Monday, February 27, 2012

The great (meaningless) debate: Luck v. RGIII

The ESPN hype machine is hard at work, trying to stir the pot and yet again create a story that isn't really there.
Okay, when don't they do that, you ask?  The answer is never.  Even in the midst of the NFL season, when there are more intriguing story lines to be broached than there are hours in the day, ESPN focuses on meaningless non-issues in an attempt to create theatrics.  “Gronkowski's ankle - the Gronkle!  Eli Manning said that he's an elite quarterback - is he?  What's wrong with the Dallas Cowboys?  Rex Ryan is yelling about something!”
But February is a particularly slow time for sports.  No offense to basketball or hockey, but football truly runs this country, so when a pig skin drought hits and there's truly nothing to discuss, that's when the mothership starts creating story lines.  This month's battle du jour?  Luck v. Griffin the third.
We love these head to head battles – the Harbowl, Lin vs. LeBron, Brett Favre vs. retirement – it is human nature to crave competition.  Without our need for it, sports wouldn't exist.  But it's when ESPN makes something out of nothing that my gears get ground, and when it comes to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, there's simply no contest.
Take this excerpt from an article on the ESPN website.  In discussing Peyton Manning's replacement in Indianapolis, they land this journalistic right hook on their readers:
"Presumably, that quarterback's portrait will wind up on the wall of the same venue both are expected to participate in some of Sunday's workouts.
Who will it be?"
Andrew Luck.  That's who it will be.  The Colts have already made it clear that they're going to draft him.    In fact, now that the coin tosses for the teams tied for later draft picks have already been settled, Indianapolis can already start negotiating with Luck on a contract.
So if it's already clear that the number one draft pick will be Luck, why even bother having the conversation?  Why doesn't ESPN break down who the best second overall pick is?  The more intriguing question is whether the St. Louis Rams will draft the best available player in RGIII (a position at which they're already solidified with Sam Bradford), draft for a need and pick Justin Blackmon, or trade the pick all together?  That would be too complicated, because comparing quarterbacks and wide receivers is apples and oranges.
Despite the fact that the future is set, the two quarterbacks stand to be compared.  Griffin's stats – minus 2009 - when he was sidelined for most of the year with a torn ACL - are eye popping.  His career numbers are fantastic, with a 65.4% completion rate, 10,366 yards, 78 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Last year in particular, a season which saw Griffin complete 72.4% of his passes for 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, was exceptional.
Andrew Luck has had an equally superlative career: 66.1 completion percentage, 9,430 yards, 82 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.  His 2011 season boasted a 71.3% completion percentage with 3517 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The biggest difference between the two quarterbacks is obviously passing yards – a primary reason why RGIII edged Luck for the Heisman.  But it stands to be mentioned that Stanford ran a pro-style offense predicated heavily on the running game while Baylor ran a spread offense – one that bolsters passing numbers heavily, as Scott Warfe points to in his article "Three and out:  All things over-rated".
As is the norm, the general belief is that Luck's experience in a pro-style offense will help him transfer rather seamlessly into the NFL game, not only by fans and analysts, but by GMs as well.  It's the same reason that option quarterbacks don’t succeed in the NFL (put your hands down, Tebow fans) and spread quarterbacks see drastic drops in production.  System quarterbacks fail, unless of course that "system" resembles that of an NFL team.
So go ahead - poll all the GMs you want.  After all, it doesn't matter what the other 31 teams would do; Jim Irsay has the number one pick and he has already decided on Luck.  McShay and Kiper can argue all they want, but Irsay has his mind made up, no matter how much ESPN wishes he would waffle.

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