Over the last four weeks, there has been a lot to like about this Redskins team -- and the conversation invariably begins with Robert Griffin III, the rookie quarterback who has exceeded all expectations in his month-long career.
The stats geeks at Football Outsiders rank him 12th in their value-per-play metric and 14th in overall efficiency, which through September puts him ahead of Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler and perhaps most noteworthy, Andrew Luck. But it wasn't long ago that no one knew what to expect, primarily because the Redskins had rotten luck (helped along by some really poor personnel decisions) at finding a competent quarterback.
In March, Washington sent their 2012 first- and second-round picks, and two future first-rounders to St. Louis for the right to move up in the draft and take RGIII. It was a steep price and one that troubled a lot of people outside the organization.
At the time, coach Mike Shanahan rationalized the move like this: “Obviously, you look at the film and you like what you see on film,” he said. “As we all know, from the collegiate level to the pro level there are growing pains. Every quarterback goes through it. But [Griffin's] got such a big upside.”
But so did Heath Shuler and Patrick Ramsey and Jason Campbell (okay, maybe not Ramsey). Then there was this: Kevin Meers of the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective did an analysis of the Griffin trade and found that "for the Redskins to get the equivalent value from RGIII as they spent acquiring him, he must produce at least as much as Tom Brady."
Meers concluded that "Regardless of the rationale behind this move, the Redskins lost a tremendous amount of value in this trade, potentially setting the team back for years. If RGIII does not pan out – whether because of talent or injury -- Washington would be left with no quarterback and no first round draft picks for the next two years."
Again, no one's ready to call RGIII the next Tom Brady, but through four games Griffin has certainly shown enough to make people forget about all the organization had to give up to get him. But just like Brady, this isn't all about Griffin. He needs help, something that could be harder to come by given Meers' concerns above. But some of that help is already on the roster.
The Redskins' success isn't solely a function of RGIII's ability to throw the ball. He's shown the ability to wing it all over the yard accurately -- and that's been a refreshing change, for sure -- but it's been Washington's running game that has been, well, a runaway success.
This brings us to rookie running back Alfred Morris who, like Brady 12 years before, was a sixth-round pick. Washington has the NFL's third-best rushing attack because of Morris' from-outta-nowhere performance in the first four games. He's currently fifth in the league in rushing with 376 yards (4.6 YPC), he has three runs of at least 20 yards and he's scored 4 touchdowns.
But when we talk about long-term success, the conversation always comes back to Griffin. We'll have plenty of time to judge him on what he does or doesn't accomplish in Washington, but for now there's every reason to be optimistic that after many failed attempts the Redskins have found their quarterback.
And it could be the case that they got him on the cheap.