2012 was the year of the rookie quarterback in the NFL.
Five rookies started for their respective teams for the entire regular season. Three of them made the playoffs.
Andrew Luck was the most highly touted rookie entering the year. The Indianapolis Colts selected him with the first overall pick in the draft, and will face the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.
The other two rookies that made the postseason are set to face each other on wild card weekend. Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins will host Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.
Both quarterbacks had two of the best rookie seasons that the NFL has seen in recent years. They combined to win 21 games and set multiple records for first-year signal callers.
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Seattle and Washington had very similar regular seasons. The question of which team is better will be decided on Sunday, but which club has the better quarterback may be debated for years to come.
Entering the year, Griffin was expected to have the bigger impact in his first season. He won the 2011 Heisman Trophy and was drafted second overall.
Wilson wasn’t even expected to start in 2012. He was selected in the third round and 75th overall by the Seahawks. He entered training camp as the No.3 quarterback on the depth chart, and free agent signee Matt Flynn was expected to be the team’s starter.
It’s hard to give either rookie an edge when comparing their passing numbers. Griffin’s 102.4 passer rating is just 2.4 ahead of Wilson’s. Wilson threw for six more touchdowns, tying Peyton Manning’s rookie record, but Griffin threw five less interceptions, getting picked off just five times. Griffin had the edge in total passing yards by just 82.
Griffin, however, does separate himself from Wilson in the rushing department. His 815 yards on the ground are 326 more than Wilson. The Redskins playmaker also ran for three more touchdowns, while playing one less game.
Wilson, though, has helped Seattle win more games than Washington. He had an 11-5 record as a starter, defeating teams like the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears in the process. Griffin went 9-6 this season, and Washington didn’t seem to miss him much in the one game that he missed.
At 6’2 and close to 220 pounds, Griffin is probably more physically talented than his counterpart. Wilson is a rarity as a 5’10 quarterback, but makes up for his lack of size with his smarts and ability to read defenses.
It may be too soon to judge which quarterback is better, but an early answer might be given this weekend when the two rookies compete head-to-head. Griffin and Wilson played great down the stretch, when their teams need it the most. Both won their last five games, including contests with teams fighting for playoff berths.
Neither quarterback, though, has yet to play in the postseason. It will be the biggest game of each rookie’s young career, and both will have to prove they can handle the pressure of the playoffs.