Excitement and hype lived up to, check. Prolific statistics for a rookie quarterback, check. Football sense belying limited experience, check.
Robert Griffin III has been everything the Washington Redskins hoped for.
“He’s the most well-rounded and talented guy I’ve ever had,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said.
Through nine games, Griffin is among the top candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and, if he remains healthy, has shown all the evidence that he can be a franchise quarterback for years to come. Still, there have predictably been bumps along the road.
“He makes a lot of great plays. In hindsight, he is still a rookie,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s only 22 years old, so he’s not going to be perfect and no one’s perfect. Aaron Rodgers, the MVP of the league, is not perfect. But he makes key plays, and he keeps us in the game.”
With the Redskins at 3-6 and needing to essentially run the table to make the playoffs, the second half of the season could be full of evaluation and experimentation for Griffin.
So far, the offense has been tailored to Griffin’s strengths and will continue to be. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see him given more chances to drop back, just to get him used to it at the professional level.
That would be a good test for something ex-Redskins tackle Jon Jansen said was Griffin’s biggest area of improvement this season.
“Just his pocket presence,” Jansen said. “He can escape a lot of things, but the ability to stay in there a little bit longer and wait some things out instead of just always getting out and running and getting outside the pocket.”
Griffin’s most memorable moment came on his 76-yard run in a win over the Minnesota Vikings when he found a seam and zipped down the sideline for a touchdown. That ability to hurt defenses with his legs shouldn’t be undersold.
“He can do a part of the game that I’ve never been able to do with the quarterback being a running threat and being able to be a part of the run on run plays,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Every week, through my whole career, the defense, 11 guys, are trying to tackle that running back and now all of a sudden 11 guys are trying to tackle him and account for the quarterback. It definitely changes up how I see football.”
Griffin gives the Redskins a chance to believe, at least in the future if nothing else. He has eight passing touchdowns and three interceptions to go with six scores on the ground. He has 1,993 passing yards and 529 rushing.
“The nice thing I like watching Robert is that from Week 1 to Week 8, he’s a different player,” Jansen said. “And he’s learned from those mistakes. You don’t ever see him really make the same mistake twice. That’s what you want to see from a young quarterback.”
Right now, the Redskins look like a bad team with a good, young quarterback in Griffin, an assessment linebacker Lorenzo Alexander agreed with.
“Obviously there are bright spots: Robert being one of those, Alfred [Morris] being another. Guys that play well. But the ultimate goal is to win games,” Alexander said. “Obviously for the future and fans’ perspective, coaches as far as looking forward to next year those are bright spots that you can kind of build on and look forward to see how those guys develop.”
Griffin, who suffered a concussion Oct. 7 against the Atlanta Falcons, will get every opportunity to develop, especially with the Redskins almost officially out of the hunt.
Just don’t think he’s fine with showcasing his talents down the stretch.
“You don’t want to feel sorry for yourself ever. You don’t want to accept defeat. That’s something that I’ll never accept,” he said. “You try to continue to get better and just make sure you go out there with no excuses. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is, if the sun’s bright and it’s in your eyes … It doesn’t matter what it is, you don’t have any excuses. You go out there and you make plays happen.”
Griffin has done his fair share of that. Without some of his heroics, the Redskins could be in a worse spot than 3-6 going into Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
And while growth likely will come in fits and spurts as with any rookie quarterback, getting results is a step Griffin will want to take sooner rather than later.
“I just think wins and losses. That’s what you’re judged by,” ex-Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien said. “Sometimes rightly so and other times maybe unjustly so. But eventually that’s what you look at and that’s where you find out, ‘What can I do at that position to make us win and put us in position to win?’ He’s definitely one that’ll uncover every stone to find a way to get it done.”