Rick Snider: 2012 QBs no comparison to Class of 1983 -- yet

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Even though the season's not quite complete, this year's rookie quarterback class already is being compared to the NFL's greatest ever from 1983.

Not so fast.

Maybe Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Co. will dominate the sport for a decade-plus, win Super Bowls and set a date for Canton, but until then their 1983 predecessors remain the gold standard.

Denver's John Elway reached five Super Bowls, and Jim Kelly led Buffalo to four in a row. Dan Marino led Miami to a Super Bowl and went on to set nearly every NFL passing record.

Even one of the lesser-known quarterbacks, Tony Eason, took New England to the Super Bowl. Indeed, add it up and one of the four played in 11 of 15 Super Bowls from the 1984 to 1998 seasons. The only downside? The class of 1983 lost its first nine before Elway won in his final two years.

Two more passers, Todd Blackledge (Kansas City) and Ken O'Brien (New York Jets), went in the first round and had uneven careers that looked even worse in comparison to Elway, Kelly and Marino. Still, neither was a Heath Shuler type of bust.

This year there are six rookie quarterbacks starting, and two more are prominent backups. Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Seattle's Russell Wilson and Griffin are probably playoff bound. Luck and Griffin appear to be the best rookie quarterbacks since Peyton Manning in 1998, and Wilson has the NFL's eighth-highest passer rating. Ryan Tannehill (Miami), Brandon Weeden (Cleveland) and Nick Foles (Philadelphia) are struggling in a way more typical of rookies.

The 1983 class won't easily be surpassed. Elway, Marino and Kelly are Pro Football Hall of Famers. And it wasn't just quarterbacks. That draft also had running back Eric Dickerson, guard Bruce Matthews and cornerback Darrell Green reach Canton.

Griffin is hesitant to compare the two classes -- yet.

"The thing is that people have to realize we have to put together a string of years and all of us continue to be successful," he said. "Then they can compare us to those greats."

Next year's quarterback class isn't expected to offer much, so maybe this was simply a fluke year. But both Griffin and fellow Redskins rookie passer Kirk Cousins said quarterbacks entering the pros are much better prepared than predecessors.

"I think we're a group of unique guys as far as quarterbacks go," Griffin said. "But it could be the 7-on-7 and just the general development of the college game putting up so many points, throwing the ball around so much. All those things can be factors. I think every class has its own share of exceptional talent, and I think everyone is seeing that."

Said Cousins: "Look at the training for the draft, the Senior Bowl, the [NFL] Combine, the sunup to sundown training that we were doing. Robert was in Arizona. I was in Florida working with former NFL quarterbacks. There's just a lot more that goes into the entire preparation."

And by 2017, we might know whether 2012 or 1983 was the better class.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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