Cam Newton’s back-to-back 400-yard passing performances at the start of last season, for instance, were a signal that he was on his way to a record-setting rookie year, but not a precursor to a successful season by his team. The Carolina Panthers went 6-10 with Newton as their quarterback.
But for Monday, at least, most were heaping praise on Griffin and what he had accomplished in the Superdome on Sunday.
“It was like the second coming of Cam Newton’s first game last year,” former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert said. “To have that kind of game and be that calm in a really hostile environment like that, that was really impressive. I’ve seen a lot of veteran quarterbacks come into the Superdome and not handle things anywhere close to as well as that.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon added: “I thought because of where the game was played and because of the circumstances with the Saints and the [bounty] suspensions and all of the emotions associated with that, it was one of the more impressive performances that I saw all weekend by any quarterback, rookie or veteran, and maybe the most impressive performance of all.”
Griffin became the first quarterback ever with 300 or more passing yards, two or more passing touchdowns and no interceptions in his NFL debut, according to the NFL. Griffin and the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck, who threw for 309 yards Sunday, joined Newton and former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning as the only rookie quarterbacks ever with 300 or more passing yards in a season opener.
Unlike Luck, Newton and Manning, Griffin led his team to a win. According to the league, Griffin and John Elway are the only rookie quarterbacks since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to start and win a season opener on the road against a team that was unbeaten at home the previous season.
But when Elway’s Denver Broncos won at Pittsburgh in 1983, it was despite Elway’s performance rather than because of it. Elway completed one of eight passes for 14 yards, and Steve DeBerg came on to throw the winning touchdown pass. On Sunday, the Redskins won in large part because of Griffin, who connected on 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. His 88-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon tied for the second-longest ever by a quarterback in his NFL debut, according to the league.
“He took the throws that were open,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said Sunday. “And once you buy time, things open up all across the field. He did a good job of finding those holes once he extended the play . . . He made good reads and threw it across the middle right on time. He didn’t throw late.”