Robert Griffin III stepped onto FedEx Field for his first regular season home game last Sunday amidst overwhelming fanfare. Fireworks were set off, and the entire crowd of rabid Redskins fans erupted into a chant of “RG3” when the announcer sounded out his name for what felt like an eternity.
As my friend sitting beside me in section 451 nudged me to say, “The guy’s got swag,” I found myself lost in the feeling that I was witnessing the start of something special.
What if Griffin is the Redskins’ savior at quarterback?
After years of suffering through Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb and Mark Brunell, Washington is in need of a Pro Bowl starting quarterback to lead the city to its first Super Bowl since 1991. Strutting onto the field, Griffin appeared ready to take on that job.
Through the first half of football that day, with his team struggling to give Griffin time in the pocket to make throws, Washington’s quarterback had only six passing yards. Even worse, the Redskins’ plays did not utilize their quarterback’s special talents, leaving the crowd at FedEx Field in doubt of the Baylor product’s potential.
But those doubts quickly faded as the second half began. Griffin became electrifying, slashing through linebackers and flicking 20-yard passes as if they were nothing. After an abysmal first half, Skins Coach Mike Shanahan allowed his offense to run an option-based attack that put up 24 points in one half.
With each big play RG3 made, I bought into the hype that he could usher in a new era of Washington football — no small feat in a city that desperately needs to inject excitement to build on its 80-year history.
This was until the first big hit on Griffin of the second half. In order to open up the offense to meet his particular skill set, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, Shanahan’s son, Kyle, had to rely on option runs and pass plays that broke out of the pocket.
As a result, the young superstar was left wide open for serious collisions with defensive players who are much larger than his 223-pound frame and most of whom intended to inflict pain on the quarterback.
The second half of Sunday’s home opener revealed one of the biggest decisions that the Redskins will have to make in dealing with RG3: Will Head Coach Mike Shanahan sacrifice utilizing some of Griffin’s skills and natural abilities for the sake of keeping the young star healthier for longer?
With formerly explosive players like Michael Vick seeming suddenly human and prone to injury,Shanahan has to see the writing on the wall and know that Griffin could suffer a similar fate.
In only his third regular season game in the league, Griffin seemed to stay down longer than normal after every hit.
Yes, he had just been smashed to the gridiron after executing an option run perfectly, but the quarterback acted like he was truly in pain after every single hit in the home opener. At the age of 22, his habit of hanging onto the ball until the last possible minute is already causing him a large amount of unnecessary physical trauma.
But for some reason, taking these hits is part of Griffin’s style. You can’t enter a game with the swagger of the toughest guy out there without being willing to back it up, something Griffin certainly loves to do.
When a defensive player was called for a late hit on the quarterback, Griffin stood tall and even took the opportunity to talk trash. He will never back down from a fight, but that toughness, combined with play calls that leave him as a target for defensive ends, will eventually wreck the former Baylor standout’s body.
For the Redskins to get their money’s worth, which is quite a bit considering the draft picks they gave up in the trade for Griffin, the phenom has to remain healthy.
Washington leveraged its entire future to complete the trade, meaning one season of flashy plays and exciting wins followed by chronic injuries and disappointment will not do.
Unless the Redskins can find a way to use RG3’s talents in a safer way, they are heading straight for disaster.
Corey Blaine is a senior in the McDonough School of Business. THE BLEACHER SEATS appears every Friday.