Former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin made his NFL debut with the Washington Redskins Sunday, but he continued to lead a college-style offense:
Last season, the Redskins ran out of the shotgun 33% of the time — just shy of the 41% average for all NFL teams. On Sunday, however, they ran it on 20 of the first 23 offensive snaps, something you hardly ever see outside college campuses.
On just the third snap, one play after running a shotgun option, Shanahan’s Baylorskins ran the pistol. This formation, in which Griffin started from the shotgun with the running back lined up behind him, was a clear case of pandering to Griffin’s skills. Montgomery noted that this exact play was “worked hard” early in Griffin’s college career. After taking the snap, Griffin faked a handoff then threw a quick dart pass to receiver Pierre Garcon who was split wide, for a 12-yard gain.
At the start of the second quarter, Griffin lined up in shotgun with a running back to his right again—but with another one directly behind him (see photo). This time, after faking the handoff to running back Alfred Morris, Griffin rolled out to his left, eluded the rushing defensive line and threw the ball across the field for a 26-yard strike to tight end Fred Davis.
Griffin’s statistics from Sunday don’t look like NFL statistics: According to researchers at Pro Football Focus, Griffin threw 13 of his 25 passes within nine yards of the line of scrimmage and threw more than 20 yards on just two plays. In the same game, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a more-traditional NFL pocket passer, threw 11 passes longer than 20 yards.
After the game, Redskins players and coaches spoke about how important it was that the Saints didn’t know what was coming. Asked about this, Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said his team wasn’t surprised to see Griffin running bootlegs, quarterback runs and “read options,” they just couldn’t stop them.
The big question for the copycat NFL is whether Griffin’s success will trigger a Pavlovian response among other coaches.