By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald
Andrew Luck is the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and it’s not even close. The Colts rookie quarterback has one viable receiver to depend on along with a very shaky defense and inconsistent running game, and yet has amazed all season long.
The Indianapolis Colts weren’t supposed to rebound so quickly after its divorce with future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. When the Colts released Manning, among much controversy, many thought it would take at least two seasons to get back to the playoffs. When Indianapolis selected Luck with the first overall pick in April’s NFL Draft over Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, Luck stepped into one of the most difficult situation that any rookie quarterback has ever faced.
Not only was Luck replacing one the best quarterbacks of all time in Manning, but he was taking over the worst team in the NFL. The Colts were 2-14 last season, and didn’t win a game until the month of December. When Manning sat out all of last year with a neck injury, the Colts collapsed, showing everyone how many holes Manning had been covering up for years. Luck stepped into that situation, and then you add on the Leukemia diagnosis for rookie head coach Chuck Pagano. If the Colts and Luck struggled through 4-12 season nobody would have blamed them. But they didn’t.
What Luck has accomplished has been nothing short of incredible. After Luck and Griffin were the top two picks, a majority of pundits hypothesized that Griffin’s Redskins would have more success after a 6-10 2011 season. Luck was stepping into a roster that had very few returning players that had any productivity.
Yes, Luck has thrown 16 interceptions through 12 games which is extremely high total even for a rookie, but what he has done has separated Luck from the other rookie quarterbacks is his late game performances. Luck has five game-winning drives this season for the 8-4 Colts. Beginning with the 30-27 comeback win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Luck introduced himself as one of the best late game performers in the NFL.
If you look primarily at the statistics between Luck and Griffin, they would tell you this award should go to Griffin in a landslide. Griffin has been electrifying for the 6-6 Redskins, winners of three in a row, including Monday’s upset of the reigning Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Griffin has thrown for 2,660 yards, 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions in Mike Shanahan’s ‘Pistol” offense. Griffin has also run for 714 yards and six touchdowns, breaking the rookie quarterback single season rushing record set last season by Cam Newton in only 12 games. Ironically, Luck has five rushing touchdowns in 61 fewer rushing attempts than Griffin.
The problem with putting Griffin ahead of Luck based solely on stats is that Griffin has attempted 178 less passes than Luck, which if you attempt 30 passes per game is six games worth of passes. Luck has had the entire Colts offense open up to him, while Griffin runs option plays, screens and check downs. Griffin has only attempted 25 passes this season of 21 yards or longer, while Luck has attempted 61 passes in that range.
Barring a major collapse in the last four games, the Colts will be a wild card in the AFC something that seemed like a pipe dream back in August. Presently, Luck has the Colts on pace for a dream matchup on Wild Card weekend in Denver against Manning. Griffin’s Redskins are fighting for a playoff spot with four other teams, and likely have to run the table to get there.
Luck has been the most impressive rookie in the NFL this season, and it’s not even close.