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Robert Griffin III: Inside the Numbers, Just How Good Was He in 2012?

Just how good was Robert Griffin III this season? Dan Ciarrocchi examines this with the aid of Pro Football Focus' premium stats.

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Patrick McDermott

No one can deny that Robert Griffin III had a rookie season for the ages. Every time his offense took the field, the threat of a quick strike in the form of a bomb or a gashing run took place.

And if you take away the eyeball test and look purely at his numbers, they support his greatness as well. Griffin III set rookie records in rushing yards and passer rating, while racking up 3,200 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions.

Sometimes, though, these numbers can be misleading. A high completion percentage is great, but there’s always a “but” when you look at it on the surface. “Quarterback X completed 66 percent of his passes, BUT he primarily throws low-risk passes, or BUT he doesn’t hit his receivers in stride for bigger gains, or BUT has Sure-Handed Receivers X, Y and Z to throw to.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask myself “Is there a ‘but’ aspect to Robert Griffin III’s stellar numbers?” To find out, I consulted the premium data at Pro Football Focus because of course I did.

Since I touched on it earlier, let’s examine RGIII’s completion percentage of 65.6. PFF tracks pretty much every statistic for every game situation, which adds intelligence to superficial numbers.

One thing I found interesting was drop rate. Redskins receivers have dropped 8.9 percent of Griffin III’s passes thrown in their direction. Not only was that the highest percentage recorded this year, but the second-highest that PFF has recorded in its five-year existence (David Garrard, 9.0 percent, 2008). So for Griffin to still manage a completion percentage of over 65 percent when close to one out of every ten of his throws are dropped is pretty remarkable.

Let’s keep going with this. Say those dropped passes were caught. Let’s also take spikes and throwaways out of the equation, too. PFF keeps track of that as well and then calculates a new “accuracy percentage.” When you adjust the completion percentage to factor this in, Griffin III’s mark shifts to a whopping 79.6 percent. That number is tops in the league next to Aaron Rodgers’ 80.2 percent, and just above Peyton Manning’s 78.6 percent.

One of his biggest criticisms is that his efficiency numbers are inflated due to not taking shots downfield. And you know what? There is truth in that statement; RGIII doesn’t take many shots downfield. His 36 attempts of 20 yards or deeper is among the fewest in the league, and only 9.2 percent of his attempts fit that category. Only Christian Ponder has a lower percentage of those deep attempts.

But, when Griffin III does challenge defenders downfield, he’s been extremely effective. On balls thrown deep, he has an adjusted accuracy percentage of 50 percent, which is fifth in the NFL, and seven of his 36 deep attempts resulted in touchdowns. In other words, when RGIII threw it deep, 20 percent of the time it resulted in a touchdown. That’s not really a sustainable mark over time, but it’s astonishing that he pulled that off over the course of a full season nonetheless.

Under pressure, Griffin III again topped the league in adjusted accuracy, and was third in completion percentage.

With playaction, Griffin III averaged 11.8 yards per attempt, which topped the league. Just think about that for a second. Odds are, when RG3 threw after faking a handoff, it was going to result in a first down.

However, it’s worth noting that there was a discrepancy between his efficiency with playaction and regular dropbacks. He averaged about half his yards per attempt during traditional dropbacks (6.0), had a slight dip in completion percentage (64.1 compared to 67.7) as well as quarterback rating (93.4 from 116.2). These aren’t bad numbers, though, and are really more of a testament to how great he was when he threw after faking handoffs.

At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it, Griffin III had not just an incredible season for a rookie, but an incredible season for a quarterback. And if he holds true to his promise that people will see a better Robert Griffin III when he returns-- Watch. Out.