THE WASHINGTON Redskins took first place in the NFC East Sunday with one rookie quarterback subbing for another rookie quarterback. Kirk Cousins, drafted four rounds after the Washington Redskins used the second pick overall on Robert Griffin III, threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 victory over the Browns, his second win in as many weeks and Washington's fifth straight.
Meanwhile, Russell Wilson, another rookie quarterback, ran for three touchdowns and threw for a fourth in Seattle's 50-17 victory over Buffalo. With Wilson at the helm, the Seahawks have scored 108 points over the last 2 weeks and, at 9-5, are the NFC wild-card leaders.
The Indianapolis Colts, the surprise wild-card leader of the AFC, have top pick Andrew Luck running their offense. And when the locker-room doors opened at NovaCare on Monday, a throng of media at least four-deep pushed right past Michael Vick to crowd the locker of rookie Nick Foles, the one remaining on-field intrigue of the Eagles' unsightly season.
Parallels have been made between this crop of quarterbacks and that famous 1983 class, when Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly were among six quarterbacks taken in the first round alone. But while that group trumps this group in overall status - Foles, after all, was a third-round pick, and Cousins was considered by some evaluators as overvalued when Washington chose him in the fourth - only Marino and Elway made it to the playoffs their rookie season.
So why the instant success?
"It might have to do with how the college offenses are now," Brent Celek said. "When I was at Cincy, we were kind of running the same type of offense that I'm running here. So it was easy for me to transition. And I think for some of these quarterbacks, maybe they're using some of the stuff they used in college or it's the same system. West Coast system is West Coast system. Coming from college to here, it was easy for me. Real easy."
The idea that college offenses could be on par with the pros in terms of intricacy? Not long ago, that would be ridiculed or deemed blasphemy. Not that long ago, Alabama coach Nick Saban was chased back to the college ranks, where they ran the option or the wishbone or, in the case of Penn State, they just ran up the middle all day.
But the recent and immediate successes of Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Schiano give credence to Celek's point. It will be interesting to see how many head NFL jobs are given to current college coaches.
"In college, I saw all the different coverages in the world," said Foles, who played against Carroll's and Harbaugh's teams. "And everyone seems to have elaborate schemes."
At the University of Cincinnati, Celek's head coaches were Mark Dantonio and, for one game, Brian Kelly. Dantonio is now the head coach at Michigan State, and Kelly, in his third season at Notre Dame, will try to unseat Saban's Crimson Tide as NCAA champion on Jan. 7.
Dantonio is known for complicated defensive schemes, Kelly for elaborate West Coast-style offensive schemes.
"I think the other thing now is that coaches in college understand that when you go to recruit kids, it's all about the NFL," Celek said. "So you better be doing the same things those guys in the NFL are doing. You have offenses in college that don't really work in the NFL? Guys don't really want to go there. Kids from high school want to make it to the NFL. So you have to think about how that high school kid is thinking and kind of tailor it towards that."
Indeed, Michigan State's current offensive coordinator, Dan Roushar, was criticized this season for not fully utilizing junior running back Le'Veon Bell. Alums might not have liked it, but that high school quarterback choosing between schools? As Celek said, that's a different dynamic.
Foles actually began his college career with Dantonio at Michigan State, but transferred after his freshman season to Arizona. For him, it wasn't a matter of system or style - Michigan State's two previous quarterbacks have NFL jobs - but opportunity. At each school, he was going to run a pass-oriented, pro-style offense. And did.
That's not to say it's the same in college and the pros. They close on receivers quicker in the NFL.
"Timing is more crucial," Foles said. And there are no soft throws up here, either.
"In college, you can kind of lob it out there and your guy is so fast, he can make a play on it," he said.
"But just training your eyes on the safeties or all the different alignments you see now in college, it helps," Foles said. "Some things are familiar."
"I think the big thing all these rookies have is knowing the offense real well," Celek said. "If you are a quarterback and you've got all these concepts that you've already done before, then it comes down to reading defenses. You're not worried about some pattern. It becomes comfortable. It comes down to you just reading defenses and doing it quicker. I think it's all about knowing the offense in and out. Being able to spit it out. Because when you can do that, you can take it to a whole new level of, 'OK, where is the safety on this play? I need to check this.' Because you already know where your guys are going to be, what they're going to be doing."
On Twitter: @samdonnellon