COMMENTARY| As if there wasn’t enough drama heading into the regular season with the ongoing saga of Tom Brady and his fondness of smaller balls, the Washington Redskins have decided add to the spectacle that is the National Football League when Redskins coach Jay Gruden revealed that Robert Griffin III will once again be benched. Only this time, it’s not for just a couple of games, it’s for the 2015 season.
Gruden announced that Kirk Cousin would take over the starting job for the team shortly after the confusion on whether or not Griffin had been cleared to play in preseason week three. After suffering a concussion against Detroit, it was said from the Redskins camp that Griffin has passed protocol. But soon after, Washington recanted their statement by not only saying Griffin isn’t cleared, but also that Cousins gives the team a better chance to win and would resume duties as the starter. This is the latest debacle in the “what has happened to RG III” chronicles.
IN THE BEGINNING
To recap the timeline of how this thing began, Griffin was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was the recipient of the NFL Rookie of the Year award later that year, and he helped make Washington relevant again by taking the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The quarterback was so impressive his rookie year, that the chatter began among fans and critics alike that he may even surpass the number one overall pick Andrew Luck. (The last time two quarterbacks went No.1 and No.2 in an NFL draft and the second pick had a more successful career was 1999 when Donovan McNabb was chosen after Tim Couch)
In hindsight, those critics, and fans were way off base as Luck is without a doubt the better quarterback between the two (and arguably one of the best in the league). But the hopes were extremely high for Griffin and rightfully so. Even before his accolades his rookie year, he was coming out of Baylor completing over 70% of his passes and throwing 37 touchdowns to only six interceptions. For most teams, those numbers are the numbers of a guy that should transition well into the pros. Washington bought the hype. So much so that they gave up the farm to draft him: three first round picks and a second round pick. The move was bold. But Griffin’s rookie season made the move look worth it and made the Redskins look like geniuses.
At least for the first four months it did.
But in true Redskins fashion, things took a turn for the worse. It wouldn’t take long for the dysfunctional organization that Washington tried so hard to steer clear from would rear its ugly head. It was only a matter of time before the shipwreck would happen.
RG III gets hurt. And ill equipped to handle the injury as an organization wanting to preserve their franchise quarterback, RG III keeps on playing. The injury gets worse (like ACL/ LCL tear kind of worse) and yet Griffin, with only eight months of rehab and an uncertainty about his demeanor on the field, opens the season as the starter. From that moment in 2013 until present, there was never a point where coach, quarterback, and ownership were ever on the same page. Not with Mike Shanahan. Not with Jay Gruden. So does the current fiasco really shock anyone?
IF GRUDEN COULDN’T HELP, CAN ANYONE?
Gruden came to Washington from the Bengals and was known for his West Coast passing style. Now he isn’t revered like his brother Jon Gruden in the coaching world, but he came with some expectations. He was meant to be the guy to get the Redskins’ star player back on track and playing the style of football that owner Daniel Snyder wanted him to play all along. But that didn’t happen and hasn’t happened. Griffin’s footwork, his drop backs, neither seem to be improving.
At this point, it just doesn’t seem like Griffin was ever put in a position to win Washington (I mean Shanahan did draft Cousins not too long after picking up Griffin, so that kind of showed how much faith Shanahan had from the beginning). The team was never really Griffin’s when looming over your head is your possible replacement. The locker room is lost, the team doesn’t seem to respect his leadership, and it raises the question of if he was ever a leader for the team to begin with.
He’s 25 years old. That’s it. There is still time to be successful, still time to salvage what’s left of his dignity. Injuries and front office personnel that are inconsistent and flawed have plagued him. And as simple as it seems for everyone to say the Redskins should just move on from Griffin or trade him, it isn’t so easy to make that kind of move with how his contract is structured. But Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer are perfect examples of quarterbacks who have made good of their second chance.
This team certainly has their hands full. And there is no denying that. But what makes this situation scary is that there is no one around willing to take the load off.