Individual awards? Oh good, these are really something that need to be held in high regard. These are really indicative of something important. Certainly something we will always remember. You guys remember all of the Rookies of the Year, right? Let's see, there was Cam Newton last year. Umm... oh, Sam Bradford was pretty good as a rookie. Uhhhh... Henry Rowengartner had one.
Let's put it this way: Anthony Thomas of the Chicago Bears was the Rookie of the Year in 2001. He ran for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns. You know who else was a rookie in 2001? LaDainian Tomlinson. He ran for 1,236 yards and ten touchdowns. But, you know, what's important is that Thomas won the RotY and not anything that happened after that. From a 2002 article:
"There are a lot of teams that passed me up," Thomas said. "And now I can say, `Your loss. I'm going to play against you one day, I know that.'"
Thomas hid his bitter disappointment at falling to the second round, but Bears running backs coach Earle Mosley knew better. "He wasn't saying anything because he's not that type of person," Mosley said, "but I have a gut feeling he thought he was just as good if not better than the backs [LaDainian Tomlinson, Deuce McAllister and Michael Bennett] taken before him and I think he's used that as motivation."
This isn't meant to be a slight to Thomas, who would quickly fall out of favor due to injuries and ineffective play, but it just goes to show that you don't judge a player's future off of one season. This league adapts. In this league, you're heavily-dependent upon your situation and the players around you. Are you good enough to overcome that, or lucky enough to always find yourself in the right situation? Do you think Bears fans would rather have a ROY for Thomas or just have Tomlinson instead? Funky Buttlovin'.
These awards are not predictive and they don't equate to wins. The last player to win the award on offense that has won a Super Bowl is Ben Roethlisberger. Before that, unless I'm mistaken, you'd have to go back to Warrick Dunn in 1997. Edgerrin James won the award in 1999, and the only reason I tell you that is that James' Wiki photo has him in a Seahawks uniform.
Edgerrin James, once a Seahawk!
The last defensive rookie of the year to win a Super Bowl was Jonathan Vilma in 2004, but he won his championship with the Saints, not the Jets. And before that, you'd have to go to Charles Woodson in 1998, again, having been a Raiders rookie, but a Packers champion. I don't care about awards, I care about winning. All you need to know about the Rookie of the Year award is that the Detroit Lions have won the most of them. No thanks!
The Seattle Seahawks have won zero of them and look how far we've come!
- Should he win, Russell Wilson would be the fifth-lowest drafted Offensive Rookie of the Year in the award's history after Mike Anderson (2000, 189th overall), Don Woods (1974, 134th), Mike Thomas (1975, 108th), and Troy Stradford (1987, 99th). Curtis Martin (1995) was drafted 74th overall.
- Mike Anderson, I mean seriously people, who cares?!
- Era of the game is the most important context of all. The player with the best shot to win the award is always going to be a quarterback right? QBs are the coolest dudes, right? The most important? Well, they weren't as important in earlier versions of football and they also rarely played as rookies. Dennis Shaw won the award as a QB in 1970 when he was with the Buffalo Bills. The next QB to win the award? Ben Roethlisberger 24 years later.
- QBs have now won the award in five of the last eight years.
- I think that Bobby Wagner has a much better shot at the award for defense than Russell does for offense. Wagner (47th overall) would be the lowest drafted defensive player to win the award since Erik McMillan in 1988.
- Seriously, our 2nd and 3rd round picks are in the running for awards and our first round pick isn't in the running at all. J-Schneidz, y'all!
You're probably asking yourself, "Ken, if you hate the award so much, then why are you wasting all of this darn-tootin' time talking about it? You some kind of maroon?" Well, I don't give a crap about the award (If Russell wins, I will be happy for him and all that, but it just doesn't mean anything. He's not going to be a worse player if he finishes second or third) but what I am interested in is... well... who really did have the best year? It's an interesting discussion, debate, and will soothe my research-obsessed soul. The award is meaningless, especially in a year with three great candidates, and goes to show how relative these things are, but the heart of "Who did the best?" is interesting.
When I started this journey, which now seems like ages ago, I had planned to do a bunch of research and then tell you that RG3 edged Wilson for the best season and that both were well ahead of Luck. But at a certain point in writing I started to realize that I had examined their seasons too shallowly and as I dug deeper I started to doubt myself. By the end of it, I had no doubt anymore.
Russell Wilson had the best season of any rookie. Here's why, in more gory detail than you would have ever cared to ask for:
CMP/ATT/YARDS/YARDS PER ATTEMPT
Wilson: 252 of 393, 64.1%, 3,118 yards, 7.9 Y/A
Griffin: 258 of 393, 65.6%, 3,200 yards, 8.1 Y/A
Luck: 339 of 627, 54.1%, 4,374 yards, 7.0 Y/A
Wilson: 94 rushes for 489 yards, 4 TD, 6 fumbles
Griffin: 120 rushes for 815 yards, 7 TD, 12 fumbles
Luck: 62 rushes for 255 yards, 5 TD, 10 fumbles
You find out right away that it's pretty hard to find answers in basic stats when A) Wilson and Griffin are so similar and B) Luck is so dissimilar. Andrew Luck threw the ball 234 more times than Wilson and Robert Griffin III. So on one hand you're saying, "Luck is asked to throw it more, he is a better classic quarterback that is entrusted with passing the football more than Wilson and Griffin." and on the other hand you're saying, "Then why couldn't he throw as many touchdowns as Wilson and wasn't as efficient in yards per attempt as either?"
The first argument holds a little bit of water in that Luck threw it so much more that the interceptions, though high, aren't entirely unexpected. While I don't write the picks off entirely, Wilson and Griffin had 234 fewer opportunities to throw an interception. Luck threw an interception on 2.9% of his attempts, Wilson on 2.5%, and Griffin on 1.3%.
However, just because Luck is asked to throw the football more and doesn't have a running game, it doesn't mean that I can forget the fact that Wilson and Griffin possess a skill that Luck simply doesn't have and never will. It's like saying that a motorcycle will never be better than a car because it is a motorcycle. Luck isn't a better quarterback than the other two simply because he has one less skill. The Colts don't run a read option or a pistol because that's not part of Luck's skillset. If he was faster, more variations of an option play would probably be in their playbook. And Luck's not immobile by any means, but he's your prototypical pocket passer and saying that a quarterback automatically has an edge over two other quarterbacks just because he's a different kind of player is just too old school of a line of thinking for my tastes.
If you don't put Edgar Martinez into the Hall of Fame only because he was a DH, you need to catch up with the rest of us.
Wilson and Griffin passed the ball less, but in some ways they produced more and still turned it over less. Wilson combined for 30 touchdowns and ten interceptions with 3,607 total yards. Griffin combined for 27 touchdowns, five interceptions, and 4,015 yards. Luck combined for 4,629 total yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Andrew Luck had the most passing yards, but again, had more attempts by far. Wilson and Griffin had significantly higher yards per attempt and both the Redskins and Seahawks offenses were better than the Colts. Washington was 4th in scoring, Seattle was 9th, and the Colts were 18th. Now, imagine a Luck-offense with him averaging 8.0 yards per attempt and throwing 10 interceptions instead of 18. Is that not better? Is that not, a lot better?
One point that people have made for Luck is that he doesn't have a running game, but I don't believe that Alfred Morris or Marshawn Lynch are nearly as successful if it weren't for their quarterbacks. The option and the zone-blocking scheme make it possible for Wilson and Griffin to toy with defenses and take at least one defensive player out of a play. This is simply something Luck can't do. The question I would pose to you is, "Ask not for what they're doing for Luck, ask what is Luck doing for them?" What I mean by that is, what would you have expected Vick Ballard to do this year if the Colts had drafted Griffin instead of Luck?
If they had instilled the same philosophies in the game as the Redskins did with Griffin, would he have gone on to throw 18 interceptions and 627 passing attempts? If Luck had gone to the Redskins, would have run for 815 yards?
We'll get to more on that later, but it's just a quick foray into these traditional stats and understanding that just because Luck throws it more, it doesn't make him a better quarterback. Matthew Stafford threw it more than anybody ever, so is he the MVP? I don't care how many times my quarterback throws it, just as long as the offense is working. You can't say that Luck was better just because he played from behind a lot more than Wilson did. Or that the only thing to blame for 18 interceptions was the added attempts. What I am looking for is efficiency on offense.
For the hell of it:
There is really no way for me to see how a person could spin Luck's stats and say that he was the best rookie. "I just don't get this whole running quarterback thing so clearly Luck is the best" won't work. However, that doesn't mean that Luck is out of the race. Stats are just one part of it, it just so happens that Luck falls behind these two in stats and might also fall behind Doug Martin and Morris in some people's eyes as well. He had a great year for a rookie quarterback, but statistically, there were two better.
It is almost impossible to say that Wilson had a better traditional year than Griffin or vice versa. Wilson accounted for more touchdowns, Griffin accounted for less interceptions but had more fumbles. Griffin has a slight edge in traditional QB rating. It's really close, but I'd give a slight edge to Griffin. The thing about stats is that there are caveats everywhere. That's why this is only the beginning of the breakdown.
DYAR, DVOA, QBR
Wilson: 867, 19.7%, 69.6
Griffin: 729, 16.7%, 71.4
Luck: 255, -5.2%, 65
Let me start by saying that I don't understand these numbers well enough to argue the validity but I do believe there is validity. ESPN Stats & Info's Total QBR:
- Total QBR incorporates information from game charting, such as passes dropped or thrown away on purpose.
- Total QBR splits responsibility on plays between the quarterback, his receivers, and his blockers. Drops, for example, are more on the receiver, as are yards after the catch, and some sacks are more on the offensive line than others.
- Total QBR has a clutch factor which adds (or subtracts) value for quarterbacks who perform best (or worst) in high-leverage situations.
- Total QBR combines passing and rushing value into one number and differentiates between scrambles and planned runs.
- Total QBR is not adjusted for strength of opponent.
Luck ranks low on DYAR and DVOA, 19th in both categories. He ranks behind Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco and two spots ahead of Christian Ponder. He shoots up on Total QBR, however, ranking 11th in the NFL. I'm going to assume that this is because of the "clutch factor" and because it doesn't adjust for strength of opponent. He is still well behind the other two in DYAR and DVOA and still trails in QBR. Wilson had the best QBR in the NFL for the last 11 games.
Wilson just ranks a little better than Griffin. It's about as meaningful as the traditional stats, in the sense that it's too close to call in this instance.
Advanced NFL Stats:
Now furthermore on this issue is the site advancednflstats with numbers such as WPA and EPA.
WPA: The difference between a team’s Win Probability (WP) at the start of a play and the WP at the end of the play. WPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the outcome of a game. An individual player’s WPA is the sum of the WPA of the plays in which that player was directly involved. Being directly involved is defined as an offensive player who ran, threw, or kicked the ball, was targeted by a pass, or flagged for a penalty. Defensive players are credited for WPA when they tackle or sack the ball carrier, are credited with an assisted tackle or sack, cause a fumble, defend a pass, or are flagged for a penalty.
EPA: The difference between the Expected Points (EP) at the start of a play and the EP at the end of they play. EPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. An individual player’s EPA is the sum of the EPA of the plays in which that player was directly involved. Being directly involved is defined as an offensive player who ran, threw, or kicked the ball, was targeted by a pass, or flagged for a penalty.
Wilson: 3.03 / 109.8
Griffin: 3.10 / 138.4
Luck: 4.50 / 119.3
This is one of the places where you'll see Luck come out ahead of the two players I consider the front-runners for ROY. Luck was just behind Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Tom Brady in WPA, likely because the Colts had so many close games that required game-winning drives which would also explain why Tony Romo was fifth in WPA, ahead of Peyton Manning. Romo over Manning.
In Success Rate, Griffin was 8th, Wilson was 9th, and Luck was 16th. In adjusted yards per pass attempt, which accounts for sacks and interceptions, Griffin was 3rd, Wilson was 9th, and Luck was 19th.
In Win Probably Added, Luck takes the cake. Does this make him the most clutch? We'll get there later. In the other categories, Luck fell well behind, while Griffin edged Wilson in EPA and Success Rate. Griffin gets the slight nod here.
Strength of Schedule
Here is one thing that you will never hear someone who is arguing for anyone besides Wilson mention: The strength of schedule they faced. Seriously, they just won't bring it up. And if you're going to ignore strength of schedule, what are we doing here? Ignoring this factor is like saying that the movie New Year's Eve was a smash hit because it beat Twilight: Breaking Dawn part I in the box office in it's opening weekend without noting that Twilight was in its fourth week and that the margin of victory was nominal.
Your ROY argument lacks Twilight references. Face.
SOS Ranks by Defensive DVOA of Opponents:
Let's start with Griffin since he seems to face the easiest schedule of any of the rookies, and also one of the easiest in the NFL. There are no good pass defenses (or really defenses in general) in the NFC East. Robert within his own division had 13 TD, 3 INT and a 120.6 QB rating in six games, with 9.20 yards per attempt and 341 rushing yards. Outside of his division, he had 7 TD and 2 INT in nine games. His best out-of-division games of the season by far came against the Saints and the Buccaneers.
The Saints and Bucs are two of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
He played one game against an NFC West opponent, the Rams, and played well, going 20-of-29 for 206 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7.10 Y/A and rushing for 2 touchdowns, but it was clearly a more difficult team to pass on than he was used to, throwing a rare pick and a lower-than-his-average YPA. Griffin doesn't seem likely to win this category, considering the defenses he faced in the East and the advantage he took of those defenses.
It's not only important to see that Griffin played an easier schedule than the other two based on defensive DVOA, but how did he do against the best pass defenses and teams? It's not unlike looking at an NFL draft prospect and making sure you don't overvalue his performance against Loyola State Tech. How'd he do against Rolling Tides?
The Redskins played four teams that went to the playoffs: The Bengals, the Falcons, the Vikings, and the Ravens. The Skins went 2-2 in those games. Griffin was knocked out of the Falcons game after going 10-of-15 for 91 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT and 1 rush for 7 yards. Cousins threw 2 picks in the loss. Griffin's best all-around game might have been against the Vikings in Week 6, when he was 17-of-22 for 182 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 13 rushes for 138 yards and 2 more touchdowns in a big win. The best pass defenses he faced by DVOA were the Rams, the Bengals, the Falcons, the Panthers, the Ravens, and the Steelers.
(Pass D DVOA Rank)
Rams (8th): 20-of-29, 69%, 206, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7.10 Y/A, 11 rush, 82 yards, 2 TD, L 28-31
Bengals (9th): 21-of-34, 61.8%, 221, 1 TD, 0 INT, 6.50 Y/A, 13 rush, 74 yards, 1 TD, L 31-38
Falcons (11th): 10-of-15, 66%, 91, 0 TD, 0 INT, 6.07 Y/A, 1 rush, 7 yards, L 17-24
Panthers (12th): 23-of-39, 59%, 215, 0 TD, 0 INT, 5.51 Y/A, 11 rush, 53 yards, L 13-21
Ravens (13th): 15-of-26, 57.7%, 242, 1 TD, 0 INT, 9.31 Y/A, 7 rush, 34 yards, W 31-28 (OT)
Steelers (15th): 16-of-34, 47.1%, 177, 1 TD, 0 INT, 5.21 Y/A, 6 rush, 8 yards, L 12-27
That's six games against teams in the top half of the league in pass defense DVOA. Griffin did what he does best by limiting interceptions but also had some of his worst games in terms of yards per attempt and completion percentage and also the Skins went 1-5 in those games and he didn't play a single team in the top seven of that category. Don't forget, this is a guy that led the NFL in yards per attempt at 8.1 Y/A and completed 65.6% of his passes. Helps playing in the NFC Easy....
TOTAL Against Top Six He Faced: 105-of-177, 59.3%, 1,152 yards, 6.50 Y/A, 4 TD, 1 INT, 258 rushing yards, 3 TD.
Other Nine Games: 153-of-216, 70.8%, 2,048 yards, 9.48 Y/A, 16 TD, 4 INT, 557 rushing yards, 4 TD
Every player is expected to do better against worse defenses, but is this disparity, especially considering that he didn't face a difficult schedule or an elite defense once this season, too large?
Let's move onto Luck, who surprisingly faced more tough defenses than I imagined. The Colts had the easiest schedule in the NFL by total DVOA but the offense had the 17th toughest schedule by DVOA. It's just that the offenses they faced were that bad, which helps explains how the Colts could have the second-worst defense in the NFL by DVOA, just barely ahead of the terrible Saints. If the Seahawks had played these offenses, they might have pitched a season shutout.
This is certainly a mark in Luck's favor, having helped carry Indy's terrible defense into the playoffs, but let's still not forget: 32nd easiest total DVOA schedule in the NFL. However, let's take a look at the defenses that Luck faced on his way to end-of-season statistics that still fell below Wilson and RG3.
The top DVOA pass defenses that Luck faced: The Bears, Texans (twice), Packers, Jets, Dolphins. I'm throwing in Miami (17th) for good measure, but they are not in the top half of the NFL in pass defense DVOA. You can thank me for this if you are an Andrew supporter.
Bears (1st): 23-of-45, 51.1%, 309, 1 TD, 3 INT, 6.87 Y/A, L 21-41
Texans (4th): 13-of-27, 48.1%, 186, 2 TD, 0 INT, 6.89 Y/A, L 17-29
Texans (4th): 14-of-28, 50.0%, 191, 2 TD, 0 INT, 6.82 Y/A, W 28-16
Packers (7th): 31-of-55, 56.4%, 362, 2 TD, 1 INT, 6.58 Y/A, W 30-27
Jets (10th): 22-of-44, 50%, 280, 0 TD, 2 INT, 6.36 Y/A, L 9-35
Dolphins (17th): 30-of-48, 62.5%, 433, 2 TD, 0 INT, 9.02 Y/A, W 23-20
Luck absolutely torched Miami, a not-bad pass defense. He threw multiple touchdowns against all of these teams, except for the Bears, his first NFL start, and the Jets, one of his worst games of the year. Overall, he completed less than 50% of his passes against the Texans, but didn't throw a single interception, which is important. Also, the Colts went 3-3 in these games, including a good performance against the Packers, though like with all of these games except for Miami, he failed to reach 7.0 yards per attempt.
It's also confusing that against some below-average-to-bad pass defenses, he still struggled. Griffin took advantage of bad teams, Luck didn't quite do that. He threw 3 interceptions against the Patriots in a 24-59 loss, going 27-of-50. He was 20-of-37 against the Bills with 1 TD and 1 INT. He completed 44.4% of his passes against the Lions with 4 TD and 3 INT. In his second game against the Titans he had 47.1% completions, 1 TD and 2 INT. Against the Chiefs, 48.6% completions, 1 TD, 0 INT, 5.86 yards per attempt.
One argument I've heard about Luck is that he has had a large number of drops which led to his 54.1% completion rate. It is fair to say that this is true about drops. I've seen several places that list Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Donnie Avery having at least six drops this season. It's hard to define 'drops' but let's be fair and call it 22 drops by those three players. Now, every quarterback has to consider drops. It's part of the game, so we won't eliminate all 22, but let's say we generously cut that in half.
If you add 11 more completions to Luck's total on 627 attempts, his completion % goes from 54.1 to 55.8. Yeah... it's still pretty low. Even if you gave him back all 22, it still wouldn't come close to 60%.
TOTAL Against the Top 6 DVOA Pass Defenses Luck Faced: 133-of-247, 53.8%, 1,761 yards, 11 TD, 6 INT, 7.13 Y/A.
If you don't include the Dolphins, a below-average pass defense: 103-of-199, 51.7%, 1,328 yards, 9 TD, 6 INT, 6.67 Y/A.
Against Ten Worst Pass Defenses Luck Faced: 206-of-380, 54.2%, 2,613 yards, 12 TD, 12 INT, 6.87 Y/A.
If anything, Luck was consistent. He doesn't get especially high marks against good pass defenses. He doesn't get good marks against bad pass defenses. At least Griffin feasted on the bad teams he faced. It's really weird that Luck didn't go off against some of the worst pass defenses, like Chiefs, Jaguars and Bills.
Now the fun part.
Griffin didn't face any team in the top seven off pass defense DVOA. RG3 faced six in the top 16. Luck played some much tougher defenses, but overall only five teams in the top 16 of pass defense DVOA.
Wilson faced ten teams in the top 16 of pass defense DVOA and eleven teams if you add in the Dolphins like we did with Luck. He played in nine games against top 10 pass defense DVOA teams. The mention of Wilson facing the third-toughest schedule in the NFL seems to hold a lot of water, but especially against pass defense rather than just total defense DVOA. The NFC West is so good in pass defense that Wilson should thank the heavens for one detail in particular that favors him:
He doesn't have to face off against the Seattle secondary.
Still, there are no slouches in this division. Here is Wilson against the top pass defenses by DVOA:
Bears (1st): 23-of-37, 62.2%, 293, 2 TD, 0 INT, 7.92 Y/A, 9 rush for 71 yards, W 23-17 (OT)
@Cardinals (2nd): 18-of-34, 52.9%, 153, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4.50 Y/A, 8 rush for 20 yards, L 16-20
Cardinals (2nd): 7-of-13, 53.8%, 148, 1 TD, 1 INT, 11.38 Y/A, 3 rush for 12 yards, W 58-0
@49ers (6th): 9-of-23, 39.1%, 122, 0 TD, 1 INT, 5.30 Y/A, 3 rush for 10 yards, L 6-13
49ers (6th): 15-of-21, 71.4%, 171, 4 TD, 1 INT, 8.14 Y/A, 6 rush for 29 yards, W 42-13
Packers (7th): 10-of-21, 47.6%, 130, 2 TD, 0 INT, 6.19 Y/A, 3 rush for 18 yards, W 14-12
@Rams (8th): 17-of-25, 68%, 160, 0 TD, 3 INT, 6.40 Y/A, 7 rush for 14 yards, L 13-19
Rams (8th): 15-of-19, 78.9%, 250, 1 TD, 0 INT, 13.16 Y/A, 10 rush for 58 yards and 1 TD, W 20-13
Jets (10th): 12-of-19, 63.2%, 188, 2 TD, 0 INT, 9.89 Y/A, 7 rush for 34 yards, W 28-7
Panthers (12th): 19-of-25, 76%, 221, 1 TD, 2 INT, 8.84 Y/A, 5 rush for 12 yards, W 16-12
Dolphins (17th): 21-of-27, 77.8%, 224, 2 TD, 0 INT, 8.30 Y/A, 5 rush for 38 yards, L 21-24
Tired yet? Wilson must be, right?
Against Top 6 Pass Defense DVOA Teams He Faced, All in the Top 7 of that Category:
82-of-149, 55%, 1,017 yards, 10 TD, 4 INT, 6.82 Y/A, 32 rushes for 160 yards. SEA went 4-2.
Other 10 Games:
170-of-244, 70.8%, 2,101 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 8.61 Y/A, 62 rushes for 329 yards, 4 TD
There is a low completion % and Y/A in the first line, and it's really hard to group together the 1st AZ game and the 2nd AZ game, same with SF, but it's what Wilson had to face. These were the elite pass defenses of the NFL and includes excellent games against Chicago, Arizona, and San Francisco.
The second line is absolutely fantastic, but it's not like he faced a bunch of chumps. Remember, Griffin's toughest test was the Rams. Wilson faced them twice. Also the Jets and Panthers. And like Luck, the Dolphins. And he killed it.
He had three bad games in the NFC West and three good games in the NFC West. Of course, if you've been following the Seahawks all year long, you'll know that the three bad games came in the first part of the season on the road and that the three good games came later in the year at home. Split the those into two groups.
First 3 in NFC West: 44-of-82, 53.6%, 435, 1 TD, 5 INT, 5.30 Y/A, 18 rushes for 44 yards, 0-3
Next 3 in NFC West: 37-of-53, 69.8%, 569, 6 TD, 2 INT, 10.73 Y/A, 19 rushes for 99 yards, 1 TD, 3-0
Let's establish a few things about the differences here. First of all, Wilson was just a better player after 12 games than he was after 0 games when he debuted in Arizona. Second of all, Wilson put up the best numbers at home of any quarterback in the NFL. Third of all, the offense was a different beast at this point with different packages and options that optimized Wilson's production and the rest of the offense. Look at how much more the offense produced on 29 fewer passes than in the first trio of games.
We don't ignore Wilson's first part of the season just like we don't ignore any one game when we're talking about "Who had the better season?" because it's about the whole season. Andrew Luck was more consistent, but he wasn't consistently good. Luck posted 6.93 Y/A, 5 TD, 4 INT, 53.3% in September. He had 6.57 Y/A, 10 TD, 5 INT, 47.7% in December (played in 3 games in September, 5 in December.) Luck often draws comparison's to Peyton Manning for obvious purposes, but in at least one respect that's not true. Manning started off terribly, throwing 11 interceptions in his first four games with 3 TD on 55.5% completions and 6.79 Y/A. However, in December he had 60.3% completions, 7 TD, 5 INT, and 7.37 Y/A.
I'm going to get into "Splits" a bit later, so I won't expound upon that with RG3 and Wilson quite yet. But I think the expectation would be that you get better as the season goes on, even though many other factors go into why you might do better or worse, such as scheme, strength of opponent, and experience. Luck and Griffin spent all summer as the starters for their respective teams, whereas Wilson wasn't named to that position until after three preseason games. The coaches also didn't instill the offense that has suited Wilson best until midway through the year.
Either way, most of the games against tough opponents where he struggled were early in the year, most of the games after that have been successful. (All of them is probably more appropriate to say.) One thing is undeniable, which is that none of the three had a tougher schedule than Wilson.
There is no dispute here. Wilson had the toughest schedule out of all three by far. Now I get to laugh with joy as you explain that the NFC West is overrated and that the pass defenses benefited from weak quarterback opponents. Well, first of all, as Football Outsiders founder Aaron Schatz explained to us on Field Gulls, of course DVOA adjusts for opponent and takes into account all factors, not just John Skelton.
Ask Tom Brady....
Against NFC West: 60.3%, 1,458, 8 TD, 5 INT, 7.15 Y/A, 1 rushing TD, 1-3 record. Brady threw two more interceptions in four games against the NFC West than he did in his other 12 games combined. The Patriots went 11-1 outside of the NFC West. Their one win over an NFC West opponent? Against the Rams in London, London, London bridge... whatever we are supposed to make of games across the pond.
How about Aaron Rodgers...
Against NFC West: 66.7%, 1,086, 9 TD, 2 INT, 7.24 Y/A, 2-2 record. Rodgers went 9-3 outside of the NFC West. He had a 8.09 Y/A in the NFC North and 7.75 Y/A in four games against the AFC South. He also threw 14 TD and 1 INT against the AFC, a little different than 9 TD, 2 INT.
When it comes to pass defense, there is no question that NFC West is Best. Wilson wins this category in a landslide. Let's expand upon schedule for a moment.
What better way to decide it than by looking at the defenses that both, or all three, of these quarterbacks faced:
Wilson's second game against the Rams is comparable to Griffin's game against the Rams.
Wilson's game against the Panthers is comparable to Griffin's game against the Panthers, at the least.
Wilson's game against the Bears is much better than Luck's game against the Bears.
Wilson's game against the Jets is much better than Luck's game against the Jets.
Luck's game against the Dolphins could be a bit better than Wilson's game against the Dolphins.
Luck's game against the Packers is much better than Wilson's game against the Packers.
Luck and Griffin had comparable games against the Vikings. Wilson had a better game against Vikings.
Griffin had 4 TD, 304 yards, 70.4% against Cowboys in first meeting, 9-of-18, 100 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT in second meeting. Wilson was 15-of-20, 75%, 151 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT against Cowboys.
Wilson's game against the Patriots is much better than Luck's game against the Patriots. Wilson's game against the Bills is much better than Luck's game against the Bills.
In fact, break it down by divisions, in which Luck and Wilson both played common divisions.
Wilson against the AFC East: 65.6%, 910, 8 TD, 0 INT, 9.48 Y/A, 181 yards rushing, 3 TD, 3-1
Luck against the AFC East: 55.3%, 1,287, 5 TD, 6 INT, 7.19 Y/A, 28 yards rushing, 2-2
Wilson against the NFC North: 63.2%, 832, 9 TD, 1 INT, 7.11 Y/A, 125 yards rushing, 3-1
Luck against the NFC North: 53%, 1,286, 9 TD, 7 INT, 6.95 Y/A, 87 yards rushing, 1 TD, 3-1
Wilson had 20 total TDs and 1 INT in eight games. Luck had 15 total TD and 13 INT in eight games.
DIFFERENCE FROM 2011, WIN-IMPROVEMENT
Seahawks w/ Wilson: +4 wins
Colts w/ Luck: +9 wins
Redskins w/ RG3: +4 wins
Let me start, before you say anything, that the Redskins won +5 games in 2012, but one of those was started by Cousins. We won't count that right? Washington was 9-6 when Griffin started. Cousins took part in a win over the Ravens when he took over for an injured RG3 with :45 left, threw a TD pass to Garcon to send it to OT, and then didn't do anything in OT as the Redskins won. (Richard Crawford had a 64-yard punt return to setup a FG.) So, whatever that means as well.
A lot of people say that Luck is the clear best rookie because the Colts were terrible in 2011 (2-14) and went to the playoffs in 2012 (11-5). This argument does not work for me. Here are a few myths about the Colts this year:
MYTH: Andrew Luck was the only difference
Any knowledgeable football person will tell you that a whole crapload of people and work go into winning games. It's never, ever, ever one guy. Drew Brees is one guy. In fact, Brees has a lot of talented players on his offense, and that's still not enough to make the Saints worth a damn this year with that defense.
What the Colts did from 2011 to 2012:
- Drafted Andrew Luck. This is indisputable. What else did they do?
- Fired Bill Polian and Chris Polian.
- Fired head coach Jim Caldwell.
- Hired Ryan Grigson as General Manager.
- Hired Chuck Pagano as head coach.
- Hired Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator and Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator.
- Drafted nine players not named Andrew Luck.
- These rookies include their starting running back and four of their top six leaders in receiving yardage.
- Signed Donnie Avery, their third-leading receiver. Let go of longtime offensive linemen Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem. Traded for Winston Justice. Saw left tackle Anthony Costonzo gain experience in his second season. Basically overhauled their offensive line.
- Also added players such as Deji Karim, Vontae Davis, Jerrell Freeman, and Tom Zbikowski.
Luck is the biggest difference from 2011 to 2012, depending on how much you want to argue the GM, Pagano, or even Arians. But he is very, very far from being the only difference. I thought that the Colts would be going to the playoffs going into the year. A big part of that? The AFC.
MYTH: The Colts locked down a Wild Card early, so that's where Luck wins
Well, going to the playoffs is always a big deal. I don't want to discount the fact that Luck was a great addition for the Colts. I have more confidence in Luck turning into an elite quarterback now than I did before the year, and I was already very confident before the year that Luck would become an elite quarterback. But 11-5 has very little to do with it.
As I said before, the Colts had the easiest all-around schedule in the NFL by DVOA. They lost to the Jaguars and got blown out by the Jets. They got blown out by the Bears and Patriots. Nearly every win was by a hair, which explains Luck's seven game-winning drives (oh, we're getting there too later on) but ultimately is why the Colts, a playoff team, were outscored by 30 points on the year.
"But their defense was terrible, that's not his fault." No, it's not his fault what the defense does. The offense wasn't that great either though. Indy was 11-5, they went to the playoffs, the AFC is terrible, they lost 24-9 to a mediocre Ravens team. The Colts got the top pick after going 2-14, but by the end of the year they looked a lot better than the Bucs and possibly the Rams. They lost seven games by eight points or less.
The Redskins went 10-6 and won their division against the 15th toughest schedule. The Seahawks went 11-5 in a much harder conference against the 4th hardest schedule. Did the Colts improve? Yes. Did they improve by a ton? By DVOA, they might have improved from a 2-win team to a 5 or 6-win team. Even if you said that a team "Is what it's record is" it doesn't give them an advantage over Seattle. And if your argument was about wins, then I feel like you'd support an argument that winning your division is better than winning a Wild Card.
Now, is the Colts turnaround that much more significant than the Redskins or Seahawks turnarounds?
Total DVOA Change from 2011 to 2012:
Seahawks from -1.5% to +38.3% = +39.8%
Redskins from -7% to +9.6% = +16.6%
Colts from -32.8% to -16% = +16.8%
As a team, Seattle improved significantly more than Washington and Indianapolis. We already know that the Seahawks have the superior defense to the other teams, but what about offense?
Offense DVOA Change from 2011 to 2012:
Seahawks from -8.7% to 18.5% = +27.2%
Redskins from -7% to 15.3% = +22.3%
Colts from -17.2% to -2.9% = +14.3%
This closes the gap, but still Seattle had the most significant offensive improvement by DVOA of any of the three teams. This also raises the question of "What quarterbacks did they replace?" and that's not insignificant either.
Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins, and Dan Orlovsky might have been the worst QB situation in the AFC. Rex Grossman and John Beck might have been the worst in the NFC. That's just a myriad of "Oh my god, those guys started?" situations. The gap from those players to Luck and Griffin is as big as the gap of years I have between being in a relationship.
Wilson replaced Tarvaris Jackson and two starts by Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson was okay, but Whitehurst belongs with those other five names, he was terrible. Jackson completed 60.2% of his passes for 14 TD, 13 INT and 6.9 Y/A and Wilson far out-paced those numbers and his overall production, accounting for 15 additional total touchdowns over an "Okay" quarterback. I always backed Jackson as a guy that was doing okay, and now Seattle has someone much better than okay, which shows.
Luck and Griffin replaced chasms that would make Thelma & Louise happy. Wilson just replaced the ditch behind Anne Perkins' house. So, what does that mean exactly?
The Redskins offense had a slightly-higher DVOA than the Seahawks offense in 2011, despite the fact that Jackson was seemingly better than Grossman, who had thrown 20 interceptions. If you want to call the two offenses a wash, most numbers say that they were, I'm okay with that. Two similar offenses in 2011, two QB changes, and one of those had a bigger improvement year-over-year than the other, that being the Seahawks over the Skins. And yet many of the pieces in the Seattle offense are the same, whereas many of the pieces in the Washington offense are different.
Additionally, the Colts offense saw the most differences from 2011 to 2012, but improved the least out of the three, even if it did improve significantly. Think about this for a second.
With Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton in 2011, the Broncos were -9.9% on offensive DVOA. With Peyton Manning this year, the Broncos were +22.1%, a difference of +32% offensive DVOA. The biggest and most significant difference on that offense was Manning and they improved by leaps and bounds. A QB change that major should have major implications and in the case of Luck, it was just an improvement by leaps.
But we change more than just by SOS and QB, don't we? Let's take a look at what's around these players.
Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, WR Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, TE Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy.
Redskins: RB Alfred Morris, WR Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson, TE Logan Paulsen, Fred Davis.
Colts: RB Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, WR Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, LaVon Brazill, TE Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener.
The first thing we have to realize is that judging all of these players against each other would require me to write up another 10,000 words on each position and nobody wants to see that. Let's just use our better judgment and common sense.
For beginners, let's talk about offensive lines for a moment. It's really hard to quantify the quality of a line in any one manner or to judge the line as a whole. One of your guards might be great, one might suck. Overall, we can get some idea by judging first with adjusted sack rate which goes just beyond the number of sacks allowed. Luck should be sacked more because he drops back way more.
Adjusted Sack Rate and Ranking:
Colts: 6.8%, 18th
Seahawks: 7.2%, 20th
Redskins: 7.8%, 23rd
Luck might have had the best protection out of the three, but it's also hard to judge based on the fact that Wilson and Griffin are different kinds of quarterbacks than Luck. In this instance, all three lines rate out about the same. Of course, both the Redskins and the Seahawks are rated much further ahead in run-blocking with their zone blocking schemes.
I believe that Lynch is better than Morris and that Morris is better than Ballard. There is also though the matter of the read-zone option and pistol formations that benefit both Morris and Lynch. Lynch just had a career-season by far, even though he just had an excellent 2011 season. Morris came out of nowhere to run for over 100 yards per game. I am not sure that Ballard or Brown are ever going to be 1,000-yard backs in that system, perhaps more gearing towards the offenses of the Packers, Saints, or Falcons, that rely much heavier on the passing game.
Of course, if the Colts had a better defense, they wouldn't have to rely so much on Luck. Building leads and running the clock down with the ground game, is something that should come in time. At this point, Luck is relied on heavier, which is to his benefit in the conversation. Does he have the best receivers though?
Wayne had 1,355 yards in 2012. In his last season with Manning, Wayne had 1,355 yards. It stands to reason that even if he's older, Wayne is still the player we have come to expect. He's a future Hall of Fame receiver that played at a high level in 2012, perhaps the highest level of any receiver on the three teams.
Avery was once a highly-touted receiver coming out of Houston that put up 1,263 yards in his first two seasons with the Rams. This was just before Sam Bradford got there, and many of his starts came with old Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller, and even Keith Null. Still, he was productive before injuries derailed him for a bit. He had a career-year in 2012, 60 catches for 781 yards, but it wasn't significantly better than his rookie year and within the range of what Avery would be expected to do. He's a good starting receiver.
Hilton was second on the team with 861 yards and an excellent 17.2 yards per reception. It's harder to know what will become of Hilton and how he would have done on a different offense. The ongoing theme here is that QBs and WRs have a symbiotic relationship. What can one do without the other? Hilton seems like a solid prospect for years to come. Overall, Avery and Hilton replaced Garcon and Austin Collie, and did so with success.
Fleener was drafted well ahead of Allen, but it was Allen that was the more productive receiver as a rookie. There could be some Patriots-action from these two in the future, even if nothing will be quite as productive as those two in New England.
Of all three teams, Seattle had the fewest changes from 2011 to 2012. The biggest difference is that Rice played in nine games last season and a full 16 games in 2012. That's huge because Rice is an excellent receiver and while his numbers may look like Jack Black to the laymen, his highlight reel is Ryan Gosling. In a "passing league" 46.8 yards per game is very ho-hum. He's not going to win you the fantasy championship on his own. But I do fantasize about him, because few players in the league can make the plays that he makes. Which really begs to ask the question, "If it is a passing league, then why are there running teams having so much success?"
Golden Tate had more yards in 2012 than he had in his first two seasons combined. Tate is talented and again, the numbers don't bear out what he can do. The same goes for Baldwin, who simply wasn't as utilized in 2012 as much as Jackson relied on him in 2011. However, he made some huge plays for Wilson.
Additionally, Terrell Owens dropped a Matt Flynn pass in the pre-season that might have helped Wilson get the job, at least in the eyes of the fans that noticed that Russell's numbers were better. Shoutout to T.O.!
Again, Miller and McCoy are not stars but they get the job done. Wilson wouldn't be as productive without some of the big plays these two have made. Though there was at least one play (Rams) where McCoy fell down and it turned into an interception for Wilson so ha! How dare you, Anthony.
Washington was led in receiving in 2011 by Jabar Gaffney (947 yards) who left and Fred Davis (796 yards) who got hurt. I thought a pretty significant underrated addition was Garcon, and he clearly made a huge difference for Griffin when he was healthy. However, he only started ten games this year and he was probably only healthy for seven or eight of those.
I felt that the rest of the Redskins receivers were either average or bad. Moss is 33, Davis played in seven games, and while Paulsen is interesting, he still only had 308 yards and one touchdown.
In this case, I feel like the 'edge' goes to the quarterback that had the least to work with. That is clearly Robert Griffin. Wayne and Rice are the two best receivers on any of these rosters. Garcon has a case for being the third best, but he practically missed half of the season. Griffin was forced to work with less and we won't know how much better his passing numbers could have been if he had better receivers.
Now, the Colts might have had the worst running game, but that's due in large part to running a completely different style of offense, not the style that is conducive to 1,600-yard rushers. But since when has not having a running game hurt Rodgers or Brees? Lynch is the best of all three, Morris is the second-best, and even Turbin might be better than Ballard for all we know at this point.
If there's a case for Luck here, it's that he was working with such a young group of players and he helped them succeed more than they would have with a mediocre quarterback, while also helping Wayne get back to putting up huge numbers.
If there's a case for Wilson, it's that he had almost the exact same roster on offense as Jackson and did a whole hell of a lot more with it. Wilson had the least amount of turnover but also had the biggest jump in offensive DVOA.
But I'm making a case for RG3. I would love to see him work with a better set of receivers and get healthy seasons out of Garcon or a tight end like Davis as soon as all of his 'CLs are healthy again.
Let's flesh out the numbers a little bit more. We're already here, right? Stick around for awhile. Your family can't file a missing persons report for at least 21 more hours.
Wilson H: 106-of-164, 64.6%, 1,504, 17 TD, 2 INT, 9.17 Y/A, 47 rush for 223 yards, 1 TD, 8-0
Wilson R: 146-of-229, 63.8%, 1,614, 9 TD, 8 INT, 7.05 Y/A, 47 rush for 266 yards, 3 TD, 3-5
Griffin H: 122-of-190, 64.2%, 1,414, 8 TD, 1 INT, 7.44 Y/A, 68 rush for 525 yards, 4 TD, 5-3
Griffin R: 136-of-203, 67.0%, 1,786, 12 TD, 4 INT, 8.80 Y/A, 52 rush for 290 yards, 3 TD, 4-3 (Missed CLE)
Luck H: 169-of-308, 54.9%, 2,145, 12 TD, 5 INT, 6.96 Y/A, 34 rush for 140 yards, 3 TD, 7-1
Luck R: 170-of-319, 53.3%, 2,229, 11 TD, 13 INT, 6.99 Y/A, 28 rush for 115 yards, 2 TD, 4-4
The biggest disparity between home and road would be Wilson, who was just about the best quarterback in the NFL when he played in Seattle. His overall numbers on the road are good for a rookie, but don't 'wow' you. He had the biggest disparity between playing at home and playing on the road. There's more to it than that though, and we'll get there.
Griffin had more interceptions on the road, but also threw more touchdowns and had a much higher Y/A. The interesting thing is that at the same site where RG3 is currently being remembered for his knee turning into a failing game of Jenga is also the place where he just crushed it in the running game.
Luck threw more interceptions on the road this season than either Wilson or Griffin threw for the entire season. Actually, it's almost as many picks as those two threw combined. He was better at home, especially in the win column, but many of the numbers are very close and Luck was mostly consistent.
SAY SOMETHING ABOUT GAME LOGS!
I could go on and on about stretches of success, but I feel like that would favor Wilson so much that I couldn't do so without coming off as bias. I am only bias in the fact that I watch Wilson more than I watch any other player, I already told you that I don't care who wins the award. But I feel like it's worth noting that both Griffin and Wilson got better and that Luck just never had a huge run at any point where you felt like "Now this horse is in the lead."
Instead let's do some counting. It's better to be consistently good than to throw up some huge numbers against your weaker opponents, right? Doug Martin wasn't the Rookie of the Year because he had 12,000 yards in a two-game stretch.
Number of games with a QB Rating over 100:
Number of games with a Y/A over 7.00:
2+ total touchdowns:
Wilson Over His Last 11 Games: 21 TD, 4 INT, 3 Rushing TD
Griffin Over His Last 10 Games: 16 TD, 4 INT, 3 Rushing TD
Luck Over His Last 11 Games: 16 TD, 11 INT, 4 Rushing TD
I'm not really sure that I gave something to put an edge on here. Wilson is dominant at home and has been great since the first five games of the season, with the exception of a Thursday in San Francisco.. His numbers have been off the charts. He's been the most consistent of the three, against better defenses, but his early-season struggles and early-season road struggles can't be ignored. His road numbers were bad over the first four games and over the last four games on the road: 7 TD, 1 INT, 3 rushing TD. But, those defenses were not as good as the first four.
Luck's numbers over the last eleven games aren't as bad as I thought, but still had terribly low completion % and Y/A. Luck just didn't get the yards per attempt that you would have wanted out of a player that throws it 600+ times. Put it this way: How do you feel about Matthew Stafford right now? He had an inefficient 727 attempts this year, going for 20 TD, 17 INT, 59.8% completions, 6.8 Y/A. Luck had 627 attempts, 23 TD, 18 INT, 54.1% completions, 6.98 Y/A. More touchdowns on fewer attempts, but also more interceptions and a lower completion percentage with similar Y/A. One difference is that Stafford has Calvin Johnson, but Wayne is a pretty good weapon too.
Stafford is only a year and a half older than Andrew Luck.
I don't want anyone to think that I'm Luck-bashing in this write-up, because that is not what I'm trying to do. If I had to start an NFL franchise today, Luck would be near the top of the list of players I'd build around. He's probably going to be great. But this isn't about what you're going to be, this is about what you just did. This is about 2012. I think that part of the reason that Wilson falls behind Luck and Griffin in some people's eyes is that they are still looking ahead and thinking, "This guy just isn't built to sustain this success like those two players." "Those two players have more of the prototypical skills that we look for in a quarterback."
Even if this is your opinion, it doesn't belong in a Rookie of the Year debate. Where Wilson was drafted doesn't matter. It may not feel right for him to be the ROY because of where these three were thought to be ranked going into the NFL draft, but it is what it is.
There is another argument for Luck though, so let's break that down too.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS CLUTCH?
Luck has led a phenomenal league-leading seven game-winning drives this year as the Colts lived on the edge between 11-5 or possibly 4-12 if Luck had led seven game-losing drives. He also had fourth-quarter comebacks against the Packers, Titans, Lions, and the Titans for a second time.
Against the Packers, the Colts were down 21-3 at half but Luck threw for a touchdown and ran for a touchdown and the gap was cut to 21-19. He threw an un-clutch-like interception in the fourth quarter that nearly ended the comeback hopes. Wayne had a ridiculous 6 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown on the final drive and the Colts won after Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal.
Down 10-6 in the third quarter against the Titans, Luck again threw an interception that could have been costly. The Colts tied the score with 3:28 left on a Delone Carter 1-yard touchdown. In overtime, 'Donald Brown run' was the first six plays of the drive until Luck hit Wayne for 20 yards and Ballard for a 16-yard touchdown.
Against the Lions, Luck's first interception was negated for an offsides penalty. That one didn't count. The one he threw on the very next play did count though. As did the one he threw later in the second quarter. As did the one he threw in the fourth quarter with the Colts down by 12 points.
I could go on (really, I could!) but I think you get the idea. What the hell is clutch? Making up for past mistakes? It's not about Luck, this goes for all quarterbacks. You can't tell me that a player can throw three interceptions in a game, including ones in the fourth quarter when you're losing, and then also tell me that he's clutch. Is 'clutch' supposed to be that you play your best football when the pressure is on? Well f*ck that. Please do me a favor and instead play your best football for 60 minutes.
"Wait, you're telling me that you play better at a certain time? Why aren't you playing that way the entire game?!?!"
If anything, I'd rather you play your best football for three quarters instead of just the fourth. That's simple math right? 75% of a game is better than 25% of a game. If there is such a way to describe clutch, I'd put it in the same vein that I put it for Wilson after he was drafted. I'm paraphrasing but it was along the lines of, "This guy plays the same football whether it's the first quarter against Mississippi Valley State or the fourth quarter against Michigan in the Big House."
The kind of players that don't play better under more pressure, but simply don't feel pressure at all. Andrew Luck can qualify in this standard. Wilson qualifies in this category as well. I haven't seen Griffin in this situation as much, personally, but sure why not him too? There's nothing about Luck that leads me to believe he has an advantage over the other two in this category. Simple "GWD" and "4QC" fails to recognize a whole slew of variables that negate it's validity other than what is: You technically were down in the 4th quarter and you technically won. It's no different than giving up 4 runs in baseball in a third of an inning and picking up a win. It doesn't necessarily mean you were good.
If you want, we could break it down by touchdowns (run and pass) that gave your team the lead or tied the game:
Is Wilson now much 'clutch' than Luck? Despite the fact that the Seahawks had many more comfortable wins than the Redskins or Colts, Wilson still managed 17 touchdowns that either gave Seattle the lead or tied the game, including:
Monday Night over Green Bay (Don't even include it if you don't want to, it won't make a huge difference in the numbers), two late touchdowns over the Patriots, a game-leading drive over the Bears in Chicago in the fourth and then a game-winning drive in overtime, the game-winning run over the Rams. This doesn't even mention Wilson doing enough to beat the Lions and Dolphins on the road until defensive collapses. All quarterbacks have to deal with that, I don't give two hoots about anyone's clutchiness. It's not a factor in this case, Luck has no advantage over Wilson in this category.
SO WHO HAD THE BEST ROOKIE SEASON?
As I alluded to in the headline, I believe that Wilson comes out on top. I really had to force myself to say that because I know that as soon as you start touting the player for your team to be the 'best' at something, it brings out the flies. I'd be much calmer if I simply said, "Griffin is the ROY, see I'm not a homer!" but I couldn't bring myself to do that after I had examined all the facts. What are the facts?
Fact - Wilson faced the toughest schedule of all three quarterbacks and it's not even close.
Fact - Despite facing an incredibly tougher schedule that Robert Griffin, Wilson's statistics were either better, just as good, or barely behind. The stats were well ahead of Luck.
Fact - Wilson took over basically the same team that Tarvaris Jackson had, but led them to the biggest increase in DVOA and Offensive DVOA. This gives us the best idea of what Wilson was truly worth to his team.
Fact - In the second half of the season, Wilson had an argument for being one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, if not the best. His QBR over the last 11 games was tops in the NFL. He was also the best home quarterback in the NFL. As he got better and as the offense developed around him, Wilson avenged all 3 NFC West losses and played good or great throughout. He also improved his road numbers dramatically.
Fact - Even if there was such a thing as clutch, Luck did not display any more of it than Wilson did and in fact, Wilson had significantly more touchdowns during the season that gave his team the lead or tie. They also came against some of the league's best teams, including the Patriots when down 13 points in the fourth, and the Bears (the number one defense in the NFL) in Chicago.
Fact - When examining the season game-by-game, Wilson consistently had the most good performances and the fewest bad performances.
When I had finished, there just weren't many areas where Russell Wilson was behind Luck or Griffin. He had more interceptions than Griffin but way fewer than Luck. He had fewer rushing yards than Griffin, but significantly more than Luck. He had more throwing touchdowns than Luck or Griffin and the highest total number of touchdowns. The Seahawks went 11-5 in the toughest pass defense division in the NFL, not in the AFC South and not 10-6 in the NFC East.
I believe that when the Rookie of the Year is announced that Griffin will come out on top and that even Luck might come out second. This doesn't bother me in the slightest. I mean, it would be a little annoying to see Luck ahead of Wilson when it seems so clear who had the better season, but I care much more about team success than an arbitrary award that nobody will remember who won it three years down the road. Wins on the field matter, not football awards.
However, after careful examination, I just happened to decide that Wilson had the best season of any rookie in the NFL in 2012. It took over 10,000 words for me to change my mind from Griffin to Wilson, but I can no longer deny it.
I'm not sure why I even kept doubting him in the first place.