Washington Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III Can Still Turn Career Around

His coach, the media and many teammates and fans have turned on him. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has gone from savior to scapegoat in less than three seasons.

Griffin’s fall from superstar status to also-ran who is being run out of town surely is one of the most extreme and shocking descents in NFL history. But are the obituaries on Griffin’s career being written too soon? After all, the former Heisman Trophy winner is just 24.

After RGIII’s dynamic rookie season in which he led the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, Griffin suffered a devastating knee injury. After struggling last season, Griffin suffered a major ankle injury in the second game this year vs. Jacksonville. The Redskins finished 3-10 in games Griffin started in 2013 and have lost all four games he has started and finished this year.

Griffin’s electric rookie year has been virtually forgotten. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has apparently given up on RGIII, as have certain members of the media who cover the Redskins and make pronouncements as if Griffin’s Redskins career is over. At the same time, Redskins owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen have to consider giving RGIII another chance.

Meanwhile, a large group of Redskins fans have resembled townspeople with torches and pitchforks trying to run RGIII out of Redskins Nation. The Sports Junkies of 106.7 The Fan hammered nails into a coffin to symbolize the end of RGIII’s career in Washington. Was that necessary? It wasn’t very funny. Did it increase ratings? Probably not. In comments at the bottom of online articles, people have been increasingly mean-spirited, almost gleeful in RGIII’s downfall.

Though Griffin has struggled the past two seasons, the former Heisman winner also has been playing behind a porous offensive line and is playing in his second system and for his second coach in two years.

Griffin’s speed has been severely compromised since his rookie year. Griffin’s mechanics, footwork, and decision-making have been supbar. He is also gun-shy, understandably so from taking so many big hits. But it is a drastic overreaction to say his career is over.

While the beleaguered Griffin has been holding onto the ball too much, opposing defenses have been getting past the Redskins offensive line, running backs and tight ends faster than the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. The Redskins defense hasn’t been much better. Last week against the Colts, the defense was much worse.

Griffin famously said he needs his teammates to play better for him to play better. He was publicly eviscerated for that mistake. But when Gruden embarrasses RGIII multiple times in the media, and Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson shows no class in taunting Griffin via social media, they hardly get criticized.

A Redskins “star” recently criticized Griffin again, saying he doesn’t expect him to be in the NFL for long. The Redskins don’t have many stars. If the source was Jackson, it’s becoming easier to understand why Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly let one of the NFL’s best receivers go last spring for nothing in return.

In today’s era of 24-hour sports news and social media, a mob mentality can persist, with people often making group decisions based on what a player has done for his team lately. Redskins backup Kirk Cousins was a hero and the Redskins quarterback of the future after taking over for RGIII and beating Jacksonville in Week 2. Then after a few bad games he was forgotten.

Colt McCoy was considered a joke by many Redskins fans until he played well in three games. If McCoy plays well and beats the Rams Sunday, some people will suggest he may be the Redskins quarterback of the future. If he plays badly, they will say they told you so, that he was no good. At least McCoy is getting a chance to play. He deserves it.

The former third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns and winningest college quarterback in history was written off after a couple of bad seasons with the Browns. By the way, the Browns didn’t have a winning quarterback between 2000 and 2012, but the league, media and fans had already made their decision on McCoy because of his two losing seasons in Cleveland. McCoy is completing 75 percent of his passes in three games this year with four touchdowns and one interception.

It used to be that quarterbacks could sit on the bench for a few years to learn their craft. Former NFL MVP Steve McNair backed up journeyman Chris Chandler in 1995 and 1996 with the Houston Oilers before getting the full-time starting job the next season when the franchise became the Tennessee Titans. McNair, a dual threat quarterback, made it to the Super Bowl once and the Pro Bowl three times during a near-Hall of Fame career.

Other quarterbacks have struggled for years before becoming great. Four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw never had more touchdown passes than interceptions in a season until his sixth year in the NFL. The former Pittsburgh Steeler eventually did make it to the Hall of Fame.

But in today’s era, if a quarterback hasn’t made it by his third season, he is done, forever. At least according to the peanut gallery.

If the Redskins give up on Griffin, two mutually beneficial situations could be for him to play in Denver or New England backing up Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Neither Broncos backup Brock Osweiler nor Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo are expected to become household names anytime soon. In fact, Denver and New England are taking big gambles by having such unknowns as backups.

Griffin could sit and learn from the best, while getting healthier and perhaps regaining some of his former speed. Sometimes bad leg injuries take years to improve.

Griffin is an intelligent player with a very strong arm and he is still athletic despite a loss of speed. Next season, Griffin will be 25, hardly an age to give up on a quarterback who was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year two years ago on a team without top-notch talent.

Manning and Brady will be 39 and 38, respectively, next season. That means that Griffin could get the starting job after one season on the bench if either quarterback decides to retire. RGIII could also see playing time if either quarterback gets injured, which happens more often to quarterbacks at the end of their careers.   

Playing on good teams with solid offensive lines and recent winning traditions could only help the former Baylor star and number two overall draft pick.

By playing on bad teams with poor offensive lines, quarterbacks like David Carr and Joey Harrington never made it. Former Redskins first round draft picks Jason Campbell and Patrick Ramsay might have at least become serviceable signal callers had they not been pounded to the ground so often early in their careers.

With the luxury of playing on a good team behind an all-time great quarterback in Manning or Brady, Griffin could certainly turn his career around. He could also compete for a starting job on another team. Or RGIII might end up back as a Redskin if Snyder and Allen side with him over Gruden.

The soap opera continues at Redskins Park.

Article also posted at Examiner.com.

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