In 1983, Eric Dickerson had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history.
In 1998, Randy Moss had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history.
Last year, Cam Newton had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history.
This year, Robert Griffin III is having one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history.
As with any discussion of bests, regardless of context, it ultimately comes down to the criteria by which the candidates are being judged. In Griffin's case, it comes down to his impact on his team and on his franchise.
For all intents and purposes, Griffin's rookie season is not just one of the best, it is THE best rookie season anyone has ever seen.
The Washington Redskins were once a proud franchise, boasting three Super Bowls between 1983 and 1991. Since Joe Gibbs retired in 1992, the Redskins have mustered just five winning seasons and three playoff victories in the 19 years following the arrival of Gibbs.
You would be hard-pressed to find a single figure that Redskins fans love more than Gibbs, but Griffin is making a strong case to be the next beacon of success for the burgundy and gold.
In one fell swoop, Griffin made the Redskins matter while elevating the play of his teammates and masking the purported deficiencies on offense.
Griffin didn't start his rookie season with back-to-back 400-yard passing performances like Newton last season, but he also didn't throw four interceptions in his first two games, either.
Through four games, Newton accounted for nine touchdowns and five turnovers, whereas Griffin has accounted for eight touchdowns and just two turnovers.
Newton may have had eye-popping numbers to start his career, but he also made the typical rookie mistakes, forcing passes into tight or non-existent windows. Griffin has yet to make any of the expected rookie mistakes, giving credence to the notion that Griffin is not a typical rookie quarterback.
Griffin has already established himself as a threat in the NFL, and defenses don't know how to respond.
On his scoring run against Tampa Bay, Griffin made the Bucs defenders look like their feet were stuck in cement.
Inside the 10-yard line, Griffin sets up in the shotgun with four receivers spread out and Alfred Morris next to him in the backfield. Tampa Bay responds with five defensive backs and two linebackers, buying into the pass being shown by Washington.
In theory, one linebacker should have eyes on Morris, while the other stays at home to watch Griffin with the safety protecting the extra defensive back against the quick slant.
After the snap, Griffin takes a step back and immediately follows Morris through the hole. Morris, along with center Will Montgomery, overwhelm the middle linebacker before the outside linebacker can react.
When the outside linebacker reacts, he ends up caught in the block by Morris and Montgomery on the middle linebacker. All defensive backs are absorbed in coverage, and the safety does not react to the ball to prevent Griffin from walking into the end zone almost untouched.
For comparison, Newton, as a running quarterback, is more apt to run through or over a defender. He may power through or out of a tackle, but he absorbs contact that ultimately slows him down.
Griffin is the type of running quarterback who can run around and past defenders. And anyone who has tried to make a tackle in their life will tell you that it is impossible to tackle someone you can't put a hand on.
Not that it boils down to Griffin versus Newton, but Newton is the most recent rookie to garner accolades for having the best rookie season in NFL history. Griffin is a polished passer with dangerous speed and a no-fear approach to the game, though he lacks the imposing physicality Newton possesses.
Griffin's rookie campaign seems driven by a desire to succeed, while Newton's appeared, at times, to be driven by a need for validation. Newton gave fans a reason to watch the Carolina Panthers, but Griffin has given fans a reason to care about him and the Redskins.
The Redskins offense has adapted to Griffin's skill set, and is expanding each week as he grasps more concepts while showing he can handle more responsibilities.
Griffin's impact in such a short time goes beyond numbers, and that's what puts his rookie season on the fast track to being considered the best in history.
Next year may bring about the next rookie to have the best season in NFL history, but this is the season of RGIII and until further notice, his will be the best rookie season ever.
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