The Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (102.4 passer rating, 815 rushing yards) and Alfred Morris (1,613 rushing yards) have been pretty special this season, helping the team win its first NFC East title since 1999. They might even be the best rookie backfield pairing of all time. Here’s their competition:
● 1946 Cleveland Browns (All-America Conference): QB Otto Graham (league-high 17 TD passes and 112.1 passer rating), FB Marion Motley (601 rushing yards, 8.2-yard average). The Browns went 12-2 and cruised to the championship. Graham and Motley are now in the Hall of Fame.
● 1956 Baltimore Colts: QB Johnny Unitas (55.6 percent completions and 74 passer rating, both third in the NFL), RB Lenny Moore (649 yards rushing, 7.5-yard average). Unitas started only seven games in a 5-7 rebuilding season, but in the fourth the Colts dropped 56 points on the Los Angeles Rams. It was a sign of things to come. Two years later, Baltimore won the first of back-to-back titles, and Johnny U. and Moore were on their way to Canton.
● 2012 Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck (rookie record 4,374 passing yards, seven game-winning drives), RB Vick Ballard (814 rushing yards). If RG3 and Morris hadn’t been playing lights-out, the Luck/Ballard tandem would be getting more attention. The Colts improved from 2-14 to 11-5 (and a wild-card berth) this season, and it’s just the beginning.
● 1939 Chicago Bears: QB Sid Luckman (91.6 passer rating, 44.4-yard punting average), FB Bill Osmanski (league-leading 699 rushing yards). With Hall of Famer Luckman being eased in as the starter, the Bears went 8-3 and finished second in the West behind Green Bay. The next year they beat the Redskins 73-0 in the championship game and a dynasty was born.
● 2008 Baltimore Ravens: QB Joe Flacco (80.3 passer rating, only 12 interceptions), RB Ray Rice (727 yards from scrimmage). These two would have better seasons together, but the Ravens did make it to the AFC title game that year (before Pittsburgh took them down). You get bonus points for that, even though the defense carried most of the load.
● 1976 Seattle Seahawks: QB Jim Zorn (2,571 passing yards, 12 TD passes), RB Sherman Smith (921 yards from scrimmage). I threw this one in for kicks. Zorn, after all, coached the Redskins in 2008 and ‘09, and Smith was his offensive coordinator. Still, they were a nice combo for the 2-12 Seahawks and helped make the expansion team watchable. Jim’s passing-yardage total even set a rookie mark (that has been broken many times since).
Honorable mention: 1989 Detroit Lions (QB Rodney Peete, RB Barry Sanders), 2007 Buffalo Bills (QB Trent Edwards, RB Marshawn Lynch), 1961 Minnesota Vikings (QB Fran Tarkenton, RB Tommy Mason).
What Might Have Been I: Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill both broke in with the 1969 Dallas Cowboys, but Roger, just out of the military, started only one game. The rest of the time, he backed up Craig Morton. (Hill was second in the NFL in rushing with 942 yards.)
What Might Have Been II: Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson were rookies with the 2001 Chargers. Alas, Brees was stuck on the bench behind Doug Flutie. (LT rushed for 1,236 yards, good for ninth in the league.)