Luck's private QB coach: If Colts draft RG3 they'll regret it 'for years'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Opinions vary on whether the Colts should take Luck or RG3. (AP/US PRESSWIRE)

George Whitfield knows what a franchise quarterback looks like. He worked with Cam Newton before the 2011 NFL Draft and he's currently Andrew Luck's personal coach. Which means that there's a good chance he will have tutored the first-overall selection in back-to-back years.

It also gives him a unique perspective when it comes to evaluating the 2012 draft class, specifically whether the Colts, who have the No. 1 pick by virtue of their 2-14 record last season, will take Luck or Robert Griffin III. Owner Robert Irsay has been noncommittal on the issue although most people think that Luck's a lock to be the next face of the franchise in Indianapolis.

Whitfield, meanwhile, has some advice: keep it simple.

"If they over-think this, they're going to make a mistake they'll regret for years, "he told the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz.

Why would RG3 even be under consideration as the Colts' choice? In a word: upside. With Luck, conventional wisdom goes, it's pretty much what you see is what you get. Griffin's potential could make him a truly special player. So the trade-off in this scenario comes down to what a team knows it's getting (in Luck) and what it hopes it'll get (in RG3).

And these aren't just the concerns of faceless internet draftniks.

NFL Films' Greg Cosell was impressed with Luck's ability "to call plays and make adjustments based on defensive fronts and coverages," but "on film, you didn't see the kinds of throws that are arm strength throws. I won't say that he can't make them, but based on the five games I watched, he didn't make them." RG3, on the other hand, blew Cosell away with his athleticism, particularly his arm strength and accuracy.

“He had a very compact and easy delivery with natural velocity," Cosell said. "There was a snap to his throws. Many disagree, but in more than 20 years of watching NFL game film, I am a firm believer that arm strength, or put another way, the ability to make tight throws into small windows down the field, is critical.”

Former NFL player Merril Hoge, who now is an analyst for ESPN, has made the case that the Colts would be better served taking Griffin.

“I went in thinking it's gonna be Luck [over] RG3,” conceded Hoge last month (via PFT). At the time, he had watched 120 hours of game film on both players and, like Cosell, was mesmerized by Griffin's arm. Hoge said if he was drafting for Indianapolis, he's need "half a heart beat" to take RG3 over Luck. "Don't be shocked if the Colts take RG3. … Football people will look at this, and they'll be like ‘holy cow. That kid is unreal.'"

Whitfield's response to such arguments?

"[Luck]'s constantly being categorized as being safe, the sure thing, almost to the point where it's a negative like there's a ceiling, no apparent way for him to get better,'' he told Kravitz. "It's like they're describing a girl you've never seen as smart, witty, funny, consistent, without saying anything about her physically. It almost feels like they're looking at him as the guy with the least amount of negatives.

As for the notion that Luck has reached his ceiling, Whitfield vehemently disagrees.

"Let me tell you: He's far from a finished product. He's very far along, but there are still things he's working on mechanically and there are lots of things he'll get better at by being in the NFL. People are now seeing him throw those intermediate and perimeter passes, and those are throws he's been dying to make. You don't think David Shaw (Luck's coach at Stanford) didn't want to make more of those perimeter throws or go downtown more during the season? But look at Stanford's skill position guys. You can only spend within the budget you have.

"But he's athletic. He's cat quick. He's strong. People are saying he's a prototypical pocket passer, like they're putting him in this category. But there's a lot more he can do.''

Having to choose between Luck and Griffin is a good problem to have if you're the Colts. They're intimately familiar with what it means to take the proven commodity over the high-upside, lights-out prospect. Fourteen years ago, they drafted Peyton Manning first overall over Ryan Leaf. That worked out pretty well for Indianapolis. The difference this time? RG3, by all accounts, is a great person with unquestioned work ethic, two attributes that weren't often associated with Leaf.

So what will the Colts do? CBSSports.com's Clark Judge thinks it's an easy decision.

"I'm not saying passing on Luck might not happen. I'm saying it won't ... and for one reason: There is no decision to make. Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in this draft; Robert Griffin III is second. … This one's a no-brainer, and Irsay knows it -- even though he said what he said this week. But he also said he wasn't sure what he would do with Peyton Manning when it was clear where he and the Colts were going. That's not a knock on Irsay; it's just who he is, and he's someone who likes an audience."

And Whitfield agrees.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.
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