The trials of Robert Griffin III are clearly taking their toll on the psyche of the Washington Redskins quarterback. RG3 took to Facebook to defend himself from critics. The move has had the predictable effect of stirring up his critics like sharks react to blood in the water, while also providing a rallying point for his supporters.
Below is the pertinent paragraph of what was about a three-paragraph post. The regular readers of TheSportsNotebook know that I’m a fan of the Washington Redskins, and while my loyalty to the team comes first, I’m a big fan of Robert Griffin III, regardless of where he plays. Following the post are the “Notebook Nine”, the nine pertinent thoughts I have on the RG3 Facebook saga…
You think I want it to be national news that I visit a beach? Or shop at Walmart? Or wore red shoes instead if green yesterday? Well I don’t. I’m “striving” for greatness just like my fellow teammates do. The “attention” that comes with being a QB in the league is what you are referring to. All the press conferences and talking to the media? Mandated by the league to have a press conference every week during the season and during team activities during the off-season. Oh wait, you must be talking about the Commercials? Right? Oh ok so what was the deal with those in 2012? WE won the division. So in 2013 when WE get knocked down, and finish last it’s because of the commercials? If that is your reasoning I have nothing more to say. WE will get back up. That is what matters. I hope I answered your question well enough.
And that you keep supporting the team.
*Posts like these make me like RG3 the human being even more. He comes across as someone who’s very frustrated with the character attacks he’s had to put up with, and frustrated with the season he and his team endured. I’m not saying a Facebook post is necessarily smart—but it comes across to me as very authentic, very human and very real. And speaking personally I like it.
*But…posts like this leave me very concerned about RG3 the quarterback. One thing to note is that when I call this a “Facebook post”, it was a reply to a comment and regular users of Facebook will understand the difference. It means that RG3 did not simply post something to get it off his chest and then let people read it. This means he was reading through a lot of comments on his page, got to something he didn’t like and then posted his own reply buried within the comments. That’s a lot of time worrying about what other people are saying about you.
*The consequence is that those of us who love the Redskins have to be worried that RG3 is too sensitive to occupy such a high-profile position in such an intensive media market. Washington, even after two decades of bad football, is still a town passionate about its team. The media is filled with people who imitate the same confrontational approach of their political counterparts in town. A prominent NFL quarterback ranks only behind the President of the United States in terms of media scrutiny. I’m worried RG3 might not be equipped to handle that part of the job.
*The case for going after his critics was articulated by First Take’s Stephen A. Smith this morning, who noted that RG3 had not simply his game, but his character completely emasculated over the past year, and there comes a point when anyone has to say enough is enough, and go on the offense. Stephen A disagreed with the method—he had the view of the elitist media which said RG3 should speak through them rather than directly to the fans—but his point was well-taken.
*One of my problems with the Facebook post was one that will sound strange—I agreed with all of it. Let me explain. RG3 would get himself in trouble during press conferences in the season by occasionally letting frustration slip over the lack of support. It was nothing I wasn’t thinking myself for the previous three hours, but let’s go back to our point about an NFL quarterback outranking even a U.S. Senator in terms of public prominence (stop and think about it, and you realize it’s not even close). You cannot say what you are really thinking, even if it’s true. The notion that a quarterback is really at fault every time his team loses is asinine, but when the QB keeps his postgame press conference simple and says it’s all fault it takes the heat off everyone else. My rule with RG3 is simple—if he says something I agree with, it’s probably something that shouldn’t have been said.
*I believe a good chunk of this criticism is racial. Are you going to tell me a clean-cut white kid, from a military family, who lifted a no-name college program to prominence, led a floundering NFL franchise to a division title and then worked his tail off to come back from a torn ACL, would be held out as anything less than a role model, no matter how many commercials he did? Before you heap the politically correct tag on me, I voted three times to make Pat Buchanan the president of the United States, something I trust inoculates me from the PC label.
*I think what Mike Shanahan did to this young man is deplorable. Supposedly, Shanahan—who had the contractual right to make all decisions on personnel—didn’t want RG3 in the first place, but gave in to pressure from owner Daniel Snyder. Hence, the later decision to draft Kirk Cousins. There’s nothing wrong with that—in fact you could have easily sold me on it in April 2012. There is something wrong with choosing this path, and then using your media contacts to leak information designed to destroy RG3’s character. Mike Shanahan should never again be employed by an NFL team, nor by a network.
*Moving forward, I have very few concerns about RG3’s game itself. I think a lot of this year’s problems were overblown by a sports media culture that equates the W-L record to the quarterback. The problems that did exist—he tried to force balls more than in his rookie year—I think can work themselves out by getting back into a physical comfort zone and strengthening the supporting cast.
*And now it’s time to focus on football. A new coach is in town, and while I’m less than thrilled with the hire of Jay Gruden (okay, I’m positively ready to jump off a cliff), it still means a fresh start. I’m genuinely excited about new offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who did great work with the tight ends last season. All of this provides a real opportunity for RG3 to get himself healthy, happy and productive. He’s a good kid and a tough kid—but he might want to stay off of Facebook.