Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III: Making case for Luck


It's not fair that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were compared during the draft process, are compared now, and will be compared throughout their NFL careers.

But let's compare them anyway.

I watch every rookie quarterback snap for ATL's weekly review. I made the case that RG3 deserves the slight nod thus far in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but noted how conventional stats don't show how well Luck has been playing. There isn't some gap between the players so far; both players have been sensational in very different circumstances.

The reaction from the aggrieved RG3 Nation was intense. They believed it was ridiculous to say the two quarterbacks have performed at a close level, and that I was stretching it to look at the advanced statistics. But those statistics help tell the story that shows up on tape every week.

Luck badly trails Griffin in conventional stats such as completion percentage, yards-per-attempt, and quarterback rating. On the other hand, Chase Stuart of notes that Luck's average pass attempt travels 10.2 yards, the top mark in the NFL. The average distance Luck's passes travel on completions is 8.6 yards, also tops in the league. RG3 runs a much more controlled offense and his numbers in these categories are below the league average. In some ways, the Redskins' use of Griffin is traditional and conservative. (Note: This is good coaching, not a criticism.)

Luck is helped less than any quarterback by yards after the catch. He has the highest percentage of passes of any quarterback to wide receivers; he's not checking the ball down. ESPN also ranks Luck as the most valuable running quarterback in the NFL. No quarterback has rushed for more first downs on scrambles. No quarterback has converted more third downs on scrambles.

Both rookie quarterbacks have been sensational in accomplishing what their coaches ask of them this year. The Colts ask Luck to throw downfield to a very suspect receiver group outside of Reggie Wayne. They threw him into the deep end of the pool right away.

"If you go back and look at my history, I throw it deep more than anybody in the league," Colts offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians told Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. "We do spread people out and throw it quickly; we think we have everything, but we also use our tight ends and backs to help the offensive line. We want to throw it to the guys who are paid to catch it, and hand it off to the guys who are paid to run it. We're not a West Coast offense by any means."

Luck's protection also has been suspect. He shows an incredible ability to avoid the pass rush and still make plays in the pocket. Griffin similarly is calm under pressure, and he's been even more consistently accurate than Luck.

I would give Griffin the slight edge this year for consistency. But Luck is so much better than the conventional stats indicate. ESPN's Total QBR ranks Luck sixth, ahead of Griffin in eighth place. We can argue over numbers all day, but it's incredible there's a strong case to be made both rookies are already top-10 quarterbacks.

It's not fair to compare these guys after only half a season. It's almost impossible to pick one over the other. But it is fun to try.

Kravitz says he would still take Luck over Griffin long-term. As sensational as Griffin has been thus far, I'm inclined to agree.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.