Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to a title fight that will presumably last a decade or more. Witness two titans of their trade, masters of their craft, clashing prematurely through the catalyst that is the unrealistic fan base of the Washington Redskins.
In this corner, standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing in at approximately 217 pounds (depending on the brand of scale), an eccentric sock-wearing charmer with a smile that could melt the heart of Al Capone … Robert Griffin III!
And in the other corner, listed at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 235 pounds, a young man with the personality of an end table. The neck-bearded, nasal-voiced Stanford sensation … Andrew Luck!
Sound the trumpets, strike the gong, and ring the bell! With a whopping 38 snaps combined under their belts, the fierce RG3 vs. Andrew Luck debate has begun.
Last Thursday, RGIII made his professional debut with the burgundy and gold, evoking an unfamiliar giddy feeling among Redskins fans comparable only to the overwhelming exuberance of a child on Christmas-morning who’s discovered Santa Claus has indeed left that shiny new toy under the tree (so what if Santa’s hand-writing is the same as mom’s).
The first preseason game delivered the highest ratings for Comcast SportsNet’s Mid-Atlantic region of all-time, as the rookie went on to connect on 4 of his 6 passes for 70 yards and led the offense to their only scoring drive of the game. Most importantly, he didn’t appear rattled. He flashed the poise of a seasoned veteran.
Twitter erupted with elation and praise of the rookie quarterback, and deservedly so. He was even better than advertised in his brief exposure to the first of many live bullets faced in the National Football League. He looked off receivers, drew an off-sides penalty with a hard count, and turned what would have been a sure sack with the lead-footed Rex Grossman under center into a check down pass that was dropped by Niles Paul.
His most impressive pass of the night went incomplete when he found Pierre Garcon on the sideline with a defender on his back, threading it so that only the receiver could make a play. Everyone saw Garcon drag his toes inbounds for a complete pass except the dullards that are the league’s replacement officials (this game’s sterling collection of zebras also called a punt downed on the 4-yard-line a touchback).
In his final series, RGII capped off his performance with a wide receiver screen to Garcon which the 26-year-old wide out turned into a 20-yard touchdown. Then chatter arose from the dizzying heights of Redskins fandom that is oh too familiar.
Praise rang down from the heavens from Redskins fans for RGIII’s touchdown pass, lauding the pass itself which was in the air 15 feet instead of the sparkling dash by Garcon or the thunderous downfield blocking by tackle Trent Williams. Cameras on Comcast SportsNet followed Griffin closer than obsessive paparazzi in order to see what celebratory response would follow.
Immediate dreams of playoffs flooded the minds of many. That smile. Those pristine Nike digs. Crown him! Savior of the Washington Redskins! The new golden boy of Washington D. C. After 6 passes…
Shift to Sunday.
The Andrew Luck era in Indianapolis stormed out of the gate against the St. Louis Rams. Luck flaunted the skills which made him the first pick overall, connecting on 10 of 16 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Of those 6 incompletions, three were drops and two were throwaways. Scouts didn’t envision Luck as a No. 1 pick because of statistics though.
He showed the decision-making ability that made Colts owner Jim Irsay confident he could replace a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning. He recognized a broken coverage, went through his progressions and didn’t force passes. He exuded confidence.
Once again, Redskins fans on Twitter exploded like Mount Vesuvius. Only this time it wasn’t praise. There was minimal gushing over Luck’s performance from this fan base. This time, fans were scratching and clawing for any material they could find to say “our toy is better than yours.”
Despite RGIII’s TD pass, Redskins fans dismissed the first Luck touchdown because it was a dump-off where running back Donald Brown provided a herculean effort, doing all the work for a 63-yard score.
Many claimed Luck had an easier game because of the mediocre state of the Rams defense (is the Bills secondary a collection of Pro Bowlers?)
Some even cited Luck wearing a wristband with plays on it as a flaw when RGIII didn’t have to, as if that proved a glaring discrepancy in playbook knowledge between the two.
Redskins fans, can we please tap the brakes? Just for once?
This fan base is one that demanded a huge role for the now-non-existent wide receiver Marko Mitchell (most recently cut by the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeeders of the CFL). It’s one that saw Colt Brennan perform against 3rd and 4th stringers and suddenly crowned him a starting quarterback in the NFL (never mind the fact that he went 22 for 38 for 169 yards, no touchdowns and 3 interceptions in the 2008 Sugar Bowl against the University of Georgia, who had something Colt wasn’t used to facing – a defense). It’s a fan base that was predicting a Super Bowl after starting out 6-2 in year one of the cataclysmic Jim Zorn regime. And it’s one that bought in to comments by Rex Grossman that the team was going to win the division after starting 3-1 last season (finishing 2-10 for a very non-division-winning 5-11 record).
There are some realist fans out there, but for every one, there are 20 who thoroughly follow the belief patterns listed above.
Patience my friends.
Relax on the debate between Luck and RGIII. Talk about it mid-season, or after this year, or five seasons from now.
I don’t think they’re going to be good quarterbacks. I think they’re going to be great quarterbacks. But I also know they’re rookies, and like most, they’ll hit bumps.
They’ll throw interceptions. They’ll make head scratching decisions. They’ll even get rattled. It doesn’t matter how calm a person is, taking hits by big, angry defensive linemen can be unsettling to even the most poised.
But when they do, don’t hit the panic button.
Keep the critiquing to a minimum. Don’t overreact when RGIII has a bad game and don’t anoint the Redskins the next Super Bowl Champions after 6 passes in the very first preseason game.
It’s going to be a process for each of these young men. Additional pieces need to be added around each and much growing and maturing must transpire before reaching their true potential. This debate will be a great one in the future, but deciding who’s going to be better after a microscopic sample size is futile. Patience, patience, patience.
These two will clash for a long time, but this isn’t a title fight just yet. They aren’t in the ring. They’re not even on their way to the ring. RGIII and Andrew Luck are just getting warmed up.