Those who think that the Redskins have a chance of showing substantial improvement this year are likely counting on Robert Griffin III having better ball security in 2012 that did Rex Grossman and John Beck last year.
In 2011 the Redskins and their fans endured a season of Good Rex and Bad Rex with Grossman mixing in some nice downfield passes with interceptions that made you want to bang your head against a wall. Grossman (20) and Beck (4) combined for 24 picks; only the Eagles and Bills threw more.
But the conventional wisdom is that RG3 might turn the ball over a lot as well as rookie quarterbacks are prone to doing. Is it reasonable to think that Griffin will be able to throw substantially fewer interceptions than the Beck-Rex combo did last year?
There are a few reasons to think that the rookie might hold onto the ball better than the veterans who preceded him. In three-plus seasons as Baylor’s staring quarterback (one year was cut short when he tore is ACL early in the season), Griffin threw just 17 interceptions in 1192 pass attempts. Doing the math, just 1.4 percent of his passes were picked off.
While the good habits that prevent interceptions can carry over from the NCAA to the NFL to some degree, Griffin will be facing considerably tougher defenses in the NFC East than he did in the Big 12. That doesn’t render his Baylor performance totally moot but it does leave us looking for more evidence that he can stay away from throwing the ball to the guys in the other-colored jerseys.
One thing we can do is look at how well quarterbacks with similar credentials to Griffin’s have performed as rookies. Since 2008, four quarterbacks who were drafted in the top five picks of the draft have started 15 or 16 games as a rookie. Cam Newton (17 interceptions), Sam Bradford (15), Mark Sanchez (20), and Matt Ryan (11) all threw fewer picks as rookies then Beck and Grossman did last year. In addition, Andy Dalton, a second-round pick of the Bengals last year, started all 16 games and threw just 13 interceptions.
So, it can be done. It is not unrealistic to think that Griffin will be able to cut into the interception total substantially in 2012. Given all of the picks thrown last year, it is not a particularly tough act to follow.