The 2012 NFL rookie quarterback race has a winner. It is Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, a man who was not even expected to play this year. With the Seahawks’ 24-14 playoff victory over the Washington Redskins and fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, Wilson now has 12 wins and counting. Since Griffin III and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts both lost and ended their seasons with nine and 11 wins respectively, Wilson can’t be caught.
Very few people saw this coming. When the season began, it was believed that Griffin and Luck would start, but be lucky to win half of their games. Wilson was supposed to back up Matt Flynn, who was signed to a huge free agent contract by Seattle. Not only did all of these rookies play well, each won more than eight games, led their teams to the playoffs and made a case for themselves as Rookie of the Year.
The NFL has never had a group of rookie quarterbacks play so well. In 2011, Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals and T.J. Yates of the Houston Texans faced each other in a playoff game, but Yates did not make his first start until both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were injured. The trio of Wilson, Griffin and Luck started from day one and only Griffin did not start every game. He missed a week 15 matchup against the Cleveland Browns and another rookie, Brandon Weedon, due to a knee injury. In Griffin’s place, another rookie, Kirk Cousins, took over and led Washington to victory.
Going into the stretch run of the season, the race for rookie supremacy was very close with a game separating the big three. Not only that, but each quarterback had their team in contention for a playoff spot. The Seahawks and Redskins won all four of their games while Indianapolis went 3-1. So much for rookie learning curves.
The four-game win streak allowed Wilson to catch Luck. Missing the Cleveland game dropped Griffin two games behind and the only way he could have overtaken the leaders was by getting to the Super Bowl. Wilson and Luck finished the regular season tied with 11 wins each and, fortunately, got to settle things in the post season.
It was all there for everyone to see on Sunday. Luck and the Colts lost to the Baltimore Ravens 24-9 and stayed put at 11. Griffin and the Redskins jumped on the Seahawks early 14-0, but he reinjured his knee and Wilson brought Seattle back to win 24-14. This broke the tie with Luck and Wilson headed to the winner’s circle.
Wilson’s season is not over–he will play again next Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
One could say that it is his victory lap for winning, arguably, the most exciting rookie quarterback race in NFL history.