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Lorton: Wilson deserves Rookie of the Year (Jan. 17)

Isaac Lorton | Thursday, January 17, 2013

At the end of a career, when everything is said and done, a player is judged for whether he or she won in the big games.

So why do the playoffs not matter in choosing the NFL Rookie of the Year?

Realistically it comes down to three players, and surprise, they are all quarterbacks. The first overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft, Andrew Luck; the second overall pick, Robert Griffin III; and the 75th overall pick in the third round Russell Wilson, who was drafted to be a backup behind assumed starter Matt Flynn. Sorry Alfred Morris and Muscle Hamster (rookie nickname of the year goes to Doug Martin, hands down). If the playoffs were more of a factor, then Russell Wilson would be named the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Each of these three phenoms took their respective team to the playoffs. Luck amassed an 11-5 record with the Colts, RGIII led the Skins to a 9-6 record (one win was Kirk Cousins’) and Wilson led the Seahawks to a 10-6 record. But only one has a playoff win under his belt – Wilson. Each resume is extremely impressive, but if we are going by who wins in the clutch game, Wilson should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Yes, Andrew Luck has the most passing yards ever for a rookie (4,374) and one more win (11), and Robert Griffin III has the most rushing yards in a rookie season (815) and a higher quarterback rating (102.4). But Wilson came out of nowhere, tied the record for most touchdowns thrown in the regular season by a rookie (26) and, most importantly, took his team further in the playoffs than either Luck or RGIII. All of this he did starting from the third spot on the depth chart, while the other two were already locked in as starters. Luck and RGIII had leeway to make mistakes (Luck’s 18 interceptions), but Wilson had to go out every week, be nearly immaculate and win, because he knew that the pressure of a three-year, $19.5 million contract was right behind him. Yet he flourished and outshone Luck and RGIII in the playoffs.

The voters are not supposed to take the playoffs into consideration, but they should. When arguing over who’s the best of the best, sports writers and fans always end up at the point in conversation where the ultimate trump card must be played – the championship card. It’s simple, whoever wins when the win is most important, is the best.

The regular season does not matter at all, if there are no results in the playoffs. Ask Dan Marino or Tony Romo. No one cares if you lead 199 of the 200 laps at the Daytona 500 and then not win the race (no one really cares about NASCAR anyway, poor example). If people only cared about the regular season, there would be no need for the wild card berth in the playoffs. Which means no fun or drama at the end of the season (yeah, I’m looking at you, English Premier League). The wild card, as the name states, makes the game more interesting. It adds a Michael Bay spark and an M. Night Shyamalan twist to the playoffs, giving that one team an opportunity to mix things up and take its second-half-hot-streak all the way to the championship game.

Russell Wilson is exactly that – a wild card. He was not guaranteed a spot, but he did the most with what he earned. He may not have had the same passing or rushing yards as the other two candidates, but he simply got the ball in the end zone, scored more points than the other teams and won clutch games. And if it wasn’t for Pete Carroll, we might be watching Wilson this weekend. Overall, the wild card trumps the ace and king every time.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.