- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year at the league's awards ceremony here Saturday night. The vote wasn't even close. Griffin got 29 votes while Colts quarterback Andrew Luck got 11 and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson got 10.
And while many will and should make the argument that the race was closer than the final vote indicates, the significance of Griffin's accomplishment must not be understated. To win this award in this season from among this field of all-time great rookie quarterbacks is a genuinely outstanding honor. The 2012 rookie class of quarterbacks appears to have been an all-timer, and the debate about which of the three is the best has a chance to rage on for a decade or more. Griffin, by virtue of his award, starts with the lead.
It would have been no great injustice if either Luck or Wilson had won the award. Each of these three was outstanding and made a strong case. Each had plenty of numbers to back him up -- Luck with the rookie passing records, Wilson with the brilliant second-half stats as he also led his team to the playoffs, Griffin with the dazzling rushing numbers (before he hurt his knee) to augment his historically accurate passing stats.
What I think probably set Griffin apart in the minds of the voters is the dramatic degree of his impact. All three of these rookie quarterbacks led their teams to the playoffs, and Luck's team had won only two games the season before (which is why they got Luck). But there is a perception, and a pretty well justified one, that Griffin singlehandedly dragged a sagging Redskins franchise from two decades of doldrums and made them exciting, interesting and relevant again. The Redskins' lack of a franchise quarterback over the past 20 years had become the sad story of their entire organization, and the driving force behind the decision to trade three first-round picks and a second-round pick for the chance to draft Griffin. That he made as good as he did on that trade, and that he did so right away and in such breathtaking fashion, may have set him apart.
After all, the Colts weren't that far removed from the excellence of the Peyton Manning era, and the Seahawks had kind of been looking like a team on the come under Pete Carroll. The Griffin story was one of a dazzling young savior come to answer the desperate yearnings of a once-great franchise that was stuck in a ditch. You could argue that he was simply the best of an excellent bunch, and he might well have been. But I think either of those other two guys could have the same said about them. Griffin was somewhat uniquely the perfect man for his time and situation, and what he did in 2012 was no less than transform a franchise.
We don't know what awaits him -- whether the recovery from his ACL reconstruction will delay the start of his second season or limit him in the long term. But this is a rookie of the year award, based solely on the accomplishments of this one season. In that context, Griffin is a worthy winner. And as I'm sure he'd tell you, beating out the two brilliant young quarterbacks he beat out makes it even more impressive.