ASHBURN – When The Washington Redskins’ 2012 schedule arrived earlier this spring; I listened to the radio as Mike Wise of 106.7 WJFK combed through it game-by-game, justifying wins and losses with his co-host. In the end, Wise predicted the Redskins to finish 11-5. Now, I realize he entertains an audience and might have squeezed in a bit of ‘tongue-in-cheek,’ but he seemed gung-ho in his forecast.
I only wish I held that optimism.
And although I like Wise, his humor and persona, I find his prediction unrealistic and unfair to Robert Griffin III. However, Wise is not alone – many local scribes and fans alike believe the ‘Skins will reach the postseason, come winter. My prognosis comes in a little lower: 7-9 at best. But perhaps I should be deemed the “Debbie Downer” of the bunch. Yet honestly, I feel confident in the ‘Skins and believe the team’s success in 2012 does not necessarily hang on its final record alone… ‘this year.’
I stress ‘this year’ because Washington kicked-off a brand-new era before the NFL draft. Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan filled the franchise with a wealth of positive change this off-season, including the addition of RGIII, which should benefit the ‘Skins for years to come. However, we have yet to witness the immediate results in 2012. In fact, we could discuss several obstacles keeping Washington from an 11-5 season, including its remaining schedule after the bye week, which could become extremely problematic. But only one rationale needs consideration as to why the Redskins should find fortune and trust for 2013, in winning just six or seven games this season… RGIII is a rookie.
Yes. Robert Griffin III is an extraordinary young man with more talent than any quarterback in the history of the franchise. But to expect any NFL-rookie-quarterback to win 11 games is ludicrous – especially after the Redskins finished 6-10 and 5-11 the past two seasons. Many “Top-2” drafted QBs suffered in one manner or another during their first season. Cam Newton shattered an array of rookie records in 2011, yet won just six games for Carolina. Peyton Manning threw a myriad of interceptions his rookie year, and Troy Aikman went 1-15 in his. (That one win was vs. Washington) Opposing defenses tortured those two elite quarterbacks during their inauguration, so how can anyone expect Griffin III – who must face the defending Super Bowl Champions twice, and an Eagles’ team (twice) that has owned the ‘Skins in recent years – to achieve anything more than a 6-10, or 7-9 record?
Take a moment to ponder these questions:
1) Can RGIII handle the pressure layed upon him?
2) Will the offensive line give Griffin III enough time in the pocket and protect him?
3) Will Kyle Shanahan commit to the running game, to open the passing game?
4) Will Griffin III even finish out the entire 16-game-season, healthy?
We cannot answer these. Nobody can – not yet. Why? Because all of these questions entail either rookie issues, or the devastating troubles Washington struggled with heavily in 2011. We all hold hope, but until we see these problems remedied, how can we expect RGIII to lead Washington to the playoffs this season? Having said that, I do foresee the 2012 Redskins performing with more pride and conviction than last year. While we all pray for double-digit victories in DC, I believe Redskins Nation should consider a 7-9 season a success for RGIII. Now, if Washington was stuck with Rex Grossman starting again and he was to lead the Redskins to 7-9, fans would have every right to revolt. But it becomes a different story with a rookie at the helm. Who knows – the ‘Skins might then improve to 9-7 or 10-6 in 2013, which could launch them into the playoffs.
But for now, we still don’t know how the offensive line – with new additions and veterans returning from injury – will hold up in pass protection. Or, how a depleted secondary that struggled against big plays last year, will improve in 2012. Also, a number of young and new faces will line-up at wide receiver and running back this year. Is Roy Helu the real deal? Will Pierre Garcon reach 1,000 yards and10 touchdowns? Can Leonard Hankerson pick up where he left off before his injury?
Nobody expects Washington to reach the Super Bowl this season, so why get too caught up in the overall record? Instead, let us examine and track Griffin’s progress in each category – find gradual improvement from game-to-game. History tends to repeat itself, therefore the ‘Skins will most likely win and lose some nail-biters. If Griffin exhibits improvement in areas such as completion percentage, four and two-minute drills, third-down conversions, touchdown-to-interception ratios, and limits his sack-number to 25 throughout the year, then fans will have caught a glimpse of the treasure to come in 2013 and beyond. While many unanswered questions exist, one thing is certain: Redskin fans will experience the most exciting football this town has witnessed in a long, long time. Hail ‘Skins.
-Todd C. Smith
You can follow Todd C. Smith on Twitter @tcsmitty