In some ways the Washington Redskins are paving new ground as they essentially invent a new NFL offense around Robert Griffin III. Zone reads serve as a pro-style option, and Griffin is able to take advantage of his ability to extend plays with his legs even in the passing game.
But other teams have tried this before, at least tailoring their schemes to fit a quarterback's talents, most recently the Cincinnati Bengals last season with Andy Dalton. It worked, as the Bengals made the playoffs.
"The quarterback is your offense. There was no preconceived offense or anything because we were starting from scratch," coach Marvin Lewis said this week. "He was the offense. The offense unfolds and it's a vision through the eyes of our quarterback and his abilities and so forth."
While Griffin can take off with his legs, Dalton isn't quite that mobile. But the 2011 second-round pick out of TCU can scramble and throw as he's on the move. The Redskins hope to keep him contained Sunday in their home opener at FedEx Field.
Like the Redskins, the Bengals had the same head man in place in Lewis, but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden helped craft what Dalton and Co. were able to do.
"There were really no limits," Lewis said. "We were all starting from scratch learning a new offense, and everything that we do unfolds through the quarterback."
Dalton threw for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns as a rookie.
"Very smooth, very heady. You can tell he has a great feel for the game," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.
"He is a natural thrower, and you can see why he went to the Pro Bowl."
Dalton wound up in Hawaii as an alternate, but that was still a testament to how quickly he adjusted from a college offense to the pros.
"I was fortunate. The way we did things at TCU really helped me coming into the offense that we're running here," Dalton said. "There's a lot of similar stuff that we were doing. I think it made the transition a lot easier for me."
Griffin's transition has been seamless, too. But having been there, done that, Dalton does have some advice for the Redskins rookie QB.
"There's going to be ups and downs throughout the season," he said. "Just stay the course. It's a long season. You can't put too much into one game. Just go play the best you can."
What Griffin would like to be able to develop with Pierre Garcon, who has a right foot injury, Dalton already has with receiver A.J. Green. Green was the Bengals' first-round pick in 2011, so the Georgia product was able to grow alongside Dalton.
"It's been good. Everybody is going to talk about us together just because of the quarterback-receiver combo," Dalton said. "He's a special talent."
Dalton's talent shouldn't be overlooked, either. But it doesn't hurt that Lewis built everything around him, and that Dalton got a chance like Griffin to start right away.
Making the playoffs was the first reward for the Bengals' trust in Dalton.
"I think it definitely validates it," he said. "For me personally, we got a lot bit of credibility around here now. It shows that guys know what they're going to get out of me."
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