What must Robert Griffin III do to be a rookie sensation for the Redskins?

RG3, Dan Snyder, Mike Shanahan

In the eyes of Washington Redskins fans, Robert Griffin III just has to be better than Rex Grossman.

Player TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Grossman 16 20 57.9 6.9 5-8

Grossman’s 2011 performance is a low threshold. Reckless Rexy’s yards-per-attempt was a shade under the 7.0 YPA considered the professional standard.

Grossman finished the year as the 29th-ranked quarterback based on his passer rating. He shreded Mike Shanahan’s reputation. We knew when he said it that Shanny was blowing smoke about staking his rep on Grossman and John Beck.

The question about Griffin III comes from Brad Gagnon’s May 18, 2012 Bleacher Report story, What Would a Successful Rookie Season Look Like for Robert Griffin III.

Hog Heaven engaged in a dialog with Gagnon on the topic (follow the link to read the comments), but that set us to wondering. What’s the benchmark for a successful year for rookie quarterbacks?

The snarky reference to Grossman would be a start. But the Redskins need and fans hope for more than that from Griffin III.

As a check on reality, we looked at the performance of recently drafted quarterbacks and found that six yards per pass attempt is the single most important benchmark for rookie success. 

Cam Newton (first overall, 2011 NFL Draft) performed in beast mode and broke Peyton Manning’s rookie record.

Player TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Newton   21 17 60.0 7.8 6-10 

Newton rushed for another 14 touchdowns and 709 yards. Griffin III tends to be compared to Michael Vick rather than Newton. Is it OK to hope that RG3 break’s Newton’s NFL record? Yes, but “hope” is the operative work.

Newton led the Carolina Panthers to a 6-10 finish — four games better than the year before. The 2011 Redskins weren’t nearly so bad as the 2010 Panthers. If RG3 matches Newton’s rookie performance, a four game improvement to nine or more wins can be achieved.

Newton and the Panthers visit the Redskins on Sunday, November 4. Circle the date. “RG3 vs. Cam Newton” will be the most hyped non-division Redskins game this year.

Blaine Gabbert was the second quarterback taken in the 2011 Draft (10th overall). He fell into the boiling cauldron that was the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Player TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Gabbert   12 11 50.8 5.4 4-10 

Gabbert finished dead last in quarterback rankings. There are reasons to discount his performance. The Jacksonville Jaguars were forced to start him early, thanks to David Garrard’s back injury and Luke McCown’s 39.0 passer rating.

The Jaguars were a slow moving train wreck with a suspect receiving corps and death watch on Jack Del Rio’s coaching tenure. We mention Gabbert because Mike Shanahan avoided Gabbert when the Redskins traded out of the position. The Redskins selected OLB Ryan Kerrigan after moving into Jacksonville’s spot, a move we continue to applaud.

We will watch to see how much better Griffin, a better prospect than Gabbert, will be with the Redskins, a better team than the 2011 Jaguars.

Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow were the first two QBs selected in the 2010 Draft. We focus on Bradford’s performance.

Player TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Bradford  18 15 60.0 6.0 7-9

Washington was rumored to be in the hunt for Bradford in trade-up scenarios with the St. Louis Rams who were not nearly as inclined to do a deal was they were in 2012. Bradford could neither make a bad team good, nor save his coach’s job. That’s a cautionary tale for everyone in Washington.

The Detroit Lions made Matthew Stafford the first overall pick of 2009.

Player TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Stafford   13 20 53.8 6.7 2-8 

Stafford started 10 games for the Lions. He finished the year 2-10. Detroit’s prospects were brightening even then, but it began with upgrades in the front office — Martin Mayhew for Matt Millen. That’s no coincidence. The Lions did not have a 10-win season until Stafford’s third year.

Mark Sanchez was the second quarterback taken in the 2009 Draft (Fifth overall).

Player TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Sanchez    12 20 53.8 6.7 8-7

Sanchez was the object of Daniel Snyder’s quarterback lust back in his anyone-but-Jason-Campbell days. Sanchez, like Ben Roethlisberger, went to a playoff-ready team. The Jets carried Sanchez like the Super Bowl Steelers carried Roethlisberger. Big Ben’s Super Bowl performance was appalling. Antwaan Randle-El scored more TDs (one) than Roethlisberger. You can look up the boxscore here.

Three seasons later, we wonder if the Jets are carrying Sanchez. My personal over/under on the number of games Tim Tebow starts is six. 

Matt Ryan was the surprise pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 Draft (third overall). With Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino behind them, and better front office management, “Matty Ice” and the Falcons finished 2008 with 11 wins, a seven-game bump from 2007. Take notice of Ryan’s yards-per-attempt.

Player    TDs   Ints   Comp%   Y/A   Record
Ryan  16 11 61.1 7.9 11-5

The Falcons misplaced their trust in Vick and Petrino, who Atlanta hired to give Vick the college-style offense that would max athletic talent. At that time, “Ookie” Vick relied more on his athleticism than professionalism as he confessed to his former coach Jim Mora in a TV interview. Petrino bolted from the Vickless Falcons before the season ended.

The Redskins have nowhere the turmoil of the ’07 Falcons. Washington’s front office is better than in the Snyderrato days and they go into 2012 with a younger team. The receiving corps and offensive line are question marks. The defensive secondary is being rebuilt, especially at safety. If not done well, Washington will have to win shootouts.

If Griffin can last 16 games and perform 60 percent as well as his last year at Baylor, The Redskins can expect 22 passing touchdowns, nine interceptions, 215 passing yards per game, with perhaps another five scores on the ground. That’s a shade better than Andy Dalton’s rookie performance. Dalton finished the year as the 16th-ranked quarterback in yards. Dalton had 6.6 yards per attempt.

The entire Redskins offense only scored 27 touchdowns in 2011. See? It won’t take much to please Redskins fans.

The more critical benchmarks are yards per attempt and turnovers. Grossman’s passing stats do not include his eight fumbles. Recent rookies achieved 6.0 yards per pass attempt. It’s the minimum to be considered a success. Matt Ryan and Cam Newton managed 7.9 and 7.8 YPA respectively. Veteran quarterbacks should be over 7.0 YPA.

RG3 will disappoint if his YPA is down around Blaine Gabbert territory (5.4). He will be seen as a success if his rookie YPA is 6.0 or over and as a sensation if his YPA is 7.0 or above. 

Winning is a team accomplishment. YPA is personal and what Hog Heaven will check the most when assessing Griffin III. 

Point after

A rookie is still a rookie. The Redskins must carry Griffin early in the season more than he carries them. That carrying burden falls on the 2011 rookies and free agents.

Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.

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