Robert Griffin III will put his headphones on inside the visitor’s locker room at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday morning, listen to some of Michael Jackson’s hits and achieve a sense of calm about making his NFL debut.
The Washington Redskins‘ new franchise quarterback has spent more than four months preparing for the occasion, and he believes he is positioned to succeed against the Saints, as well as the other 15 on the schedule.
That would be quite an accomplishment, given the magnitude of a quarterback’s transition from college to the pros and how quarterbacks throughout history have struggled in their rookie seasons.
But Griffin is one of five rookie quarterbacks in the NFL that is expected to start his team’s season opener this weekend.
It’s an astounding number, the most since at least 1950, according to the league.
The dynamics of each rookie’s situation are different, though, and the setup in Washington is favorable, some people inside and outside of Redskin Park say.
“The ideal circumstance would be to have a great system, which I think we do; a great defense, which I think we do; and be able to run the ball,” backup quarterback Rex Grossman said. “Then beyond that, be able to make plays, play-action and all the other things and not have to carry the load.
“It is the ideal situation for a rookie quarterback to be, the way Robert has been dealt with.”
Shanahan drafted Griffin in April after determining the Heisman Trophy winner would be the best quarterback on Washington’s roster. After back-to-back last place seasons, Griffin gives the Redskins the best chance to win now and in the future, Shanahan believes.
That’s an endorsement from which many rookies have not benefited, including the Redskins‘ opponent Sunday, quarterback Drew Brees. As a second-round pick in 2001, Brees sat his rookie season behind Doug Flutie with the San Diego Chargers.
Six Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl championship later, Brees appreciates how he was allowed to develop gradually.
“It was very beneficial because you learn a lot being on the sidelines,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine at the time being the starter going into that first game when I was a rookie. It seemed like a whirlwind, everything you have to get adjusted to stepping into the NFL — the system, the speed of the game, all those things. It seems like guys are so much further along now.”
Grossman, too, eased into the Chicago Bears’ starting role after he was selected in the first round in 2003.
He began that season behind Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler before starting the final three games and winning two.