September 15, 2012
Is Robert Griffin III hype legit? Greg Cosell weighs in
By John Kryk, QMI Agency
Apparently, the only people still unconvinced Robert Griffin III is a bona fide NFL superstar are castaways on uncharted mid-Pacific atolls, who befriend volleyballs and pine for remarried old flames.
Seemingly everybody else has been buzzing all week about RGIII's startling debut last Sunday — a 40-32 upset victory over Drew Brees and the Saints at New Orleans.
From a variety of formations conceived by Shanahans Mike and son Kyle, the rookie Washington Redskins quarterback completed 73% of his passes (19-of-26) for 320 yards and two TDs — without a pick.
No first-year NFL QB in his first start had ever thrown for 300 yards in a win.
Griffin also rushed nine times for 42 yards (4.7 yards per).
John Madden, the former Hall of Fame NFL coach and broadcaster, had tuned in to see whether all the pre-season buzz about RGIII was legit.
It was legit.
"I have to admit that I said this (during the game), it just came out," Madden told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "I said RGIII's the best player in the NFL today. That's what I really thought. Those words did come out."
After one game.
But Madden wasn't alone. The hyperbole meter was red-lining everywhere.
"This is the most athletic quarterback this league has ever seen," said NFL Network's Steve Mariucci, former head coach of the 49ers and Lions.
For informed, measured opinions on NFLers, we always prefer to ask Greg Cosell — the analyst from NFL Films and NFL Matchup. His views are as respected as anybody's. Between now and the Super Bowl, Cosell will spend most of his waking hours poring over "all-22" coaches' tapes of NFL games.
"Week 1 is the over-reaction week of the NFL season," Cosell told me on Friday.
Ahhh, so he thinks the RG3 lovefest is unwarranted?
"Since before the draft, I've had Griffin rated as my top rookie quarterback, slightly ahead of Andrew Luck. I obviously think Robert Griffin is going to be a great quarterback."
Cosell too? Cosell too.
That said, the nephew of Howard Cosell said there was an asterisk of sorts on Griffin's Week 1 performance: "I love the kid, but you've got to be careful how you evaluate that game."
The Redskins threw all kinds of formations and plays at the Saints that they hadn't shown in the pre-season, Cosell said. On the first drive alone, RGIII threw five bubble screens. And early on he took snaps in the pistol and shotgun, and ran zone-read option and speed-option plays.
"I don't know this for a fact; there's no way to know this unless you spoke to Mike Shanahan, and he wouldn't tell you this anyway," Cosell said. "But after watching football for a long time, my educated guess is the Redskins' entire pre-season was geared to winning in New Orleans ... It worked.
"They didn't show any of that stuff (previously). The Saints, therefore, had never seen it on film. They could watch Baylor film all day long, and maybe they did, but we're in the NFL now. So they hadn't seen any of that.
"The Saints linebackers were clearly reactive on the first couple of series. They didn't know which end was up."
But it was a one-time enormous advantage.
Future opponents — starting Week 2 with the St. Louis Rams and their new savvy, defensive-minded head coach Jeff Fisher — will adjust game plans according, Cosell said.
Even with such an advantage, Griffin still had to execute at a high level to achieve what he did. And, after having dissected Griffin's first NFL touchdown pass, Cosell can add this compelling layer to the rapidly growing RGIII legend.
The pass was an 88-yard post to Griffin's favourite wideout, Pierre Garcon — which Griffin threw an instant before getting planted.
"Garcon was not the first read," Cosell said. "(Tight end) Niles Paul was the read, and Griffin couldn't throw it to him because the linebacker had read it and took it away.
"The mere fact that Griffin could come back to Garcon with such mental and physical quickness, with pressure right in his face, was pretty remarkable for any quarterback, much less a rookie in his first game."
In other words, get used to this, folks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick's talents limit him
And then there's Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Buffalo Bill has taken a shellacking since his three-interception stinker last Sunday against the Jets.
Has Fitz hit the wall?
"I think there are a number of factors with him," NFL talent expert Greg Cosell told me. "His mechanics are not very good. And they've never been very good.
"His footwork is poor. He throws a lot of balls off-balance. It lowers his arm angle, so his arm angle is not always the same. It's one thing to have to do that because of a pass rush, but to do it when it's unnecessary just leads to erratic accuracy."
Fitzpatrick is most effective in a system of quick, shorter throws, Cosell said, noting the eighth-year NFLer has had some level of success doing precisely that under Bills head coach Chan Gailey.
"The issue though, when you keep playing in that system — as is true with any system — is defences learn that. So then you have to start adjusting."
And Fitzpatrick does not possess the accurate, strong arm to routinely "drill the ball 22 yards in between people down field," Cosell said.
So Gailey must keep scheming with the shorter stuff to stay ahead of the defences.
"When you're doing that, some weeks it works, and some weeks it doesn't," Cosell said.
— John Kryk