Wise veteran Santana Moss is trying to tamp down the expectations for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He told ESPN 980, “One thing I want everyone to understand that he comes here with the big hope of turning everything around. We are all hoping that. We all want that, but I don’t want that pressure on him as if he has to be the one.”
The thing is, in a quarterback league, Griffin does have to the “the one”. Yes, the rest of the team needs to play better around him but Griffin is going to have to play well if the Redskins are to reach their goal of making the playoffs on a regular basis and making a Super Bowl run from time to time.
We have seen what improved quarterback play can do for a Redskins team. The 1998 Redskins got off to an 0-7 start on their way to a 6-10 record that nearly cost Norv Turner his job. Trent Green started 14 games at quarterback and Gus Frerotte started two. They combined to complete 53.8 percent of their passes for 3724 yards (6.6 yards/attempt).
Green left as a free agent and Frerotte was let go so the Redskins traded for Brad Johnson. Working primarily with receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell, the same guys who where lining up for Green and Frerotte, Johnson started all 16 games and completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 4005 yards (7.7 yards/attempt).
The defense went from bad in ’98 (24th in yards allowed) to worse in ’99 (30th). And the Redskins improved to 10-6, won the division, and hosted a playoff game.
To be sure, Johnson was not the only change on offense. There were some new faces on the offensive line but it is not as though a bus pulled up to Redskins Park and dropped off the 1991 Hogs. Rookie Jon Jansen replaced Shar Pourdanesh at right tackle and veteran journeyman Andy Heck came in at left tackle. Fourth-year running back Stephen Davis had a breakout season with 1405 yards, a marked improvement over the 1242 yards that Davis, Skip Hicks, and Terry Allen combined to gain on the ground in 1998.
The Redskins did not build on their 1999 success. In 2000 Johnson was first injured and then in a funk about his contract sutiation. He left as a free agent in 2001. But for that one seasons Johnson clearly was the difference maker.
Can Griffin make such a difference in 2012 and turn the Redskins around into a team that wins double digit games? It’s a tall order for a rookie but he doesn’t have to be an elite performer to beat the numbers the QB’s put up last year.
Despite Moss’ wishes, the pressure will be on RG3 this year and we will see how well he responds.