Want to learn how tough Robert Griffin III is? How he handles the next week, amid criticism and mounting calls for backup Kirk Cousins, will go a long way to determining that critical question for the Washington Redskins’ quarterback.
In just two weeks, Griffin–the darling of D.C., if not the NFL after a thrilling rookie season–has learned how quickly fans can turn on you when you do not produce. Following a second straight sorry start to games, both losses, the message boards and sports talk shows in D.C. are flooded with calls for Griffin to sit down until healthy in place of his backup, Cousins.
Comments like, “Cousins gives us the best chance to win,” and “Robert Griffin is not the same guy. . . yet. He’s not that guy.”
The case against Griffin is tangible. The Redskins fell behind significantly in the season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and trailed the Green Bay Packers 24-0 in Sunday’s 38-20 loss on the road. In each case, Griffin looked timid in his throwing motion, favoring his surgically repaired knee that kept him sidelined all of the preseason.
“If I’ve got to do a little bit more to clean up that sloppiness,” he said Sunday, “then I’ll do it. . . I don’t point the finger at anybody else. Whatever goes on on that field, I’m responsible for that.”
He added: “I’m not afraid to sit here and say, ‘Put that on my shoulders,’ ” Griffin said. “I’ll take that. We didn’t start fast because of me.”
What made Griffin RGIII was his ability to escape the pocket with his mobility and gain yards as a runner, making him a double threat that crossed up defenses last season. By design or by choice, Griffin hardly uses his legs as an asset, making him predictable and easier to defend. The results have been the Redskins falling behind to insurmountable deficits.
Hence, many are left to wonder if Griffin truly is healthy enough to lead the team at this point. He can point to the second half numbers as proof of his effectiveness. But most of the respectable final number he posted came when the opponents went into the so-called prevent defense, backing off and allowing receivers to catch the ball in front of them.
The consensus is that Griffin is not healthy enough to run and is scared to run because of his knee, and it has stifled the offense. To wit: he rushed 8 1/2 times a game last season. In the two games this year, he has run the ball just four times a game.
In 2012, Griffin averaged 8½ rushes in games he started and finished. He has averaged four runs a game. And his absence as a running possibility minimizes the team’s offensive creativity.
“I’m not just going to run just to show people that I’m back,” Griffin said Sunday. “I think that’s stupid.”
It’s not viable that he is the same player when he passes 49 times as he did Sunday and 40 the opening week.
For sure, not playing in the preseason has hurt; Griffin looks more rusty than anything else. But the health concerns are legitimate. His passing motion is muted–he does not step through the throwing motion to get the proper velocity on the ball.
Still, the cries for Cousins are pointless; Griffin is the man and will be, barring injury. It’s just a matter of when he gets more confidence in his ability to run and plant on the knee as he passes that will determine when his legion of fans return en masse.