Maybe you missed Russell Wilson because of his height. Heaven knows every draft analyst and talking head wrote off the 5-foot-10 quarterback out of Wisconsin as a gadget play type of guy. Now, it's time to put that gadget play guy in the same conversation as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck for the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Wilson went 14-for-23 with 205 passing yards and another 92 rushing yards on nine carries in the Seahawks' Week 15 game. The first-year quarterback accounted for four of Seattle's touchdowns in a 50-17 skinning of the Buffalo Bills. He ran for three of them and tossed another one for his 21st passing touchdown of the season. He has more passing touchdowns than any rookie quarterback this season.
Run through the list of ROY arguments for Luck or RGIII. Ask yourself if the same standards apply to Wilson and the Seahawks. Briefly:
Right now, all three of these teams own a spot in the playoffs. The Colts have seen the biggest improvement in overall record from 2011 to 2012, from a 2-14 team to a 9-5 record. Washington jumped from 5-11 to 8-6 from last year to this one. Seattle's record improved too, from 7-9 to 9-5, but it's the smallest leap of any of the three teams.
Quarterbacks aren't the only ones responsible for the jump in wins. One of those teams, the Colts, made a major overhaul of the coaching staff and front office. More on the supporting cast in a moment.
Indianapolis is scoring 22.1 points per game, a big leap forward from the 15.2 the Colts averaged last year. The Colts still rank among the lower half of the league in scoring, but improving that average by a touchdown per game is big. Washington's offense is the fifth-best in the NFL with an average of 27.2 points per game. Last season, the mighty duo of Rex Grossman and John Beck scored 18 points per game.
Wilson and the Seahawks are now averaging 25 points per game, numbers padded by an offensive explosion in the last two games. Last season, they scored 20.1 points per game, which is the smallest improvement among the three teams with outstanding rookie quarterbacks.
This is where things get really arbitrary. The most notable difference between the Seahawks, Colts and Redskins is Seattle's defense, one of the league's best in all facets of the game. That makes the job of a rookie quarterback that much easier.
Washington and Indianapolis are getting by in spite of defenses that allow an average of 25 points per game or more. Seattle's defense is allowing an average of just 15.6 points per game, the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
Wilson has the best offensive line of all three headline rookies. Seattle's blockers have allowed just 26 sacks. Compare that to the 31 allowed by Washington and 37 by Indianapolis. If RGIII had a left tackle on par with Russell Okung, he could have done even more damage from the pocket this season.
Andrew Luck lacks the support of a competent running game like the Redskins and Seahawks can both boast. Marshawn Lynch has nearly 1,400 rushing yards this season. Alfred Morris isn't far behind that in Washington. The presence of those running backs makes the quarterbacks' jobs a little easier, but with option guys like Wilson and RGIII, it also makes it a little easier for the running backs, too.
As far as receivers go, Wilson has had Sidney Rice and has also breathed some life into Golden Tate. RGIII has Pierre Garcon, but still managed to play well with Garcon on the shelf. And just how successful would Luck have been without Reggie Wayne at his side?
Here's a real x-factor in judging the merits of each quarterback. Mike Shanahan's track record speaks for itself. On top of the two Super Bowl wins, Shanny also made Jake Plummer a Pro Bowler and coaxed Jay Cutler's best years out of him.
Bruce Arians' role in the Colts offense and success as a fill-in for Chuck Pagano is well documented.
Pete Carroll, lest you forgot, made Tarvaris Jackson a competent quarterback last season, along with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Jackson finished the season with a completion rate above 60 percent along with 3,091 yards, 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 79.2 quarterback rating.
Let's not forget this about Wilson:
Here's a look at the numbers, passing and rushing, for all three quarterbacks:
|3||Robert Griffin III||13||233||351||66.4%||2902||18||4||104.2||28||8.27||223.2|
|3||Robert Griffin III||13||112||748||6.68||6||57.5|
And The Trophy Goes To ...
Those are impressive numbers from all three players. RGIII has the best overall numbers, and his ability to run the ball so well has left celebrated defenses like the Giants and Ravens lock-jawed in horror. Impact is a qualitative judgement, but Griffin has an edge in that department. He probably deserves the Rookie of the Year award before the other two impressive quarterbacks.
There are two games left to play. Each team has a favorable matchup on the calendar. Next week, the Colts get the Chiefs, Redskins the Eagles. Seattle has a tough one against the 49ers, but Wilson will at least have home field advantage. Seattle hasn't lost a home game all season. The Seahawks host the Rams to finish the season. Indy wraps it up against the Texans, and Washington host the Cowboys.
What happens in the games left on the schedule will go a long way toward determining who gets the Rookie of the Year Award. Either way you can expect a healthy debate about who most deserves it.