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NFL report: Griffin’s not the only rookie QB to shine

BY STEVE DeSHAZO

Even if you don’t live in the Washington area, you’ve probably heard everything you care to know (if not more) about Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins’ rookie hasn’t disappointed, even if his receivers have let him down (as they did with nearly a dozen drops Sunday against Pittsburgh).

And if you’re insulated in the inside-the-Beltway bubble, you may be convinced he’s the only first-year quarterback worth watching.

He isn’t.

Whether you’re a Miami Dolphins fan or not, you should be rooting for Ryan Tannehill to be healthy enough for this Sunday’s unexpectedly big game against Indianapolis.

Tannehill reportedly suffered a bone bruise to his left knee and a bruised left quadriceps while being sacked in last weekend’s 30–9 win over the New York Jets. His status for Sunday’s matchup with the Colts (and No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck) is uncertain. If he can’t play, veteran Matt Moore will.

Here’s hoping Tannehill’s healthy enough to answer the bell, because he’s played a large role in his team’s surprising success so far—as has Luck.

Griffin has a much better passer rating (97.3) than Tannehill (75.8) or Luck (74.6). But that’s largely because the Redskins wisely haven’t asked him to take many chances, and because Washington has a better running game.

But Luck and Tannehill have led their teams to 4–3 records, compared with the Redskins’ 3–5 mark with Griffin at the helm. (Granted, Washington could be much worse off without Griffin, but it proves he can’t do everything.)

The winner of Sunday’s game in Indianapolis will emerge with a 5–3 record and legitimate playoff hopes. The loser won’t be eliminated in a mediocre AFC that boasts just three teams with more than four wins at the moment.

Luck inherited an even more daunting task in Indianapolis than Griffin did in D.C.: replacing a legend.

The Colts jettisoned future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (who apparently still has some juice left) and handed the keys to Luck. Even before the season’s midway point, Luck has more wins (four) than Manning managed in his rookie season, 1998 (three).

He’s thrown eight touchdown passes compared to eight interceptions. But while not as fleet as Griffin, he has shown a knack for running at key times. Luck is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has scored three touchdowns himself. (For comparison’s sake, Griffin is averging 6.8 yards a carry, with six rushing touchdowns.)

Tannehill, the eighth overall pick, didn’t have such big shoes to fill. He joined a franchise that has been vainly looking for consistency at quarterback since Hall of Famer Dan Marino retired in 1999.

Tannehill has thrown just four touchdown passes in seven games. But with the NFL’s third-ranked defense on his side, he hasn’t had to be spectacular. The term “game manager” isn’t an affront to him, as long as he’s winning.

Fellow rookie starters Russell Wilson (Seattle) and Brandon Weeden (Cleveland) also have met (if not exceeded) expectations.

And chances are that Griffin will always lead the pack in terms of personality and endorsements. The Redskins probably wouldn’t trade him for anyone, rookie or otherwise.

But the true test of any quarterback, as Bill Parcells used to say, is his “pelts”—code for victories. So far, Luck and Tannehill are ahead in that regard—and after Sunday, one will stand alone.

UPSET PICK

Struggling at 2–4, The Pick will trust the schizophrenic Cowboys (4-point road underdogs) to hand the Falcons their first loss Sunday night.

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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