The tumultuous start to the season for Robert Griffin III and sidekick Alfred Morris proved alarming on Monday night, but could pay off in the long run, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason believes.
Esiason, a four-time Pro Bowl selection (1986, ’88, ’89 and ’93) and NFL MVP in ’88, called the Redskins’ season opener for Westwood One. He said in a phone interview this week that both Griffin and Morris should chalk the struggles up to a learning experience.
Griffin struggled mightily in the the first two and a half quarters, throwing two interceptions and overthrowing receivers on other plays. Morris, meanwhile, fumbled on the first offensive possession and two series later botched a pitch from Griffin and gave up a safety.
“I think those struggles could be a humbling experience, both for [Griffin] and Morris,” said Esiason, who also serves as an analyst for CBS Sports. “I always think of the NFL as a very humbling place. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the league has a way of humbling you. They’re both great young players, and they seem to have it all figured out, but that game can be a humbling reality check, I think.”
Esiason added, “We’ve come to expect brilliance from these young players, but we do have to remember that [Griffin] is young, and he’s coming off of knee surgery. He doesn’t help himself with all the theatrics – running around the stadium like the mascot and all that. But we do have to keep that in mind.”
Griffin last season had one of the finest seasons in league history for a rookie quarterback. He ranked among the five most accurate passers in the league, had the highest season quarterback and set the league record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback. He threw only five interceptions.
Morris, meanwhile, set a franchise single-season rushing record, and together, he and Griffin helped lead the Redskins to a 10-6 record, the NFC East title and their first playoff appearance under Mike Shanahan. Morris fumbled only four times last season.
Both took steps in the right direction in the second half. Griffin recovered to finish the game on a strong note, throwing two touchdown passes, and Morris rushed for a five-yard touchdown.
Esiason gave the quarterback a C grade for the game. He acknowledged not all of the offensive struggles were of Griffin’s fault. But the refinement should come in time.
“They were nowhere near where they were at their height last season,” Esiason said. “And how realistic is it of us to think that this early they would be the team that they were before when they were so hot for a number of weeks? They have a long way to go, but it’s not a concerning right now. Now, if we’re talking about this five weeks from now, then the Redskins are in trouble.”
Esiason – like fellow former NFL quarterbacks Warren Moon, Joe Theismann and Rich Gannon, who spoke to The Post earlier this week – said he believed Griffin’s knee did look strong, but that Griffin just has to continue to gain comfort in the pocket, where 300-pound linemen at any point fly around in front of him.
Once completely settled back into his role, Griffin can again pose a serious threat to NFL defenses, Esiason said.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I saw some really good throws last night and he’s talented and smart enough to be successful,” Esiason said. “He had a lot of success early on, but he still has great parents and a great work ethic so that even with all the side show stuff, I don’t think this injury will derail him.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.
● Kedric Golston on the Redskins’ tackling, a fantasy football-based look at the Thursday night matchup and more on Redskins vs. Packers.
● The Redskins practice Thursday at 1 p.m. Coordinators Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett are expected to talk to reporters.
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