Robert Griffin III won the Hesiman Trophy in 2011. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2012. He led the Redskins to their first playoff appearance since 2007 and was, by most accounts, pretty good at his job.
Three years later, it appears we have reached the end of the RG3 era in Washington. Griffin didn’t play in the Redskins’ 31-13 preseason victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, Griffin’s backup Kurt Cousins went under center and played “awesome” according to Washington coach Jay Gruden. A day later, an ESPN report claimed the Redskins have had trade conversations about Griffin with several NFL teams while the front office and ownership stand split on whether to get rid of the franchise quarterback.
This isn’t a new trope in Washington. Griffin’s tenure has been under constant scrutiny and criticism for the better part of a year and a half. Accompanying that doubt has been a bizarre faith in Cousins from some corners of the fan base – and now seemingly the coaching staff. You can debate the merits of both quarterbacks and find stats to support either player. One fact remains true no matter how far Griffin’s stock plummets in Washington; there was a point in Griffin’s career when he was great.
Griffin was supposed to change how quarterbacks played in the NFL after taking the league by storm in 2012. He was revolutionizing the read option and injecting adrenaline straight into the heart of one of the league’s most dysfunctional teams. Griffin was the catalyst for change. That was a thing most people believed to be true.
He got hurt, sure. He required surgery on his LCL and ACL after the Redskins’ 2012 NFC Wild Card game. He was rushed back to health in 2013 and was battered throughout the first 13 games of year before then-coach Mike Shanahan shut him down. He got hurt once more in Week 2 of 2014, and though he returned in Week 9, it again felt like too much too soon. There is no doubt that part of Griffin’s problem has been injury.
He’s also to blame for his misery to a degree. When he makes irrational and unaware comments like he considers himself the best quarterback in the league or coins a new catchphrase or slogan to coincide with the start of every year, he comes off as disingenuous. This aura has rubbed some people the wrong way in the media, certainly. The same can be said for fans. Does that sentiment reach into the Washington locker room? Maybe.
But whether Griffin is likable or not shouldn’t have an impact on his ability to throw and run the football. There have been plenty of unlikable and tone-deaf quarterbacks who have enjoyed very successful careers. So while injuries and personality have both contributed to the rapid descent of Griffin’s career, neither element shoulders the majority of responsibility for the decline.
Instead, that burden of guilt lies at the feet of Dan Snyder and the people who work for him. Shanahan has said it was Snyder who empowered Griffin to pick his own playbook, and elevated him above the team. It was Snyder who hired Gruden to be the eighth Redskins coach in 14 years, and it is Snyder who muddies the waters now.
This is no longer about salvaging a future. It’s about doing right for a franchise and in turn doing right by a player. Griffin was a great quarterback. Washington made him terrible. For his sake and the team’s, let him soon be depart from our nation’s capital. Give Griffin the chance to start over and maybe the Redskins can rebuild too.