Robert Griffin III has been benched for the Washington Redskins game on Sunday. As both a passionate fan of the team, but one who also admires this young man and his family, I support the decision. RG3 just looks like he’s really in a big mental rut, one that gives the team no realistic chance to win, and puts him at serious physical risk. Watching him hold the ball, look indecisive and then get crushed makes me long for the safer days when he simply took off and ran into the open field.
But let’s keep this in a broader perspective and not overreact to the heat of the moment. RG3’s career is not lost—or at least it doesn’t have to be, if everyone involved makes good decisions.
This quarterback’s body has been through hell the last couple years. We’re looking at a torn ACL and a dislocated ankle that come on top of another torn ACL that happened early in his college career. That’s a lot of wear and tear for anybody, much less someone who relies on his legs. In retrospect, the bigger shock would be if RG3 didn’t go through a crisis of confidence in trying to trust his body and play with smooth instincts.
I’m accused by those that know me—and not without cause—of drinking too much RG3 Kool-Aid. It’s fair enough, and even if 90 percent of it was just posturing, that still leaves 10 percent of actual Kool-Aid consumption.
One of the areas that I really did buy into the RG3 hype was that he would be able to come back from his ACL tear with a minimum of disruption.
This was not only RG3 hype, but coming on top of Adrian Peterson’s recovery from a similar injury to win the MVP award a year later. I bought into the theory that we were in a whole new world of medical advancement.
It was a theory that was dead wrong, as both RG3 and Derrick Rose will be happy to attest.
The consequence of that is this—it’s been apparent from the season-opening game against the Houston Texans, that RG3 is overthinking a lot. It’s as though he’s having an on-field debate with himself in the pocket as whether to extend a play or simply to eat the football. By the time the debate is over, the defensive line answers it by crushing him into the turf.
On top of all this, we have an NFL mindset that insists that all quarterbacks be cut from the exact same cookie-cutter template, and be a precise dropback passers in the mold of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden clearly buys into this, as evidenced by his decision to take the read-option out of the playbook.
In other words, RG3 had to become an entirely different kind of quarterback at precisely the same time he was trying to learn to trust his body all over again after injury. And we’re shocked that this isn’t going well?
Nonetheless, in spite of all this, all is not lost. ProFootballFocus.com grades the films of each player in the NFL after every game. In RG3’s four starts, his composite grade is higher than that for Matthew Stafford in Detroit (prior to today’s win) and Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer, just to name two. The film grades take context into account—did a player have protection, did he have open receivers, etc.
In other words, the PFF grade doesn’t take the stupid, simplistic approach that says a quarterback is solely responsible for wins and losses or even the less foolish, but still unsatisfying approach of just reviewing a QB’s stat line in the box score, as though it’s not dependent on a lot that goes on around him.
Don’t get me wrong—RG3’s grades are still poor, and the above fact is more an indictment of Stafford and Hoyer than anything. Colt McCoy deserves to start Sunday for the Redskins, and quite possibly well beyond that. I like Colt, and will be pulling for him.
But whether RG3’s future is in the nation’s capital or elsewhere, I’ll be pulling for him too. Right now, he just needs time—the time to let his body and mind reintegrate with each other and play with his old athletic smoothness. That’s not a process that gets worked out in a week.
I hope the Redskins choose to be the team that works with him, and use both him and McCoy in 2015. I understand if my own team decides that chore is just too much. But they better do so with eyes wide-open, because an RG3 revival is hardly some wild, off the charts possibility.