Eighteen months ago, no one—absolutely no one—would have expected Robert Griffin III to be in the position he is in after a rookie season that produced so much promise: Needing a quality performance tomorrow to salvage his job and, perhaps, his career as a Washington Redskin.
Yes, this is not a fall from grace; this is a detonation.
Griffin was as beloved as just about any quarterback could be in a city that is over-the-top passionate about its NFL team. But the more he talked and got injured and talked and played OK and talked and played badly and talked and played horribly, the more the fans began to peel back the layers to discover . . . well, they are not sure what they discovered.
But that was shockingly disappointing because Griffin was their guy. His rookie year was phenomenal, and he led the Redskins to playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.
Since then, injuries have sidelined him. It did not help that former coach Mike Shanahan played Griffin when the entire football world could see he was damaged and immobile. He tore his ACL, came back too soon from that and has not consistently resembled the player expected to be the face of the franchise.
While all this was happening, Griffin was influencing the discontent by saying everything but the right things to the media. He came off as arrogant or naive—neither good looks for the quarterback.
So here’s how far Griffin’s career his dipped: Fans chanted for Colt McCoy after last week’s pathetic loss to Tampa Bay at home. If that was not telling enough, coach Jay Gruden ripped him after the game, essentially saying Griffin had no room to assess the play of his teammates when he was so anemic.
He pointed out the mistakes of the former No. 1 pick in the draft as if he was intent on embarrassing him—Gruden embarrassed Griffin and himself. For the coach to blame the defeat on one player was childish—especially considering Gruden is responsible for the entire team, and his Redskins lost after a bye week at home to a team that had just one win at the time.
Gruden acknowledged as much a few days later, apologizing for his hatchet job of Griffin. But then he said this:
“His biggest thing, he’s been coddled for so long. It’s not a negative, he’s just been so good, he just hasn’t had a lot of negative publicity. Everybody’s loved him. Some adversity is striking hard at him now, and how he reacts to that off the field, his mental state of mind, how it affects his confidence, hopefully it’s not in a negative way.”
In other words, tomorrow against San Francisco is Griffin’s audition. Another pitiful performance of misreads and bad throws and it feels like Gruden will pull Griffin for McCoy or Kirk Cousins, neither QB half the talent of Griffin.
Griffin has the skill set to be effective. But his offensive line has to protect him. He needs time to read the field and make plays. If he does not, his time in D.C. as the starting quarterback just might be running out.