Griffin used his mobility to gain 42 rushing yards on 10 carries, and move outside the pocket, where he created passing lanes to open receivers. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, helped Griffin with a game plan that included some screen passes early in the game and some running plays for Griffin to keep the New Orleans defense guessing.
“I thought the coaches for the Redskins did a great job,” Hebert, now a broadcaster in New Orleans, said Monday. “They had a great game plan to help him out. You expect a rookie quarterback to throw a few interceptions at some point and give the other team a chance, and that never happened. The Saints dropped one interception but, for the most part, he didn’t give them any chances.”
Newton threw for 422 yards in the Panthers’ season-opening loss at Arizona last year. He followed that with a 432-yard passing performance in a Week 2 defeat at home to the Green Bay Packers. That put Newton on his way to breaking Manning’s NFL record for passing yards by a rookie.
But it can be hazardous to read too much into the first few starts by a rookie quarterback. Manning lost his first two starts for the Colts in 1998, totaling 490 passing yards but throwing six interceptions. Ryan Leaf, the quarterback drafted immediately after Manning that year, won his first two starts for the San Diego Chargers, with a total of 371 passing yards but only two interceptions.
Manning went on to become the only four-time most valuable player in league history. Leaf was out of the NFL after four years and is considered one of the biggest quarterback busts in league history.
The league will adjust to Griffin. And he will have to adjust to those adjustments.
“It’s easier to game plan [defensively] as you get down the season, once you have five or six games you can break down and see what the tendencies are,” Jenkins said. “The first game is always hard to kind of anticipate. So really you come in with just kind of a base plan and you have to adjust midway through.”
Griffin became the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener for the Redskins during the Super Bowl era. He and tailback Alfred Morris became the first rookies to start at quarterback and running back for the Redskins in any game during the Super Bowl era. So it would seem that the future could be brighter for the Redskins.
But there are ups and downs, stops and starts, for any NFL quarterback. Sunday’s successes in New Orleans guarantee nothing for Sunday’s game in St. Louis and beyond.
“If he goes out there next week and the Redskins go out there next week and lay an egg, people will still be mad about it,” Hebert said. “Everyone in the NFL tends to forget about what happened the last game once you play the next game. So they have to build on this. But to me, the Redskins will always have a good chance as long as they have RGIII back there.”