Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are the class of their Class

Posted Oct 3, 2013

Two of the rookie quarterbacks who took the NFL by storm last season will square off Sunday when Andrew Luck and the Colts host Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in Indianapolis.

They arrived from opposite ends of the NFL Draft spectrum, and seemingly come at their position with skills that are just as contrasting.

But Sunday, at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, the Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson will lead their teams into a game that will showcase two of the most-promising quarterbacks who entered the league last year.

Luck, the first pick overall last April, is that strapping pocket passer who was the perfect replacement for Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. The 6-foot-4, 239-pound Luck passed for an NFL rookie-record 4,374 yards last season and was at it again in last week’s 37-3 romp over the Jaguars in Jacksonville – when Luck was 22 of 36 for 260 yards and threw a pair of touchdown passes.

Wilson, the 75th pick in last year’s draft, has a knack for becoming the proverbial greased pig when the pigskin is tucked under his arm. Last season, the 5-11, 206-pound Wilson ran for more yards than any quarterback in Seahawks history (489) and was the perfect pairing with Marshawn Lynch to allow the offense to shove the read-option into high gear while running roughshod over any defense that got in their way during the second half of the season. Last week, Wilson willed the Seahawks to a needed fourth-quarter touchdown in their 23-20 overtime victory against the Texans in Houston by running four times for 53 yards during the 14-play, 98-yard drive.

But don’t be fooled by any of these preconceived notions about Luck and Wilson, even when they are producing results to support the stereotypes.

Luck is a better runner than most realize, while Wilson has a stronger, more-accurate arm than most expected from the QB who slid to the third round of the draft. Wilson did, after all, throw 26 TD passes last season to tie Manning’s rookie record that was set in 1997.

“He’s really a complete football player, because he is such a great athlete,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Luck. “He’s big and strong, can throw the ball all over the yard and he’s a really good runner and he’s difficult to sack.”   

Colts coach Chuck Pagano made a similar assessment when it came to Wilson the passer.

“He’s got an NFL arm, can make all the NFL throws,” Pagano said. “He has made some throws that are incredible.”

Luck and Wilson are not all that concerned about labels, except for the one that is the most important: Winner. Luck is 14-7, including playoffs; while Wilson is 16-6 – and 12-2 in his past 14 starts.

These facts have not been lost on Pagano and Carroll, which is why each quarterback obviously has captured the respect of the opposing coach.

Pagano on Wilson: “I’ve seen enough to know that this guy is a top-level starter in this league. He’s a proven winner. … Great presence. Great command. Never shaken. Athletic as all get-out. And then his ability to extend plays scares the heck out of you. What he’s done for his team, and what he did for his team last week, again it’s a huge, huge challenge for us defensively to try to contain this guy. He’s a tremendous athlete and a tremendous quarterback.”   

Carroll on Luck: “He’s a great player. It was not a difficult pick to take him first (in the draft) a year ago, and he’s lived up to every bit of it and more. … So he’s a very, very good football player. They’re not holding back anything. They’re doing everything in the passing game because he can handle it and he’s such a bright kid.”

Luck, as the leader of the pack, and Wilson, as the back-in-the-pack pick, are just two of the talented-beyond-their-years quarterbacks who entered the league via the 2012 NFL Draft and became starters as rookies. The group also included Robert Griffin III, the second pick overall by the Washington Redskins; Ryan Tannehill, the eighth pick overall by the Miami Dolphins; and Brandon Weeden, the 22nd pick overall by the Cleveland Browns.

“I’m definitely happy for all the guys in our class who have had success,” Luck said. “I guess it’s a good fraternity to be a part of.”

But it’s Wilson and Luck – or Luck and Wilson – who have had the most success. And you can count Luck and Wilson as fans of the other.

Luck on Wilson: “He’s a phenomenal playmaker when things go south. He’s got NFL arm strength. He can make every throw. You see him spinning out, running backwards and chucking the ball 70 yards downfield in stride to someone running – which is incredibly impressive. So when things sort of go south or guys run free, his ability to extend plays and make something happen is very impressive.”

Does Luck think that Wilson’s ability to turn south into north with his legs detract from his prowess as a passer?

“Yeah, I do,” Luck said. “But I think that’s also the nature of fans and probably the media today, is that folks are now enamored with the running quarterback in a sense. So I think he is very underrated as just a drop-back passer. He can make all the throws. You see it when you watch games. I think he’s as impressive just dropping back and going through his reads as he is rolling around and making plays happen.”

Wilson on Luck: “Andrew is just a tremendous kid. A guy who just loves the game of football. He’s a very, very intelligent football player who has had a lot of success and done a lot of great things. … I think the thing about Andrew that I like about him the most is just he always seems to be clutch; he always seems to be on time with the football. He’s a great leader, it appears. I think that’s what I like about him most. And also, he’s a big guy, but he can still run a little bit.”

Does Luck’s ability to stand in the pocket and dissect defenses as a passer overshadow his ability as a runner?

“My running skills are below average,” Luck said. “If you can pick up a first down a game with your legs, I think that’s good.”

But Richard Sherman says the Colts QB is selling himself short, and the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback should know because he played with Luck at Stanford. In fact, Sherman refers to Luck as Drew.

“Drew is probably one of the most mobile quarterbacks that isn’t getting credit for being mobile out there,” Sherman said.

Sherman has played against both quarterbacks in practice, so who better to answer the obvious question: Which QB is the most difficult to prepare for?

“They’re both tough to prepare for,” Sherman said. “I don’t think I can give either one of them the edge, because Russell does so many things well and he’s hard to see. He’s hard for DBs to see.”

Is that another too-short joke? “When you can’t see the quarterback, you don’t know where the ball is coming from, you don’t know who he’s looking at,” Sherman said. “You just see the ball fly out of there out of nowhere. It looks like it’s just a ball shooting out of JUGS (machine) when you’ve got Russell back there.”

Everyone laughed, including Sherman, who then added, “It really does. It looks like linemen then, shoo, shoo.” Sherman used hand gestures to simulate a series of passes skyrocketing from behind a wall of humanity.

“But Drew makes some incredible decisions. He makes great decisions.”

Which only makes the either/or question when it comes to Wilson and Luck difficult to answer, on multiple levels.