By Tarik El-Bashir
NEW ORLEANS--Drew Brees wasn’t the only quarterback at the Superdome on Sunday who was effusive in his praise of Robert Griffin III’s debut performance.
So was former Redskins’ great Sonny Jurgensen.
“He threw the ball when he got rushed,” the Hall of Famer said outside of Washington’s locker room after the Redskins’ 40-32 victory. “He threw it accurately when he got rushed. He had no throws that a quarterback has to make that he wasn’t comfortable with.”
Griffin completed 19 of his 26 attempts for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed the ball 10 times for 42 yards.
In retrospect, Jurgensen said, the Shanahans decision not to tip their hand in the preseason turned out to be the correct one.
“I wanted to him to play more in the preseason,” Jurgensen said of Griffin, who only attempted 31 passes and five rushes in parts of three exhibition contests. “I wanted to see more of him because they weren’t showing us anything. [On Sunday], we saw a new offense, the option, all of the different wrinkles they have off of that. We hadn’t seen that.”
The big numbers Griffin put up against the Saints were impressive for a 22-year-old making his first NFL start. But what impressed Jurgensen the most was the discretion Griffin showed when the pocket broke down around him.
Griffin’s ability to negotiate the fine line between knowing when to tuck the ball and run and when to extend the play and look downfield was never more apparent than on the Redskins’ first play of the second quarter. New Orleans’ Malcolm Jenkins flushed Griffin out of the pocket to the left on a safety blitz. Griffin, however, simply sidestepped Jenkins, cutback across the field and delivered a 26-yard strike to tight end Fred Davis along the right sideline.
“He’s got the big arm, and he’s so quick and he buys time back there back there,” Jurgensen said. “But it was good to see him get out on the outside [of the pocket] a couple of times and he didn’t elect to run. He still made the play with his arm.”
Jurgensen also praised Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for their play-calling, particularly on the Redskins’ opening drive. Griffin completed seven consecutive passes, culminating on an 88-yard touchdown connection to wide receiver Pierre Garçon.
“They wanted to get him comfortable in the game at the beginning,” Jurgensen said. “Because the first six passes and completions were behind the line of scrimmage. That was playing on the mind of the defenders, because then they finally bit, and he was able to get downfield” on the touchdown pass to Garçon.
“He’s got a bright, bright future,” Jurgensen added. “It’s going to be fun for us.”