Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Like it or not, the two rookie quarterbacks are going to be paired together forever.
As just the fifth set of college passers to be chosen 1-2 since the NFL and AFL went to a common draft in 1967, Indianapolis’ Luck and Washington’s Griffin are a rare tandem. Saturday in Landover, the starters from the get-go will square off for the first time, albeit in a preseason game. And considering that Griffin and Luck compete for teams in different conferences which means – barring a Super Bowl matchup – they’ll only meet every four regular seasons beginning in 2014 — this contest could be one to treasure.
“I’ll leave the talking about me and him and comparing (us) to you guys,” Griffin said. “I definitely look forward to playing the guy throughout my career. I think it will be exciting matchups every time we face each other. I never wish any quarterback any harm. We’re all trying to make it in this life and make it in this league and I wish the best for him.”
Griffin and Luck have known about each other since they were two of Texas’ top high school quarterbacks in 2007, the former in Copperas Cove, near Waco, the latter in Houston, but they didn’t meet until after their final college seasons at Baylor and Stanford, respectively. They attended a couple of awards ceremonies together in December and were both on hand for the combine in February and the draft in April.
“We told each other good luck in our careers and moved on from there,” said Griffin, who has texted with Luck. “He’s trying to lead his team. I’m trying to help lead my team. I will never will truly get to face Andrew because he doesn’t play defense.”
That’s how Luck views Saturday’s game, as well.
“The game’s about much more than either team’s quarterback,” he said. “You realize that’s sort of the nature of the beast, nature of playing quarterback, nature of being drafted one-two, at any position in any sport. (But) I have much bigger things to worry about.”
True, but Griffin and Luck will still be measured against each other, especially when their teams go head-to-head. As fate would have it, they’ll wait longer to play a game that matters than any of their No.1 vs. No. 2 predecessors. Jim Plunkett’s Patriots beat Archie Manning’s Saints in the penultimate game of 1972, their second season. Rick Mirer and Seattle beat New England and Drew Bledsoe twice when they were rookies in 1993. Peyton Manning and the Colts got the better of Ryan Leaf and San Diego in the third preseason game of their 1998 debuts, but the Chargers cruised nine weeks later when it counted. And Donovan McNabb and Philadelphia topped Tim Couch and Cleveland in the second-to-last game of 2000, their second season.
Each current rookie has had his moments this preseason. Luck’s first NFL pass was a screen which running back Donald Brown turned into a 63-yard touchdown against St. Louis. Griffin threw a screen to former Colts receiver Pierre Garcon, who raced 20 yards for the touchdown that beat Buffalo. Luck has completed 26 of 41 passes for 363 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (one of which his target mishandled) for a solid 87.8 rating. Griffin is 9-of-14 for 119 yards and the touchdown for a superb 114.9 rating that doesn’t include his two fumbles. Both the Colts and Redskins are 1-1 although Luck left his defeat with a halftime lead over powerful Pittsburgh.
“Before we made the choice to move up in the draft (from sixth to second), we looked at every game that both quarterbacks had played,” said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. “We loved both guys. I watched the whole (Steelers) game (and) I thought Andrew did a great job of playing very poised. I’m sure he’d like to have a pick or two back, but (on) one, he hit the receiver in the hands, and the ball popped out. The other one I thought was great coverage. But he led the team on a couple of drives, and that’s what you’re hoping your quarterback does.”
If Griffin and Luck can each lead a couple of scoring drives as they play into the third quarter for the first time tomorrow, they’ll give their organizations, coaches and fans even more confidence that they were the right choices to go 1-2 four months ago.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin