“A quarterback like that, he's different from the Eli [Manning] and those guys,” said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. “It's just hard to game-plan that guy. He takes away from your enthusiasm for the game a little bit when you play a play perfectly and he still has 4.3 speed to outrun guys and make plays.”
"I'm pretty mad at the football gods for putting him in the NFC East."
Not too shabby for a rookie quarterback with just seven games under his belt. And coming from a two-time All Pro defensive end and two-time Super Bowl Champion, no less.
But when it comes to phenom Robert Griffin III, the description is nothing shy of accurate. He's third in the league in quarterback rating, first in completion percentage and first in yards per attempt amongst starters.
Griffin has also gone for 468 yards on the ground, ranking him first amongst passers by a mile and ahead of star running backs like Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, Miami's Reggie Bush and Cleveland's Trent Richardson.
At the midway point of the season, Griffin has Washington positioned with a 3-4 record and plenty of football left, including five division games. While the Redskins defense has its own issues in dire need of correction, the team’s potential success moving forward rests on the rookie’s shoulders.
And Robert Griffin III is the perfect man for the job.
New and Improved
When head coach Mike Shanahan and the Redskins front office got wind of Robert Griffin III, and eventually, their chances of drafting the Heisman Trophy winner, the offense in Washington began its transformation.
Despite coming from a Baylor offense that was operated without a playbook and in the gimmicky-labeled spread scheme, Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle, weren’t stubborn in conforming to the talents of a superstar athlete that they thought could change the quarterback position.
Because of the Shanahans and their adaptation on offense, Griffin has made as smooth a transition as any coach could hope for their first-year signal-caller. Using some of the same styles and tendencies that Griffin grew accustomed to in college, the Redskins are reaping the benefits of an offense ranked fourth in the league with 28.7 points per game.
Last season, the Redskins ranked 26th in the league with 18 per game.
The implementation of the read-option and Griffin’s precise execution is at the base of such a potent offense. Although many will attempt to call it short-lived and contemporary, Griffin and the Redskins are proving just how effective an option scheme can be in every aspect of the offense.
In terms of the rushing attack, the Redskins’ first-place 177 yards per game is no coincidence. Not only does the offense create space for Griffin to make plays with his own feet, but fellow rookie running back Alfred Morris and his 658 yards are second only to Arian Foster (659) through seven weeks.
As a passer, Griffin’s league-leading 70.4 completion percentage is unheard of for a rookie (Ben Roethlisberger holds the record for rookies with 66.4 in 2004). In addition to the natural creation of clearer passing lanes, the Redskins new offense gives Griffin a number of different receiving options and plenty of room to operate.
Over the offseason, the Redskins front office focused on bringing in offensive playmakers—mostly speed and receivers known for being able to churn yards after the catch. As a result, the team landed Pierre Garcon to become Griffin’s vertical threat and Josh Morgan to become a reliable slot weapon.
Despite a nagging foot injury for Garcon that has forced him to miss four games this season, Griffin is making the most of his receiving crew. And beyond the new faces, Griffin has established connections with second-year receiver Leonard Hankerson, veteran Santana Moss and tight end Fred Davis (before being injured).
On average, quarterbacks are seeing 49-percent of their passing yards come from their receivers following the catch. But for Griffin, 51.4-percent of his 1,601 passing yards have come by way of his receivers working after they haul in a pass. This is a result of good play calling, good offseason acquisition and a quarterback getting the most out of his teammates.
When the Redskins decided to bet the farm in order to move up to No. 2 in last April’s NFL Draft, many were critical in assuming that an undersized spread quarterback’s success in the NFL would never be worth the squeeze. Too many eggs in one basket.
Since then, no one has heard from those critics.
Griffin’s 13 touchdowns (seven passing) through his first seven games puts him on pace for more than 31 by season’s end.
If the season ended today, Griffin would be the first rookie to lead the league in passing accuracy since Parker Hall in 1939. His league-leading 8.5 yards per attempt would also be the first for a rookie since Bob Waterfield in 1945. And there has only been two rookies to ever lead the league in both categories, one of which was the Redskins’ very own Sammy Baugh in 1937.
Even if the Redskins can’t fight their way into a playoff spot at the close of the season, there’s no doubting Griffin’s ability. He’s wasting no time in posting impressive numbers and instilling confidence within a city that has had more than its fair share of pitiful sports performances.
Before Griffin arrived in Washington, everyone knew about his accuracy, arm strength and speed. He had won college football’s most prestigious award, blown the doors off the NFL Combine, and had a history of being a track star.
Still, physical attributes aside, it was hard to predict that Griffin would demonstrate such telling traits of a clutch performer through his first 28 professional quarters.
And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.
Regardless of how the team gets into specific situations, Griffin has thrown more passes, for more yards, for more touchdowns, with a better completion percentage when the Redskins are trailing. He’s also rushed for more yards and for more touchdowns.
On the game’s most crucial down, Griffin isn’t shy there either. He’s thrown for 289 yards on third down with 64.6 percent accuracy, two touchdowns and another 210 yards on the ground.
In the fourth quarter, Griffin totes a quarterback rating of 96 with 455 yards on 68.9 percent passing and a touchdown. His 224 rushing yards and 11.8 carry average are his best ground numbers for any quarter.
Against the blitz? No problem.
When taking on five or more pass-rushers, Griffin is hitting 72.7 percent of his passes at 11.7 yards per attempt with an ESPN total quarterback rating of 98.8, all of which rank first in the NFL.
Despite playing an extra away game through seven this season, Griffin has performed significantly better on the road.
On the road, Griffin's 108.3 quarterback rating is nearly 20 points higher than at home and his completion percentage is almost five percent better at 72.
When playing away from FedEx Field, Griffin averages 112 more passing yards per game and his passing touchdowns more than double.
It may not be all about stats over the course of such a small sample size, but RG3 has all the key attributes of a clutch quarterback in the NFL and his early progressions are certainly promising.
At this point in the season, it’s safe to say that a majority of the scouting reports were right. Robert Griffin III is the real deal. But make no mistake, the instant success of RG3 is a collective effort amongst player, coaches, teammates, and scheme.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan have established an offense that is not only effective, but catering to the talents of their franchise quarterback. At the same time, the offense keeps the ball close to the line of scrimmage and limits potential mistakes for a rookie at a position that requires confidence and attitude.
Since arriving on the scene—with his locker directly next to team captain London Fletcher's—Griffin has proved himself as a consummate leader both on and off the field. He has earned the respect of his teammates—who enter every game knowing that the Redskins have a legitimate chance to win.
Trying to determine what makes Robert Griffin III so special as a football player is harder than it seems. After just seven games, there's still greatness that we haven't seen. And trying to put your finger on a single aspect of RG3 is impossible.
But one thing's for sure—Griffin is one of the most exciting and captivating athletes the NFL and Washington, DC, has ever seen.
“I don't think there's anybody in the league just like him," Tuck said.
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