Rookie QBs Face Off in D.C.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passes during warm-ups before an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III throws the ball during a team workout at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Redskins are working out before Sunday's wild card game against the Seattle Seahawks. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Washington — How convenient. Those who can’t decide between Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson are literally getting a playoff.
RG3 or RW3? They’ve 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 today 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 last week. “You guys will do that. ... I hope you guys have fun.”
OK, Robert, we’ll 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 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.
Griffin’s slogan is “No pressure, no diamonds.” Wilson’s is “Separation is in the preparation.” Unlike Griffin, Wilson hasn’t bothered to trademark it.
RG3’s nickname stands alone. Wilson might have been “HW4” had he been born earlier, but it’s his older brother who got the name Harrison Wilson IV. 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 Wednesday, asking the coach how he spent his New Year’s. It’s hard to imagine Pete Carroll getting the same shtick from Wilson.
“He’s always serious, even when we’re not supposed to be serious,” Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. “He’s always serious. That’s a good thing. But I don’t know, man, he’s always working. It’s hard to pinpoint his personality.”
Then there is geography. Griffin plays in the nation’s capital for a franchise that was winning titles back in the 1930s. Wilson is up there somewhere in the far corner of the map, toiling for a team born in the 1970s and without a Super Bowl trophy to its name.
Interestingly, the Redskins’ stadium is in Landover, Md., so today will feature a team called Washington that doesn’t play in Washington playing a team from Washington that doesn’t call itself Washington.
“It’s cause we’re out here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t get no credit, just like the team,” Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice said.
As for the league’s offensive rookie of the year award, none of the above might win it: 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 revolutionize quarterback play in the NFL. Both have earned locker room respect by being studious and respectful, 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.
Want a challenge? Pick a random quote about either one and try to figure out whom it describes.
“He has a lot of the intangibles you look for in a quarterback. He’s really a class act. He’s handled himself extremely well and a fun guy to talk to. ... He’s got the intangibles you look for. He’s a natural leader as well. He’s playing some good football.”
For the record, that was Shanahan talking about Wilson.
Today’s game will be the second in NFL playoff 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.”