The two highly rated rookie quarterbacks at the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins had contrasting fortunes on their NFL debuts. Richard Moore takes an in-depth look at their performances.
Luck? Well, if you’re a Colts fan, not great. First, there were the unmitigated disasters in the form of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and Kerry Collins, who between themselves amassed an overall Quarterback rating of 71.6.
Secondly, there was the truly painful sight of a defence that allowed a ghastly 62 points in the Superdome, and last but not least, fans and players alike, continuously casting a forlorn look over to the side-lines to see the face of the franchise, a man who'd made Indianapolis relevant on the footballing landscape once more, Peyton Manning, rendered inactive due to multiple neck surgeries.
All unfortunate eventualities that proved equally potent in leading the Colts to a dismal 2 - 14 record and 27th in the league overall - Something had to change.
So, imagine the surprise when on the 7th of March, Colts owner Jim Irsay stood affront a podium in Indiana and announced that they were ending one of the most successful marriages in the NFL.
One that had spawned the franchise's only Superbowl championship (2007), another appearance in the championship game three years later in 2010, eight division titles, two AFC Championships, and the record for most regular season wins in a decade with 115 wins. Was this a case of lingering concerns about the great man’s ability to rebound from injury, or the small matter of having to pay a considerable $28 million bonus due that week? Logic would say that the two are mutually exclusive, not that this did anything to quell the anxiousness swelling amongst the Colts faithful....
However, a possible remedy lay in wait at New York's 'Radio City Hall, as it was announced by Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson on the 24th of April that the organisation were going to select highly rated Stanford prospect Andrew Luck in the upcoming draft. So, imagine the palpable relief etched across the face of many a Colts devotee when on the 26th of April, Commissioner Roger Goodell bellowed "And with this first overall pick of the 2012 draft, the Indianapolis Colts select Andrew Luck" - But had they made the right choice?
A look back at Luck's considerable college career would illustrate a highly composed figure that has accounted for 9,430 yards passing, 82 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and Quarterback rating of 162.8. However, many NFL journalists, including ESPN's Skip Bayless, and Kordell Stewart expressed concerns during a live televised debate on the 3rd of January that the Colts had been too hasty in identifying Luck as the man to revive the fortunes of the franchise, and that 2nd overall pick in the draft, Baylor's Robert Griffin 111 would represent the better option - "I would say he's the better prospect" opined Stewart. "Because when you look at the intangibles that he has, the way this league is evolving with the Quarterbacks that are the elite Quarterbacks, guys that can move in the pocket, and have strong arms, and what you have with (RG3) is he is an outstanding Quarterback, let alone an outstanding athlete. I think there is no one in this draft with the intangible that he has". Bayless seemed to support this view by declaring - "I'm with Kordell. Better pick, better pick long - term, RG3. He has the 'it' factor, the clutch gene. He continued - "He was a late bloomer, but when he bloomed, it was a big bloom, because I don't think I've ever seen a better deep thrower than RG3. Touch, accuracy, dropping it on a dime".
Conversely, another ESPN pundit present during the debate, Kris Broussard argues - "Luck is more surefire. You mention smart, intelligent, good character. So is Andrew Luck. accurate, can throw all types of passes - something his combine performance more than demonstrate, "and has been in a pro- style offense, he also looks off receivers, which you don't often see with a lot for even good college receivers, and he's got the size".
Which returns us to the all-important question: Who is the better prospect, but more importantly who represents the better prospect for the Indianapolis Colts? Well, opinion doesn't spell pertinent fact, and neither do statistics. For instance, you can talk all you want about Andrew Luck's 82 touchdowns, Robert Griffin the 3rd's 78 through the air and 33 on the ground, their respective Quarterback ratings of 162.8 (Luck) and 158.9 (RG3), assertions that Luck is devoid of the elite arm strength required to stretch fields at the highest level (Despite considerable evidence to the contrary at the Combine), and how RG3 carries the ball so far away from his body, so far in fact that it allegedly creates the prospect of multiple turnovers - a pet hate of any coach at elite level.
Whatever the case, the true test of a Quarterbacks technique and mental fortitude will come in the cauldron of examination that is the National Football League, a place that is truly unforgiving at times - Just ask Blaine Gabbert.
And so to opening Weekend, and we begin with the Andrew Luck, the man who many in Indy hope, will become Peyton's heir apparent. Unsurprisingly, what we witnessed was a stern examination of a debutante, as despite going 23 of 45 for 309 yards, which included a 4 - yard strike to Donnie Avery, resulted in 3 sacks, a fumble, and 3 costly interceptions, both of which fell into the grateful hands of former Colt Tim Jennings.
Despite the mixed package offered up at Soldier Field, there was nothing remotely mixed about Luck's mentality, as he astutely acknowledged in the aftermath of his first NFL start - "There will be a lot of positives, a lot of negatives; we'll try to learn from it. I'm still disappointed fresh off what happened but we'll get over it" - And, if he, and the team as a collective, can confront adversity and emerge all the more stronger on the other side, that Peyton sized shadow over Lucas Oil Stadium will begin to fade, and the glow of a new era will shine brightly. But, the man who for so many glorious years, took the snaps correctly asserted - "We all know that nothing last forever. Times change, circumstances change, and that's the reality playing in the NFL", and if Luck continues his development and remains the hard working grounded figure that he's been up until this point, he could well end up leading this organisation to a new reality, and a prosperous one that that.
Meanwhile, over in the Superdome, RG3 produced a scintillating display of Quarterbacking, as he racked up a hugely impressive 320 yards, 2 touchdowns, one of which being an exquisite 88 - yard strike in stride to Pierre Garcon, and no interceptions. Though this may lead many to inevitable comparisons with Luck, it may be worth noting, that for all his brilliance, RG3 and his Redskins offence were contesting the lowest ranked red - zone defence in the league, and therefore sterner defensive challenges are bound to follow. Regardless, you can only beat what's in front of you, and if RG3 can maintain such exceptional levels of performance, Mike Shanahan's much remodelled Redskins could be in for quite a season.
The same, however, cannot be said of other rookie Quarterbacks making the debut on the weekend, most notably Miami's Ryan Tannehill who plundered an astonishing 3 interceptions in a maddening 6 minute period, as the Dolphins were sunk 30 - 10 in Houston. But, before we all resort to hyperbole, it's worth noting that much like the careers of the young men mentioned, the season itself is very much in the embryonic stages, and therefore it would be somewhat ill - advised to make bold proclamations concerning the career prospects of the aforementioned.
After all, in an ever changing league, one thing I've learned to do is expect the unexpected...
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