If you had asked either one of us in September if there was one player we were excited to write about this offseason we would have answered Robert Griffin III. In one such email exchange I wrote to Marty, ‘I have moved him up to my No. 2 quarterback and Top 10 overall player and will find a way to defend it between now and January. He’s that good.’ Little did we know our job would be so easy, so instead of doing what most others are doing and dissecting his game, we are going to tell you how he is going to be (much) better than the quarterback he will be most compared to over the next four months,
There is one area in which
Cam Newton will always have a leg up on Griffin III and there is nothing RG3 can do about it: that’s size. Newton will always be a stronger between the tackles runner and goal line option. There is no arguing that. However, we will argue every other aspect of both of their games.
Newton has been praised for his beautiful deep ball, and deservingly so, but Griffin’s is better. Whether it needs to be a high-arcing bomb, an on-the-line rope, or put into a corner in which only his guy can make the play, Griffin’s is continually on the money over and over and over again. His deep ball accuracy at this stage of his career is quite simply remarkable. In fact, it appears as though Griffin’s best throws are also the most challenging.
When most people think of running quarterbacks immediately Newton,
Michael Vick and
Tim Tebow, among others come to mind. All of them have different running styles, and Griffin’s most closely resembles Vick’s. That said, while Vick at age 22 may have speed that matched Griffin’s, the current version of Vick pales in comparison. Griffin possesses world-class speed, and if you’ve watched enough of him, you’ll know the speed is for real. He was an All-American 400-meter hurdler, and if he pursued that angle he’d very likely have been an Olympian. He’s shiftier than Vick, allowing for him to be a more dynamic weapon with the ball in his hands. His running style is night-and-day different than that of
Cam Newton. Newton possesses quite a bit of shiftiness, but used his size in college to finish off runs. Griffin creates immediate separation with his quickness, and his high-end speed allows for him to pull away from defenders.
What makes his speed even more lethal is his ability to make throws on the run. The book on Vick has always been to get him to roll right because he can’t throw running that direction. Defenses won’t have that option with Griffin, as his accuracy scrambling in either direction at this stage of his career, again, is quite simply remarkable, as is his ability to sell the play action. Given his speed and ability to throw on the run, there just isn’t a way to defend him. If you sit on Griffin then the back gets the ball and has an easy gainer between the tackles. If you buy into the fake, Griffin will beat you to the outside. If you’re athletic enough to get outside then he’ll just throw it over top of you anyway. Defensive coordinators are going to lose their jobs because of this guy. His speed just brings so much more to the table than Newton’s.
The one area that will be beaten to death this offseason will be Griffin’s character. The head on his shoulders more closely resembles Tebow than Newton. You won’t hear Griffin say ‘My teammates need to play up to my level’ like Newton’s been quoted saying. For the other 21 players on the field, character is not always that important of a quality. However, when evaluating a quarterback it absolutely is. Unlike Newton, you will not see anyone questioning his head. Griffin completed his undergraduate degree in 3.5 years (Political Science). He could likely have finished his Master’s Degree by the end of the summer if he wanted to go that route. He’s well spoken, intelligent and down to earth. Both of Griffin’s parents were sergeants in the military, and he has repeatedly said how the military childhood he received has shown him discipline and has made him into the worker that he is.
What does this all mean on a football field? Griffin has shown that the work ethic will translate to the practice field, and eventually on to the game field. His intelligence carries over to his decision making as well. When Newton came out of school we were much more concerned about his ability to read defenses. Griffin seems to continually be ahead of what is presented to him, and much more able to see what the defense is throwing at him. Newton seemed to want to simply use his athletic ability to get him out of situations that were difficult.
Griffin has shown us that he will (most of the time) trust in his knowledge of the situation first before reacting. This is not just evident on positive plays, but also on potential disaster plays. He was under constant duress against superior opponents all season and repeatedly demonstrated the poise and intelligence to throw the ball away when the play wasn’t there or it broke down in front of him. These plays go down in the stats as another incompletion, but they prove a quarterback’s football intelligence.
Issues are going to be made of his footwork, offensive scheme, and ability against tough pass rushes (again, his offensive line at Baylor was atrocious) but just about any quarterback coming in to the league has areas in need of development. That, and his scheme isn’t like most schemes. Unlike most spread attacks, it requires him to think and go vertical, also.
There will be a learning curve as he will likely be asked to take the ball under center a lot more than he did in school. That said, would you rather be working with a guy who has it all physically and upstairs but needs some work on the fundamentals, or the guy whose greatest issues surround decision making and character? Fundamentals can be corrected, but everything from the neck up is a much tougher chore.
Overall, Griffin is the most exciting player entering the 2012 NFL Draft. He possesses elite upside. By elite, we mean his ceiling is higher than that of Andrew Luck … and
Cam Newton. If this were just about any other draft he would be selected No. 1 overall, but unfortunately this is Luck’s draft so Griffin will not be selected first. However, his team, and their fans, are going to have a lot of fun football to watch over the next decade (plus) and hardware to hoist up.