x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

NFL: Pass marks up for grabs in rookie clash

Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson both have won over veterans and critics alike with their hard work.

Robert Griffin III was named the starter for the Washington Redskins prior to the start of the season.
Robert Griffin III was named the starter for the Washington Redskins prior to the start of the season.


WASHINGTON // How convenient. Those who cannot decide between Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson are literally getting a play-off.

RG3 or RW3? They have only had two of the best two rookie seasons for quarterbacks in NFL history, according to the numbers.

Time to compare and contrast as much as possible on Sunday as Griffin's Washington Redskins host Wilson's Seattle Seahawks in the NFC's wild-card round.

"I don't play against quarterbacks. It's not my job to compare us," Griffin told reporters this week. "You guys will do that ... I hope you guys have fun."

OK, Robert, we will take you up on that. Hey, Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, why is your guy better than theirs?

"I definitely would take his hair over Russell Wilson's hair," Williams said. "He's taller. He has a couple of more endorsements than Russell does. That gives you grounds enough to take RG3 over Wilson.

"Way cooler TV commercials."

Funny, but there might be some truth to that, at least when it comes to getting one's due. Griffin has the dreadlocks. Wilson has the regular, clean-cut hairdo. Griffin is in your face with his Gatorade commercials and the ubiquitous Subway spots. Wilson did a more subtle bit for Levi's.

Griffin won a Heisman Trophy, was the No 2 overall pick in the April 2012 draft, was anointed as starter from Day 1 of training camp and was selected as a team captain at midseason. Wilson was a third-round pick who had to wrest the starting job from big-contract free agent Matt Flynn.

Griffin's jersey is the No 1 seller across the NFL this season, while Wilson's is a mere No 19.

RG3's nickname stands alone.

Wilson also has "DangeRuss" - which he includes in his Twitter handle - while "RW3" is an upstart attempt to play around with Wilson's jersey number.

Griffin is charisma personified, always ready with a humorous quip and the ready-made sound bite. Wilson can be engaging but often speaks in clichés. Or, as he put it: "I'm not about flash."

Griffin crashed coach Mike Shanahan's news conference on Wednesday, asking the coach how he spent his New Year's. It is hard to imagine Pete Carroll getting the same from Wilson.

"He's always serious, even when we're not supposed to be serious," said Michael Robinson, the Seattle fullback. "That's a good thing. But I don't know, man, he's always working.

"It's hard to pinpoint his personality."

As for the league's offensive rookie of the year award, none of the above might win it: quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts could top them both after his sensational debut.

And, yet, for all those differences, Griffin and Wilson are actually quite similar. Both run the zone-read option, adding a dynamic that could revolutionise quarterback play in the NFL.

Both have earned locker room respect by being studious and respectful, and by showing leadership without appearing entitled.

Wilson's 100 passer rating would have set the new standard for rookie QBs if Griffin hadn't posted a 102.4.

Today's game will be the second in NFL play-off history with two starting rookie quarterbacks, but this is a case where both the winner and loser are expected to prosper.

Because of RG3 and RW3 (or whatever nickname sticks for Wilson), the Redskins and Seahawks have a chance to be very good for a very long time.

"Even though they have totally different styles in how they carry themselves," Carroll said. "In the core, they're really the real deal."