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September 11, 2012

Bob Lutz: A dazzling debut for RG3

The NFL world can’t stop talking about RG3, Robert Griffin III’s outstanding performance in the first game of his rookie season for the Washington Redskins against New Orleans on Sunday. Robert Griffin III had many moments to celebrate during the Washington Redskins' Week 1 win at New Orleans. He’s one of the most intriguing players to come into the league since . . . since . . . oh yeah – Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers last season.

But because the NFL world loves to talk – and talk and talk and talk – much of the chatter is about Griffin and how spectacular he was and could continue to be. We’ll see. One game is one game and there’s a whole lot of football to be played.

So many, though, were saying that Griffin’s performance was the best quarterback debut in the history of the NFL. I guess I’ll take their word for it, although I went back and looked up how some of the all-time greats fared in their openers. Some were good, some not so good. But all of these guys went on to have outstanding NFL careers as quarterbacks.

Brett Favre – After starting the 1992 season on the bench in favor of the Magic Man, Don Majkowski, Favre started his first game on Sept. 20 and led a big comeback against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Packers trailed 23-10 in the fourth quarter before Favre engineered two touchdown drives that resulted in a 24-23 Green Bay win. He was 22 of 39 for 289 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.

Dan Marino – Marino eventually beat out David Woodley as the Miami Dolphins’ starter in 1983 and started his first game against Buffalo on Oct. 9. In a 38-35 loss, Martin completed 19 of 29 passes for 322 yards. He threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Peyton Manning – Manning jumped right into the fire for the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 6, 1998, passing for 302 yards and completing 21 of 37 passes in a 24-15 loss to Miami. Manning passed for one touchdown but was intercepted three times.

John Elway – Elway spent the early part of the 1983 season platooning with Steve DeBerg in Denver. He started his first game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 11 and completed 9 of 21 pass attempts for 106 yards, though he was eventually replaced in the game by DeBerg, who sparked a fourth-quarter rally that beat the Baltimore Colts, 17-10.

Fran Tarkenton – The Minnesota Vikings’ Hall of Famer completed 17 of 23 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns in his Sept. 17, 1961 debut against the Chicago Bears, a 37-13 Vikings win.

Joe Montana – Montana, like Elway, was an understudy to DeBerg during his first season with the 49ers in 1979. He didn’t become San Francisco’s full-time starter until midway through the 1980 season, but did make a late-season start against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979. In that one, Montana completed 5 of 12 passes for 36 yards before ultimately being replaced by DeBerg in a 13-10 St. Louis win.

Tom Brady – After Drew Bledsoe was injured early in the 2011 season, the New England Patriots went to Brady, a seventh-round draft pick out of Michigan, for a Sept. 30 game against the Indianapolis Colts. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 168 yards in an easy 44-13 Patriots win.

Dan Fouts – Taking over in Week 4 of the 1973 season for an aging and ineffective Johnny Unitas, Fouts debuted for the San Diego Chargers by completing 11 of 21 passes for 174 yards. He started the next week against Oakland and completed 12 of 30 passes for 183 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

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