If you asked me before the 2012 season to rank the NFL’s young quarterbacks I would have ranked Andrew Luck first even though he’d never played a game.
Luck was everybody’s all-American. Had he entered the NFL draft in 2011 the Carolina Panthers would have taken him, and not Cam Newton, with the first pick.
If you asked me before the 2013 season to rank the NFL’s young quarterbacks I still would have ranked Luck first.
But now, I don’t know. I know I’m supposed to know. I’m supposed to offer an opinion even if I don’t have one, preferably at high volume with exclamation points.
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Based on the work this season of Luck and Newton and Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, I don’t know how I’d rank them.
If you believe in quarterback ratings, the best young quarterback in football is Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, who is 24, same as Newton. Foles has a better quarterback rating than old quarterbacks, too. He’s in front of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Foles is first. Wilson is sixth, Newton 16th, Kaepernick 18th, Luck 21st and RGIII 26th. RGIII gets a pass on his passing. The ACL in his right knee was reconstructed. His speed is back but his accuracy is not, at least not yet.
Rookie Mike Glennon, who will lead Tampa Bay against the Panthers Sunday, is ninth.
It’s been awhile since N.C. State was good at winning football games. But the Wolfpack is adept at developing quarterbacks. Glennon played at N.C. State as did Wilson before transferring to Wisconsin.
ESPN is adept at statistics. It developed a metric to measure a quarterback’s contribution to a victory, including his performance in clutch situations.
According to the Total Quarterback Rating, Foles is second, Kaepernick sixth, Wilson eighth, Luck 10th, Jake Locker 16th, Newton 17th, Glennon 22nd and RGIII 28th.
An undervalued statistic is rushing. If a metric were developed to measure the coolness of a run, Newton would lead the league for his 14-yard third-and-seven step-back-Jack Monday night scramble against New England.
Four quarterbacks rank among the NFL’s top 40 rushers. Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor is 25th, Wilson 35th, Newton 38th and RGIII 40th.
Pryor, Wilson and RGIII together have rushed for three touchdowns. Newton has rushed for five.
But it’s solely about numbers, rankings and metrics only if you do logarithms while everybody else watches the game.
It’s about getting the right quarterback and making him yours.
Fans of the Colts will say they have the best young quarterback. Fans of the Seahawks will say they do. Fans of the 49ers will say they do. Fans of the Redskins probably will stick with RGIII as long as they get a new head coach, new offensive coordinator and a new owner.
Fans of the Panthers (most of them) will say Newton. He fits the city and the team. If he needed to convert teammates, he did in Carolina’s last loss. That was Oct. 6. It only seems like 2010.
Arizona sacked Newton seven times. The Cardinals repeatedly ran a delayed blitz up the middle and the Panthers repeatedly failed to adjust.
Newton didn’t whine, didn’t complain, didn’t let his shoulders slump, pointed no fingers and took the beating.
There have been no beatings since.
Marty Hurney, the former general manager, drafted the quarterback in Newton. The Panthers might win with defense. But they’ll go only as far as the offense and Newton take them.