NEW ORLEANS — Wait, which one was the rookie? And which one was the hometown hero with the $100 million contract?
On the field after the Redskins’ 40-32 win against the Saints, you’d have sworn Player B was Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, not New Orleans superstar Drew Brees.
As Brees’ club trudged to the locker room, Griffin was kicking off his celebratory tour of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
First came a television interview, then a hard right to the stands behind the visitors’ sideline, where fans fought their way to the front row and chanted his nickname over and over.
RGIII! RGIII! RGIII!
They bowed, stretched to snap photos and practically begged for high-fives. It was a level of hero worship that would have been right at home during Griffin’s Heisman Trophy campaign at Baylor last year. Even Saints fans wanted a piece of him.
From there, Griffin paused for a picture with film director Spike Lee, who, football in hand, ran down the rookie and mugged for the cameras.
Before he reached the locker room, Griffin stopped for one last screaming horde of fans above the north end-zone tunnel. On his way out, he might as well have locked the door behind him.
In his first NFL start, Griffin owned the Superdome.
He was accurate (19 of 26), explosive (362 total yards, six plays of 20-plus yards) and careful (zero turnovers), while Brees was spotty (24 of 52) and error-prone (two interceptions).
Griffin’s rating of 139.9 was nearly double Brees’ 70.9, and he only lost the passing yardage battle by 19 (339-320) despite throwing half as many times as his counterpart.
He began the game innocently enough with six straight screen passes. But on the first play of his second drive, Griffin morphed from conservative rookie to RGIII, the playmaker.
He hit receiver Pierre Garcon in the middle of the field, and Garcon raced down the left side for an 88-yard touchdown.
Griffin didn’t throw an incompletion until almost three minutes into the second quarter, and even when he didn’t connect, he was often deadly.
That first incompletion came at the cost of Saints cornerback Johnny Patrick, who was injured on the play. Then, on the opening drive of the second half, Griffin hurled a fourth-and-1 prayer into the end zone that receiver Aldrick Robinson couldn’t haul in — but a flag on New Orleans safety Roman Harper moved the Redskins to the 1-yard line for an easy score.
Griffin was less of a nuisance late, when the Redskins leaned on their running game and the Saints’ mistakes, but the damage was done.
Playing in the city where his parents grew up, Griffin stepped into the spotlight and kept it to himself, with no room for Brees.
That’s not supposed to happen. Not for a rookie. Not in a building where the Saints didn’t lose last season. And not in a city where Brees’ summer contract dispute generated a huge outcry of public support.
Only time will tell whether Griffin can become an instant success like the Panthers’ Cam Newton, another Heisman winner who dazzled as a rookie. But to see how the two compare, just wait a week and ask Brees and the Saints.
Next Sunday, they’ll have to go to Newton’s house and try to upstage him.