Quarterbacks, particularly the rookies, took their usual place in the spotlight the first week of the NFL season.
One rookie in particular, the Redskins Robert Griffin III, created the most buzz with his stellar opening day performance. Statistically it was more impressive than even Cam Newton managed in his own eye-popping debut.
I could quote all the numbers but what I saw was even more impressive. RG III took his Redskins team into New Orleans to face a Saints team that sports the biggest home field advantage in the NFL. (They were undefeated at home in 2011 with an average margin of victory of over 23 points a game)
It was a Saints team that was suddenly inspired by the overturning of Roger Goodell’s player suspensions. It was a Saints team that was the most heavily bet side in the LVH SuperContest as a 7-point favorite.
From the opening snap it was evident RG III was ready. He completed his first seven pass attempts. They were all short throws either designed to build the young quarterback’s confidence or wear down the Saints defensive backs. Coach Mike Shanahan could claim either as his brainchild because they both worked.
The Redskins took that all-important early lead with a field goal, before the Saints answered with a touchdown. Griffin took the next snap and hit Pierre Garcon, who turned the short pass into an 88 yard touchdown. The next Redskins drive resulted in another touchdown pass, the next a field goal. I think we can safely say the kid wasn’t rattled.
I was watching the game pretty intently. You see I was one of those morons who bet the Saints, both out of my pocket and in the SuperContest.
What I saw was a QB who could make all the throws. Yeah, Garcon turned a short pass into a touchdown. How about giving RG III credit for putting it where he could make that run after the catch? The out patterns were thrown with strength and precision as were the long passes to the wideouts. As if that weren’t enough, his ball fakes on running plays are some of the best I’ve seen.
The other four rookie starting QB’s performed about the way you would expect. There were moments of brilliance but not a whole bunch of them. None of the other rookies garnered a victory for their team. They threw a combined two touchdown passes to eleven interceptions. I hate to tell, but that’s what rookie quarterbacks do.
Not this one, though. At least not yet. In the preseason I had tweeted that Andrew Luck should be compared to Cam Newton more than RG III because they were both number one draft choices. I also said they had both exhibited the ‘it’ quality I had yet to see in RG III.
Boy did I hear it from Redskins and Baylor fans. I explained that I didn’t say RG III didn’t have “it,” I just hadn’t seen “it.”
It turns out Mike Shanahan knew what he had all along and kept the kid under wraps in the preseason. He slow played his hand like a good poker player.
I’ve knocked Shanahan plenty over the years as being an overrated coach, elevated by the good fortune of having John Elway and Terrell Davis on his team. Once those two were gone, his record has been just this side of mediocre.
In my column last week I talked about how it goes beyond the talents of a coach and quarterback. The two have to fit together. So far it looks like RG III and Shanahan are a good fit. But so far it looks like my niece could coach RG III and get results out of him, so I don’t want to go overboard.
I know the old saying. Let’s not carve his bust for Canton just yet. RG III has a long way to go. It won’t be smooth sailing all the way. After one week though: so far, so good.
• Oregon has outscored its opponents 85-16 in the first half and been outscored 14-43 in the second half.
• Houston had 693 yards, made 40 first downs and lost!
• SMU turned the ball over three times, usually a recipe for a loss. Fortunately, Stephen F Austin turned it over 10 times! How many possessions do you get in a game?
Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewsSports. Chris has a dedicated thread in the Pregame.com forums, answering your questions and more.