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Robert Griffin’s Decline is a Spectacle

It’s really incredible how far Robert Griffin III’s stock has fallen. He was fresh, electric, and innovative at the quarterback position in his rookie year four years ago. There were over-publicized issues with head coach Mike Shanahan; rumors said that the coach favored backup Kirk Cousins over Griffin, a stance that we all now see as correct.

It wasn’t possible for Cousins to overtake Griffin those first few years. Hope for a successful reclamation project was still very present in Washington during the 2015 offseason. The national hype and scrutiny on the Redskins organization and its handling of Griffin was overbearing.

Everything around him — his actions, the actions directed toward him, his relationships with teammates, coaches, and even family — defined the organization. It wasn’t an advantageous definition either; the stigma dispersed just as quickly as it rose to its peak in 2012.

We should remember what Griffin brought to Washington. He allowed a team muddled in the doldrums for so long to arrive in the spotlight. There was tangible hope for the franchise. For the fans younger than ~20, it was the only good omen they had ever seen from their team.

It’s needless to go deep into his downfall. Griffin’s injury-forced decline is something NFL fans know too well. It was stuffed down our throats by every media outlet, many of the click-bait plush pieces even deflecting blame off him and toward owner Dan Snyder, the front office, or teammates.

The drama was never-ending, and to believe it will cease with his move to Cleveland is naive. If the Browns visit Washington with Griffin as the starter — a position that isn’t even guaranteed for him, it will be an event immediately qualified for national television.

It was fortunate that Kirk Cousins’ rise quieted some of RG3’s unwarranted attention. Certain Redskins fans were unable and unwilling to let go of the second overall pick’s potential.

Back up to 2012; if an “expert” said that Griffin would be out of Washington after four years and Cousins would even be in the position to demand tens of millions in free agency — they would be laughed out of the room.

In a way, Cousins’ success softened the blow of Griffin’s last day as a Redskin. There was still some crumbs of drama. His benching and move to the bottom of the depth chart before the season started was a small surprise.

He left behind a note after his locker was cleaned out, an excerpt of which read: “If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies…Succeed Anyway.”

His new team, the Cleveland Browns are seriously desperate and willing to try anything. The long list of failed quarterback projects is depressing (24 different starters since 1999). It’s not just football; the city hasn’t seen a major sports championship in 50 years.

Browns coach Hue Jackson said, “it felt like the Earth moved beneath my feet” when Griffin rolled out to pass at a recent workout. He said his accuracy was “freakish”. The organization as a whole is high on Griffin. That’s surprising, considering the front office overhaul and change to a more analytics-based evaluation system Cleveland committed to this past offseason.

Apparently, that new approach told them to offer 2 years/$15 million to Griffin. That’s a bit steep for a team that desperately needs improvement at every position. Their best route is to build through the draft, not free agency; key players, like long-time center Alex Mack, offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, receiver Travis Benjamin, and safety Tashaun Gipson, are jumping ship for less money elsewhere.

That says a lot for Griffin’s stock. It’s fallen — quickly and steeply. He was put in a position to consider Cleveland as his best option. He is getting good money, but for how long after 2018?   

Griffin is a quarterback that has yet to develop as a pocket passer and owns a lucrative injury history, and it’s clear that he can’t keep bailing out of the pocket if he wants to have a decent NFL career. Fate hasn’t been too kind for quarterbacks with similar styles (see: Colin Kaepernick).   

He reached out to Tom Brady’s quarterback guru recently to help him develop that pocket passing style that caters well to longevity. A good step considering his weaknesses, but it may be in vain. While the organization is keen on Griffin — and shelled out the money to prove it — there is a strong possibility that a quarterback will head to Ohio after the upcoming draft.

It is in the Browns’ best interests to draft a quarterback with the second overall selection. North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Cal’s Jared Goff will likely be sitting there for them, and while it would hurt to draft yet another quarterback, it could be the right move. After all, it’s the most important position on the field.

No one would envy Griffins situation if it weren’t for the money. He’s been faced with an uphill battle to prove to himself, and the entire NFL, that he can be the player he was as a rookie. And he has to do it in Cleveland, to boot.

Good luck Robert. We’re rooting for you.

 

Grant Thomas View All

18 year old Washington sports fan and Penn State freshman. I'll cover the MLB, NFL, and NBA.

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