Saturday, January 5, 2013
RG3 can pull rank on Russell Wilson
By Dan Graziano
Sunday brings another chance for RG3 to show he was worth the price the Redskins paid for him.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Mike Shanahan could have had Russell Wilson. Before this year's draft, Wilson was on Shanahan's list of potential quarterbacks of the future for the Washington Redskins. He liked him.
"Strong arm," Shanahan said. "And he has that charisma, those leadership qualities you look for."
Shanahan figured Wilson would go in the third round, which he did, to the Seattle Seahawks with the 75th overall pick. So if Shanahan had been unable or unwilling to trade three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder to the Rams to move up and take Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick, Wilson was an option. He could have snagged him in the third round, or even in the second if he was worried someone else would take him.
Although Wilson was a guy Shanahan liked, he wasn't the guy. Griffin was the guy, which is why the Redskins coughed up all of those draft picks. On Sunday, when Griffin and the Redskins face Wilson and the Seahawks in a first-round playoff game at FedEx Field, Griffin has a chance to show everyone why.
"Coach drafted me to be the franchise quarterback for this team, and that's what I planned to do from Day 1," RG3 said this week. "My goal was to come in and show them that they picked the right guy, and show the team that they could believe in me."
Done and done, to this point, but Sunday offers a fresh chance to prove something new. Griffin is only 22 years old, and the thinking around these parts is that this will be the first of many Redskins chances to win a playoff game. But because the opponent is Seattle, and because Wilson is one of the rookie quarterbacks who made a case to steal that offensive rookie of the year award from Griffin, Sunday offers a little something extra -- a chance for Griffin to show everybody what a difference 73 spots in the draft can make.
"I don't play against quarterbacks; it's not my job to compare us," Griffin told reporters at his weekly news conference on Wednesday. "You guys will do that for the next week. I hope you guys have fun, but I'm not going to try to."
Fair enough, but Griffin recognizes the burden he shares with Wilson. He understands the importance of his position -- and of public perception -- enough to have taken the time to offer consolation to the Cowboys' Tony Romo after vanquishing him in Sunday's NFC East title game. Griffin knows how his position is viewed and knows that if Washington loses this game, it will be seen by many as his loss to Wilson. If Wilson really does turn out to be as good long term as he has been this year, Seattle fans will always be able to say they got the better bargain. Redskins fans don't want anyone to be able to tell them the Seahawks got the better player.
So Sunday is a chance for Griffin to out-pedigree Wilson, to show the world why he was worth the draft-pick haul Shanahan gave up to get him. And he's in a position to do it. Seattle's defense allowed just 15.3 points per game in the regular season, but it didn't see anything like the complex zone schemes it's going to see from Griffin and the Redskins on Sunday. The Redskins' offense, fueled by Griffin's speed, poise and accuracy, has had the edge over almost any team seeing it for the first time. And as for Griffin's speed, the Redskins simply don't think the knee injury or the brace he's wearing to protect it are as big an issue as many seem to want them to be.
"The LCL takes a month to heal and he's just now getting to that month," Shanahan said Thursday. "So just looking at him today running, he's almost looking back to normal. Much improved from last week."
Griffin showed against Dallas that he can still be effective in spite of the knee issue, and Seattle will have to account for him as a running threat while he looks for the rare opening in their secondary. It's not going to be easy for Griffin and the Redskins to win, but it wasn't supposed to be easy for Griffin to put up the numbers he put up and win all the games he won in his first season in the NFL. He did it because he's special, which is what Shanahan and the Redskins believed when they made the deal to get him. Sunday offers a fresh opportunity to show that on a new scale.
Wilson appears to be a great player, and if he continues to succeed he'll surely be a great story -- a steal of a franchise quarterback in the third round. But RG3 was drafted to be elite. Knocking Wilson out of the playoffs and wishing him better luck next time would be a nice statement for him to make, and a fun one for Redskins fans to have in their pockets.