What Would a Successful Rookie Season Look Like for Robert Griffin III?

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 18, 2012

ASHBURN, VA - MAY 06:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins practices during the Washington Redskins rookie minicamp on May 6, 2012 in Ashburn, Virginia.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

To nobody's surprise, Mike Shanahan has already named Robert Griffin III the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback. Now, let's try to set some goals for Griffin's rookie campaign.

It should be noted that the definition of a successful rookie season has changed dramatically in recent years, mainly because rookies at all positions—but especially quarterbacks—have been developed to start earlier than ever.

I don't know why that is, but it probably has a lot to do with front offices wanting to appease their impatient fans before losing their attention. As the league grows, the NFL's manufacturing machine moves more quickly every year.

Superb maiden seasons in recent years from guys like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger have distorted and enhanced what we expect from our rookie quarterbacks.

And so the expectation is that Griffin will step in and make a Newton-style impact right off the bat.

Based on where he was picked, the price that was paid for him and the precedents set by recent rookie pivots, RG3 will have to do four things for his first season to be considered a successful from the get-go:

Win at Least Seven Games

Dalton helped get the Bengals into the playoffs, and Newton increased Carolina's win total from two to six. If you win games, the fans will give you a pass for classic rookie mistakes.

Washington hasn't had a winning season since 2007, so that would be dandy, but the key is winning more games than the year prior. The Redskins were 5-11 last year; RG3 will take heat if that doesn't improve by at least a couple of games in 2012.

Score at Least 22 Touchdowns and Throw Fewer than 16 Interceptions

That touchdown total includes rushing scores, but it would be ideal if Griffin could hit 20 touchdown passes like Newton and Dalton did in 2011. I'm not sure that'll happen, but he should be able to score at least a handful of rushing touchdowns.

I'm giving him some leeway in comparison to other successful rookies in the interception category—I'm expecting a good number of picks, but if he approaches 20, he'll be criticized. 

Rush for 600 Yards

In his first full season as a starter, Michael Vick ran for 777 yards. Last year, Newton had 706. I'm putting a number on this so that we have a yardstick to monitor his success, but the grand total isn't as crucial as the runs he makes.

What Griffin needs to do is make big plays with his feet when the moment requests it. If he can deliver on that, he'll have success in this area. That said, if he can stay healthy, it wouldn't be shocking to see him run for 700-plus yards in 2012.

Stay Relatively Healthy

Remember that Griffin isn't exactly a big guy. He's not a monster like Newton or Roethlisberger, which is scary when you consider how often he might run. He has to be smart about when and where he takes off, otherwise he could fall victim to some rather large hits.

If you can accomplish those things, no one will care about your completion percentage or your passer rating or your yards per attempt (just look at Sam Bradford's rookie season). Those things can improve over time, but Redskins fans will be expecting more wins, more points and more entertainment ASAP.

The beautiful thing, too, is that there's a decent chance Andrew Luck fails to accomplish the first three feats listed above. Of course, the barometer for him is different, but Luck and Griffin will inevitably be compared throughout their careers.

Griffin is ready, and the Redskins have done a great job adding pieces to support him on offense. With that in mind, there's little reason to believe his rookie campaign won't meet the criteria for success.