For most of the season, there were two clear choices for Offensive Rookie of the Year — Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft were also the top two rookies. Then, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson came out of nowhere midway through the season and started carving out his own campaign. And now there’s rumblings that Alfred Morris deserves contention as well.
In truth, there’s only two players that should be considered for the award at this point: Griffin and Wilson.
While all three rookie quarterbacks led non-playoff teams to the postseason, and Luck had the biggest hurdle to climb after the Colts went 2-14 last season, it’s clear that Griffin and Wilson have been better this season.
The award can’t be determined merely by statistics, wins or the talent that surrounds the nominees. Luck has been asked to do more in the Colts’ offense, but he also has the best wide receiver to throw to. Wilson played at the highest level, but it was limited to the second half of the season. Griffin missed a game with injuries and parts of two others, but he’s also been the most consistently great.
Luck was asked to make the toughest throws out of the three rookies, but he was also by far the least efficient, and he made more mistakes than Griffin or Wilson. Luck completed just 54.1 percent of his passes to Griffin’s 65.6 and Wilson’s 64.1. Luck was also asked to throw a league-leading 101 passes over 20 yards. Wilson threw 64 and Griffin threw just 36. But Luck was also picked off 18 times and fumbled the ball another 10. Luck could very well turn out to be the best of the three in his NFL career, but the amount of mistakes he made put him a slot below Wilson and Griffin.
Wilson came along when his team needed him the most and stepped up his game in the second half of the season when the Seahawks went 7-1 to close out the year. During that span he threw just two interceptions to 16 touchdowns and added another four scores on the ground. He led the team to tough wins over the Vikings, Bears, 49ers and Rams. In a three-game span, the Seahawks scored 150 points against the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers.
But Wilson also has Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice to help him out on offense, along with Pro Bowl starter Russell Okung at left tackle. The Seahawks’ defense is one of the best in the NFL and overshadows the Seahawks’ offense. Wilson also didn’t come on until the second half of the season, and he threw just 10 touchdowns his first eight games.
Griffin was doing things on the field that the NFL has never seen before — much like he was doing at Baylor. Never has a quarterback had Griffin’s combination of accuracy and speed. He may have won one less games than Luck or Wilson, but he also had less help, and he made his team much better in the process.
There’s been a lot of talk that Griffin should be discredited for the offense that Washington is running, but it obviously works. It’s almost as if fans and analysts can’t believe what they’re seeing out of Griffin, so they’re choosing not to believe it. Griffin really has been this good. Unfortunately, Griffin also got injured and missed all of one game and parts of two others. That lowers some of Griffin’s stats, but that shouldn’t take away his chance for rookie of the year.
On Tuesday, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com tweeted that Morris deserves to be in the conversation for rookie of the year, like his teammate Griffin. With three much more deserving candidates, Morris for rookie of the year is crazy. Morris had a great season, but it’s also much easier to play running back as a rookie than it is quarterback. Running back may be the simplest position to transition to from college.
Morris’ 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns was certainly impressive, but there’s no way he could have done it without Griffin. In fact, there’s proof. During carries where Kirk Cousins was on the field, rather than Griffin, Morris averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. On the season, Morris averaged 4.8.
While Morris and Luck had impressive rookie campaigns, the conversation needs to come down to Griffin and Wilson. It’s going to be fascinating to see if voters decide to go with the quarterback who was best for the shortest period of time (Wilson) the preseason favorite (Luck) the guy who put up the best stats (Morris) or the one-of-a-kind player who missed a game with injuries (Griffin).
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