Five rookies made their NFL debuts Sunday at quarterback, but only one wowed the crowd and the television viewers with their play and that man was 2011 Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III.
Griffin has been riding an almost year-long high since the end of his last season at Baylor, where he became the first Heisman winner in the school’s history. His hot streak carried over to Sunday, where he not only put up incredible numbers for a first start; 320 yards passing and two touchdowns, but outdueled former NFL MVP, Drew Brees, leading to a 40-32 Redskins win over the Saints.
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top,” Griffin told ESPN. Griffin was awarded the game ball from head coach Mike Shanahan.
Just like in college, RG3 didn’t just do it with his arm. He also ran for 42 yards in the game, adding to one of the best performances ever for a first-time starter, not to mention a rookie.
Griffin’s composure on the road in a close game was even more impressive to some, including his head coach.
“Robert did an unbelievable job to play the way he did in his first game in the National Football League,” said Shanahan in an ESPN.com article. Shanahan also was impressed by “the poise that he played with and some of the throws he made.”
Although Washington led the game for the remaining 47 minutes, Brees and the Saints continued to battle back, but Griffin always had a response, matching New Orleans blow for blow.
The Saints only lead came with about four minutes left in the first quarter on a touchdown pass from Brees to Jimmy Graham. Less than a minute later, Griffin threw his first NFL touchdown pass; an 88 yard strike to Pierre Garcon to retake the lead at 10-7.
Needless to say the other four rookie starters were less successful.
Brandon Weeden, the oldest of the group of rookies who made their debuts, struggled the most in his first game with the Cleveland Browns. Weeden completed only 12 of 35 throws for 118 yards and his four interceptions led to a dismal 5.1 passer rating. The Browns lost late to Philadelphia 17-16.
The other three (Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck) fared a little better, with Colts #1 overall pick, Luck showing flashes of brilliance in the loss to Chicago, 41-21. Luck threw for over 300 yards, but also was intercepted three times in the opener.
Griffin’s performance has to have excited not only Redskins fans, but bettors that were unsure of what he could do in the NFL. Now they know. The upset of one of the league’s best teams on the road showed everyone what RG3 and the Skins are capable of.
Next up for the Redskins is another road game against St. Louis. They may have been a favorite already, but considering what we saw yesterday, the Redskins should be on the negative side of the point spread. Although the Rams are an improved bunch from 2011, look for Griffin and the Skins to win another one in St. Louie.