Why RGIII's Debut Was Greatest Ever by Rookie Quarterback
Yesterday, the unthinkable happened.
Any way you look at it, Sunday's contest between the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints defied common sense.
The Redskins beat the Saints in the Superdome. Robert Griffin III excelled under the pressure of his first NFL start. And the rookie outperformed a future Hall of Famer.
Much was expected from the second overall draft pick out of Baylor, no question. But did anyone really see this coming?
He didn't reach some of the rookie records set by Cam Newton a year ago, but he did earn something that Cam didn't: a win. And he didn't rely on his defense to do it.
No. Instead, RGIII went out and beat the Saints in New Orleans while outperforming one of the greatest all-time passers in his first career start at the professional level.
And he looked unbelievable while doing it.
Of course it is too early to start making playoff predictions or MVP nominations. After just one start, the quarterback's future is far from certain. But if Sunday is any indication of Robert Griffin III's true potential, I think the rest of the NFL better start taking note, because his rookie debut this past weekend arguably transcends any we have ever seen.
Here are 4 good reasons RGIII's first game was the greatest debut ever.
Numbers Never Lie
After Cam Newton threw for 422 yards in his first NFL regular season action last September, most figured it would be decades before we saw a more impressive debut from a quarterback.
But only 12 months later, we did.
Robert Griffin III's performance Sunday afternoon was surprising even by his Heisman standards. A 19-26, 320-yard and 2 touchdown effort earned RGIII the highest passer rating ever for a rookie quarterback in his first career start (139.9).
With an NFL record five rookie quarterbacks starting week 1, only Griffin came away without a turnover. His two touchdowns were as many as the other four had combined, and his final line topped every starting QB across the league.
But most importantly, RGIII picked up the win.
While Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Brandon Weeden totaled 10 interceptions in week 1, Griffin III escaped the Superdome unscathed and victorious.
His poise was remarkable and the results were better.
Perhaps the folks in Indianapolis are beginning to second-guess their decision.
I know I would.
Robert Griffin III's eye-opening stat line from Sunday wasn't even the most impressive part of his sparkling debut. The 360 yards of total offense were nice and the absence of turnovers was noticeable, but the rookie's poise and composure in such an unfavorable matchup standout for me when evaluating his week 1 performance.
Opposing the same man who shattered Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record a year ago, RGIII went into New Orleans and did something that hadn't been done in more than a season.
He beat the Saints.
Drew Brees and company went 8-0 at home in 2011-2012, and never trailed by more than 10 points. After Billy Cundiff's 41-yard field goal in the second quarter, the Redskins led New Orleans by 17.
The Rookie came through in the biggest game of his life while playing in one of the world's most hostile environments for visiting teams. The deafening Superdome wasn't able to rattle the first-year player out of Baylor, and his mistake-free afternoon highlighted arguably the most critical body part for quarterbacks—the head.
His decisions were quick and sharp. His passes were crisp and accurate. But even the most talented athletes in the world are prone to mistakes.
And unless you want to split hairs over his entanglement with Alfred Morris in the fourth quarter, Griffin III didn't really make any.
Pressure in Washington
To say that the Redskins have suffered from poor quarterback play in the last 20 years would be an understatement.
After the organization decided to mortgage their future to move up four spots in the draft this past offseason, fans in Washington were praying that their costly exchange and years of patient waiting would pay off.
So far, so good, Redskins fans.
A player some have nicknamed "The Savior" largely lived up to the hype in his first career NFL game as he energized one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. With the weight of two anxious decades and four draft picks on his shoulders, Robert Griffin III gave fans in Washington the greatest glimmer of hope possible.
And while it is still too early to tell if RGIII will reach his potential, I think even one week of action has left Redskins faithfuls optimistic that they have found the solution at quarterback.
His ability to excel with such pressure again speaks to Griffin III's most valuable trait. His laser arm and Olympic level speed combine to make one of the most physically gifted athletes on the planet, but they are mere complements to his decision making and poise.
Together, RGIII's skills and intangibles make for limitless potential. A squeaky-clean record on and off the field help add to an unprecedented resume that the Heisman Trophy winner carries.
And I think the fans in Washington have just one more request: that this time, nothing changes.
Showed It All
When Michael Vick broke into the league in 2001, he presented a combination of arm strength and speed that had never been seen at the professional level. Even with questions about his accuracy and attitude, the Virginia Tech standout was selected no. 1 overall as the NFL scrambled to find a defensive solution to the hybrid quarterback.
11 years later, Vick has yet to live up to his potential despite re-emerging as a premier quarterback in recent seasons. His inconsistency in the passing game has prevented him from establishing himself as the biggest offensive threat in the game.
Now, comparisons are inevitably being made between Philadelphia's quarterback and Robert Griffin III. But RGIII isn't Mike Vick.
He is more polished.
The Baylor product has insisted since day one that he is not a run-first QB. In fact, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner would rather not run at all.
As a result, Washington has seemingly decided against incorporating the wildcat formation into its offense. Aside from the occasional QB keeper, the Redskins see Griffin III as a pocket passer who possesses the speed to escape a pass-rush if necessary.
The luxury he provides proved beneficial in week 1 against the Saints when RGIII escaped pressure on numerous occasions. Plays that undeniably would have resulted in a horizontal Rex Grossman were transformed into positive yardage.
Sometimes, the value of a quarterback doesn't always show up in the box score. Griffin's stats on Sunday were impressive, there is no arguing that. But for those who watched all 60 minutes of the RGIII show will tell you that the difference he makes isn't quantifiable.
The plays he can make with his legs won't stand out in the box score. All the plays he salvages by escaping defensive pressure don't have a statistical measurement.
But they will translate into wins.
And in the NFL, a team's record is all that matters. Things are looking up in the Nation's capital.