- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mike Shanahan saw it coming. The Washington Redskins were looking for a quarterback and got to see a few of them, such as Brandon Weeden and Nick Foles, firsthand at the Senior Bowl.

Others, such as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, came with established reputations.

“I think it was a great crop coming out,” Shanahan said. “There is a number of years you go in and you say, ‘Hey, I’m not even sure if there is a first-round player.’ Then all of a sudden in this draft, people had anywhere from four to six or seven guys that could be drafted in the first round.”

At the end of the day, the Redskins got their guy at No. 2, and four quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. But Griffin, Luck — the No. 1 pick of the Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Tannehill with the Miami Dolphins and Weeden with the Cleveland Browns are far from the only rookies to make an impact. The Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson could be Rookie of the Year, Foles was named the Philadelphia Eagles’ starter and Kirk Cousins delivered a solid performance filling in for Griffin last week.

The showing of a half-dozen rookie quarterbacks might be a sign of a strong class, but there’s also reason to believe it’s a result of colleges instituting pro-style offenses.

Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (12) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson have joined Robert Griffin ... more >

“Listen, when it’s all said it’s done, I think this will be, if not the best, one of the best,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said of this rookie class of quarterbacks. “I would tell you that because colleges are throwing the football more is why you’re seeing it. These guys are good players, don’t get me wrong there. They’re coming in more experienced than what you’ve seen in the past.”

It helped Griffin that the Redskins incorporated some of what he did at Baylor into their offense. But that’s unique and also one of the reasons the offense is so dangerous when he’s playing, like he’s expected to do Sunday at Philadelphia barring a setback with his sprained right knee.

For Luck and the other rookies, rapid growth into NFL-style quarterbacks came in college.

“In the colleges, they’re doing a great job of emulating a lot of the things they do in the NFL, and coaches are just like everyone else: They’re trying to pursue a higher degree of football,” said Mark Dantonio, who coached Cousins and Foles at Michigan State. “So they’re going to pattern some of the things they do after the NFL.”

Pro-style offenses are becoming more prevalent at the NCAA level, a departure at many schools from the option and running attacks that once ruled the nation.

Quarterbacks and others seem to point to the changing face of college football as one reason for this impressive rookie class. But what Shanahan saw last winter and spring was more than that.

“You look at the training for the draft, the Senior Bowl, the combine, the sunup-to-sundown training that we were doing: Robert was in Arizona, I was in Florida working with former NFL quarterbacks,” Cousins said. “There’s just a lot more that goes into the entire preparation. You can go back to high school recruiting and how much that has picked up in the last 15 years. I think it’s the whole process that is a little more intense. As a result, you develop a little bit faster.”

Griffin, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, was handed the reins by the Redskins right away, just like Luck was by the Colts. Weeden has started since Week 1 in Cleveland, and Tannehill and Wilson won training camp battles in Miami and Seattle.

Given the group’s success, it’s not hard to see why coaches instilled trust in the rookie quarterbacks right away.

“I think we’re a group of unique guys as far as quarterbacks go,” Griffin said. “I think every class has its own share of exceptional talent, and I think everyone is seeing that.”

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