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Ranking RG3's Big Game Amongst Greatest Thanksgiving Day Performances Ever

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Ranking RG3's Big Game Amongst Greatest Thanksgiving Day Performances Ever
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For the second time in five days, Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw four touchdowns against a division rival. How good was his Thanksgiving Day performance?

Better than any rookie quarterback this millennium, that’s for sure.

RG3 completed 20 of 28 passes for 311 yards, four touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 132.6 and QBR of 87.5. He also rushed six times for 29 yards in leading Washington's 38-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Calculated since 2008, ESPN’s Total QBR metric assigns an all-encompassing numerical value to assess a quarterback’s performance in a game. Situations—as well as statistics—hold weight in the final calculation. Dean Oliver of ESPN Stats & Info explains:

The Total Quarterback Rating is a statistical measure that incorporates the contexts and details of those throws and what they mean for wins. It's built from the team level down to the quarterback, where we understand first what each play means to the team, then give credit to the quarterback for what happened on that play based on what he contributed. [...]

What underlies QBR is an understanding of how football works and a lot of detailed situational data. What it yields are results that should reflect that. It illustrates that converting on third-and-long is important to a quarterback. It shows that a pass that is in the air for 40 yards is more reflective of a quarterback than a pass that is in the air for 5 yards and the receiver has 35 yards of run after the catch. These premises should sound reasonable to football fans. They come out of a lot of statistical analysis, but they are also consistent with what coaches and players understand.

Matt Schaub’s QBR in the Houston Texans34-31 OT win over the Detroit Lions was 52.8 after a stat line of 29-of 48, 315 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

Griffin’s dismantling of the Cowboys defense was a rare occurrence, not just because of how thoroughly he picked it apart, but as rookie QBs just don’t get the opportunity to start on Thanksgiving very often.

Even at a time when seven rookie quarterbacks (Griffin, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Ryan Lindley and Nick Foles) start for their teams, and six teams played on Thanksgiving, Griffin was the only player that fit both descriptions.

He impressed on a national stage, trumping total QBR performances by Aaron Rodgers (70.0 in 2011), Drew Brees (78.7 in 2010), Donovan McNabb (69.9 in 2008) and Tony Romo (55.0 in 2009).

RG3’s magnificent performance is measured differently than Peyton Manning's destruction of the Detroit Lions offense in 2004 (23-of-28 passing for 236 yards and six touchdowns with no picks—good for a 141.4 passer rating), as, again, performances prior to 2008 were not measured by QBR.

The best QBR performance on Thanksgiving Day came from another player who is playing on Turkey Day in 2012: the New England PatriotsTom Brady. In 2010, Brady put together a game that netted him a perfect passer rating (158.3) and QBR of 95.4.

He went 21-of-27 passing for 341 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers against the Lions. Perhaps it was because of his lone turnover, but Griffin’s stat line doesn’t quite measure up to the pinnacle of veteran production on this fine American holiday.

He’s got time to get better, though—and that’s what’s so scary about RG3.

 

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