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Inside the NFL | Redskins finally get it right in drafting RGIII

New quarterback provides hope for beleaguered franchise

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 08:12



Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has used his accurate passing and blinding speed to turn the Redskins’ offense around after years of mediocrity.

When the Washington Redskins traded three future first−round picks and one future second−round pick to the St. Louis Rams in order to select quarterback Robert Griffin III in this year’s draft, many experts chastised the decision, calling it another dumb transaction made by an organization known for mishandling the draft.

But this move was different. At the time, it was a worthy and calculated gamble for a team that had been stuck in the basement of the competitive NFC East.

Now, as Griffin has put up one incredible performance after another in his rookie season, it appears that the Redskins have executed one of the greatest draft heists in recent NFL history.

Griffin has been nearly flawless this season, almost single−handedly leading a bad team to an impressive 6−6 record. He ranks third among NFL signal callers in quarterback rating, ahead of names like Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees; sixth in completion percentage, ahead of Schaub, Dalton, and Eli Manning; and fourth in total QBR, ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Stafford.

And because it needs to be said again, RGIII is doing this in his rookie season.

In fact, put Griffin on a team with better offensive skill players to complement him, like the New England Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez or the Houston Texans with Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and it’s safe to say that his numbers would be even better at this point. He would probably be one of the leading candidates for NFL MVP.

What is it about Griffin that makes him such a unique quarterback who can fluster even the league’s best defensive units? The answer is that RGIII is the first NFL quarterback in recent memory to combine four crucial characteristics typically possessed by elite signal callers: accuracy, arm strength, elusiveness and intelligence.

Many NFL experts point to accuracy as the best way to predict whether or not elite college quarterbacks will pan out in the NFL. In his senior season at Baylor, Griffin completed 72.4 percent of his passes to lead all NCAA passers.

This season, RGIII has completed 67.1 percent of pass attempts despite a lackluster Washington receiving corps that has been prone to drops all season. Besides Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, it’s hard to find a more consistently accurate passer in the NFL.

Griffin has also put his arm strength on display with several perfectly thrown long balls that usually end up as touchdowns. In his debut game against the Saints, Griffin heaved the ball nearly 50 yards downfield to connect with receiver Pierre Garcon for an incredible 88−yard score.

RGIII’s most notorious trait is clearly his ability to run as well as any quarterback in the league. In fact, he leads all NFL quarterbacks with 714 rushing yards so far this season.

But here again, Griffin is unique, as he can not only run past defenders with his speed — like Michael Vick or Cam Newton — but he can also keep plays alive and elude blitzers in the pocket with his mobility — like Ben Roethlisberger or Tim Tebow. Oftentimes, these wild scrambles turn into huge completions for RGIII and the Redskins.

And finally, RGIII has already demonstrated maturity well beyond his years in leading an NFL offense as a rookie quarterback. Observing Griffin’s ability to master numerous formations, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has really opened up his playbook this season. Shanahan has designed game plans that feature read options out of the shotgun, play action passing out of a single back set, and complicated option passing routes that even veteran NFL quarterbacks often struggle with.

To be fair, RGIII still has his flaws, though there are not many of them. Mainly, Griffin needs to consistently slide when running to cut down on the hits that he takes. He also often holds the ball too long, though he has only taken 25 sacks this season, ranking him in the middle of the pack among quarterbacks.

Still, there is no denying that RGIII is already one of the league’s best players and that he will likely continue to haunt NFC East defenses for years to come. For the first time in years, the Washington Redskins finally got it right.

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