The esteemed John Madden opined after the Washington Redskins' 2012 season-opening upset of the New Orleans Saints that Robert Griffin III was "the best player in the league in Week 1." Griffin went on to take home NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, proving Madden's prescience.
Despite Griffin's surgically repaired knee, the Redskins believe the best might be yet to come.
"If Robert plays like he did (in 2012) the rest of his career," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told NFL.com's Albert Breer on Thursday, "he'll go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game."
It's easy to forget that Shanahan was a legitimate candidate for NFL Coach of the Year honors before the wild-card-round fiasco against the Seattle Seahawks. Mike and Kyle Shanahan were masterful in their schemes and play calls, mixing the pistol formation with run-option reads, play-action fakes, screens and designed quarterback runs. Behind Griffin, the Redskins finished first in the NFL in yards per play (6.2), yards per pass attempt (8.3) and yards per rush (5.2).
The way Mike Shanahan sees it, he has defensive coordinators caught in a game of cat and mouse. He can't predict how much the Redskins' offense will change to protect Griffin's knee because he doesn't know what defenses will do to adjust this year.
"Defensive coaches can stop everything," Shanahan told Breer. "If you wanna stop the zone-read, you can stop the zone-read, but what are you giving up to stop the zone-read? Is it the play-action pass? Is it your normal offense? You can stop everything. These defensive coaches are very smart. But what do they give up in return?"
The Redskins will be more cautious with Griffin in 2013, but Shanahan has no plans to abandon the read-option and pistol plays that suit his quarterback's strengths.
"That's why you give up two (No. 1 draft picks) and a No. 2 for him. You give those things up because you see something very, very special," Shanahan explained. "You see what type of athlete he is and what type of ability he has. He can make every throw on the field, he's extremely bright, he's got great work ethic and he's got passion for the game. Those are the things you look for. Now, the rest is taking it to the field."
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.