These things can really be decided only years from now but after both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III made their NFL debuts, it looks like the Washington Redskins made a better choice than the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 NFL Draft.
But that would be foolish to assume. Both franchises are in completely different places. Yes, some sort of rebuild, but the Redskins are much more ready to win now than the Colts are, still hanging on to relics from their glory days while trying to completely overhaul everything else. Griffin was perfect in the start, but he had a very efficient running game to help him, great protection and more importantly, a fantastic defense that made Drew Brees looks absolutely ordinary for most of the four quarters.
Still, the numbers speak for more than everything else when it comes to quarterbacks. Griffin couldn’t have dreamed of a better debut – He completed 19 of his 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns while being sacked only once. He added 42 more yards on 10 carries, showing his ability to complete the long throw and extend the plays with his feet. That simple ‘head down, fake hand-off’ move worked well all night, creating miles of space for him to operate in and outside the pocket, with the Saints defense unable to figure him out for most of the game.
Griffin began with screen passes, keeping it simple, completing his first six passes. His seventh pass was an 18 yard throw to Pierre Garcon, who took off for an 88 yard touchdown. Garcon left the game early, but was easily Griffin’s favorite target, finishing with 109 yards on 4 receptions. After building a lead, they mostly kept it by going to Alfred Morris, going for 96 yards on 28 carries. Still, it was Griffin’s decision making, hardly doing anything wrong, that was the most impressive thing about the win. Not an explosion like Cam Newton’s first game, but simply good, solid quarterbacking from top to bottom.
For Luck, it was a lot harder, facing a tougher defense and a team that might be a legitamate threat to the Packers in the NFC North, especially after Green Bay lost their home opener to the 49ers. One thing the Colts couldn’t do which hampered Luck’s debut was the running game, gaining only 63 yards on the ground. Donald Brown finished with 48 yards, and that was pretty much it.
Luck was forced into throws, and made some bad reads himself. He simply pushed too hard on many plays, resulting in three interceptions. Having only Reggie Wayne as a reliable deep threat, connecting with the All-Pro receiver 9 times for 135 yards was good, but that was the only thing going for Luck, who finished with 309 passing yards on 23-45 and completing one touchdown pass. He was also sacked three times for a loss of 16 yards.
But beyond the numbers, it’s the level of confidence each of them is feeling, the level of comfort they’re experiencing in their respective teams. For now, Griffin is a part of a team much more ready to help him succeed and win right away, although first game enthusiasm shouldn’t go to their heads too quickly. Cam Newton, with all of the excitement and impressive numbers, led the Panthers to 6-10, which won’t be looked upon nicely in DC.