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With Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, the comparisons are inevitable
Leave it to Michael Robinson to block out the hype surrounding Sunday’s matchup between rookie quarterbacks extraordinaire Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III in getting to the bottom line.
“I don’t really watch the hype too much, I just think our guy is better,” Robinson, the Seahawks’ fullback, said Thursday as he sat in his cubicle in the locker room.
“Our guy” would be Wilson, and Robinson’s blunt assessment caused a momentary pause in the conversation with the reporters gathered around him.
He then repeated, “I just think our guy is better.” And why is that? “He’s won games for us, and RG hasn’t done much for me. So our guy is better.”
Which rookie QB will get the better of the other in their NFC wild-card playoff game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Sunday afternoon has been a talking – no, shouting – point all week as the Seahawks prepare for the Washington Redskins and RGIII. The volume of the discussion will only intensify in these final days, and through the final play.
It starts with what the Redskins gave up to move into the second spot in April’s NFL Draft so they could select Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. The price? A swap of this year’s first-round picks with the St. Louis Rams, plus two future first-round picks and a second-rounder.
“There’s always risk no matter what direction you go,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said this week during a conference-call interview. “There’s going to be mistakes made. There’s always going to be mistakes. But one of the reasons we did it is we felt at the time we made the trade that there were two guys out there that we thought had a skill set that a lot of people don’t have.
“We knew about his arm strength. We knew about what he accomplished in college – his percentages, touchdowns/interception ratio. When you spend time with him, you could see that he really had the tangibles that we were looking for as a person, as well as an athlete.”
That other QB with the impressive skill set? Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who went to Indianapolis with the No. 1 pick and has led the Colts in the playoffs.
Wilson didn’t so much fall to the Seahawks in the third round, with the 75th pick overall. In fact, the perception on Draft Day was that the Seahawks reached to take the “too-short” QB who had played one season at the University of Wisconsin after spending three at North Carolina State – although it’s become increasingly harder to find those nattering nabobs of negativity as Wilson has progressed beyond expectations.
And leave it to Wilson to offer the perfect one-liner that warps a ribbon on the on-going discussion of his height.
“I knew my height doesn’t define my skill set,” said Wilson, who is listed at 5 feet 11.
Wilson not only knew it, he has spent his first regular season proving it – and forcing those general managers and coaches around the league who passed on him to slam palms to foreheads every time he does something he wasn’t supposed to be able to.
But the opposite paths Wilson and RGIII took to reach Sunday’s wild-card matchup only stokes the intrigue, as each has been involved in a coast-to-coast version of our rookie QB is better than your rookie QB.
Griffin set a rookie record for passer rating at 102.4, but Wilson (100.0) also broke the mark that was set by Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004 (98.1).
Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes to tie the NFL rookie record that Peyton Manning set with the Colts in 1998, but Griffin threw 20 TD passes and only five interceptions.
Wilson passed for four touchdowns in one game and ran for three in another, while Griffin broke the rookie record for a quarterback by rushing for 815 yards.
Wilson led the Seahawks on a five-game winning streak to close the regular season and leave them with an 11-5 record, while Griffin helped rally the once 3-6 Redskins to a 10-6 record as they’re riding a seven-game winning streak.
Similar achievements from players with similar skill sets. Just don’t ask them to make the comparison.
“I try to stay away from that kind of stuff,” Griffin said this week during a conference-call interview. “I feel like the media is going to do all the comparisons. So it’s not my job to compare me and Russell. I’ve told people many times, and it’s an old cliché, you never play quarterbacks in this league as a quarterback, you play defenses.”
That echoed what Wilson had said on Monday: “I’m playing the Redskins, we’re playing the Redskins. I’m not playing him.”
As for playing for the Seahawks, Wilson repeated a story on Thursday that he first told on Draft Day.
“It’s kind of ironic I ended up here,” Wilson said, smiling. “Just because I threw all the teams in a hat – and I told my wife, ‘I’m not normally like this’ – but the one team I pulled out was the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’m not sure if God or my (late) Dad or somebody had something to do with that, but just to be here is a great opportunity. Like I said, I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get. You have to cherish these moments, you have to try to take advantage of every day that you get and every practice and every snap that you get.”
And what was Wilson’s reaction when the Seahawks actually ended his NFL Draft experience (he already had been selected in the MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies in 2010)?
“Just that I knew I was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “God’s always done that for me in my life. It’s amazing how that works out. I think the biggest thing is just to continue to work, continue to have that work ethic and that determination to be great and don’t shy away from that at all.”
That’s just another thing Wilson has in common with Griffin in their rookie seasons that have been uncommonly good: Each knows he is in the right place, and so do the teams that drafted them.
“I think it’s really exciting, and the guys have done great,” Carroll said. “They really have, against all of the odds and the history and stuff like that. They have just been amazing to take their teams into the playoffs.
“It’ll be great to see how it goes, and we hope our guy does really well.”