Luck was born Sept. 12, 1989. Griffin arrived exactly five months later. By virtue of this happy coincidence of chronology — not to mention their strong right arms, their quick minds, their position as the first and second players taken in the NFL draft and their arrival to sorry teams that started them immediately — we are halfway through the first season in which Luck and Griffin will be compared in every aspect of their games.
“We see it already,” said former Baltimore coach Brian Billick, who now serves as an analyst for Fox and the NFL Network. “Those comparisons are going to be made forever and a day.”
They are simultaneously inevitable and warranted — and perhaps tiresome — just as those between John Elway and Dan Marino (draft class of 1983) were en route to the Hall of Fame. But with Luck playing his ninth game Thursday — the Colts face lowly Jacksonville — and Griffin already nine games in as the Redskins face their bye week, this is as good a time as any to look at where the top two players in the draft stand now, and where they might be headed.
“One thing I look for: neither with Robert nor with Andrew has there been these big ebb-and-flow type games,” said ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who has watched every snap each quarterback has taken since the preseason. “They’ve both been very, very consistent. This is the NFL. There are going to be mistakes made. I’ve seen guys that have been in the league 10 years get humiliated. But neither of these guys has been humiliated.”
‘Both have the temperament’
Since 1998, two quarterbacks have been taken among the first three picks in the draft just three other times: Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf at 1 and 2 in 1998; Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith with the first three picks in 1999; and David Carr as the top choice and Joey Harrington the third in 2002. Humiliations dot the early portions of so many of those careers, and even define some of them.
So leading up to last April’s draft, the prism through which Luck and Griffin were viewed was: Which one might fail, and why?
“Both of them, first of all, have the temperament, class and dignity — and a work ethic about themselves, an intelligence — that you don’t have any problem making them the face of organization,” said Solomon Wilcots, an analyst for the NFL on CBS who, like Billick, has broadcast both a Redskins and a Colts game. “I think they’re equals in that regard.”
Start with Griffin, who entered the bye week on a three-game losing streak that has left the Redskins in last place in the NFC East. He is averaging 7.61 yards per pass attempt, eighth in the NFL, not only significantly higher than any of the five rookie quarterbacks who are starters (Luck ranks 19th, four spots behind Miami’s Ryan Tannehill) but higher than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. His completion rate of 65.6 percent is also eighth in the league, also best of the rookie class, and better than Brady, Brees, Matt Schaub and Eli Manning. He has thrown just three interceptions, tied with Brady for fewest among passers with at least 110 attempts. And he is on pace to rush for 940 yards, which would shatter the rookie record for rushing yards by a quarterback, set last year by Carolina’s Cam Newton.