Can RG3 avoid a sophomore slump?

Can RG3 avoid a sophomore slump?
February 12, 2013, 11:45 am
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Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir are looking at what went right and what went wrong during the Redskins 2012 season. Go here to see the other posts in the series.

Today, Rich looks at something that went right, the rapid development of Robert Griffin III.

2012 results

When the Redskins gave up a bushel of high draft picks to take Robert Griffin III, there was no question that he had potential. During his career at Baylor, he completed 67 percent of his passes, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt (including an absurd 10.7 yards per attempt his last season there). In 2011 he threw 37 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.

But it was fair to say that the Big 12 defenses that Griffin faced during the season were not the toughest in the land. And Art Briles’ Baylor offense was much simpler than an NFL scheme; Griffin usually worked out of the shotgun, they frequently ran plays with no huddle, and, according to wide receiver Kendall Wright, they didn’t even have a playbook.

So even though expectations for the eventual success of Griffin were sky high, there was an expectation that there would be a learning curve. His performance in training camp seemed to bear that out as he showed flashes of brilliance while making some rookie mistakes.

However, Griffin was more than ready when the games started to count. In the season opener in New Orleans he had arguably the best debut of any rookie quarterback ever as he passed for 320 yards and posted a 139.9 passer rating.

You know about the signature moments like his 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon in the opener that produced the iconic “Griffining” pose, the 76-yard touchdown run against the Vikings, the scrambling fourth-down conversion against the Giants, and throwing four touchdown passes in back to back games four days apart to get the Redskins rolling on a seven-game winning streak to finish the season. And we’re well familiar with the 102.4 passer rating for the season, the best ever posted by a rookie.

His play on the field won him accolades and a permanent spot in the highlight reels in ESPN and NFL Network. Griffin’s leadership won him respect in the locker room and a midseason elevation to team captain.

On top of all that, the Redskins won the NFC East after four consecutive last-place finishes. It all make for a memorable rookie season, one that left most observers with just one question:

What learning curve?

2013 outlook

As was the case last year, the 2013 Redskins are likely to go only as far as Griffin can take them. Can he avoid a sophomore slump?

His reconstructed right knee, of course, is the major factor. Normally a second-year quarterback can spend his spring and summer looking back at what he did wrong during his rookie year and then going out of the field to work on correcting the issues. Griffin will be able to observe 2012 film and discuss it with Kyle Shanahan but he won’t be able to do anything at full speed until some point late in training camp at the earliest.

Once he does get on the field, teams will test the theory that the read option offense is just a fad and that after an offseason of planning defenses will stop it in its tracks. Or perhaps the state of his knee will force him to learn a revamped offensive scheme to one that decreases the number of hits that Griffin takes.

But it would be a mistake to be too skeptical of Griffin’s ability catch on and play well not matter how much his knee hinders his preparation time and not matter how many changes are made to the offense. He’s been able to overcome obstacles in his path at every level and there are good reasons to be confident that he will continue to play to the standard he set in 2012.