“In the position we were in, you’ve got to evaluate both of them,” Shanahan said. “And you don’t make that move unless you think the world of both guys.”
‘Colts did the right thing’
Griffin’s stunning opener — throwing for 320 yards and two scores in an upset victory at New Orleans — brought the easy and early conclusion that the Redskins may have ended up with the better player. But Luck enters Thursday’s game having won three straight. Sunday against Miami, he threw for 433 yards, a rookie record. A year after winning just two games, the Colts are 5-3 and in the running for the playoffs.
“The Colts did the right thing,” Wilcots said. “I think they took the right guy first. I think any team would’ve taken Andrew Luck — and that’s not a knock on RGIII.”
One element that makes the entire comparison more difficult, and perhaps more interesting, is that Luck and Griffin are being asked to do completely different things. Luck is throwing 42 passes per game, third in the NFL, as opposed to 29 attempts per game for Griffin. Luck’s 2,404 yards passing trails just Brees, Eli Manning and Brady, players with 15 Pro Bowls and six Super Bowl titles among them. Luck’s completion percentage of 56.5 ranks just 29th in the league, but he has completed 37 passes of 20 or more yards, tied with Peyton Manning for most in the NFL.
“With Andrew, they’re going downfield more — a vertical attack,” Wilcots said. “. . . Your completion percentage is not going to be as high. In the other system, there are easier throws, shorter throws, and you get a higher completion percentage.”
Billick and Jaworski both pointed out two advantages Luck has: a legitimate downfield threat in 12-year veteran Reggie Wayne, and the fact that he ran a pro-style system at Stanford. The sense is that Luck will have more of a straight-line trajectory: He will simply get better at what he is already doing. Griffin, who already suffered a concussion on one run outside the pocket, may have to alter what he does.
“Long-term, what I think eventually is going to have to happen is he’s going to have to play quarterback under center in an NFL system,” Jaworski said. “He’s going to have to do three-step drops, five-step drops. You can’t last in the NFL running the offense off the spread option. No one’s perfected that yet. The quarterback’s going to get killed. Eventually, you have to get to playing NFL-style quarterback.”
There is half a season remaining, and entire careers beyond that. But “forever and a day,” as Billick said, has begun, and Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are walking stride for stride, linked for now and the future.
“I haven’t changed my opinion of them,” Billick said. “They’re can’t-miss players.”