I should just put this ESPN article in my sig
Delayed gratification hasn't been a part of the Robert Griffin III NFL experience. It was like a Bond flick -- things got crazy before we, the audience, even settled in when RG3 laid waste to the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. Thing is, as we finish Week 13, it still hasn't gotten deliberate. The story arc has remained explosive. So in a season where rookie QBs are a huge draw, even Andrew Luck's remarkable plotline hasn't managed to outshine RG3.
[View Full Quote]But this could contain fuel for critics who believe RG3 won't age well as an NFL quarterback. Certainly not like Luck. Call it a grumpy assessment, a page from Eeyore's Quarterback Projections, but look close and there are moments, throws and hits that make even his biggest fans wonder. They make people think of other athletically gifted QBs. They make people think, "Enjoy this for what it is" because action flicks like this lack substance. And if the critic wanted to confirm those questions, he'd find some numbers to back him up.
• He'd point to Week 1, when RG3 shredded the Saints. The numbers showed dominance -- 19-26, 320 yards, a 138.9 passer rating -- but a critic would note short pass after short pass, many simply across the line of scrimmage, glorified handoffs. A critic could note that 13 weeks later, 74.6 percent of Griffin's completions this season have been less than 10 yards.
• He'd point to Week 6, when Griffin failed to get out of bounds on a scramble, and picked up a new key stat that isn't in the passer rating formula -- his first NFL concussion. What's athleticism if it gets you more involved with linebackers down the field? Is that sustainable?
• He'd then point to Week 7, when RG3 came back from that concussion and ran a season-high 13 times, including an incredible 76-yard TD run. The critic would say, "Great run, kid, but didn't last week teach you anything?" And that critic would then point out lessons not learned, because headed into this week, RG3 led all QBs with 100 run attempts, a total even the 250-plus-pound Cam Newton can't touch.
Add it up, and the critic builds his case: Great passing totals, but a penchant for thriving on the short stuff; great rushing totals, but already with a concussion in hand; a great knack for making plays, but a clear stubbornness to fall back on his legs in a league that will punish QBs who do.
The critic will thus conclude: Sure, RG3 has been incredible, but should I buy into the future?
In a word: Yes.
That's because such a case against RG3 simply doesn't hold up to a more advanced look at the tape, the numbers and the context of the situation Griffin finds himself in. It's why any critic who would claim RG3 is, say, merely a more evolved Michael Vick, is missing a guy who may become something more like Aaron Rodgers -- and isn't far off that level now.
Start with those short throws.
RG3 has thrown a high share of short passes, with 153 of his 205 completions (74.6 percent) thrown fewer than 10 yards. But he's just a tree in an NFL forest of QBs throwing short passes. Consider that Tom Brady, with a passer rating of 105.2, is throwing short at a far higher rate. Brady has thrown fewer than 10 yards on a whopping 222 of his 308 completions entering Week 13, or 81 percent, far ahead of Griffin. Matt Ryan, with perhaps the NFL's best downfield options in Julio Jones and Roddy White (as well as Tony Gonzalez), throws short 73 percent of the time, essentially the same as Griffin. Peyton Manning (74.1), Rodgers (73.4) and even Joe Flacco (70 percent) are all thriving on the short ball at a rate virtually the same as RG3.
If you claim the Redskins have RG3 pedaling in an offense built around the short throw -- quick slants, quick digs, across-the-formation shots -- then you might as well say Brady is being pushed while utilizing training wheels.
Then consider the "running QB" critique.
So far in 2013, of RG3's league-leading 100 carries, a full 63 of them were designed runs. That means through 11 games, and 367 drop backs, Griffin has actually chosen to scramble only 37 times. According to Pro Football Focus, Griffin is pressured at a somewhat scary rate of 35.1 percent of drop backs thanks to Washington's offensive line. Think of it this way: RG3 has seen pressure at an almost identical rate as Luck, and has scrambled on average about one more time per game. (Again: with 4.41 speed.) Given his ridiculous talents as a runner, the stronger case to be made is that RG3 is actually showing restraint as a runner, not too much confidence in his legs. His Run EPA is lower than even Jay Cutler's.
All of those points make the case that RG3's success does stand up to basic critiques. But there is an even greater aspect working in his favor from a long-range standpoint.
Griffin is, without overstating it, an extraordinarily accurate NFL QB. Not for his age, but for a thrower of the football, period. Evaluators will tell you that accuracy is probably the single greatest indicator of a QB's ability to succeed because it encapsulates everything. It's not just ball placement, it's timing; it's the ability to hit the right route by working through reads, throwing to the open man and, when you do, hitting him in a location that allows him to gain yards after the catch. And to even be consistently accurate, you have to do so many other things well, all starting between the ears. In baseball terms, it's the difference between control and command. Good control means you can throw strikes consistently; good command means you're painting corners and with proper depth on the pitches. RG3 has command.
According to PFF, RG3's accuracy percentage (which accounts for drops, throwaways, spikes, batted passes and passes where the QB is hit while throwing) is at an NFL-leading 80.5 percent. The lead itself is impressive, but to put that number in context, since PFF began tracking the stat in 2008, only Rodgers has a higher rate -- 80.6 percent. In other words, RG3 through 11 games is as accurate a passer as we've seen in the NFL over a five-year period when virtually every passing record has been torched. Among rookies in that time, Ryan has the best full-season mark, at 74.6 percent. How deterministic is that number? This season, the guys directly trailing RG3 are Rodgers, Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Matt Schaub and Brady. Pretty good company.
William Perlman/US Presswire
RG3 runs, but much of it has been by design.
And RG3 isn't just accurate because he's throwing short. On throws of more than 20 yards, his accuracy percentage is 52.2 percent, third highest in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he's completed 66.7 percent of those 20-plus-yard throws, second highest in the NFL. And RG3 actually throws downfield plenty next to his peers. On intermediate throws (10-20 yards) he's completed 42 passes, more than Brady or Rodgers. This goes back to last season at Baylor, where coaches Art Briles and Phil Montgomery tinkered with his delivery on the deep ball. His 72.4 percent completion percentage last season wasn't just pure college offensive gimmickry -- his 10.7 yards per attempt led the nation.
The accuracy stands up under another level of scrutiny -- pressure. Against five or more rushers, RG3 has completed 67.4 percent of passes, a higher rate than the impossible-to-blitz Peyton Manning. His accuracy percentage under pressure is an obscene 81.9 percent, an NFL high.
Satisfied? If you aren't, remember that this is all being done within an offense not exactly teeming with weapons. We all saw the Redskins add pass-catching help in free agency, an attempt to ease the transition for their rookie, but, as Bill Barnwell notes, "Despite Washington's best efforts to spend money this offseason and procure RG3 some weapons to throw to, their receiving corps has fallen apart this year." And "If Griffin were really struggling this year, we'd be looking at his receiving corps and saying that he didn't have anything to work with."
Critics can question the sustainability of RG3. They can nod to themselves every time he takes a hit when he should have been sliding. They can rightly say he'll need to learn to get out of harm's way. But restraint is there, and short throws are in every QB plot in this league. Ultimately, pointing to RG3's legs or short throws as a potential problem is like pointing to Greg Maddux's velocity as a problem. In both cases, what each guy does best is really the most important aspect to the position: Each is really, really accurate.
Take away everything else RG3 offers athletically, and he is still an extremely accurate QB. That's a nice fallback plan.