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Rick Snider: RG3 among Redskins' best ever, but he's not Sammy Baugh -- yet

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

ASHBURN

Robert Griffin III is the Washington Redskins' best rookie quarterback since 1937.

Notice that disclaimer; it's hard to say his first year was better than Sammy Baugh's -- at least not yet.

With the combination of his mobility and arm, Griffin is changing the NFL. Seventy-five years earlier, Baugh did the same by popularizing the forward pass, completing a record 81 as a rookie.

As Griffin prepares to lead Washington into an NFC wild-card game against Seattle on Sunday at FedEx Field, it's striking that the Redskins have developed only their third standout passer since the Great Depression.

Griffin's first season has been a beaut. His 102.4 passer rating trailed only Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Denver's Peyton Manning. His 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns compared with five interceptions were pretty impressive, too, but his 815 yards rushing were staggering.

But Baugh was equally astonishing; previous quarterbacks did little more than hand off in 1937. He led the league in completions, attempts and passing yards and ran for 240 yards, too. Just as Griffin has running back Alfred Morris (1,613 yards), Baugh benefitted from Cliff Battles, who led the NFL with 874 yards rushing and five touchdowns. And here's the capper: The Redskins won the NFL championship.

Seven rookie quarterbacks started for Washington between Baugh and Griffin, none lasting more than a few seasons. Eddie LeBaron was a 1950 10th-rounder who reported in 1952 after earning a Bronze Star as a Marine in the Korean War. He went 1-6 in sharing time with Baugh in the Pro Football Hall of Famer's final season and started a majority of the games until he was taken by Dallas in the 1960 expansion draft.

Jack Scarbath was taken third overall in 1953 but lasted only two years. Al Dorow went 2-3 in 1954 after being taken in the third round and started 12 games in three years. Norm Snead was the second overall pick in 1961. He went 1-12-1 that year and later was traded for Sonny Jurgensen.

Washington's top quarterbacks of the past 50 years largely began elsewhere. Jurgensen started five games in 1957 for Philadelphia and wasn't a regular until 1961. His rookie stats include minus-3 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Still, Jurgensen is considered the Redskins' best quarterback between Baugh and Griffin even though he never played in a postseason game. Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann and Doug Williams led Washington to Super Bowls, but they began their careers elsewhere. Mark Rypien, a Redskins sixth-rounder in 1986 who didn't play until his third season, won a title in 1991. But he lasted only two more years in Washington and bounced among five teams before he retired. Still, he was a Super Bowl MVP.

The Redskins tried again through the draft in 1992 with Heath Shuler and Gus Frerotte. That didn't work out too well. Neither did Patrick Ramsey in the 2002 first round. He went 2-3 that year for coach Steve Spurrier, who didn't want to play him, and he was gone after 2005, when Washington spent a first-rounder on Jason Campbell, who didn't even appear in a game that season.

Baugh later won the 1942 title as part of his storied 16-year career. Griffin's task to surpass Baugh continues Sunday, but the debate over who is better figures to take years.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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