Bill Barnwell posted this piece on Grantland today regarding Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. He does a quick analysis of all four and says they all had great seasons in 2012 and that it's unprecedented for this many young quarterbacks to be this good this fast. His main points are that Griffin had the best year last year and he expects Wilson to be the best in 2013.
As a Colts fan, of course, this pissed me off. How could Barnwell not think Luck was the best last year? The Colts went 11-5, despite an overhauled roster, a terrible offensive line, a new coach and another new coach. Griffin won one fewer game with a much better team and a veteran coach who has been building his roster for years. And how could he not think Luck would be the best in 2013? He should have a much better team around him, including a vastly improved offensive line, and he's in an offense that fits his talents much better. Surely he's going to take the league by storm. Teams will adjust to Wilson, his height will start to be a detriment, and he'll wear down.
After calming down a bit, I realized Barnwell was probably right about last year. While Luck did some amazing things with a crappy team, Griffin put up better passing numbers, along with vastly superior rushing numbers. I can argue all day that Luck was put in worse situations, that he had no protection and was forced to hold onto the ball too long, and that his style will lend itself to better longevity than Griffin's (I do believe all those things, particularly the last one). But the bottom line is that, in 2012, Griffin outplayed Luck by most metrics.
I'm going to disagree with Barnwell and say Luck will be the best of them next year. But that's probably because I'm a homer.
The interesting part of my thought process, from a self-analytical perspective, was that I immediately went to the Colts' record, especially in comparison to the previous year, as proof that Luck was better. As Barnwell has written repeatedly, and as anyone who has watched football with any degree of care would tell you, wins are a vastly overrated way of measuring a quarterback's worth. It's a team game, and no quarterback can overcome a terrible team single-handedly. Peyton Manning did his best for years and dragged several sub-par teams into the playoffs, but short of a transcendent player like him (Luck has the potential to be another one, but he's not there yet), few individuals account for all or most of a team's wins. As Barnwell points out, the Colts had an easy schedule. Luck was damned good late in games, but his overall body of work was up and down. He was a big reason they won, but to declare him the better player based solely on wins is to ignore the nuances of the game.
What's interesting about my response is that I argued the numbers-over-wins angle for years in the Manning-Brady debate. Manning, I always said, was the superior player, and the stats proved it. Brady won Super Bowls because he was on great teams (plus there's the spying thing, but that's neither here nor there). If you argue that Brady is a better player because he won three Super Bowls to Manning's one, you're essentially saying Trent Dilfer was a better player than Dan Marino.
I still don't believe in wins as the ultimate statistic for a quarterback. I still believe Manning was and is a better quarterback than Brady. And I still think Luck has the brightest future of the four quarterbacks Barnwell wrote about. But it was an eye-opening moment when I saw how quickly my homerism was changing my perspective on how to measure a quarterback.