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RG3 at a Crossroads

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October 15, 2012 by shivusharma

This was Robert Griffin III’s stat line from yesterday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings:

Passing: 17 for 22 (77.3%), 182 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: 13 for 138 yards (10.62 Y/A), 2 TDs

RG3 has dominated the NFL thus far, but how long can it continue? (photo credit to: misterirrelevant.com)

It’s amazing what this kid is doing to the league with both his running and his passing. He’s taken an offense with rather pedestrian sounding weapons (Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Santana Moss) and made them into a dynamic point-scoring machine. A lot of credit has to be given to the Shanahans (both Kyle and Mike) for constructing an offense that plays to RG3’s strengths. They utilize a lot of designed QB runs to keep defenses off-balance and keep it simple for RG3 in the passing game. This enables Griffin to maximize his playmaking ability, free up the running game, and take quality down field shots. The question becomes, how long can this last?

We’ve seen other “dual-threat” quarterbacks make an immediate impact on the NFL with their big-play ability. Guys like Mike Vick and Cam Newton have given defensive coordinators nightmares because of their running ability. However, if we examine the careers of both these individuals, we notice a real regression in their passing ability. Defenses figure out how to attack mobile QBs, it just takes them time. Most often, this involves bringing blitz pressure that the QB fails to recognize, and limiting escape lanes out of the pocket. Newton’s QBR has dropped from 55.0 to 42.4 this season. Vick’s is down to 54.5 from 64.4 a year ago.

Where RG3 differs from these two is how advanced he already is as a passer, boasting a QBR of 70.4 and a completion percentage 70.2. Granted, he’s only played five games, but the numbers are also qualitatively justified in the tape. Cam and Vick have thus far failed in their ability to progress as passers. This progression requires time and effort, not just in-game experience. Vick admittedly didn’t work on his passing ability as a member of the Falcons, and now that he is in his 30’s, it may be too late. It probably isn’t too late for Cam to turn it around, but the reports about his lack of work ethic in the off-season are disheartening.

We won’t know how RG3 fairs in this department until next season, but my hope is that he puts in the necessary time and effort to develop as a passer. Your athletic ability will never be able to outlast your mental ability. In order for a QB to have long-term success, they must grasp the game from a cerebral standpoint. The great QBs, like Manning, Brees, Brady, and Rodgers, are playmakers with their minds first. They are able to predict what defenses will do, change plays at the line to counter-attack what they see, and open up big plays with their adjustments.  On top of that, they’ve spent the time in the off-season improving their passing. Each of those individuals took measures to improve their arm strength and accuracy. This is the type of skills training that RG3 must do in order to achieve long-term success in the league. He already has the un-teachable big-play ability with his feet; he just needs to develop the big-play ability with his mind.

RG3 has a chance to do what none of his predecessors have thus far been able to do. If can accept his weaknesses and work hard to turn them into strengths, he will go down as one of the greatest to every play this game. Greatness requires work. We saw this with Lebron James in basketball. For years, Lebron was content with the way he played the game, and didn’t put in much effort diversifying his skillset. Lebron worked hard getting bigger, stronger, faster, and quicker, but maintained the same skillset and reliance on his ungodly athleticism. He undoubtedly dominated at what he already did well, but rarely added any new wrinkles to his game. This past season, he finally added a post-game to his repertoire and improved his shot selection; it became a huge factor in him winning his first championship. Lebron understood where he could add to his game, worked on it, and became a better player for it. It is time for RG3 to do the same thing, and if he can, the sky is the limit.

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