For now, they will forever be connected. One and two, white and black, a “sure thing” and “IF he can make plays from the pocket” Whatever adjectives and phrases you’d want to use to form a dichotomy between the two, it was acceptable. As time moves on though, it’s becoming clear that what everyone thought of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III was essentially correct.
The narratives surrounding both players tell a tale of one: a prolific quarterback dubbed “the Next Peyton Manning” who could make all the throws, read NFL defenses while still in college, and is an exceptional athlete. He has a great mind and is even keel in the face of pressure. This is the guy you wanted as the face of your franchise for 12-15 years.
The other player was said to be “separated” by the former by questions of durability. Todd McShay of ESPN wrote, “How long it will take for him to transition to more of a pro-style offense” was another legitimate concern teams had for Griffin.
No one will ever debate the 2012 season as one for the ages. While Luck threw for the most yards in NFL history by a rookie, Griffin went on to win Rookie of the Year, displaying super human speed with pinpoint accuracy. What happened next may very well be the chasm that further separates the two. Griffin would go on to suffer a torn ACL and LCL in the Redskins wild card loss to Seattle.
Griffin’s relationship with owner Dan Snyder had created an awkward situation for everyone involved, including then head coach Mike Shanahan.
During Griffin’s rehab in the offseason, he came under scrutiny from both teammates and the national media. Griffin, who had become focused on his brand and being “all in for week 1” had become bigger than the team. By alienating himself, Griffin had become a target for analysis, questioning not only his ability to recapture his magical rookie season, but his leadership abilities.
Luck on the other hand flew undeniably under the radar. There were few articles posted about Luck and his maturation and even fewer commercials. For the number one overall pick, the heir to the Peyton Manning throne, where was the fan fare? Luck continued to work on his craft with his teammates, take all the blame in press conferences after losses, and gave his teammates all the credit in victories.
Year Two saw a dip in production for both quarterbacks, but not enough to be considered “Sophomore Slumps.” Griffin saw a huge increase in attempts compared to the year before, throwing 456 times, compared to the 393 and playing in two fewer games. A dip in touchdowns, completion percentage as well as an increase in turnovers was a clear indication that he struggled. Griffin no longer had what made him so dynamic the year before. Indecisive, poor footwork, lack of cohesion within the offensive line; Griffin was destined for failure.
Luck on the other hand increased his completion percentage and reduced his interceptions while leading the Colts to a second consecutive playoff berth and AFC South division title. While Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton can be lauded as the reason for Luck’s gains, there was never any doubt the would improve on his incredible rookie year. Even after losing his favorite target in Reggie Wayne (albeit on a horrible throw), Luck continued to thrive and won his first playoff game.
Sunday marked the first Colts and Redskins meeting in the regular season, since Luck and Griffin were drafted back in 2012. There were no weeklong segments on ESPN comparing the two. No lengthy quarterback analisis to dissect the two player’s skills and weaknesses. No sound bites of the two quarterbacks themselves offering insight on what they thought about their opposite. In what should have been a match up of two supremely talented athletes turned out to be a sham. RGIII’s struggles caused coach Jay Gruden to pull the star, in favor of Colt McCoy. While McCoy had some successes, he had no chance in matching the number one offense in the league, lead by Luck.
These two players are quickly moving further and further apart. As Luck is now a legitimate MVP candidate, vying for a spot in the Superbowl, Griffin is now adrift, benched for a third string quarterback and who no longer has defenses up in arms. For now, these two players will always be linked to one another, but at the moment, only narratives of “What if Indianapolis had taken RGIII” would suffice.