Whenever he was asked as a rookie about comparisons between his game and other NFL quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III often heard the names Cam Newton and Michael Vick. Griffin would acknowledge that he, like those two, had great mobility. But he always made it clear he didn’t want to pattern his game after either of them.
Griffin always said that instead, he wanted to develop more along the lines of Aaron Rodgers – a pass-first quarterback who uses his mobility to extend plays and enhance his passing, rather than a player who uses mobility to mask deficiencies throwing the ball.
On Sunday, Griffin will face Rodgers for the first time in his career. The second-year quarterback said he now thinks less frequently about how to emulate the balance he sees in Rodgers. More than anything, he wants to lead his team to the kind of success that Rodgers has had with the Packers. At the same time, he still has great admiration for the veteran’s game.
“I appreciate the way he plays. I appreciate what he’s done for the game,” Griffin said. “You have to look back on the guys that were before you and appreciate what they’ve done. So I appreciate that. I appreciate the way he plays, the swagger he plays with, how he treats his teammates, all those different things. So you look up to those things. When you’re playing him, you’re on opposite sidelines. There is no looking up to that. You’ve just got to go play.”
Last season Griffin set the rookie quarterback rushing record, but he also proved himself as a passer. He did so by ranking among the top five in the league and posting the highest quarterback rating ever for a rookie.
Griffin’s mobility led to injuries on multiple occasions, and this year, he hopes to rely less on his legs although he isn’t afraid of taking off running if an opening presents itself. Finding that balance will ultimately lead to greater effectiveness and longevity.
Asked about that balance, Rodgers said: “It’s got to be a feel thing. Robert is definitely blessed with a considerable amount of athletic ability – more than I am – but it’s about using your abilities when you extend plays to run when you have to and know when to throw the ball away and also give yourself and your guys enough time to get open. That’s a fine line that we talk about a lot in our room about extending plays or throwing it away, or trying to avoid the unnecessary sacks, so that’s kind of the way we do things.”
Not every mobile quarterback has that feel, obviously. But Rodgers believes Griffin already does.
“I think some guys have it and some guys need to work on it. Robert definitely has it,” Rodgers said. “It’s pretty exciting to turn on his film and watch him play. You turn on his film and it’s pretty impressive. He’s playing at a high level. The way he moves in the pocket, out of the pocket, he’s obviously a very gifted runner, but he has the ability to make plays out of the pocket and that makes you a very dangerous quarterback.”