the fourth place rookie, and Morris should be relegated to the forgotten man.
Moving on to the main event, this is actually just a two-horse race. Luck shouldn’t be in the running. While his stats are impressive (4,374 passing yards and 23 touchdowns), and he did lead the Colts to an 11-5 record, his 18 interceptions (tied for second most in the league) and 54.1 completion percentage (tied for 31st) just don’t cut it. Arguing that he didn’t have much of a receiving corps to throw to doesn’t help him out either; none of the three pivots had much to throw at. It could even be argued that Luck had the best receivers of the bunch, if only because he had a legitimate number one receiver, Reggie Wayne. Luck still had a great season for a rookie and will continue to shine for the Colts, but he won’t be taking home this award.
And then there were two. The pint-sized Wilson’s (listed generously at 5’11) performance this year was a major shock to the NFL. How on earth could a QB under 6’3 possibly hope to succeed? While the vast majority of fans gaped open-mouthed as the Seahawks’ signal caller blossomed, Wisconsin fans were simply nodding their heads. Wilson should have been a first rounder last spring. He has a good arm, great vision, and can run. The only knock on him is the ever overrated quarterbacking necessity of being tall. Thus, when the Seahawks took him in the third round, it was actually viewed as a bit of a reach. No one’s calling it that anymore.
Fast forward to today and Wilson has just finished an outstanding regular season. His Seattle squad finished 11-5 and he passed for 3,118 yards (with a completion percentage of 64.1), 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He added 489 yards on the ground with four touchdowns. The only trouble Wilson will have with grabbing votes is that he mostly put up his stats in the second half of the season. In the first half, he was a capable quarterback, but the Seahawks severely limited his playbook and made it difficult for him to excel. It may have been just as well allowing Wilson to grow into the position, but it certainly hurts his chances to take home the rookie honour.
As for RGIII, from the day he was drafted everyone expected him to be in the rookie of the year conversation. Good height, strong arm, solid accuracy, and blazing speed. Basically, RGIII is what everyone always hoped Vick would be. While leading the Redskins to a 10-6 record (granted one victory was with Kirk Cousins at the helm), RGIII threw for 3,200 yards (65.6 completion percentage), 20 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. The Baylor man certainly lived up to the hype.
So who takes home the prize? Griffin leads Wilson in passing yards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, but Wilson had the edge in passing touchdowns, didn’t miss any games, and has fewer fumbles (6 to 12). For me, it’s a bit of a tossup and you have to avoid becoming attached to stats. I personally like Wilson, but that’s probably because I’ve watched more of him. He’s calm and collected in the pocket and runs circles around rushers. RGIII is electrifying and definitely is the main reason the ‘Skins are competitive. RGIII will probably win, but regardless of whom takes home the hardware, these two quarterbacks will continue to star in the league for years to come.