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Griffin could be huge NFL success -- but not because of his 40 time

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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Robert Griffin III's accuracy and arm tell us more about his NFL potential than a 40 time. (Getty Images)  
Robert Griffin III's accuracy and arm tell us more about his NFL potential than a 40 time. (Getty Images)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- With the 40-yard dashes in at this year's NFL combine, we now know there's no quarterback faster than Baylor's Robert Griffin III. The guy was timed at 4.41 seconds, which reportedly is the third fastest for the position since 2000, and that's terrific.

Only tell me what it means.

We already knew Griffin was fast. We already knew he was a world-class hurdler and a guy who could be considered an Olympic-caliber track athlete. So what exactly did we learn here that we didn't already know?

Not much, other than he is what he is -- fast. And that's great, except it's really not a big deal. I would've been more startled if Griffin ran a 4.7.

I guess what I'm saying is that when it comes to quarterbacks, I'm not looking for a running back. I'm looking for a quarterback who can move. RG3 can, and so can Andrew Luck. He ran a 4.67, and while that didn't get the attention Griffin's 40 did, it tells you he has enough speed to scramble for yards and first downs -- if that's what is necessary.

But what you're looking for in a quarterback can't be found in his 40-yard dash. It's in his accuracy ... and his timing ... and his release ... and his smarts ... and his footwork within the pocket. Having a quarterback with speed is great, but having a quarterback with a quick release and accuracy is better, and that's what's to like about both RG3 and Luck.

Hey, all I know is that Tom Brady ran a 5.28 at the 2000 combine and had a vertical jump of 24½ inches. Eli Manning ran a 4.90. Philip Rivers a 5.08; Drew Brees a 4.83; Joe Flacco a 4.86; Ben Roethlisberger a 4.75; and Matt Ryan a 4.71.

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According to NFL Network, the top 10 times in the 40-yard dash for quarterback prospects since 2000 belong to:

1. Michael Vick, 4.33
2. Reggie McNeal, 4.40
3. Robert Griffin III, 4.41
4. Marcus Vick, 4.47
5. Tyrod Taylor, 4.51
6. Colin Kaepernick, 4.53
7. Josh Johnson, 4.53
8. Jarrett Brown, 4.54
9. Russell Wilson, 4.55
10. Pat White, 4.55

There's only one quarterback there with a Pro Bowl appearance (Michael Vick, whose time came at his Virginia Tech pro day) and none with any Super Bowl appearances. My point is that 40-yard dashes for quarterbacks don't tell you much, other than which guys to measure with an hour glass.

Brady was one of them, and so what? He's the best quarterback of his generation and one of the best ever. But he wasn't one of the fastest. Michael Vick was. In fact, he was the fastest, and all I know about Michael Vick is that he has been to five fewer Super Bowls than Tom Brady.

That's not a knock, just an observation.

Bottom line: It's the drills that don't gain as much attention as the 40 that matter for quarterback, only you can't quantify a passer's accuracy in an informal practice. So we don't know who did what Sunday until or unless we watched or heard from someone at the sessions. And even then I don't know how much attention I would pay to what happened.

I mean, Cam Newton was extraordinarily inaccurate here last year -- OK, make that horrible -- yet that didn't deter Carolina from making him the first pick of the draft or prevent Newton from earning the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

People talk about the value of what happens at the scouting combine, but coaches and GMs always talk about trusting tape more -- and what we saw on tape from RG3 the past two years is that he was extraordinarily accurate. So was Luck. In fact, Griffin completed 69 percent of his passes the past two seasons, with 59 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

He also won a Heisman Trophy and led Baylor to 777 yards in offense en route to a 67-56 defeat of Washington in the Alamo Bowl. That counts for more -- a lot more -- than what he ran here Sunday.

"This is the best throwing athlete I've seen come out in a while," said former coach Brian Billick, now with Fox and NFL Network. "Far better than Michael Vick in my opinion. Far better than Cam Newton. This guy has as pure a throwing motion for an athletic quarterback [and] clearly has the intelligence to transition. [He] will translate into the NFL very well."

Now that's what I'm talking about.

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