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Robert Griffin III’s Resurgence Is All But Inevitable

Getty Images
Getty Images

When we declared Cleveland to be a budding sports powerhouse in June, it went without saying that the Browns would be an exception. Sure, the Cavs had just won the NBA Finals, the Indians were in first place in the AL Central, and the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters had recently claimed the Calder Cup. But the Browns? They were a lost cause, a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since the 2002 season, a group forever destined to serve as a tragic reminder of Cleveland’s sports history.

Or so it seemed. Less than two months later, that assumption appears to have been wildly inaccurate. It may only be Week 2 of the preseason, but Robert Griffin III is balling out, and I, for one, am ready to get excited about RG3 again. Admittedly, I’m also a delusional Browns fan, but did you see this pass?

Former Ohio State quarterback/Tatgate scapegoat Terrelle Pryor has been playing wide receiver for little more than a year, but that hasn’t stopped him from breaking out as Griffin’s go-to target. In Thursday night’s tilt against the Falcons, the duo hooked up for a 50-yard touchdown bomb on the Browns’ second offensive possession. Griffin led Pryor perfectly down the sideline, and Pryor created separation against Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant — impressive stuff for a novice wideout.

Last week, Griffin and Pryor connected on a similar play in Green Bay. At this point, the only real question is whether the duo more closely resembles Joe Montana and Jerry Rice or Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

Look, I don’t mean to make too much out of one game, but on a scant eight attempts against the Falcons, Griffin racked up six completions, 96 yards, and two touchdowns. That’s Peyton Manning shit. RG3’s second score was a breathtaking dime to Pro Bowl tight end and noted cinephile Gary Barnidge. It was gorgeous enough to be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Griffin definitely looks improved as a passer, and new Browns coach Hue Jackson has lauded him for his confidence — something thought to be an issue following his flameout in Washington, where he struggled the two seasons after being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. But the most significant development may be his newfound willingness to slide, which he displayed on a 14-yard scramble in the first quarter on Thursday night.

Cleveland bias aside, I’m buying as much stock in an RG3 renaissance as humanly possible. If Griffin can stay healthy and maintain his upward trajectory, the Browns’ best-case scenario is a Super Bowl; their worst-case scenario is, I don’t know, 12–4 and an AFC Championship Game berth. (No, you’re being unreasonable.) After all, Jackson is a famed quarterback whisperer; Griffin’s Baylor buddies Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman have provided a massive boost to the Browns’ receiving corps; and this is the year of Cleveland sports.

At the very least, you might want to consider drafting Griffin as a high-upside backup for your fantasy team. Is there any way he doesn’t pass for 500 yards with six touchdowns when the Browns visit Washington in Week 4?