Robert Griffin III doesn’t care much for comparisons. He’s unique in so many ways, and he knows it. A comparison establishes boundaries. He’s not interested.
Griffin, though, understands the media’s penchant for comparisons as a means to understanding. The comparison du jour, then, as the Redskins prepare to play Carolina on Sunday, is to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
The last two Heisman trophies belong to them. Both quarterbacks are at the front of a nascent zone-read running game trend in the NFL. Both are exceptional throwers. Newton won the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award last season, and Griffin is halfway to that same honor this fall.
Still, Griffin is not interested.
“I’d rather be compared to an Aaron Rodgers or a guy like that,” Griffin said Wednesday, “someone who has won Super Bowls.”
His personal performances and statistics through eight games have exceeded coach Mike Shanahan’s expectations — “There is no question about that,” Shanahan said Wednesday — but still the Redskins, at 3-5, require a major turnaround if they are to make the postseason.
The first step toward that is winning Sunday. For now, though, we have a historic matchup of quarterbacks to consider. Sorry, Robert.
Never have two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks played each other in the NFL as a rookie and second-year pro, respectively. More importantly, Griffin and Newton are establishing something of a new prototype in a quarterback’s league.
Griffin and Newton aren’t the same type of runners, but the dual threat they present defenses with in the option game is making the league take notice. Just ask Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith, whose defense faced Newton and Griffin in consecutive weeks earlier this season.
“It’s been a long two weeks, I can assure you that in terms of our preparation,” Smith said the week they played Washington. The Panthers and Redskins “have a similar tinge in terms what they’re doing,” he continued. “It’s not exactly the same, but you have to account for the quarterback in the running game. You’ve got to really put an extra guy to get the math right when the quarterback is a runner.”
Newton leads Carolina with 310 rushing yards on 51 attempts. At 6-5, 245 pounds, his size is his greatest asset. He is difficult to tackle, as the Redskins learned last season when Newton ran 10 times for 59 yards and a touchdown in Carolina’s 33-20 victory.
Griffin, meanwhile, is Washington’s second-leading rusher with 476 yards on 70 carries. At 6-2, 217, his running success is more the product of speed.
“The thing about Robert Griffin that’s a little bit different from our guy is he’s more of a north-south runner,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s got such great speed that he can get to top speed really fast and get going.”