Analysis  

 

Russell Wilson outdid Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III in playoffs

Watching Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson play last weekend was like watching three very good jockeys run the Kentucky Derby. All three are talented, but one -- Wilson -- outpaced the other two. And while it's true that Wilson clearly had the better horse in the Seattle Seahawks, he was also clearly the better rider.

All season, these three remarkable rookie signal-callers have been neck-and-neck with their outstanding play, with each looking like the best quarterback at various points of the season. On Wild Card Weekend, however, Wilson showed exactly how good he is, helping to shepherd his team to the divisional round of the playoffs while Luck's Indianapolis Colts and RG3's Washington Redskins were eliminated.



Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are each up for Pepsi Max Rookie of the Year honors. The winner will be announced at the NFL Honors awards special on Feb. 2. Vote here ...

To illustrate just how well Wilson did, I thought I'd compare the three rookies in three important areas of play.

Poise: I thought Wilson really played well Sunday against a Washington Redskins defense that seemed to blitz on every play, with a different look each time.

Look at what happened when the Redskins blitzed on third-and-10 with 8:53 left in the fourth quarter. Wilson very easily could have taken off and run or he could have thrown the ball recklessly downfield; instead, he hung in there and found tight end Zach Miller coming out to his left. Miller rumbled ahead for a 22-yard gain.

I know, from my time working for the Dallas Cowboys, that it's tough to win in Washington. The crowd there can be unbelievable, especially when the Redskins are ahead. Despite playing in that tough environment, Wilson stayed strong.

Luck, on the other hand, seemed to hurry against the Baltimore Ravens, especially in the red zone. RG3, meanwhile, was obviously limited because of his knee injury; you can't get a true sense of his poise under pressure from Sunday's action.

Accuracy: Wilson threw three passes on Sunday that were really special: a 27-yard throw to Sidney Rice in front of the Redskins' sideline, the second-quarter touchdown pass to Michael Robinson, and the connection with Miller on the two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter.

That 27-yarder to Rice was an especially huge play, a real momentum-changer. Seattle had fallen behind Washington, 14-0, at that point, and Wilson really came through.

Luck did not have his best game, accuracy-wise, against the Ravens on Sunday. He seemed to miss more open receivers than he usually does, though he was also running for his life. He also made more downfield throws than Wilson, with the exception of that 27-yard strike to Rice.

Regarding RG3, again, I think you have to temper your evaluation of him because the injury would have made it difficult for him to plant. However, I think he could have avoided being picked off by Earl Thomas in the second quarter had he thrown the ball a little farther out toward the sideline than he did. Instead, Thomas made a great play to grab a huge turnover for Seattle.

Running the offense: Wilson did a great job on fake handoffs and zone-read plays, holding the ball for what seemed like an eternity before taking off and running at the last second. RG3, of course, was limited in this area by his injury; he did not run well, hopping along like a guy on a pogo stick. (To get a true picture of his effectiveness in the Redskins' offense, look at his performance against the New York Giants in Week 13.)

Luck, meanwhile, just didn't look as smooth as he had for most of the season, thanks to his comparative lack of poise. He was getting rid of the ball a bit quicker than he had to, acting hurried. He was a bit jumpy, which to some degree was to be expected, given how overmatched the Colts were. (It seemed like nobody could block Paul Kruger, for example.) After awhile, that can wear on a guy.

At various points of the season, I've thought Luck, RG3 and Wilson each deserved the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. I know voting for the award ended before Sunday's games took place, but Wilson's performance really cemented my feeling that he ultimately deserved the honor over Luck and RG3.

The bottom line is, Wilson's amazing. I don't know how he does it, but he's able to see those windows and get the ball in there, even though his official height is 5-foot-10 5/8. Before the draft, people were worried that he'd have an issue with blocked passes, but on Sunday, he didn't have a single throw knocked down. Luck, on the other hand, had several passes blocked.

I'll tell you what, there are going to be a whole bunch of future quarterback prospects who measure around 6-feet tall who had better send Wilson a card. His performance as a rookie will really open the NFL up to a whole new type of player.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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