It's debatable whether the Washington Redskins paid too much for the right to select Robert Griffin III next month. Of course, people said that about the New York Giants' deal to land Eli Manning back in 2004.
A bounty of three first-round picks and a second-rounder will seem fair if Griffin goes on to make a handful of Pro Bowls and turn the Redskins into contenders. In days gone by, one might say it would take five or 10 years to really know if the trade was worth it for Washington, and probably three or four years before Griffin is good enough to win with. But that's not necessarily the case anymore.
Whether it's the evolution of the passing game in college football - or NFL offenses catching up to that wide-open style of play - recent years have seen rookie quarterbacks have greater success than ever before.
Griffin's Heisman-winning predecessor, Cam Newton, threw for a rookie-record 4,051 yards in 2011, tossing 21 touchdowns against 17 interceptions, but he also rushed for 706 yards and a QB record 14 touchdowbns. Griffin isn't as imposing as Newton - not as physical a runner in the open field - but he's faster, and probably a better passer.
Every quarterback can't be Cam Newton, of course, but others have had great success right out of the chute. Jake Locker played in only five games last year, but had a passer rating of 99.4. Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder weren't so hot, but Andy Dalton got Cincinnati to the playoffs, and fifth-rounder T.J. Yates was adequate for the Houston Texans, beating Dalton's Bengals in the first round.
In 2010, top pick Sam Bradford threw for 3,500 yards and had the Rams on the verge of a playoff berth. Mark Sanchez was good enough for the Jets to reach the AFC Championship as a rookie in 2009, and helped get them back in 2010.
Before those guys it was Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco enjoying success in 2008. Back in 2006, even Vince Young was pretty good as a rookie, probably better that year than any other in his career. Pittsburgh was 15-1 under Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
It's not that rookie quarterbacks join the league as elite players, but these days they are much better prepared to start and play well enough to win from Day One.
So, if the difference between the Redskins and Cowboys has been Washington's lack of a quarterback all these years, Griffin could help the 'Skins catch up sooner than most would expect. Especially if Dan Snyder ponies up to add a lot of talent around the young QB.
If head-to-head matchups are any indication, the Cowboys weren't *that much *better than Washington in 2011, and the Redskins matched up pretty well against New York, too, beating the Giants twice.
And if Griffin is a decided upgrade from Rex Grossman, it's fair to expect the Redskins will be much more formidable for the rest of the NFC East beginning this year.