Griffin not only answered the question, he reversed it. How will the NFL adjust to the speed of RGIII — speed in all its football forms? Not just sprinting speed, though Griffin as fast as anybody who ever played the position. The quickness of all his movements will torment defense. His every gesture, his footwork, his ability to reset the pocket a few yards left or right (and reset it more than once), the speed of his fakes and the quickness of his option reads, the suddenness of his flanker screens all set him apart.
On top of that, consider the speed of his passes. They streak through the smallest of windows. His mind seems just as fast, processing what he sees at the scrimmage line. His eyes sweep quickly to multiple receivers. Faced with a seven-man blitz, he threw a quick touchdown strike over the middle. As he was hit by a safety blitz, he flicked a bullet off his back foot that ended up as an 88-yard scoring pass. On fourth and inches, he threw deep into one-on-one coverage and, like a vet, drew a 30-yard penalty to the 1-yard line that was virtually as good as another touchdown completion.
A monster game from a rookie pocket passer can be deceiving. Does he have other tricks? Griffin seems to have an entire bag full. He took the snap under center on the 88-yard score, often worked from an empty backfield and loved the shotgun which, for him, functions almost like a ‘30’s single-wing tailback. He may sweep, counter with a spinner or run an option with a pitchout. He ran by design and by necessity. Most impressive, with 2 minutes 25 seconds to play, up only eight points, he fired a dagger of a second-and-14 completion over the middle for a clock killing first down. The pass caught Logan Paulsen.
When Roger Staubach first came into the NFL, coaches said he was so versatile, “He can run any play you can diagram. Plus some others that he invents.” Few coaches are better known for their diagrams than the Shanahans. There won’t be an unmarked scrap of paper in Ashburn by midseason. What they don’t concoct, Griffin may improvise.
Spectacular debuts can be a snare. On Sunday, Griffin will not only face the St. Louis defense but his own highlights and statistics from Week 1. Griffin will hardly find that novel. He’s been measured against himself, and pretty much no one else, his whole life.
In all of Washington sports history there have only been a handful of debuts as anticipated as Griffin’s. Of those, only a quarterback or a pitcher can hold the outcome of the contest so firmly in his hands. Griffin, because his debut was on the road, as a heavy underdog, against Drew Brees in a thunderous Superdome, now stands alone at the top.
After such a first impression, RGIII has only himself to blame. There’s just one thing left to say: Encore.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/boswell.