News Column

Luck, Griffin Are Nos. 1 and 1A

April 24, 2012

Jim Corbett


Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The star quarterbacks from Stanford and Baylor who headline the draft that starts Thursday at New York's Radio City Music Hall better get used to hearing their names linked together akin to NBA legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Barring anything unforseen, Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce Luck's name when the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock with the first selection, followed by RGIII going No.2 to the Washington Redskins.

"They're both going to be great, and hopefully these two have the careers Bird and Magic had," CBS analyst and Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe says.

"It remains to be seen who's going to have the better career. But they're going to be attached at the hip."

Former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian, who chose quarterback Peyton Manning first overall in the 1998 draft when Ryan Leaf went second and was a bust for the San Diego Chargers, says Luck and RGIII are a rare, can't-miss pair of franchise quarterbacks "with talent like we've never seen before."

Polian gives Luck "a very similar grade" to Manning. It's fitting then that four hours a day, five days a week for three weeks, Luck learned pass progressions, blitz protections and running the no-huddle offense from former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore.

Those schooling sessions in Carson, Calif., at Luck's father Oliver's behest was the strongest indicator of whom Colts owner Jim Irsay will choose to lead his franchise's post-Manning rebuilding.

How remarkable is it that the Colts go from Manning to Luck?

"The stars have aligned," Moore says. "There couldn't be a better fit.

"Andrew is the real deal, wants to be great and is willing to do everything it takes to get there."

Sound familiar?

"Andrew and Peyton have the same tremendous desire and work ethic," Moore says.

"Andrew's got great accuracy, touch and anticipation. Put him in there, let him go. The sky's the limit."

League evaluators have similar praise for Griffin, who met with Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Waco, Texas, for his own prep school after the franchise traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move up four spots to acquire a dual-threat quarterback with the potential to resurrect the franchise.

Sharpe, who played for coach Mike Shanahan in Denver, says Griffin's rocket arm, speed and deep-strike accuracy make him ideal to throw post and slant routes in Shanahan's West Coast system, which is predicated on bootleg, run-action passes.

Mike Shanahan stood in the hotel lobby during the owners meetings in March smiling as he awaited golf buddies John Elway, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-year coach Greg Schiano.

"You've got two franchise quarterbacks at the top, two guys who will have great careers," Shanahan says. "I just know we're going to get one of them.

"Luck's bigger than John Elway, 6-4, 240 and can run the 40 in 4.6 seconds. And Griffin's got such big upside with similar speed (4.41) to Michael Vick."

Luck threw for 37 touchdowns last season, the same number as RGIII.

"RGIII's deep ball is more accurate than Luck," former league executive Tony Softli says. "Luck beats RG on the short and intermediate accuracy."

What are the chances the Colts don't take Luck and opt instead for RGIII?

"I'd be stunned," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says.

"If RGIII wasn't in this draft, we'd be comparing Luck to Cam Newton athletically. It gets lost in the wash because RGIII gets so much attention. But you're talking about a 6-4, 245(-pound) quarterback running 40 yards in 4.6 seconds and jumping better than Cam at the combine.

"So let's not forget that Luck is an athletic freak at that position also."

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012