Led by a pair of Shanahans, Mike and Kyle, Robert Griffin III has had a great rookie season. If it weren’t for the injuries he suffered early in his career, Washington could very well have acquired the franchise quarterback for the 2010s. I just want to get that out of the way before I really start. head to the hearts of the masses.
But with all this talking about a may return to the NFLwe need to take a closer look at the 2012 outbreak, warts and all.
Griffin’s 2012 season, which saw Baylor produce 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns while dashing to 815 and another seven points, is often referred to as one of the best rookie seasons of all time. I can’t help but think that’s not true. Griffin’s rookie season is often looked back on with rose-tinted glasses as the massive potential fanbase that has watched gradually fades away as his injury looms later in his career. A closer look at his rookie season suggests that Griffin, despite his talent, may not reach the heights many assume he has been able to stay healthy. Instead, Griffin will likely remain a solid start with some notable downsides.
Let me explain.
When people talk about Griffin’s rookie season, it usually revolves around his ability to throw in and deal damage with his feet. The latter is absolutely true. There’s no denying that Griffin’s mobility is electric and game-changing, but when it comes to being forced to sit in a pocket and shoot throws, Griffin isn’t as great as we’ve nostalgic for him. Much of his success has come from play-action, and given the popularity of the read option in the early 2010s, it’s incredibly effective. I’m not saying it doesn’t work anymore, but teams don’t run play-action nearly as often as they did back in 2012.
For example, the Buffalo Bills have collected 196 play-action passes in 2021 — the most of any team in the NFL. 29.92% of their passes were from play-action. In 2012, Washington operated play-action 42 percent of the time. FORTY-TWO PERCENT! This is seven percent higher than the next closest teams (Seattle and Minnesota), and their percentage (35 percent) is also the highest since the play-action began being tracked in. 2005. Furthermore, Carolina also matched previous highs, choosing to play-action on 33 percent of their passes in 2012.
Seattle has Russell Wilson. Carolina had Cam. Minnesota has… Christian Ponder, but the presence of Adrian Peterson at the back makes the action play much more effective. Essentially, in the early 2010s, if you had a mobile midfielder or a generational full-back, you were running play-action at a confusingly high rate.
Nor do I blame Washington for running all those plays. They have been incredibly effective in doing so. They top the league in Defense value adjusted above average (DVOA) at 66.7 percent on play-action in 2012. No other team scored above 60 percent. However, Washington’s DVOA on regular turns was just five percent, one of the lowest in the NFL that year.
Now, you might be thinking: “Who cares? As long as RG3 is in Mike Shanahan’s heavyweight action system, he’ll be great. “Yes, but in late-game situations where his team is down by a point or two, what will he do if there is no play action? How did he perform in situations where the defense knew a pass was coming?
Here are RG3’s stats for that 2012 season when trailing or drawing in Q4:
56-of-92 (60.9 percent)
6.0 gauge per try
22 times rush
165 quick yards
1 TD rush
Good ball control, but the numbers are pretty mediocre. that 6.0 size for each try especially scary considering that throughout 2021, only Trevor Lawrence has posted one yard-per attempt worse (5.9) at fourth among 2021 starters compared to 2012 RG3. In fact, the next closest quarterback in those situations is Ryan Tannehill (6.5), and he an average of half a yard more per attempt than Griffin did.
Furthermore, in 2012, Griffin threw 13 passes over 30 meters long. All but three of them didn’t play the game and one of them was double pass, so really, Griffin only completed two huge throws on the regular drop during his “legendary” rookie season. That’s not a good percentage. Ultimately, the teams will find a way to defend that move by Washington. With so many movies about their attack with Griffin at the helm, it was only a matter of time before the opposing defense knew when to tit-for-tat and when not. Griffin has certainly had moments outside of passing action to show his full potential and arm talent, but those moments haven’t been continuous enough to make me believe he will. is an excellent midfielder.
Is there potential there? Sure. No one is denying his talent. His mobility will keep him relevant in the NFL for a long time even if his passing isn’t great, and this is just his rookie season as well. He still has time to develop into a better passer. That said, he’s too reliant on action play for most of his explosive ability in the air. I know injuries played a big part in his downfall, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Griffin’s career actually took a turn for the worse in 2014, a year after that. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaves DC.
Griffin deserves the 2012 Rookie of the Year award. His rookie season was great, but overrated. Both sentences can be true. I don’t think if Griffin stays healthy, he’ll be as much of a perennial MVP contender as some people think. Against me about it.