On the opening Friday night of the college football season the entire college football world watched in amazement as Robert Griffin III went off on an unsuspecting TCU defense. In the process of doing so he had voters across the country wondering about his Heisman candidacy and fans all over twitter talking about some QB named RGIII (Griffin’s nickname).
For some people this breakout performance by Griffin wasn’t a huge surprise, he’s always been a highly heralded prospect but until this game he was always considered a runner who had a big arm. He struggled to properly read coverage and rarely took the time to work through his reads before he’d bail out and run.
What we saw against TCU was an evolution of sorts, as right before our very eyes Griffin took that next step. In reviewing the tape of that game we saw Griffin not only use the physical tools he has but we saw him take over the game and literally flip the light switch mentally.
As a QB one of the most difficult things to do is to take what you know you can do (throw the ball, run, or create) and understand when is the best time or situation for you to do it in. The mental aspect of football is complex at every position but no position compares to the quarterback in terms of mental preparedness and all the things they must account for and think of both before and after the snap.
Let’s think back to 1999 when Michael Vick was in college and just starting to wow us all with his arms and his feet. Vick threw for only 1,840 yards that year had nearly a 2:1 TD:INT ratio and added another 580 yards and 8 TD’s on the ground. The next year wasn’t exactly sparkling for Vick either
In his second and final year of playing college ball Vick’s numbers actually dropped as a passer. He threw more often but for fewer yards, his completion percentage fell below 55% and his TD: INT ratio was 1.2:1. So what made him the #1 overall draft pick in the 2001 NFL Draft?
Well we can tell you it wasn’t his career 56.3% completion percentage or the fact that he threw 21 TD’s to 12 INT’s while at Virginia Tech. His ability however to take over a game, to dictate what was going to happen, and to make every defender on that field watch him on every play was what made him so special and what made him so highly thought of.
We see those same potential qualities in Griffin. We have watched Griffin very closely over the past year and we think that the way he runs and throws not only compares well to what Vick was in college, it exceeds it.
Let’s start with his ability to run, Griffin was a nationally known hurdler in HS and as a freshman at Baylor he finished 3rd nationally in the 400m hurdles finishing with a time of 49.55. Griffin was also selected as an All-American in track and field that year. Griffin’s ability to accelerate and explode is what is most dangerous about his running style. He may not have the hips that Vick has to make you miss but he is as explosive an athlete with world class speed.
On the football field both QB’s put up comparable numbers over the course of their first full two seasons. Vick carried the ball 223 times for 1,216 yards (5.5 ypc) and a 17 TD’s, while Griffin carried it 322 times for 1,478 yards (4.6 ypc) and 21 TD’s.
When you compare the two as collegiate passers its Griffin whose numbers outduel that of Vick’s. Vick in his two years as a starter threw for 3,279 yards on 187 of 332 (56.3%) with 21 TD’s and12 INT’s. Griffin threw for 5,592 yards on 464 of 721 (64.4%) with 37 TD’s and 11 INT’s. While Griffin may slightly trail Vick in running ability, he more than makes up for it in the passing game.
Now these numbers are meant to be the end game discussion on if Griffin is the next Vick or if he will even be successful at the next level. What we do know is this, when you look at Robert Griffin III v. Michael Vick in college the numbers seem to indicate that Griffin is more effective and potentially further along in his development than Vick was when he came out.
Griffin will have the advantage of this being his 4th year in school (he missed all but three games in 2009 due to a torn ACL and redshirted that year). So he will be a more advanced prospect coming out in terms of time in a system.
The question we will be asking is that in a class that could include Tannehill, Jones, Barkley, and Luck how high could Griffin go? Could we see him start to pass some of these guys? He’s already ahead of Landry Jones on our board.
UPDATE: With all the publicity and notoriety RGIII is getting these days we wanted to bump out article from early November back up and update some of the numbers. Griffin is heading into the bowl season as the most efficient passer in the NCAA this year. He finished the year going 267 of 369 (72..3%) for 3,998 yards, 36 TD’s and 6 INT’s. His 6:1 TD to INT ratio blows away anything Vick was able to accomplish in college and has put him into the lead for the Heisman Trophy.
The growth Griffin has shown from his freshmen year on campus to his junior season has been something special. He’s not done yet and he’s not a complete prospect. He has something things to learn like how to climb the pocket without just taking off but if we’ve seen anything from him over the past three years its that not only will he learn to do it, but he’ll do it better than anybody else before him.