INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III spent 2011 and 2012 chasing some of football's most prestigious prizes.
They finished one-two in the 2011 Heisman Trophy race. They went one-two in the 2012 NFL draft. And they wound up one-two in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.
Now, as the two Texas prep stars prepare for their first regular-season game against one another on Sunday, there's little doubt which quarterback holds the upper hand. Luck, the Colts' young star, is widely regarded as the best young quarterback in the league. Griffin, who was supposed to be the Redskins' long-term future, has been benched.
"It's not easy for these young quarterbacks," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "You know not too long ago, you didn't even think about playing a rookie quarterback until he was three years in, sitting on the bench, and then you'd bring him in slowly. A lot of these young guys are forced into action. Andrew Luck's the exception."
When the Stanford alum left school early for the NFL, he was dubbed the "most polished" college quarterback since Peyton Manning. So far, Luck has exceeded expectations.
He's been to the playoffs twice and has Indianapolis (7-4) in position for a second straight AFC South crown. His streak of eight consecutive 300-yard games ended last weekend, one short of Drew Brees' NFL record. One more touchdown pass will make Luck just the third player in Colts history with 30 in one season, joining a club that includes two NFL MVP winners: Manning and the late John Unitas.
Luck's next win also will make him the fifth quarterback since 1970 with 30 regular-season victories in his first three NFL seasons.
It's no surprise to the Colts' organization.
"He had a bunch of great qualities," coach Chuck Pagano said when asked what impressed him most about Luck.
The "experts," meanwhile, contended Griffin had a bigger upside and the flashier highlights. The Redskins (3-8) were so convinced Griffin would thrive they traded away three first-round draft picks to take him No. 2 overall.
As a rookie, the former Baylor star looked every bit as impressive as Luck, leading Washington to its first division title since 1999 and beating out Luck for the hardware again.
But after two serious leg injuries — a torn right ACL at the end of the 2012 season and a dislocated left ankle early in September — the one-time franchise quarterback hasn't looked the same. He's just 4-14 as a starting quarterback since the start of 2013, including three straight losses since returning from the ankle injury.
It was enough to convince Washington to make a switch, though Gruden insists he hasn't given up on Griffin.
"He just needs to come back, see the system a little bit more so that when he does come back and play he has that confidence and swagger and knows exactly where to go with the ball and he feels good about it," Gruden said.
Here are some other things to watch Sunday:
COLT'S CALL: Griffin is 1-4 in five starts this season. Colt McCoy is 2-0, and Gruden believes he knows the system better. What Gruden wants to see most Sunday is decisiveness, efficiency and, of course, more scores.
MILESTONE WATCH: Luck also is on the verge of breaking other franchise records held by Manning: most 300-yard games in a season and most consecutive 20-completion games. Manning had nine in 2009.
TURNOVER MARGIN: The Colts fumbled six times, losing three last week. That's an anomaly for Indy. For the Redskins, turnovers have become a continual problem. Only Jacksonville heads into the weekend with more giveaways than the Redskins (21). If that trend continues this week, it could be another long day for Washington.
GROUND CHUCK: Indy has played its best football when it's had the threat of a ground game. Pagano wants that to continue, especially as Indy gets ready to play in some bad weather in December. Expect the Colts to make a concerted effort to stay on the ground after rushing for a season-high 175 yards against Jacksonville.
GARCON HOMECOMING: This week will be the first time Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon has played in Indianapolis since leaving as a free agent after the 2011 season. The return might not be going the way he envisioned. After catching a league-high 113 passes last season, he has 46 receptions for 498 yards in 2014.
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