Robert Griffin III: Is the Redskins' benching a good or bad thing?
You’re probably tired of hearing about RG3.
Robert Griffin III has been the subject of news stories, columns, rumors and opinion all year. Last year, the narrative was mostly positive. He’s a leader. He’s dynamic. He’s the future of the NFL.
After leading the Washington Redskins to a disappointing 3-10 record this year, that narrative has shifted considerably. Adjectives like selfish, overrated, and bust have all been used to describe him.
In sports, a fall from grace is more expected than surprising. But Griffin’s has been extreme. In August, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (again). Yesterday, the website wondered if Washington’s draft day trade with St. Louis to move up and select Griffin was one of the worst trades of all time. With all of this snap-judgment opinion, everyone seems to be forgetting one thing.
Griffin is 23 years old. Oh, and he’s only in his second year.
We’re spoiled now. We expect quarterbacks to come in and lead a team to success immediately. Ben Rothlesberger led his team to the AFC Championship in his rookie season. Joe Flacco did too. Fellow second-year players Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson look like franchise cornerstones. Colin Kaepernick took his team to the Super Bowl last year in his first year starting. We expect greatness early and often.
The difference is Wilson and Kaepernick play on teams with far superior talent than Washington’s. Both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have two of the best defenses in the league, are currently in the playoffs, and largely regarded as two of the better franchises in the league (and Kaepernick has still faced questions about if he was the right choice for the 49ers).
Since losing Reggie Wayne to injury, Luck has looked pedestrian, leading the Colts to a mediocre 3-3 record. The Colts have struggled, barely beating some inferior teams (Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans) while flat out losing to others (St. Louis Rams).
Even with their poor play, those quarterback’s jobs are not in question. This week, Griffin was shut down for the rest of the season to ensure he “reaches the offseason healthy,” and fellow second-year player Kirk Cousins will start. His coach, Mike Shanahan, will surely be fired at season’s end, and Griffin will take partial blame for his rocky relationship with him the past two seasons.
His team is one of the most dysfunctional in all of sports. An organization and an owner that can’t grasp that they’re celebrating racism really shouldn’t be expected to act rationally or make good decisions.
Griffin’s story is actually a familiar one. A young, dynamic talent sets the league on fire in his first year. Struggles, poor play, and whispers of regression plague his second year, raising questions from critics. We said the same things about Cam Newton last year. This year, in his third year, Newton is getting MVP buzz.
Griffin is far from blameless in this situation. Adidas’ “All in for Week 1” put unnecessary pressure on Griffin to rush back from a major knee injury. The Subway and Gatorade commercials can grow tiresome when your team is losing. He has a little diva in him, and he’s made some dumb comments about his play and his teammates.
But we have to remind ourselves that he’s coming off of a major knee injury that has admittedly robbed him of some of his athleticism and overall talent. Most people around the NFL say that a knee injury like his takes a year for full recovery. Griffin has played with a bulky knee brace all year, which he’ll play without next year.
He’s not getting much help from his defense or his offensive line. He’s taken 24 sacks in his last five games. The hits have made him tentative, and he oftentimes looks uncomfortable both in the pocket and eluding defenders.
The decision to sit him is a debatable one. But it would be wise for Griffin to look at it as a blessing. He can get healthy, have a real offseason, get a new coach, and try to follow Newton’s blueprint of having a big bounce-back year in 2014.
No one is questioning that Griffin had a major sophomore slump, but it takes time for young quarterbacks. He’s still learning the game. It’s way too early to judge if he’s a bust. It’ll take several more years to determine which version of Griffin we’ll see for the rest of his career – year one or year two.
We need to give the kid a break. If anything, this episode probably teaches Griffin some humility he may not have previously had.
With the benching, soon we may finally stop hearing about RG3. And that may be the best thing for his career.
Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter @StefenLovelace