So, after he was called out by the coach, booed by the fans and ripped by the media, the Washington Redskins exercised their option to have Robert Griffin III in their organization for the 2016 season. And pay him $16 million if he’s on the roster. And it makes perfect sense.
Why? Because Griffin can play. And because finding a quarterback with his varied skill set is next to impossible.
Griffin’s last two years as QB of the Washington Redskins have been marked by injury and bad play—mostly because of the injuries and an anemic offensive line and inferior coaching. New general manager Scott McCloughan seems to be the first right-thinking decision-maker in the front office since Griffin’s knee collapsed in the playoff game against Seattle in 20012.
Since then, then-coach Mike Shanahan failed him by allowing him to play with an obviously busted knee. Owner Daniel Snyder failed him by bringing in Jay Gruden as coach. Gruden failed Griffin by devising an offense that does not put into play his mobility. The offensive line failed Griffin by preventing almost no one from teeing off on him. The fans failed him by booing their own player, failing to see the flaws in the offense and talent around him.
Cannot go on without this: Griffin failed himself. He came back too soon from injury. He was arrogant. He finger-pointed. He sulked. He held the ball too long. He threw into coverage.
All that failure, and Griffin is now set up to succeed. The quarterback position is his to keep. Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy are backups, but they both showed they are just that. . . backups. Griffin has the goods to make good on his promise.
He said to Redskins.com: “I’ve been focused on helping this team get better in our offseason program for the 2015 season.” That is a nice start to helping his cause—saying virtually nothing. He was cocky during and after the outstanding rookie season, calling the team his and assigning blame all over except at himself. He thought it would always be easy. But in the NFL, teams game-plan for you, adjust to you and get hell bent on not letting you beat them.
Painful—literally and figuratively—as the last few years have been for Griffin, this season can be redemption on an historic level if he has learned from his mistakes, has a coach that supports him, a line that protects him and fans that root for him.
“He’s had a full offseason of being healthy, and also a full season with the new offensive system,” McCloughan said. “We see tremendous upside physically with him, and he’s proven he can do it. That’s what we’re looking forward to. It’s a positive thing for the organization.
“He shows you he can do it,” McCloughan said of Griffin III’s film. “Anybody who can come in as a rookie and be rookie of the year at that position, that’s very difficult to do in the NFL. It hasn’t been done very often. Then once you’re around him, you can see the work ethic, you see the importance, and you see the passion of wanting to win. It rubs off.”
If Griffin does not come off as someone close to the player he showed early in his career, it is likely he will be benched in favor of inferior McCoy or Cousins to protect the team’s financial standing. For, if Griffin gets hurt and has to undergo surgery that will keep him out at the start of the 2016 season, the Redskins can not cut him, for it is not permitted to release an injured player. Therefore, they would have to pay him his $16.2 million salary.
If Griffin is benched and not injured, the team can cut him and only take a salary cap hit, but not have to pay him.
If Griffin plays well and shows he deserves the team for the long haul, the team would pay him the $16.2 million instead of having to craft a new deal or franchise-tag him for $20 million for 2016.
There was a time last season when it was all but certain Griffin would be somewhere else this season. And he probably wanted to go. But remarkably, he’s still a Redskins, and as fickle as coaches and fans are, it all could turn back to his favor.
Griffin’s future rides on plays and how healthy he stays. The bet here is that, with a better offensive line and more talented receivers, Griffin will be the player projected when he was selected No. 2 in the draft and led the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in too many years to count. If not, he will never see that 2016 money.