Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stellar Rookie QBs

Sunday morning of NFL Week 13 one of the things that stands out is all the amazing rookie quaterback play.   Since I began following the NFL in 1975 I can't think of a season when as many first-year QBs not only started but won.  I haven't read any of the coverage on this; what I'm saying is uninformed by the literature and dependent solely on my weekly devotional to the televisual.

The two marquee names are Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.  I was able to watch closely the Redskins-Cowboys game on Thanksgiving.  I had seen RG3 in the opener in New Orleans.  And while he was impressive, I was focused more on the poor play of the Saints.  But in Dallas RG3 amazed me.  The heart and soul of his team, he ran his Shanahanian offense with proficiency; he made great throws, ran the option well and took some brutal hits.  I am true believer.

I've yet to see an Andrew Luck game.  But from what I can tell of the highlight reels, he plays with intensity and can throw the long bomb with accuracy.  Most importantly, he has the Colts winning after last season's Manning-less meltdown.

Next up I would place the west coast rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson.  As a Seahawks fan I'm a student of Russell Wilson's play.  I was a skeptic at first.  In the opening games of the season it seemed as if he couldn't see down the field to throw the bomb.  I pined for Tarvaris Jackson who stood tall in the pocket and threw long.  But then Wilson made huge throws to beat Green Bay and New England and I became a true believer.  He is consistently excellent.  A little jittery now and again, he always has Seahawks in contention.

The last two, Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden, are big, strong, classic-type quarterbacks who in a normal year would be getting a lot more attention.  I've seen Weeden a couple of times.  And despite the tendency to throw interceptions, he is impressive for a rookie.  To me he looks just as good as Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez.  Last week I watched Tannehill beat the Seahawks with his arm.

So what's going on?  There has been a trend in recent years of rookie QBs leading their teams to the playoffs.  Think Roethlisberger, Flacco, Ryan, Sanchez, Dalton.  The easy answer is that the college game, which I don't follow, is becoming more "professional."  Reading a story, "The Hard Life of an N.F.L. Long Shot," in last week's New York Times Magazine I came across this: "I always heard that rookies are overwhelmed at first by the speed of the game at the pro level.  But everyone I asked about this had the same response.  'It’s not the speed,' the third-year linebacker Robert James told me. 'It only seems like the game is a lot faster because you’re always trying to figure out what you’re doing and where you’re supposed to be.  Once I began to learn the defenses, the game slowed down for me.' "

If this is true and success in the pro game is more mental than physical then the growing number of superlative rookie quarterbacks is proof that we are as a society getting smarter.  If the election in November was a national referendum on public ignorance and enlightenment won, then the rise of RG3 and Russell Wilson is another victory for fiat lux!

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