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!