The best thing about the Bills’ bye week — aside from the sheer emotional relief — is that it gives you an opportunity to see teams and games you might otherwise miss.
This year’s bye arrived at an ideal time. On Sunday I was able to sit in front of the television set at 1 p.m. and watch the NFL’s hottest new sensation, Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, for the first time in a regular-season game.
The hype over RG3 had reached a fever pitch. He’s said to be the hottest topic in Washington, D.C., even in a presidential year. People have been pushing him for league MVP. Mike Wilbon, whom I respect highly, called Griffin the best player in the league right now.
Look, Griffin is an amazing talent, a budding superstar, the best blend of speed, arm strength and intelligence to come into the NFL in a long time. Through seven weeks, he had completed 70 percent of his passes and had a passer rating over 100. He was on pace for the most efficient rookie passing season in history. And that didn’t include his 460 rushing yards.
But let’s hold off on the MVP talk. Griffin is still a rookie. Remember how we gushed about Cam Newton during his rookie season a year ago? Newton has been a befuddled mess for much of his second year in the league. Coaches look at tape. They catch on. It takes time for a QB to become truly elite.
Griffin had his biggest test of his young career Sunday and came up small in a 27-12 road loss to the Steelers. He went 16 of 34 passing for 177 yards against Dick LeBeau’s second-rated defense. It was RG3’s worst game by far, the worst game of his career. After rushing for 227 total yards in his previous two games, he had six carries for only 8 yards.
It’s no disgrace. LeBeau, still going strong as defensive coordinator at 75, has confounded a lot of great quarterbacks through the years. The Steelers are 15-1 against rookie QBs since 2004, so Griffin isn’t the first wide-eyed kid to get humbled by Pittsburgh. He’s a smart and mature enough young man to learn from this and come back stronger.
He wasn’t all that bad. The Steelers had eight drops. Griffin threw behind his receivers a few times.
But he was on target for the most part and made some terrific throws that justified all the hype. He shows uncommon poise for a rookie.
Still, the MVP talk does him no favors. The excitement is understandable. Griffin has an unremarkable supporting cast on offense, and a defense that’s been almost as bad as Buffalo’s this season. But show some respect for the league, and the players who have done it for years, not weeks.
Griffin wasn’t even the best QB on the field Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger, who has won two Super Bowls, made big plays with his arm and his legs.
The Steelers were the more physical team, the much better team. The Redskins, who have some key injuries, still have a long way to go. Griffin simply wasn’t ready to walk into Pittsburgh and keep a hobbled and inferior team from being outclassed.
Don’t get me wrong, the kid’s going to be great. If you offered to trade me the Redskins’ roster for the Bills’ straight-up today, I’d make the deal in a flash because of RG3.
That can be the worst thing about the bye. It reminds Bills fans how far away from contention they really are.
Robert Griffin III is said to be the hottest topic in Washington, D.C.