By Niles Pender: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the top two picks in the 2012 NFL draft. Luck and Griffin were expected to be an instant upgrade to the quarterback position for both the Colts and the Redskins. However, no one expected the two rookie quarterbacks to lead their teams to the playoffs in year one. What would happen if the Colts and Redskins met in the Super Bowl?
The Quarterback Position Would Be Changed Forever
Conventional wisdom surrounding quarterbacks says that they need at least a year on the bench learning the position before they can succeed on the field. It was also widely believed that a team that drafted a quarterback would have to wait three years or more before the team was good enough around the quarterback to make that team a playoff or championship contender
That conventional wisdom has been changing over the past decade. Ben Roethlisberger started that shift by going 15-1 as a rookie for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004. Since then, quarterbacks such as Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman have proven that a rookie can play well at the quarterback position.
This season, five rookie quarterbacks were starters on opening day. Brandon Weeden of the Browns, Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks were all starters as well as Luck and RGIII. Russell Wilson has led the Seahawks into the playoffs as well as going 11-5 in his rookie season.
While Wilson has also played well this year, the focus is on Luck and Griffin. If those two made the Super Bowl as rookies, it would forever change the perception that a first year starter could not or should not make an impact as a starting quarterback.
Rookie Starters Would Deal With Even More Pressure
It is tough to be a rookie in the NFL no matter what the position is. If two rookie quarterbacks play in the Super Bowl, the expectation would be that any quarterback drafted in the first round would deliver the team to the Super Bowl. Any player who failed to do that would face immediate scorn from coaches and fans.
Any highly touted quarterback who was thinking about coming out of college early would most likely stay for another year in the college ranks because it is much easier to be the big man on campus as opposed to being the guy who failed to win 11 games as a rookie. This could make it harder for NFL teams to draft a quarterback because fewer of them would come out of college each year.
Coaches Would Be On The Hot Seat Even Faster Even With A Young Quarterback
The Colts and Redskins were both mired in dreadful seasons in 2011. In fact, the Redskins started 3-6 in 2012. Other than the additions of Luck and RGIII, the rosters remained relatively unchanged for the Colts and Redskins.
Therefore, the expectation for coaches with a young quarterback who was drafted with a top pick is to get to the playoffs or the Super Bowl right away. A coach who may have gotten three years or more to build a team 10 or 20 years ago may only get a season to prove himself today.
The GM who drafted the quarterback would also feel pressure to see results right away. While coaches are supposed to get the most out of the players on the roster, the GM is supposed to draft players who fit the scheme that the coach wants to run. If a young quarterback fails to pan out within a season or two, that executive is going to be looking for a job as well.
It is likely that neither quarterback will lead his team to the Super Bowl. However, both players have shown that they have what it takes to be winners early on in their careers. They have raised the bar for future players who are drafted in the first round by teams who are looking to turn their fortunes around in a hurry.