RENTON — In a pressed white shirt, purple and black striped tie, Andrew Luck stood and smiled.
His mother, Kathy, hooked an Indianapolis Colts pin into the lapel of his suit jacket before he moved toward NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who had just announced Luck as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft.
Russell Wilson sat at home. On the second day of the draft, with the 75th overall pick in the third round, the Seahawks selected him. ESPN commentator Jon Gruden gushed. Draft expert Mel Kiper cringed. Wilson was shown waving to the camera from a beige couch while holding a white phone tethered to a land line. His wife, Ashton, became famous for her manic reaction.
Sunday in Indianapolis, those two will meet as the starting quarterbacks for the teams they helped take to the playoffs last season.
Early in his second season, Wilson has ascended into discussions that include Luck and fellow quarterback Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the draft.
Wilson has overcome stigma about his height to get there. Luck has put to use every facet of being an ideal quarterback to lead those conversations.
Luck is 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. He’s mobile, accurate and, perhaps most important, “incredibly perspicacious.”
That’s a smarty-pants way for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Luck’s former Stanford teammate, to the say the quarterback is damn smart.
“He’s probably one of the most intelligent quarterbacks out there in the way he reads coverages and the way he reads the games,” Sherman said.
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin also played with Luck at Stanford. He provides more direct and heftier praise.
“I’m on record as saying that I believe that Andrew Luck can be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football,” Baldwin said.
Because of all these assessments of Luck that can be made with measuring and game tape, he’s essentially viewed as Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man with a helmet on.
Wilson? Well, he’s still short. About 5 inches shorter than Luck, a sum primarily responsible for the 74-pick gap between the two.
Wilson’s inch count is now being thrown out in favor of other numbers. After 20 career regular-season games, Wilson leads Luck in wins (15 to 14), completion percentage (63.6 to 55.7), passing touchdowns (32 to 28), and passer rating (99.1 to 79.1).
Which leads to further comparison and the inevitable question: Who is better?
“They’re both tough to prepare for. I don’t think I can give either one of them the edge,” Sherman said.
Don’t ask Baldwin.
“Next question,” he snapped with a smirk.
Eventually, he capitulates. Baldwin won’t pick sides when describing each – though declaring one as likely to be the best ever makes overall thoughts apparent.
“Russell throws the ball more like a baseball player,” Baldwin said. “Andrew likes to put more touch on it, Russell likes to throw it with more zip. Get it there so the receiver can make more plays with the feet. I think Andrew just likes to get it there in an appropriate manner of time.
“They’re both good techniques, just different styles.”
Wilson’s height leads to a unique delivery of the ball. It’s one that is tougher for Baldwin than if it is arched from a the long arm of a 6-foot-4 man. But one that is also more difficult for defenders.
Defensive backs can’t see Wilson behind the monoliths on the offensive line. When Wilson is scrambling, things become even more difficult for the secondary. At times, the backfield defenders don’t know that Wilson has left the pocket. They also have a harder time reading a shorter quarterback’s read progressions.
“When you can’t see the quarterback you don’t know where the ball is coming from, you don’t know who he’s looking at, you just see it fly out of there out of nowhere,” Sherman said.
“You have to play the blur of the ball,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “I like taller quarterbacks because you can definitely see their mechanics.”
Luck even had a few inches on Goodell when he finally reached the commissioner for a hug. There was little surprise Luck was on the stage.
“It was not a difficult pick to take him first a year ago,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week.
It’s looking like selecting Wilson not too much later should have been done with similar ease.