It simply is not the way it usually happens in the NFL.
As the regular season winds down, it has become clear that this will be remembered as a year of remarkable exploits by rookie quarterbacks. In addition to Griffin, Luck and Wilson, others such as Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns and Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins are plowing through the more standard rookie-year ups and downs but showing potential to be reliable quarterbacks.
“So far I’ve been blown away by how well these rookies have stepped in and done,” said Marv Levy, the former Hall of Fame coach of the Buffalo Bills. “I mean, Peyton Manning went 3-13. Troy Aikman went 1-15. Brett Favre was let go by Atlanta [and traded to Green Bay]. Steve Young was let go by Tampa Bay [and traded to San Francisco]. It doesn’t happen very often this quickly.”
In a season of rookie quarterbacks, it will be a day for rookie quarterbacks Sunday in Cleveland, when the Washington Redskins attempt to continue their playoff push. The Redskins, who will be seeking their fifth straight victory, will be without the services of Griffin, ruled out a week after suffering a mild sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins will step in to oppose Weeden, the Browns’ starter.
It usually is virtual blasphemy, by NFL standards, for a group of quarterbacks to be compared to the famed 1983 class that produced Hall of Famers John Elway of Denver, Dan Marino of Miami and Jim Kelly of Buffalo. It perhaps is too soon to even bring up the more recent standard, the 2004 class of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, the New York Giants’ Eli Manning and San Diego’s Philip Rivers.
But maybe it is not unthinkable to believe that this quarterback class at some point could achieve a similar stature. Levy, who coached Kelly, doesn’t dismiss the possibility.
“I think it’s a very unique group,” Levy said. “To see Russell Wilson and RGIII and Andrew Luck come in and play the way they’ve played, it’s very impressive. To begin to think this group could someday earn its way to being compared to that ’83 group with Jim Kelly and Elway and Marino, it actually makes some sense.”
‘The game has changed’
When the Indianapolis Colts drafted Luck with the top overall selection and the Redskins took Griffin second in April, it was far from a certainty that both would end up succeeding as NFL quarterbacks — not just immediately, but ever. The history of quarterbacks being chosen first and second in the NFL draft suggested it was more likely that one would succeed and the other would fall short of expectations, as with Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer in 1993, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf in ’98 and Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb in ’99.