DALY: With RG3, shoot for the moon, but settle for a star

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s only so much a 22-year-old rookie quarterback can do. Let that be your mantra this season, Washington Redskins fans. It might help you get through, well, whatever it is you have to get through. Sixteen games can be a long time, even when you have the distraction of a Heisman Trophy-winning QB — the most exciting edition to the franchise since Sonny Jurgensen (at least).

In fact, let’s say it together: There’s only so much a 22-year-old rookie quarterback can do. If we say it often enough, maybe Robert Griffin III will hear us and not feel quite as heavy a weight on his shoulder pads.

He can’t, after all, do it alone, no matter how talented he is. We know this because history tell us so. Some great quarterbacks — and plenty of very good ones — have come into the NFL in the last, oh, 50 years. None has won a championship as a 22-year-old rookie. Indeed, only a handful have even played effectively at that age. It’s just extremely hard to do, no matter who you are.

For one thing, really good rookie QBs tend to get drafted by really bad teams. Cam Newton, for instance, had a wondrous first season as a 22-year-old with Carolina in 2011 (4,051 passing yards, 84.5 rating, 35 touchdowns throwing and running), but — repeat after me — there was only so much he could do. The Panthers had gone 2-14 the season before and were rebuilding under a new coach. Winning six games (and losing six others by eight points or less) was about as much as anyone could expect from Newton, especially in a lockout year.

Sam Bradford had a similar experience with St. Louis in 2010 (3,512 passing yards, 76.5 rating). He took over a club coming off a 1-15 season and guided it to a 7-9 record, keeping it in playoff contention until the final day. But in the end, there was only so much he could do. The limitations of his supporting cast — and his shortcomings as a 22/23-year-old rookie quarterback — kept the Rams from going any further.

If you look at the 22-year-old QBs who have gone to the playoffs, they all had things going for them that Griffin doesn’t. Here’s the list:

• Dan Marino, Miami, 1983 — The Dolphins had gone to the Super Bowl the year before (and lost to the Redskins). Translation: He stepped into an ideal situation.

• Drew Bledsoe, New England, 1994 — It was Bledsoe’s second season, not his first. Big difference.

• Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2002 — Like Drew, it was his second year.

• Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, 2004 — The Steelers were just two seasons removed from a division title and were the No. 2 rushing team in the league, which took a lot of the pressure off Big Ben.

And here are a couple of others who were 22 for part of the season:

• Bernie Kosar, Cleveland, 1985 — Had two 1,000-yard rushers (Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner).

• Mark Sanchez, New York Jets, 2009 — The Jets led the NFL in rushing offense and scoring defense.

(Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who turns 23 in Week 2, also will fall in this category.)

It’s interesting to note, too, that Marino didn’t start until Week 6, and Roethlisberger didn’t take over until Week 3. So that means no 22-year-old rookie quarterback in the last half century has started every game for a playoff club (which, of course, is what the Redskins are hoping RG3 can do).

So you can see the odds the kid is bucking. Granted, he’s not quarterbacking a team that went 2-14 or 1-15 last year. (The Redskins traded up to draft him after finishing 5-11.) But he’s running an offense that has three new or virtually new wideouts (Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson), no clear-cut No. 1 running back and a line that’s had injury issues — and, in any case, wouldn’t put anybody in mind of the Hogs.

Still, Griffin is “looking forward to seeing how some of the stuff we do works out,” he said Wednesday — the stuff, that is, the Redskins have kept under wraps in the preseason. He’s also “trying not to think too much,” trying to approach his first real NFL game the way he would any other first game. That means focusing almost as much on “music selection” (what he calms himself with in the locker room) as play selection.

We’ve seen RG3 throw. We’ve seen him run. We’ve seen him think on his feet. We haven’t seen as much of him as we might have liked in this preseason, but we’ve seen enough to know he’s got what it takes to be successful at the next level. It’s just that — one last time — there’s only so much a 22-year-old rookie quarterback can do.

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About the Author
Dan Daly

Dan Daly

Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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