Robert Griffin III had one of the most exciting seasons in NFL history as a rookie. Ushering in what was believed to be the future of the NFL in the zone-read offense, RGIII left the entire NFL grasping at air as he constantly slithered past their outstretched arms.
Thanks to a torn ACL, though, that wasn’t part of his game last season, and while that is widely considered to have been a negative, I see it as a positive.
Last week, after RGIII dropped the jaws of everyone in attendance at Redskins training camp with a long run for a touchdown, the crowd was smiling, excited to see the “old” RGIII again. But according to RGIII, in order to see the “old” version of himself, you have to go back past his rookie season and down to Waco, Texas, where he first made his mark at Baylor.
“It’s not how I made my name,” Griffin said of his rushing. “I made my name throwing the ball in college when I won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor.”
Yes, RGIII is an elite track athlete who ran a 4.41 second 40-yard dash at the combine, but that’s only the icing on the cake. What makes RGIII better than all the other “running quarterbacks” is that RGIII isn’t a “running quarterback.” He is a pure passer, who just so happens to be faster than anyone else on the field.
In 2011, RGIII’s Heisman year at Baylor, he was absolutely dominant throwing the football: 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, on 72.4 percent completion. More importantly, he led the nation with an average of 10.7 yards per attempt, an incredible feat given his outstanding completion percentage, second only to Russell Wilson. RGIII wasn’t just succeeding on easy passes, he was lighting the country up with deep strikes.
On the other hand, while he easily could have sliced up the defense with his feet, they weren’t nearly as important as his arm. Whereas RGIII averaged 6.8 yards per rush in his rookie season, mostly from called zone-read runs, he only averaged 3.9 yards a rush his final year at Baylor, mostly from quarterback scrambles. While RGIII rushed a lot in college, he was never a “running quarterback.” He was always a quarterback who could run.
The quicker Jay Gruden, and the rest of the Redskins organization, acknowledges that RGIII isn’t a “running quarterback,” the better off they’ll all be. The only way RGIII will ever make the leap towards the top-tier of quarterbacks is if he’s put in a position to stand in the pocket and showcase his arm. Now, that doesn’t mean eliminating the run from his game, but it does mean eliminating the zone-read and other called rushing plays.
The Redskins now have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, something they did not have the last two seasons, and they need to let RGIII take advantage of that. He’s not a rookie anymore. He knows how to play quarterback in the NFL. There’s no need to “fake” the defense out with the zone-read, risking RGIII’s health in the process, when he can just as easily succeed with a handoff to Alfred Morris or a pass to Pierre Garcon or DeSean Jackson.
If RGIII is made to rely on his feet, he’ll end up just like every other “running quarterback:” full of potential but always injured. We’ve already got a taste of that, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we can do without it. RGIII has the potential to be truly special. He’s unique. No quarterback has ever had the combinations of talent RGIII has, and it would be a disservice to ignore any of them. It may take a bit, but if used in the right way, RGIII can still be an all-time great.
Follow Michael Jaycox at @MilkyMike
Like this? CLICK HERE to see how Jay Gruden is doing in his first training camp.