In the NFL today, quarterbacks are judged primarily on Super Bowl victories. Arm strength, accuracy, mobility, and mental toughness are all key assets, but wins are the ultimate litmus test when deciding how good a quarterback actually is and the legacy they leave after retirement. To win, they must have leadership and a special trust with their teammates. They need to avoid mental mistakes in key situations and know how to finish.
Quarterback is the hardest position in football to make the transition from college to the professional level. With that in mind, ten years from now will the Colts regret not taking Baylor’s Robert Griffin III first overall? Or will the almost predetermined pick of Stanford’s Andrew Luck be exactly what Indianapolis fans had hoped for? Only time will tell, but I believe I know the answer.
In 1998, Peyton Manning was drafted first overall by the Colts. He is one of the smartest players the NFL has ever seen. Luck has very similar attributes to Manning when he came into the league out of Tennessee as a rookie. Manning was smart, had great feet, and questions about his arm strength. Luck is similar intellectually, has exceptional accuracy, and was in a system at Stanford where his arm strength was in doubt. The latter was in part due to offensive scheme and the injury to Chris Owusu, Stanford’s main deep threat receiver. A lot of Stanford’s passing offense went through a talented group of tight ends.
Robert Griffin III, draws a lot of comparisons to Michael Vick coming out of Virginia Tech. Having grown up in a military family Griffin likely had more support from his family than Vick who grew up in a very poor city. Off the field they are complete opposites, but if you switched their jerseys and watched them perform on Sunday, you might get them confused. Lightning fast speed, deadly accuracy with intermediate throws, and multi-sport athletic ability, are just a few comparisons between the two.
Griffin was a Track and Field star in the 300 meter hurdles dating back to high school when he had a legitimate shot at the national record his senior year. Instead, he eschewed that shot at personal glory to enroll early at Baylor so he could get a head start with football knowing that the NFL would be in his future and not the Olympics. Vick was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2000 despite not even playing baseball since 8th grade. Both have exceptional athletic ability.
Does Griffin have the right tools to have a more successful professional career than Luck, and for that matter Vick as well? I see some reasons to believe he will do just that. First, Griffin was drafted to a team that already has an established head coach, Mike Shannahan, whose resume features a Super Bowl title won in Denver. On the other hand, Luck was selected to a team with a first-year head coach, Chuck Pagano, who has never been a head coach at any level much less won a championship. The franchise has been led by Manning, a coach on the field, for over a decade and is now left looking for a savior. After the 2012 season many familiar faces on offense left Indianapolis including Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Jeff Saturday. Griffin is being brought into an established system whereas Luck has to work his way into finding which plays work and which plays don’t.
Luck has the intelligence label, but Griffin is no slouch. After enrolling early at Baylor he stayed for his senior year to earn his degree. Most athletes with his skill set would have left for the NFL early. Beyond that, Griffin’s decision making is just as good if not better than Luck’s
In the speed department Luck is not slow for a quarterback, but Griffin is one of the fastest to ever play the position in the NFL after clocking a mind blowing 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February.
Luck has to help build his team from the ground up. Griffin will be placed on a team with veterans in key positions that will help him develop quicker. Ten years is a long time and anything can happen, but Griffin will get off to a better start and have a more successful rookie season than Luck largely due to the team he is supported by and the established coaching staff. That momentum may carry him through the next ten years. Luck will probably not be able to match his freakish athletic ability and crowd-pleasing plays, but again, only time will tell who has the stronger finish. In time, I believe it will be Griffin.