This is the proper mood after an August preseason win, this time a 30-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field. It’s appropriate. But it’s also dangerous.
Shanahan knows the proper balance. “You always have expectations for your football team. If you don’t believe, they don’t believe,” he said. “But talk is cheap. You have to go out and do it.”
After games like this, it’s Washington — the huge fan base that embraces the Redskins, but sometimes poorly evaluates them — that has to remember both halves of Shanahan’s statement: Have expectations, but set them properly. Talk’s cheap and, for 5-11 teams, wins are always tough.
For example, just to give a hint of the height of the hill in front of the Redskins, here’s a trivia question that’s far from trivial. Since the NFL draft began in 1936, how many rookie quarterbacks who were drafted No. 1 or No. 2 overall — the spots in which the Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III were chosen — have led their teams to even a .500 record?
Here’s a tip. The list of great quarterbacks who have been taken in those spots is as long as both your arms, from Sid Luckman through Terry Bradshaw to John Elway, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and, as recently as last year, Cam Newton.
The answer is: Zero. None of them was even 8-8.
The best rookie-season record ever turned in by a player drafted in either the Luck or RGIII spots was 5-6-1 by George Shaw in ’55. Many of those exalted names blossomed in their second and third years. But if you think the arrival of Griffin, in and of itself, means a great deal in his rookie season, then you aren’t listening to NFL history. All of it.
For optimism, enjoy Griffin’s development, though 11 for 17 for 74 yards is pretty tame; but also look elsewhere for trends.
With 107 yards of churning runs by sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris and a strong pass rush that frequently clobbered Luck, the Redskins efficiently built a 16-7 lead over Indianapolis by early in the third quarter.
Despite three misfires on long bombs, Griffin led scoring drives of 66 and 80 yards. On the latter, he finished the march by sprinting to his right to find Santana Moss in the flat for a four-yard scoring pass. In all, his quarterback rating was a fine 93.8.
“Robert looks a lot more comfortable with each game,” Shanahan said. “We just missed a couple [of deep balls]. That’s always disappointing. We were a hair away.”
That sounds quite encouraging, doesn’t it? And it should, as long as encouraging means more wins than last year, maybe, but not a great many more. The Redskins showed a ground game that might help ensure that their rookie quarterback won’t be swamped. The defense that probably needs to carry the Redskins this year showed its front seven’s force, including a safety by linebacker Chris Wilson.