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RGIII is long-term project, not viable Week 1 starter

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When Chip Kelly traded for Sam Bradford in Philadelphia last offseason, he noted that the only two avenues leading to a franchise quarterback in today's NFL are the early rounds of the draft and rehabilitating a former high-end starter after injuries sabotaged his career.

The prime examples of the latter approach are Drew Brees landing in New Orleans with Sean Payton a decade ago and Carson Palmer teaming up with Bruce Arians in Arizona the past few years.

Does Robert Griffin III have a chance to join that exclusive club with the help of Hue Jackson in Cleveland?

If a return to full health was the primary factor in the success of Brees and Palmer, finding a quarterback guru with a system tailored to their strengths wasn't far behind. Just as there's no G.O.A.T. discussion for Joe Montana had he not been drafted by the greatest offensive mind in NFL history, Palmer isn't an MVP candidate in 2015 without Arians' golden touch.

Hall of Famer Steve Young once compared the job of a quarterback to tending a Japanese garden because of the high level of care, time and intricacy of work that goes into a successful career.

It takes an advanced caretaker and positive influence to reach the highest levels at professional sports' most valuable and complex position.

"Like when you put your finger near a crystal glass, it starts to sing to you," Young added, "that resonant sound that happens between quarterback and coach."

From that vantage point, it stands to reason that Griffin will benefit from the magic touch of Hue Jackson. The last time Jackson worked with a floundering former first-round pick, Jason Campbell became the only Raiders quarterback with a winning record since 2003. Credited with helping develop Joe Flacco into a franchise quarterback who would go on to win the Super Bowl, Jackson also transformed Andy Dalton from a competitive liability to the fringes of the midseason MVP discussion last year.

Whereas Brees fully recovered his arm strength and Palmer came back stronger than ever from a pair of ACL tears, the last time we saw Griffin, he was a shadow of the dynamic 2012 rookie who so dazzled opponents that they began viewing him as nightmare fuel.

After major knee and ankle injuries, Griffin was no longer beating linebackers -- much less quicker defensive backs -- to the edge.

Even more troublesome, he had regressed to the point where he had lost his confidence, devolved in his footwork, had no clue how to decipher defenses and essentially held a dysfunctional Redskins offense hostage. He was a gun-shy signal-caller with obvious mechanical flaws and a major case of the yips.

"He's at the point where he needs remedial training," NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell assessed at the time. "He needs QB class."

Before he had lost his starting job to Kirk Cousins last summer, one undisclosed NFL coach predicted that RGIII was "done" as a starter and "there's no coming back."

Griffin's mesmerizing rookie-year game film will continue to buy him opportunities from coaches who believe they hold the key to unlock his vast potential. While that's easily understandable, Browns fans should enter this season with the clear-eyed realization that he's a long-term reclamation project at best and a long shot at worst.

If Cleveland finally embarks on an "era of unbridled optimism," those giddy feelings will be ushered in by the quarterback drafted at No. 2 overall rather than the one who fell from such great heights in the nation's capital.

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