A year before the Redskins invested in
Already, the similarities between the two young quarterbacks out-weigh the differences.
Both quarterbacks were Texas high school football products, earning collegiate offers in-state to lead previously unheralded programs.
Both quarterbacks were named starters before taking a professional snap, and were handed the keys to their respective franchises.
"I felt like going into it I was given every opportunity to come in and be the starter," Dalton told the Washington media this week. "For me, I felt like I was prepared. It’s just how you react and how you handle the things."
Dalton handled the pressure exceedingly well, passing for nearly 3,400 yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and an 80.4 passer rating.
More importantly, he led his Bengals to a 9-7 record and the first playoff berth since 2009. For Dalton, the team success justifies the coaches' decision to start him from Day 1.
"I think it definitely validates it," he said. "For me personally, we got a little bit of credibility around here now. It shows that guys know what they’re going to get out of me."
Much like Shanahan, Lewis weathered some criticism about starting the rookie too soon, but sees the opportunity for similar success with Griffin III in Washington.
"It's a very similar situation because the Redskins have done a great job of creating the offense with their quarterback," he said. "That was the same thing we were doing.
"The quarterback is your offense. The offense unfolds and it’s a vision through the eyes of our quarterback and his abilities. There were really no limits."
The Redskins seek to implement a similar strategy as they look for success in Year 1. In 2011, the Bengals ranked 10th in the NFL in rushing attempts, and 10th in total team defense, maximizing a ball-control strategy.
"[We had to] be able to run the ball effectively to get the pressure off of [Dalton]," Lewis said.
"I felt like the rest of the football team realized that we really had to do a fine, fine job of defense: limit explosive plays, limit the score, get the ball back as often as possible for the offense."
In order to prevent Griffin III from running wild on the Bengals, Lewis has been preparing his defenders to play "very, very disciplined football."
"Everybody has to get their job done and you have to make a play when you’re put in the position to make a play," Lewis explained. "[The Redskins] isolate you and use the entire field.
"They’ve done an effective job of creating an offense different than what they showed in the preseason. It came out against New Orleans and showed the veer run game, read option-type plays and so forth. They obviously worked hard on it without putting it out there in a real game."