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Friday, June 1, 2012
Surprise! (Not.) Shanahan names RGIII his Day 1 starter after rookie minicamp
It took Robert Griffin III just three days to eliminate first doubts. (Getty Images)
The news has the same surprise quotient you'd expect from Andrew Luck getting all the reps right away with the Indianapolis Colts, or the idea that the Denver Broncos will be doing pretty much whatever the heck Peyton Manning wants. That said, you Rex Grossman and Kirk Cousins fans will have to shine it on. At the end of the Washington Redskins' rookie mini-camp on Sunday, head coach Mike Shanahan made it clear that Robert Griffin III, the Baylor quarterback selected second overall in the 2012 NFL draft, will be his starting quarterback from his first official professional snap.
"Any time you pick a player with the second pick of the draft and you give up another two No. 1's and No. 2 and you move up four spots, you've got a game plan in mind," Shanahan said. "We're going to adjust our system to what he feels comfortable with, and we'll watch him grow, and we'll do what we feel like he does the best."
Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner and consensus second-best player in this draft class behind Luck (actually, we tend to think he'll be the main man over time), was originally thought to be an eventual starter on a progressive plan as he transitioned to a West Coast offense after the spread/three-digit system he excelled with in college. But it didn't take Shanahan long to see and know: The kid is ready – or, at least, ready to learn the ropes at the highest level.
Griffin and Kirk Cousins get reps in over the weekend. (Getty Images)
The more teams got to know Griffin through the pre-draft evaluation process, the more they were impressed with his overall intelligence and ability to pick up different schemes at an accelerated pace. To that end, when the Redskins return to the practice field for OTAs on May 21, the coaching staff will have a plan in place around RG3 as the top kick.
"We're going to put him with the first team when we come back … We'll have our first team on one field, working against our second defense, and we'll have our second team on the other field, working against our first defense," Shanahan said. "I thought it very important to start with Robert with our first unit. He's able to do it and pick up the system as quick as he has, which is always good, to go out there and be able to call plays and feel good with what you're doing, and I've seen that over the last five practices."
The "live fire" aspect of practice can only help a player the Redskins traded some serious bank to acquire. Originally set with the sixth overall pick in this draft, the 'Skins moved up and took the St. Louis Rams' second overall pick by giving their first-round pick this year, as well as their first-rounders in 2013 and 2014 ... AND a second-round pick in last week's draft. It's the kind of "desperate" move one would attribute to the comedy stylings of former Redskins general manager Vinny Cerrrato, but if Griffin is everything he's cracked up to be, the validity of the deal won't be questioned. It's a passing league, and you don't win Super Bowls these days without an elite quarterback.
Shanahan, who's been mentoring quarterbacks for decades, has struggled to find his next franchise guy since John Elway retired in the late 1990s after two straight Super Bowl wins for the Denver Broncos. So far, so good – Shanahan expected to be impressed with RGIII's athleticism, but it's the ability to put things together in a playbook sense that has the coach at ease. Grossman is the veteran backup, and Cousins (taken in the fourth round of this year's draft in a move that many found vexing) is the long-term project. That leaves room at the top for one man.
"He's great. You can see what an incredible athlete he is," Shanahan said of Griffin. "I was impressed with the first day. He didn't have one bust on a formation or a play call, and I've never had that in all the mini-camps I've been involved with."