Ranking the rookie QBs through Week 3
(The latest issue of Sports Illustrated — on iPad Sept. 26 and newsstands Sept. 27 — features a story on Robert Griffin III’s impact on Washington D.C. Below, we take a look at how RGIII stacks up against the other rookie QBs this season.)
We’re three weeks into the NFL’s rookie QB takeover — the five first-year starters were the most the league has ever had to open a season. So far, it’s … well, it’s been exciting, if nothing else.
There have been some flashes of brilliance, particularly from the top two picks in last year’s draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Overall, though, the results have not come, with the rookies struggling to a 5-10 combined record so far.
How do the newcomers stack up as we reach the season’s quarter-pole this weekend? Here’s how they rank, from the bottom to the top:
No. 5: Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns)
Week 1 (L, 16-17 vs. PHI): 12 for 35, 118 yds., 4 INTs; 2 rushes, 25 yds.
Week 2 (L, 27-34 at CIN): 26 for 37, 322 yds., 2 TDs; 2 rushes, 6 yds.
Week 3 (L, 14-24 vs. BUF): 27 for 43, 237 yds., 1 TD, 2 INTs
Season totals: 65 for 115, 677 yds., 3 TDs, 6 INTs; 4 rushes, 31 yds.
It was fairly easy to surmise heading into the 2012 season that Weeden had landed in a tough spot in Cleveland — arguably the most difficult situation for all the rookies, depending on how you measure Miami’s talent level and the challenge of replacing Peyton Manning.
So, there is plenty of blame to go around for the Browns’ 0-3 start. Weeden has shown some flashes of potential too, especially in that Week 2 loss to Cincinnati. Weeden’s biggest problem, as is often the case with young QBs, has been protecting the football. If not for the four picks he threw in his debut, the Browns would have scored a surprising upset victory over Philadelphia. He coughed it up two more times on Sunday’s 10-point loss to the Bills.
Some of those mistakes are going to happen, especially if Cleveland’s wide receivers continue to struggle to get open, but Weeden must continue to progress in that aspect of his game.
4. Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)
Week 1 (L, 10-30 at HOU): 20 for 36, 219 yds., 3 INTs; 2 rushes, minus-1 yd.
Week 2 (W, 35-13 vs. OAK): 18 for 30, 200 yds., 1 TD; 3 rushes, 14 yds., 1 TD
Week 3 (L, 20-23 vs. NYJ): 16 for 36, 196 yds., 1 INT; 3 rushes, 3 yds.
Season totals: 54 for 102, 615 yds., 1 TD, 4 INTs; 8 rushes, 16 yds., 1 TD
Had the Dolphins pulled out a Week 3 win over the Jets, Tannehill might have jumped up another spot in these rankings. Not surprisingly, Tannehill’s best game came in the Dolphins’ lone win — a 35-13 rout of the Raiders in Week 2. Tannehill accounted for two touchdowns that day (one passing, one rushing) and really stayed within himself as the Dolphins leaned on Reggie Bush and, once the game was out of reach, Lamar Miller.
It’s been a tougher go of it for Tannehill in Miami’s other two games. His biggest mistake thus far came Sunday against the Jets. With the Dolphins up 10-3 early in the third quarter, Tannehill threw an ill-advised pass deep in his own territory, which LaRon Landry picked off and returned for six. Given Miami’s solid defense and better-than-expected run game, Tannehill can trend a little closer to the “game manager” role and avoid those mistakes. He just hasn’t so far.
3. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
Week 1 (L, 16-20 at ARI): 18 for 34, 153 yds., 1 TD, 1 INT; 8 rushes, 20 yds.
Week 2 (W, 27-7 vs. DAL): 15 for 20, 151 yds., 1 TD; 4 rushes, 28 yds.
Week 3 (W, 14-12 vs. GB): 10 for 21, 130 yds., 2 TDs; 3 rushes, 18 yds.
Season totals: 43 for 75, 434 yds., 4 TDs, 1 INT; 15 rushes, 66 yds.
Does Wilson deserve to be this high? Given Seattle’s record (2-1), absolutely. But do the numbers measure up?
Wilson currently has the lowest passing yards-per-attempt mark in the league at 5.8, and he’s 29th in yards per completion (10.1). His 144.7 yards-per-game average is 31st-best in the NFL, ahead of only Kevin Kolb (142.7) … and Green Bay punter Tim Masthay. Prior to Monday night’s dramatic game-winning TD drive against Green Bay, Wilson had completed two passes in the second half and didn’t even attempt a throw in the third quarter.
A lot of this has to do with how Seattle calls the game — similar to how Miami would like to operate, with the QB being asked to pass only under ideal circumstances. Wilson also delivered late (albeit in controversial fashion) against Green Bay and, really, should have pulled out a win in Arizona too.
This is basically how Wilson succeeded at Wisconsin: Hand the ball off, don’t commit turnovers, then catch the defense napping on occasion. What will happen when Seattle has to turn Wilson loose? If the Seahawks get their way, we might not find out for a long time.
2. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
Week 1 (L, 21-41 at CHI): 23 for 45, 309 yds., 1 TD, 3 INTs; 2 rushes, 9 yds.
Week 2 (W, 23-20 vs. MIN): 20 for 31, 224 yds., 2 TDs; 4 rushes, 21 yds.
Week 3 (L, 17-22 vs. JAX): 22 for 46, 313 yds., 2 TDs, 1 INT; 4 rushes, 50 yds.
Season totals: 65 for 122, 846 yds., 5 TDs, 4 INTs; 10 rushes, 80 yds.
Andrew Luck is good. He might, one day very soon, be great. The Colts, though, are still a year or two away from really competing as a team, and Luck is being dragged down some by that reality.
Luck’s 846 yards passing are tops among rookie QBs by a decent margin, and he’s pacing the way with five touchdowns and 122 pass attempts. He’s also twice led clutch late drives for the Colts — once to topple Minnesota in Week 2; then again to put Indianapolis in position for victory in Week 3.
The four interceptions are concerning, but he has just one over the past two weeks and is operating without any semblance of a run game to support him. The wins may not add up for Luck this season, but what you see is just the tip of the iceberg for what Indianapolis is going to get.
1. Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins)
Week 1 (W, 40-32 at NO): 19 for 26, 320 yds., 2 TDs; 9 rushes, 42 yds.
Week 2 (L, 28-31 at STL): 20 for 29, 206 yds., 1 TD, 1 INT; 11 rushes, 82 yds., 2 TDs
Week 3 (L, 31-38 vs. CIN): 21 for 34, 221 yds., 1 TD; 12 rushes, 85 yds., 2 TDs
Season totals: 60 for 89, 747 yds., 4 TDs, 1 INT; 32 rushes, 209 yds., 3 TDs
In an alternate universe, where the Washington Redskins have a defense that’s up to the level of, say, Seattle or even Miami, Griffin is 3-0 and en route to a playoff spot. As it is, however, even a terrific start from RGIII has not been able to overcome all of the Redskins’ warts.
For as much as Griffin has the ball in his hands — 32 rushes puts him in the top 30 league-wide thus far — he’s done a remarkable job taking care of the football with just one pick and one lost fumble. Of course, both of those turnovers proved costly. The interception, against St. Louis, led to a field goal in a game the Redskins lost by three; his fumble against the Bengals led to a touchdown in a game that the Redskins lost by seven.
Give credit for Mike Shanahan and his staff for finding ways to use Griffin properly. Against Cincinnati, RGIII struggled when he was hemmed into the pocket, so the Redskins opened the playbook with some designed option runs out of multiple formations. They’ve taken advantage of his very unique and diverse skill set.
Can he keep this pace up as defenses adjust to him and he takes more punishment? Maybe not. But even a slight drop-off would leave him in line for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.