Commentary

QBR or RG3?

Updated: October 25, 2012, 5:53 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin IIIGetty Images, AP PhotoAndrew Luck, left, makes fewer errors when scrambling than Robert Griffin III.

Stop the engraver. Hold up on the parade. Tell the sculptor to take a coffee break.

Before the whole world gives Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III the NFL Rookie of the Year, and the MVP award, and maybe the election, let's all just wake up and smell the sanity.

Yes, he's electric. Yes, Bob has been unBoblievable. Yes, he's cuddly and handsome and the son every mother wants.

There's only one problem: He's not even the best rookie QB in the league.

The two-word rebuttal:

Andrew Luck.

You don't know this because RG3 works in Washington, D.C., the media magnet where people like my friend Michael Wilbon work and watch every Redskins game and then get lightheaded and say things like what he said on radio this week, which was "RG3 is the best player in the whole league."

Whoa. We've GOT to get you DIRECTV, Mike.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Lucky
Sam Riche/MCT via Getty ImagesAndrew Luck, left, posted a QBR of 68.2 compared to Aaron Rodgers' 54.7 QBR in the Colts 30-27 victory over the Packers in September.

If you had it, you'd know that Luck has been just a tablespoon better than RG3. He's thrown consistently deeper than RG3. He's been more clutch and less mistake-prone. He's scrambled better than RG3 and has run just fine. He's practically been RG4.

What is it, Mike, RG3's cute sock collection?

"It's like they're not watching Andrew Luck," says a man who analyzes quarterbacks for a living, Jeff Bennett, the curator of the most comprehensive QB stat ever invented, ESPN's QBR (total quarterback rating). "One is being called a savior. But the other is just as successful and no one seems to notice."

If you want a stat that considers everything a QB does, and when he does it, and what was at stake when he did it, then Bennett's QBR stat is for you. Going into Week 8, it had the Mannings at 1 and 2 (Peyton, then Eli), with Tom Brady third. Sound about right? In the QBR rankings, Luck is sixth and Griffin eighth.

But it tells you more than that. For instance, it tells you:

  • Luck runs more successfully than Griffin. He's had 10 scrambles for first downs. Griffin has had nine.
  • Luck is asked to do more than Griffin and is doing it. His average pass completion travels 8.6 yards in the air, highest in the NFL. Griffin's is 5.8, one of the lowest.
  • Luck is more valuable to his team than Griffin. Sixty-nine percent of the Colts' passing yards are gained while the ball is in the air, the rest after the catch. Only 49 percent of the Skins' passing yards come through the air. In other words, Griffin still has his training wheels on. Luck has his license.

What is it, Mike, all of RG3's Subway ads?

Wait! I'm clairvoyant! I know exactly what you're going to say next!

Reilly, you single-celled organism. Griffin leads the NFL in completion percentage! He's third in the league in passer rating! Luck is second to last!

Oh, you mean NFL passer rating, the most useless stat in football? The 41-year-old fossil that was invented, literally, on a slide rule? The one that doesn't even consider running or fumbles or time of game or score? Yeah, I know that stat. That stat is the whole problem.

RG3 kills in that stat because he's nibbled his way to a league-leading 70.4 percent completion rating. Given the way the Redskins have babied him, Katy Perry in heels could throw for 60 percent. More than 20 percent of RG3's passes this season haven't even traveled across the line of scrimmage. Only 6 percent of Luck's haven't. If you do a cannonball and I do a triple backflip with a McTwist and we both get straight 9s, whose dive was better?

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III has seven fumbles this year. Five happened when he was rushing.
Harry E. Walker/MCT/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III has seven fumbles this year. Five happened when he was rushing.

I don't blame the Skins for babying Griffin. Why wouldn't they? He's America's baby. Mike Shanahan (283 games as a head coach in the NFL) has a good enough team to do that. It beat the New York Giants twice last year.

But under Bruce Arians (three games as a head coach in the NFL), Luck inherited a team that would pass nicely for a Salvation Army drop off box. The Colts have Luck and Reggie Wayne and just about nobody else. Their running backs couldn't get through a wall of Gillette Foamy. And they've already won more games this year (three) than last year (two).

What is it, Mike, RG3's fabulous hair?

If people would just look at these two guys, they'd see Luck has been even more heroic than Mr. Superhero Action Figure Guy.

Luck beat the Green Bay Packers with a TD pass with 35 seconds left. The Green. Bay. Packers. He beat the Vikings after getting the ball on his own 20 with 30 seconds left and drove downfield for the winning field goal. Against the Jags, he pulled off a miraculous game-winning march in the last minute, only to watch the Jags complete an 80-yard stunner at the end.

Don't get me wrong. If you made me choose, I'd rather watch RG3. He swerves and curves as though his hips were removed at birth. But he doesn't seem to care much about the football when he's doing it. He's fumbled five times on runs already this season, and two of them potentially cost the Redskins games. Give me Luck, who hasn't fumbled on a run once.

Look, I love both these guys. Both have been twice as good as advertised, great leaders, and kick-the-dirt humble.

But only one of them is getting any attention.

And that socks.

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com