Redskins vs. Saints: Can We Already Conclude That RG3 Is the Real Deal?

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 9, 2012

September 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) celebrates a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

There are so many wild numbers coming out of Robert Griffin III's first career start, which involved the Heisman Trophy winner leading the Washington Redskins to an upset victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. 

For example:

  • He became the first quarterback to lead his team to 40 points in his debut since 1950, according to the Fox broadcast. 
  • His 88-yard touchdown strike to Pierre Garcon was the longest by a rookie in his debut in modern NFL history.
  • He became the first player in NFL history with 300 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his debut, according to ESPN Stats & Info
  • His passer rating of 139.9 was higher than all other quarterbacks thus far in Week 1.
  • Michael Vick, whom Griffin is fairly or unfairly compared to quite often, has posted a better passer rating only three times in 93 career regular-season starts. Using the same metric, it took Peyton Manning 35 starts to register a performance of that ilk. 

Considering the trouble they've had keeping defenses honest the last, oh, 20 years, the 'Skins and their fans are surely thrilled to see Griffin stretch the field in unprecedented fashion. That said, the most important statistic might have been a zero.

As in zero turnovers. 

The Redskins had committed at least one turnover in 30 straight games, which was the longest active streak in the NFL. In 2011, their minus-14 turnover ratio was the third-worst in football, and only two teams threw more interceptions.

You'd think that going from a veteran quarterback to a rookie would only exacerbate that problem, but Rex Grossman was no ordinary veteran (he was much worse), and RG3 is no ordinary rookie. He's much better.

Credit the Redskins for drawing up a superb game plan, mixing in a steady balance of downfield gambles with safe patterns while almost always protecting their No. 2 overall pick by providing many safety valves for checkdowns. Griffin took advantage of those underneath throws often, which worked to rope-a-dope the Saints into giving up that 88-yard home run on his eighth attempt.

Combine that approach with Griffin's steady and disciplined performance, and it's extremely difficult to imagine this experiment failing. 

The Redskins had three takeaways and zero turnovers Sunday for the first time since 2005. Griffin rarely threw passes that resembled anything you get from a rookie. He was in a completely different league than the one Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill found themselves in the afternoon. 

This isn't hyperbole: It was one of the best rookie debuts in NFL history, which is saying a lot, considering the (almost) impossibly high expectations that already were attached to Griffin's career after the 'Skins surrendered three first-round picks to secure the Baylor product in April's draft.

It's funny, though, because as a 22-year-old Griffin seemed to be making all the right decisions in his very first game, Vick was 900 miles north in Cleveland seemingly making all the wrong ones. 

We already knew that RG3 could throw 80-yard missiles and scramble like a champ. But Vick continues to prove that a sheer physical edge isn't enough. Griffin showed Sunday that he also has the self-control to succeed, and he did it in one of the most difficult places to play and without having his top receiver for a large chunk of the afternoon.

With performances such as those in leagues such as these, it sometimes only takes those 60 minutes to earn the stripes required of a star.