“All of those things are factors — a strong defense, a strong running game, good coaches from top to bottom,” said Hue Jackson, a Bengals assistant coach who was the quarterbacks coach of the Ravens when Flacco was a rookie. “They are catalysts to being able to win with a young quarterback. But you also have to look at the talent level of those players. You look at that, and you have a chance to put them into a situation where they can win.”
There also is some salesmanship to be done with a rookie quarterback about his role, apparently. The Ravens never portrayed Flacco’s role to him as anything that sounded like a mere game manager, Jackson said.
“We never said that to him,” said Jackson, who was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders last season. “Knowing Joe, he would never buy into that. He’s a much better player now than he was as a rookie just because of the experience factor. But even then, he had that fire. None of these guys would settle for that.”
Winning with a rookie quarterback is complicated by appreciable changes in just the past year or two. NFL passing numbers are more outlandish than ever.
The New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees set the single-season league record for passing yards last season and was joined by two other quarterbacks, New England’s Tom Brady and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, in topping 5,000 yards. Before last year, there had been two 5,000-yard passers in league history. Newton broke Manning’s rookie record for passing yards. The Saints, Patriots and Green Bay Packers piled up 41 regular season victories among them while each ranked in the league’s bottom nine teams in total defense.
So de-emphasizing the role of a rookie starter at quarterback might be more difficult under current conditions.
“The league is promoting passing,” Jackson said. “And that can be tough when you’re talking about a young quarterback and all the looks that defenses throw at you.”
The Redskins have totaled only 11 wins in Coach Mike Shanahan’s two seasons, suggesting they may not have the sort of powerhouse team around Griffin that would ease his NFL transition. They were missing three injured starters on their offensive line for much of the preseason. They held a competition for the starting job at running back. The defensive front seven appears solid, but the secondary seemed vulnerable at times during the preseason.
Shanahan has said the overall depth on the team is better than it was in his first two seasons, though, and Kyle Shanahan said he’s hopeful the Redskins have enough talent around Griffin to assist him.