By Kevin Fishbain and Eli Kaberon
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have never taken snaps in an NFL game, yet they already have developed a rivalry. Because they were the first and second picks in the 2012 draft, the two quarterbacks will go through their careers constantly being compared to one another. Luck will always be the measuring stick for RG3, and vice versa, until their careers end.
That’s the bond that comes with the top two draft picks both playing the most important position in the sport. Luck and Griffin are the fifth QB duo since the NFL merger in 1970 to go first and second overall. Only time will tell how their rookie seasons and careers will unfold, but based on recent history, one could be destined for great success and the other headed for disappointment.
Here are the four other QB pairs that have gone No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft since 1970, with a close look at how they played during their rookie seasons.
No. 1 Jim Plunkett and No. 2 Archie Manning / 1971 — Both players saw plenty of playing time during their rookie campaigns. Plunkett, who was taken by the Patriots, started all 14 games for the team, throwing 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions en route to a 6-8 season. He wound up playing five years in New England before finding greater success with the Raiders, whom he led to victories in Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII. Manning played in 12 games for the Saints in ’71, but it likely felt like a lot more because of the poor offensive line in front of him. As a rookie, he was sacked 40 times, the most in the NFL that season, a reason why he threw nine interceptions and had seven fumbles. Manning being hit was a common sight during his career, as he was sacked 40 or more times in four of his 11 years in New Orleans. The two-time Pro Bowler never produced a winning record as a starter.
No. 1 Drew Bledsoe and No. 2 Rick Mirer / 1993 — It’s pretty obvious which of these two players had the better career, but that wasn’t necessarily easy to predict based solely on their respective rookie campaigns in ’93. It happened to be the only season in Mirer’s career in which he started all 16 games, going 6-10 with the Seahawks and throwing 12 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He started 35 games over the next three seasons with Seattle (14 wins) before becoming an NFL journeyman. Bledsoe started in Week One in New England at the age of 21. He suffered an injury in Week Five but returned to action in Week Nine. Bledsoe started the last seven games, which included a four-game win streak to end the season. The four-time Pro Bowler threw 15 TDs and 15 interceptions in 1993 and had a 5-7 record as a starter.
No. 1 Peyton Manning and No. 2 Ryan Leaf / 1998 — Manning will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, and Leaf will be remembered as one of the league’s biggest busts — and those respective legacies could have been foreseen after the 1998 season. Manning directed the Colts to a 3-13 record in his 16 starts and led the NFL with 28 interceptions, but he also set rookie records with 3,739 passing yards (since broken by Cam Newton) and 26 passing TDs. The next year, Manning made the first of his 11 Pro Bowls. Leaf had a disastrous rookie season with San Diego, despite starting with back-to-back victories. In his nine starts, Leaf had a 3-6 record and threw only two TD passes and a whopping 15 interceptions. Leaf had a dismal passer rating of 39.0. He was benched after nine games, played only two more seasons in the NFL and is currently facing felony counts of burglary and criminal possession of a dangerous drug.
No. 1 Tim Couch and No. 2 Donovan McNabb / 1999 — Couch and McNabb were the first two in a draft that saw three QBs chosen in the top three and five QBs taken among the first 12 picks of the first round. Couch, who went to the expansion Browns, could’ve filed charges based on the beating he took as a rookie. He was sacked 56 times in 15 games, one of the factors for Cleveland’s 2-14 record that season. McNabb, taken by the Eagles, sat for much of the ’99 season behind Doug Pederson, starting the final six games. He threw eight touchdowns and seven picks during his time on the field and wound up having a far more successful career than Couch. The top pick was out of football in five years, while the player picked second went to six Pro Bowls and five NFC title games.