Sunday, December 16, 2012

Party Like it's 1983

Brandon Weeden
Andrew Luck
Robert Griffin III (RG3)
Ryan Tannenhill
Russell Wilson

The 2012 NFL season has been pretty great so far. As a Lions fan, it hasn’t been that great for me personally, but as a fan of the game, it’s been a really, really good season. There were so many juicy subplots to start the season. Manning getting let go by the Colts. Manning going to the Broncos. The Giants trying to repeat as champions. Luck or RG3. Tebow going to the Jets. Peterson coming back from an ACL tear. The Redskins moving up and going all-in to get RG3.  Five rookie quarterbacks starting on week one. The new coaches in new places. The old coaches on short leashes and so many more. After 15 weeks, some storylines have panned out and some not so much. Manning has been his old self, if not better than his last few years. Peterson HAS been better than his old self. Tebow has been a total non factor but the best subplot of the season has been by far the great play of the rookie quarterbacks. Hell, even a backup rookie QB joined in the fun this week. (Kirk Cousins in the place of RG3: 26 of 37, 329 Yards, 2 TDs one pick, a QBR of 104.4, but most importantly one win to put the Redskins in a 3-way tie atop the NFC East.)

This crop of rookie QBs has been all-world, all time good. I mean, I even voted for 3 rookies to make the Pro Bowl this year. (RG3, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson) The rookie’s teams have a combined 37 victories, which is a record this late into the season, all have at least 5 wins and each one has shown flashes of brilliance. If your team is the Colts, Seahawks or Redskins you’re over the moon. If you’re a Miami or Cleveland fan, you gotta feel like this season has gone much better than you thought and your guy looks like he really may be the guy for the future. And if you’re not happy, look at it like this, you could be the Chiefs or worst…gulp… you could be the Cardinals. It’s Week 15 and 3 rookies, which all started on week one, have their teams on the verge of making the playoffs how can I NOT talk about that.

Andrew Luck
Team Record (9-5)
Key Stats: 74.5 PR (Passer Rating), 3,978 PY (Passing Yards), 20 TDS, 18 INTs

The success of the Colt’s 2012 season can be due to some many different factors. Peyton Manning (If he doesn’t miss the whole season and I MEAN THE WHOLE SEASON, no way the Colts lose enough games to get the number one overall pick), the 2011 Colts, (for sucking so bad they got the number one overall pick) Peyton Manning’s neck, Peyton Manning’s first botched neck surgery (forced him to miss the whole season), Chuck Pagano’s cancer. (THAT’S A JOKE, THAT’S A JOKE, lighten up! All I’m saying is if he’s healthy, no way the players rally the way they have. Your  head coach having cancer is a surefire way to motivate them. Norv Turner is somewhere wishing he’d doctored the results of his yearly physical right now.) But I’m giving the lion’s share to the QB. It’s a quarterback league. They get all the blame for things go sideways, but they also gotta get the big piece of chicken when things go right.

Luck after one of the Colt's six comeback wins this year.
I know Luck has been a turnover machine this year, (18 INTs and 10 Fumbles, he leads the league in turnovers) but he’s asked to throw it a lot more than the other two guys I’m going to talk about. (Wilson has 353 PA, RG3 has 351 PA compared to Luck’s 564 PA) Although Wilson and RG3 have had the training wheels pulled off for a few weeks now, Luck got put on a ten-speed and pushed down a steep hill, with no helmet or kneepads and told “Good Luck” (no pun intended) from week one. He’s been asked to lead and be the best player on his team since he got to Indy. And let’s face it, he’s leading a team that won two games last year into the playoffs and you can’t say enough about that. He’s already won more games that any other number one pick has in their rookie year and he is among the league leaders in comeback victories with six. That tells you two very important things about him. One, he can turn the ball over a million times and come back from it and two, he isn’t afraid of the big moment. If the games within striking distance, Luck’s teammates trust him with the ball and his ability to make a big play when it counts and his opponents know he’s very capable of pulling the horseshoe on his helmet outta his butt and beating them over the head with it. (As I Lions fan, I know this all too well.)

One “red flag” if you can call it that, is his turnovers. Of the 36 qualifying QBs, he ranks 31. His name is flanked by the likes of such “legends” as Matt Cassel, John Skelton, Mark Sanchez, and Brandon Weeden. Ouch. But again, he’s a rookie. That’s what they do. They make mistakes and turn the ball over. Let’s not forget that the guy he replaced in Indy threw 28 in his rookie year and we all know he turned out to be just fine. Rookies nowadays are just victims of their own success. The timetable on when you can reasonably expect winning results with a rookie quarterback is now in year one, given their recent winning ways and the rule changes that make passing the ball about as hard as playing catch in your backyard. If I were given the choice between Luck and RG3, I would always take Luck. He’s bigger, has a better NFL QB pedigree (Mannings have proven it matters), he’s more athletic then he gets credit for (He’s athleticism will always be judged against RG3 which is totally not fair, because its like comparing a Dodge Charger to a Ferrari 458. Both are fast cars but one’s just a tiny bit faster) and he’s the classic, egghead, film room junkie, drop-back, pocket-passer. He’s just a safer bet to stay healthy and his style will ALWAYS work. If you’re smart and you can throw it you’ll do fine in the NFL. Two things Luck has in spades.

Robert Griffin III
Team Record (8-6)* (Kirk Cousins started and won one game…so far because RG3 still hasn’t been clear to play next Sunday)
Key Stats: 104.2 PR, 2,902 PY, 18 TDS, 4 INT, 748 RY (Rushing Yards) 6 RTD

Story time, say I’m at this sushi place and I’m not sure what to get. My friend is like get the California Roll. Not a bad choice, because it’s a safe bet at any sushi place. Not too exotic, it’s hard to screw up and you can’t go wrong with what’s tried and true. I look at the menu and there’s a picture of this spicy tuna tempura roll. It looks really good but I’m not too sure about getting it. My friend is like don’t do it. The waitress says it’s good, the picture looks good, so I say screw it and get the tuna roll.  The food gets to the table, I try the tuna roll and it’s amazing. My friend sees me grubbing out and asks to try one. He takes a bite and his eyes light up like he’s just bitten into the best thing he’s ever eaten, but he quickly hides it. He goes back to eating his California Roll and he’s like “Yeah it was pretty good I admit, but this California Roll is pretty damn good too.” That’s what the St. Louis Ram fans are like right now. They got a regular old California Roll when they could have had a spicy tuna tempura roll. Their jealous, they feel stupid and just like my friend is wishing I’m left with crippling diarrhea later, the Rams fans are hoping RG3 is only this good for right now and that he’ll fall on his face later. Thus proving that they were right to give up the number two pick and sticking with Bradford was the right choice, just like my friend hoped the California Roll was the right choice. (Both are the wrong choices by the way.)

RG3 has been the most exciting player to watch in the NFL by a country mile. I’ve watched more Redskins than any other team outside of my Lions and that’s only because of him. When the guy’s on the field, you can’t turn the channel. You know something amazing could happen every time the ball is in his hands. Be it with his arms or his legs, he’s a threat to score anywhere on the field. (RG3 and Cam Newton are the only guys like that because of their legs and arms. I would say Aaron Rogers, but he’s not that much of a threat with his legs from anywhere on the field compared to the two guys I just mentioned. He can get you a first down anytime scrambling however.  I say anywhere on the field with his arm and from the opponent’s 20 yard-line in, Rodgers is just as deadly with his wheels. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the only other “score anywhere on the field” arm guys.) RG3’s passer rating of 104.2 is tied for the league lead with TOM BRADY. A rookie, through Week 15 is tied with TOM BRADY IN PASSER RATING. That’s crazy to me.  (RG3 is leading now because of the annual stink bomb game Brady put up against the 49ers)

I give most of the credit for his success to the coaching staff in Washington however. I saw his first game and it was easy throw after easy throw. They really haven’t put the kid in too many situations to fail this year. The offense in Washington is really a hybrid NFL/college offense. The read option they run is devastating. The New York Giants defensive lineman couldn’t tell where to go, who had the ball or what type of play was going to happen next. (They played him twice, which should have been an advantage but looked even more lost the second time around.) Was RG3 going to keep it and run, keep it and throw it, or give it to the running back? I couldn’t tell from watching on TV, so just imagine what it was like watching it field level at full game speed. RG3 is the only player that could run it with that level of precision. He’s getting better at reading defenses although he’s not having to make 3rd, 4th, 5th, receiver reads like Rodgers, Manning or Brady but he’s getting there. He doesn’t make the big mistake or that bone headed throw that just kills your team and you gotta love that the most about the guy.
RG3 better learn to slide better than this if he wants to last.

Here comes the “but” with RG3. For all the excitement he gives you, you’re left watching him on pins and needles. He runs a lot. And he runs a lot of designed QB run plays. When Michael Vick rush for 1,039 Yards (the first and only QB to rush for over 1,000 yards so far) in 2006, he did it off 123 rushing attempts and a lot of those were broken plays and scrambles. We have two games left, he missed this week’s game and RG3 has carried the ball 112 times. That’s not good at all. Two things are going to happen over time and they’re the two reasons I’d take Luck over Griffin everyday. One, and this one will happen regardless if he ever rushes the ball again or not, he’s going to get slower. RG3’s legs are one of, if not the biggest, attraction about him. For someone so dependent on his athletic ability, he really shouldn’t be leaning on it so much, because it will fade over time. Two, if he keeps getting hit like he did versus Baltimore he’s going to break down from all the punishment. (Mike Vick is somewhere nodding his head in pain) When you’re a running QB you make yourself a target. That’s why Vick takes so much punishment and never gets flags from the refs. Vick’s always been looked at almost like a running back and those guys have a shelf life of like two-and-a-half years. Running QB’s have never really had success on that championship level. Steve Young was the best “running QB” but he didn’t become great until teams started being more concerned about his arm than his legs. Young was great on the move but he was nowhere near the athlete RG3 is. The key (and NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW THIS OR SAY IT AT LEAST) to being a successful running QB is making the defense “forget” you can run. The best runs for QB’s come on the plays when the defense as no clue it was about to happen. The legs are the first thing defense’s worry about with RG3, but if he can flip that to his arm being the number one priority to gameplan for, oh boy! Now when you’re someone with RG3’s speed, that’s going to be hard to do, but if he does it and just enough to where passing becomes the first thing you worry about with him, he’ll be unstoppable. Like literally can’t do anything against him, 300 yards passing, 100 yard rushing, 4 total TDs a game, video game stats, unstoppable.

Russell Wilson
Team Record (9-5)
Key Stats: 95.5 PR, 2,697 PY, 21 TDs, 9 INTs, 403 RY, 3 RTD’s

This guy is the biggest surprise in the NFL this year outside of Peyton and Peterson returning to form. If Russell Wilson is 6’4”, he’s drafted 3rd overall in the 2012 NFL draft. By all accounts, he’s a hard worker and a great leader. He’s a smart kid. I didn’t say, “by all accounts he’s a smart kid” because even I know that. How do I know you say? Simple really. He learned and mastered three different offenses, with three different coaches, in three different places, with three different personnel groups, at three different levels of competition, in three years. Wilson went from NC State, to Wisconsin, to Seattle in three years and played at an elite level with each team. Folks I got news for you, no dummy’s pulling that one off. Now he’s got the leadership, the brains, and he doesn’t have the size but he’s got the one other tool you HAVE TO HAVE. He can throw it. (Tebow is missing the arm and that’s why he’s not playing right now. He can’t throw. Cut and Dry. You can be missing one, hell any if not ALL of those other things, and STILL play in this league. See John Skelton, Brady Quinn, and Matt Cassel.) Drew Brees proved that if you have the proper arm talent, with the brains and leadership, your size means nothing. And like Brees, Wilson’s a smart natural-born leader with the arm strength to make any throw on the field. Teams are going to be kicking themselves for years for passing on Wilson.

Unlike, RG3 or Luck, Wilson’s team is ready to win now. Like win a Super Bowl this year win now. (Bill Simmons called this one first) The defense is top tier, they play great special teams, they can run the ball, they rush the passer, I mean they do it all. Plus, their offense’s finally clicking and at a whole other level no less. Wilson has been on fire during his last six games to the tune of 11 TDs (plus 3 rushing TDs) and 1 INT. So he’s red-hot when you want him to be and he’s not turning the ball over like he was in the beginning of the season. They’ve put up 50 plus points in back-to-back games, something that’s happened only two times in NFL history. (Important Note: Seattle did this against the Cardinals and the Bills, who aren’t worth a hill of beans, and their defense added a few of those TDs but still 50 points is 50 points and your offense has to be playing well for you to even get close to 50)
Because of the team around him, Wilson's ceiling seems a lot higher this season.

In the end, I like Russell Wilson a lot but I’d still take Luck or RG3 over him, as I’m sure most people would, but I’ll leave you with this thought. Luck and RG3 can have all the regular season glory, they can be listed ahead of him in this post, they can fight over who’s the rookie of the year, but Wilson very well could be above them both in the category that means the most: Super Bowl victories.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to subscribe and share the blog. Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below. Follow me on twitter @ParisLay. Until next time... Enjoy the View!

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