The Redskins have waited over four months to find out if Robert Griffin III would be worth the steep price tag, and today the answer is absolutely YES. Griffin played a fantastic game and helped the Redskins pull off one of biggest upsets in Week 1. The Redskins came in as substantial underdogs to the Saints and were able to walk away winners, 40-32.
While both of these teams occupied major media positions this offseason, RG3 was the only story today. The Redskins were able to march up and down the field under Griffin's direction all day and ultimately take home a surprising victory. Here we will break down all portions of Griffin's game for Week 1.
Not surprisingly, Griffin's arm strength was excellent all day. Griffin has a quick release and a zip that is rare, even among the world's best QBs. Throughout the game, Griffin was able to deliver passes across the field with surprising ease.
Griffin put his arm strength on display early with quick bubble screens and passes across the middle. No play demonstrated Griffin's elite arm more than early on when the pocket broke down and he was able to deliver a ball to Fred Davis 36 yards down the opposite sideline. The pass appeared almost effortless and landed perfectly in Davis's hands.
Not too much to say here—Griffin's is a top ten arm talent. Easy grade.
Accuracy is another point of Griffin's game that was highly anticipated after posting a 72 completion percentage as a senior at Baylor. Griffin did not disappoint in Week 1, finishing 19/26 (73%) for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns. Passes were delivered on time and rarely thrown into poor windows.
One of the most impressive parts of Griffin's accuracy was his streak to begin the game. Griffin got through almost the entire first quarter before throwing his first incompletion. While part of this streak was due to the overload of bubble screens, the consistency is very impressive.
Overall, Mike Shanahan knew what he was doing by giving Griffin quick passes early on to develop his confidence. The game plan worked and Griffin was able to post a passer rating of 139.9. Enough said.
Mobile quarterbacks have the unique ability to extend plays, and even make plays on their own. Griffin is part of the elite class of mobile quarterbacks with his Olympic-quality speed and athleticism. Today, the Redskins took advantage of Griffin's mobility by utilizing the shotgun and pistol formations.
The Redskins offense under Mike Shanahan has also been known for the classic boot-action (playaction and bootleg), and there was plenty boot-action today. Griffin's mobility enables him to fake the hand off and take a wide bootleg very quickly. Taking a wide bootleg is important as it separates Griffin from defenders and gives him more space to work with.
In the end, Griffin finished as the team's second leading rusher behind rookie Alfred Morris. Fans should expect to see more games like today's, with Griffin picking up 25-50 yards on the ground each week. At this point Griffin is such a polished runner, it's hard to envision a week he'll receive anything below an A.
Vision is an important part of any quarterback's game, and will lead to terrific or horrific results. With good vision, a quarterback is able to keep his eyes downfield and find open receivers. Quarterbacks with poor vision allow their eyes to drop and have their attention stolen by the pass rush.
Griffin was very effective today with his vision, particularly early on. It was evident on the Pierre Garcon touchdown as Griffin was able to manipulate the safety with his eyes before hitting Garcon across the middle. That was part of what enabled Garcon to have an empty field ahead of him for an easy touchdown run.
While Griffin was great overall, there were some instances where he failed to notice double coverage or looming defenders. There are small issues that will only improve over time, but that is why Griffin receives a B+.
Decision-making is a two part quality for quarterbacks, as it encompasses the decisions themselves and how quickly they are made. A quarterback can make the perfect choice on every play, but it is worthless if it takes him too long to pull the trigger. On the flip side, a quarterback who doesn't have the patience to find the right decision will frequently pick the wrong one in haste.
At this point in Griffin's career he has good, but not great, decision-making skills. The speed and quality of a quarterback's decision-making is tied into how quickly they can go through their progressions and Griffin struggles at times. Griffin sometimes isolates on one receiver or spends too much time trying to diagnose the secondary after the ball is snapped.
Overall, Griffin's decision-making in this game was very effective, thanks to a great game plan from the Shanahans. There are still some things to work on (such as the decision to throw to Santana Moss when double covered in the end zone), which is reflected in the grade. Over time, Griffin's decision-making will improve as he becomes more familiar with the system, and with the NFL as a whole.
Creative quarterbacks have the ability to make changes on the fly to create big problems for the defense. However, creativity is an attribute that requires trust from the coaching staff. Without the trust of the coaching staff, quarterbacks will be placed on a shorter leash and kept to a strict game plan.
Early on today, Coach Shanahan clearly had a script prepared to limit potential mistakes and increase Griffin's confidence. The Redskins utilized bubble screens and quick passes to halt the pass rush and develop a rhythm. The plan worked to perfection but did not showcase much of Griffin's creativity.
Griffin called very few audibles in this game and appeared to stick to a strict script. As the season progresses, I expect to see more trust from Coach Shanahan as he turns the reins of this offense over to Griffin. For now though, the creativity of the new rookie will be kept to a minimum.
It is one of the most over analyzed and hyped qualities, but is nevertheless important on game day: the clutch factor. For a variety of reasons, some athletes perform particularly well under pressure. Today, Griffin faced some of the most intense pressure the NFL has to offer and he performed brilliantly.
The Redskins' offensive line allowed free rushers on multiple occasions and Griffin handled it very well. Griffin showed his mobility and ability to evade pass rushers and make plays. This was most evident on a fourth and inches play when Griffin rolled out and used his strength to heave a pass into the end zone. It ended up getting a defensive pass interference penalty that set up a score.
Griffin's ability to perform in the most important points of the game is a big boost that the Redskins have been waiting for. In Week 1, we saw some of the these impressive abilities lead the Redskins to an improbable win. Stay tuned all season to watch for more big plays in big moments from Robert Griffin III.