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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Yesterday in the NOTEBOOK, we talked about potential Hall-of-Famer Andrew Luck. Last season, Luck and Robert Griffin III were paired together in countless “High Impact Rookie QB” stories from August all the way through the start of the playoffs. With the Colts and Redskins playing in nationally televised NFL Preseason games on back-to-back nights (Washington hosts Pittsburgh Monday Night on ESPN), this seems like a great time to run some new comparisons.

LUCK AND RGIII IN 2012

*Both were hyped after great college careers

*Both started their NFL seasons better than expected

*Both led their teams past their market projected win totals

*Both led their teams to the playoffs as rookies!

*Both lost their first playoff games

All told…a magnificent performance in context, even if both truly are destined for career greatness. There are a lot of Hall-of-Famers who didn’t make the playoffs in their rookie seasons.

What might be the most interesting angle in the story is the degree to which RGIII showed better “statistical fundamentals” than Luck. It was hard to find many pundits or respected sports betters who didn’t expect Luck to produce right out of the gate. Yeah, maybe he did too much “dinking and dunking” in Stanford’s preferred offensive attack. But, he had all the tools…and has been on a path to stardom since he was a kid.

However, there was a lot of skepticism about Griffin prior to last year, particularly amongst the Las Vegas “sharp” community. They believed his running ability wouldn’t translate well to the NFL because others of that style tended to flame out quickly. Also, there’s not much respect in Las Vegas for Big 12 defenses. RGIII was really stepping up in class in terms of the athletes that would be trying to chase him down and hurt him!

Let’s compare RGIII to Andrew Luck in the categories we looked at yesterday…

*Luck’s TD/Interception ratio was 23 to 18. That’s a positive differential, but features too many picks and note quite enough TD passes to be considered elite. RGIII had a ratio of 20 to 5. That’s a whopping +15 in differential, keyed by a very safe offensive schematic that rarely asked Griffin to throw into traffic. More TD’s for Luck…but A LOT fewer miscues from Griffin. Note that RGIII also had 7 rushing touchdowns. How about 27-5 for a TD/INT ratio counting rushes!

*Luck’s passer rating was way down at 76.5. You can live with that from a rookie because you know that stat tends to rise with experience. RGIII had a stunning rookie passer rating of 102.4. That’s the power of avoiding interceptions!

*The Indianapolis offense muddled through at 5.2 yards-per-play, in a range that qualifies as “struggling” in the league last year. Washington was a full YPP higher at 6.2. Washington tied for first IN THE ENTIRE NFL with the high octane attack of Drew Brees and New Orleans.

*We can’t leave out strength of schedule. We mentioned yesterday that Indianapolis had one of the easiest (and possibly the easiest) schedule in the league in 2012. Washington’s slate wasn’t brutal, but ranked up in the top dozen by most measures. So, RGIII and the Washington offense as a whole was dominant in the stats we just mentioned while playing a much tougher schedule.

It’s not all RGIII in this statistical showdown. You regulars know we place a lot of weight on third down conversions. Luck and the Colts were at 43% last year, which was an elite performance. Washington was down at 36%, in the bottom third of the NFL. The Skins played it safe in third and long, preferring to punt rather than risk a turnover. The Colts moved the chains more, but lost the ball more in the process.

As you handicap these quarterbacks, and these teams in 2013, here are the key questions to consider in our view:

*Did RGIII’s ankle injury take away some of his speed and mobility. The problem with quarterbacks who are great runners is that they eventually suffer the leg injury…or series of injuries…that slows them down and turns them mostly into a pocket passer. Has that happened already?

*Is Luck further along on the learning curve because he was allowed to make more mistakes early on. The Colts traded turnovers for knowledge in a higher risk attack that could really pay off when Luck gets better at reading defenses. RGIII was protected to a degree that may just mean the interceptions are still ahead. RGIII wasn’t allowed to make the mistakes that Luck already learned from last year.

*Will the fact that RGIII plays in a much tougher conference take a toll on his this year now that teams have learned his tendencies? There are very few soft spots in an NFC schedule (those that do exist often come in interconference play against the AFC!).

And…TONIGHT…you can do some research on the role Kirk Cousins might play at QB for the Redskins if Griffin runs into additional injury troubles. Don’t skip Monday’s TV game just because RGIII will be watching on the sidelines. Study and learn!

JIM HURLEY has been doing that all through the Preseason. He’ll have a play for you in Pittsburgh/Washington posted hours before kickoff here at the website. You can always purchase game day BEST BETS in football and baseball online with your credit card. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Whether it’s Preseason, the regular season, or the playoffs, you’ll always GET THE MONEY with Hall-of-Fame handicapper JIM HURLEY!

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