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With three first-year quarterbacks helping carry their teams to the playoffs, it's easy to forget these guys haven't actually been here before.
I don't honestly know why I pay much attention to the rookie quarterbacks anymore. The big three rookies, the ones that have their teams positioned for the playoffs, just don't fit our preconceived notions of what a first-year signal caller is supposed to be. You have to actually stop and remind yourself that those guys are rookies. When you do, their accomplishments are even more impressive.
Here's our weekly exercise in stopping and thinking:
Bootstraps And Scrap
The rookie starter who wasn't supposed to be broke out of the media fog enveloping the Northwest on Sunday night with a big win over the San Francisco 49ers. Four touchdowns. It was the second week in a row the third-round pick scored four times, except last week he ran for three of them.
But this wasn't the Bills Wilson was shredding. It was the 49ers. Until Sunday night, San Francisco boasted one of the league's stingiest defenses. In fact, Wilson and his teammates produced 42 points (one touchdown came from a blocked field goal) while accumulating just 346 total yards. It was the first time in three games that the Seahawks had fewer than 400 yards of offense.
Wilson now has 25 touchdown passes, one shy of Peyton Manning's rookie record. He should top that with a home game against the Rams next week. Only eight quarterbacks have more touchdown passes than he does, none of them are his fellow prodigious rookies. There are 22 quarterbacks with more passing yards than Wilson's 2,868, including fellow rookies Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. There are 25 quarterbacks with more passing attempts than Wilson.
The Seahawks have pretty stacked lineup around Wilson, an outstanding offensive line and stud running back. The receivers looked questionable to start the season, but Wilson's pinpoint accuracy has improved that group of players, too. Of course, the kind of incredible catches Golden Tate, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin have been making just add to the legend. Wilson gets the credit for his incredible ability to find his receivers, especially guys on the routes downfield.
I wasn't convinced that Wilson deserved the Rookie of the Year award prior to Sunday night. I am now.
Comeback Win, Again
Seven. The Colts' second prodigal son engineered his seventh game-winning drive, and offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. That ties him for the NFL record, not just rookies, the entire NFL. Naturally, Peyton Manning has two seasons with seven game-winning drives. Luck leads the league in game-winning drives this season.
Luck also set a new record for passing yards by a rookie quarterback, completing 17-of-35 passes for 205 yards. That gives him 4,183 passing yards for the season. He has 599 passing attempts, which is also a rookie record, and these aren't dink and dunk passes. He's averaging seven yards per attempt.
Reggie Wayne caught that touchdown pass, which nicely sums up the Colts' season. There's no mathematical formula for how much responsibility Luck and Wayne have for turning around a Colts team that finished last year at just 2-14. Luck's stats aren't making as strong a case for Rookie of the Year as RGIII or Russell Wilson, but he has almost nothing, beyond Wayne, to work with on that team, defense included.
"Not One Of Us"
Maybe Rob Parker was on to something. RGIII clearly is "not one of us," but it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with his super-human quarterbacking abilities. The rookie signal-caller's ability to heal himself also seems to place him in the "super hero" category as well.
Knee brace strapped on, RGIII resumed his starting role with the Redskins this week. By his own standards, it was a fairly quiet game for the second pick in the draft. He finished 16-for-24 with 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He only ran the ball twice, totaling four yards, with his knee still hurting. That was by design.
Head coach Mike Shanahan admitted after the game that he changed his plans to fit RGIII's limitations. A scramble out of bounds would have been a run down the field under normal circumstances. Of course, playing against the Eagles is always a good time for a quarterback to reacquaint himself with life in the pocket.
Shanahan adapted his offense from the beginning, bringing in Griffin's college concepts to ease his transition into the NFL. He did it again this week, and the results should add some more fuel to the argument for RGIII running less and staying in the pocket more. Ignore those people.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins rookie quarterback isn't making headlines like the big three from this year's draft. It's not his fault he can't run the option offense.
Kidding aside, Tannehill is having a decent rookie year. Remember when the Dolphins were going to let him work as an understudy this year? I think they should have, though the experience will certainly benefit Tannehill. He and Reggie Bush teamed up to help Miami beat the Bills this week. Tannehill went 13-for-25 with 130 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn't thrown an interception in 136 attempts, since Week 11. Considering the group of receivers he has to work with, that's an impressive number.
Out With The Old
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Weeden did two things this week: He didn't turn the ball over, and he left the game with a shoulder injury. It might just be his last game as a starter in Cleveland. The 29-year-old rookie was 12-for-19 with 104 yards prior to his exit. Pat Shurmur had him executing the most Shurmur game plan possible, with an average of less than six yards per attempt.
The new front office in Cleveland seems unlikely to stay with Weeden as the starter in 2013. That could change depending on the direction Jimmy Haslam goes with his next head coach. Weeden could be headed to the bench or shipped out of town. His age, er, experience, was supposed to confer some advantage, taking away the learning curve. Unfortunately, it's not that simple, and Shurmur's offense smothers quarterbacks.
At this point Nick Foles looks like another victim of circumstance, the pet project of the old regime. Of course, Andy Reid sent his young quarterbacks packing with regularity, so Foles' job security might not have been any better under Reid than it will be with Chip Kelly or whoever takes over as head coach in Philadelphia.
If the Eagles really do land Kelly, the former Oregon coach's past comments about Foles, who he knows from the Pac-12, will make for interesting speculation. In 2011, Kelly admitted that he watched "in awe" when Foles played, calling him "a hell of a football player."
Foles broke his hand this week, ending his season, and putting Michael Vick, probably, back in the starting role for one last game.