The countdown to opening day is on and even though training camp has not started, predictions for RG3 are in full swing. However, we must keep these predictions in line and realize we are still talking about a player that has never thrown a pass in the NFL. With that said, no one is to blame for all this hype. RG3 is an amazing player and it's the height of the offseason.
What else are we going to do?
There are dozens (and I dare to say hundreds) of articles floating around currently, setting predictions for RG3's rookie season stats. While it is fun to dream about what the future may bring, I believe it is equally important to establish a baseline for success. This piece will focus on a realistic benchmark that fans can use to determine if RG3 has a successful season.
We all wish and hope that RG3 has early success. However, we all must keep two very important facts in mind when predicting a player's success: his tools and the system.
A player's tools, or abilities, dictate what he is physically and mentally able to accomplish on the field. Tools are a prerequisite to attaining a certain level of success and must always be considered. RG3's tools are incredible and we will not spend any more time drooling over his arm, accuracy, speed, character, etc.
The system is the second factor that determines what kind of success a player will have. A pass-happy system like the Lions' or Patriots' will inflate certain statistics against league averages. A run-centered team may depress a quarterback's numbers.
Mike Shanahan's system is a balanced mix of run and pass, with a particular flare for the boot action (play-action bootleg). This is an excellent system for RG3 to learn in as he will be given the opportunity to succeed while not being overwhelmed. The balanced offense and zone blocking system will create open windows and minimize the potential for failure.
While the blend of tools and system seems to be perfect at times, we must remember how it will look on paper. I am sure there will be games that Griffin blows the top off some defenses, and puts up over 300 yards through the air. However, that will likely be the exception rather than the rule.
Shanahan's system will not call for Griffin to throw the ball 40 times in one game, or 600 times in a season. Griffin will likely finish with around 400 attempts this season (assuming he stays healthy), which averages out to 25 throws per game. This is a healthy amount of throws while not asking Griffin to do too much.
In the end I will use another one of Shanahan's young quarterbacks to establish a baseline for success. If Griffin can meet and exceed the following numbers, we should be happy with his performance as a quarterback:
3,400 yards passing, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 400 yards rushing and 3 rushing touchdowns.
These numbers are very close to Jay Cutler's stats from his first full season as a starter in Denver. Now there are many differences between Cutler and Griffin (attitude comes to mind quickly), but these numbers are realistic for a Shanahan offense.
You will notice the numbers I set are slightly different then Cutlers', and that is for three reasons. First, Cutler had the opportunity to play in five games prior to starting a full 16-game season. Second, he finished with 467 attempts, about 17 percent more than I expect Griffin to have. Finally, Griffin is more mobile than Cutler and I expect that to show in rushing yards and touchdowns.
Keep in mind that these numbers are just a baseline for success. If I were making predictions for Griffin, I would be taking over on several of these stats. If Griffin can meet these expectations we should all consider it a successful season for him as a quarterback.
The real question will be, how many wins will Griffin be able to lead the Redskins to in his first season? Wins are difficult to predict as they require the entire team to pull together. However, if Griffin can gather at least eight wins (three more than last year), we should consider that a successful season.