All of us who are fans of the Washington Redskins, and also love Robert Griffin III, can see the reality of the situation. RG3 simply looks like a young man lost. He’s not using his legs to any kind of positive effect, and after a career that has two ACL tears and a dislocated ankle, it’s not hard to figure out why. If the Redskins truly had to win a football game right now, there would be no good argument for starting anyone other than Colt McCoy.
My question is this—whenever this change comes, is it asking too much that Jay Gruden not act like the back end of a horse when dealing with RG3? So far, the head coach is failing that test.
I don’t fault Gruden for calling out RG3 a week ago at his press conference for Griffin’s comments about his teammates. While the overall context of RG3’s remarks—backed up by reporters who were there—is that Griffin didn’t mean them as badly as they came off, the fact is the comments were incredibly poorly worded. And, at least in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RG3 had performed vastly worse than his teammates.
But even in delivering this rebuke, Gruden went too far. His opening rebuttal—that the quarterback needs to worry about himself and the head coach would worry about everyone else—was on target. Then Gruden started going into a laundry list of everything else RG3 was doing wrong. This was going too far, and even the head coach knew it, walking back his comments later in the week.
Then, prior to Sunday’s game in San Francisco, Gruden again decided to go after his quarterback. The coach said “He’s auditioned long enough…the clock’s ticking.” This was simply ridiculous. We could start by pointing out that RG3 had played only three full games when the comment was made. We could further point out that RG3 was actually Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012—it’s not as though he’s completely unaccomplished in the NFL. Like, for example, the current Washington Redskins head coach. And the comment came off like Gruden was deciding to pile on.
What the issue really is though, is this—Robert Griffin III is not a “bust”, in the sense that Ryan Leaf was a bust, or Sam Bradford has been a bust. Robert Griffin III got hurt. Before that happened, he was easily the best quarterback in the rookie class of 2012, lifting a moribund franchise to a division title and having the Seattle Seahawks in a 14-0 hole in the playoffs before he finally took the injury from which he has yet to recover. Getting hurt is a big disappointment, but it doesn’t make you a bust.
Moreover, Griffin’s injury was aggravated by the decision of the Redskins—or at least their then-head coach Mike Shanahan, to leave him in the playoff game when an entire nation watching on television could see he was hurt. If this were another industry, Shanahan would be on the hook for culpable negligence. If an organization’s personnel is responsible for a player’s current problems, is it too much to ask they at least not publicly humiliate the player as the pretext for making a change?
Finally, Gruden is the one who has declined to use Griffin’s full range of skills in his offensive game-planning. In yesterday’s game I counted only four players where Griffin was put on the move—not even running, but just rolling out. Everything else was a vanilla dropback route. Even McCoy, in his great Monday Night start in Dallas last month, was allowed to run the read-option and roll out. Why not Griffin?
What everything smacks of—from the public beatdowns to the deliberate refusal to use the quarterback’s full range of talents—is that Gruden has essentially mailed it in on RG3.
RG3 has looked to me, in all his starts, as a quarterback who has lost his confidence and even lost his identity, unsure in the pocket about whether he should run or hold on to the ball. He admitted as much, saying over a week ago that he often feels “at war with myself.” That’s not exactly a good recipe for success in the NFL.
It’s for those reasons that I think RG3 is just in a very bad mental rut that won’t disappear anytime soon and that you have to go with McCoy if you’re serious about winning on Sunday. If the organization wants to give Griffin the rest of the season to try and right himself, I understand that decision. But if that’s the case, then really let him play.
And whatever happens, if the time comes to go with McCoy (which I believe it will) or even to cut ties with RG3 entirely (as I believe might be necessary for both sides), I’m going to repeat my question—is it asking too much that the head coach not behave boorishly in doing it. Let RG3 rebuild his career, either in Washington or elsewhere, but don’t ever forget how hard he competed, or that it was an avoidable injury that did him in.