Cynically submerged on the roster of a team that has no intention of keeping him, quarterback Robert Griffin III is being disrespected by his Washington Redskins franchise, his city and his fans. We all seem to know it’s time for a split. The ride is over for RG3 in D.C., and the city is ready to move on. A season buoyed by unexpected success culminating in a brief playoff stint captured our hearts, easing a transition that probably should have been much rougher. Above-average play from quarterback Kirk Cousins grabbed the headlines and plastered a new face on the billboards, tentatively anointing a new king for the Washington Redskins.
Through it all, RG3 sat third on the QB depth charts. Game after game, he was penciled in as inactive while backup quarterback Colt McCoy suited up behind Cousins. Somehow Griffin maintained a semblance of dignity on the sidelines, seen interacting with Cousins while the defense was on the field or huddling with coaches and players during games. But that was all we got of RG3 for the 2015 NFL season.
Since the 2014 offseason, which featured the hiring of current Head Coach Jay Gruden, Griffin’s relationship with the Washington coaching staff was strained at best. Gruden, a traditional coach who ran a traditional offense as former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, did not seem to find his system suited to the scrambling, structured-improvisation style that had brought Griffin to his highest heights. There were allegations of a personality clash as well that simmered under the surface, brought to a head on Aug. 20 against the Detroit Lions. Gruden left Griffin behind an overwhelmed offensive line in a meaningless preseason game, where he sustained hit after hit until he was forced out and eventually pronounced concussed. Griffin would not start another game. His tenure in D.C. was up.
As a Kirk Cousins skeptic, I have been mostly convinced of his ability. He could develop into a solid passer, the type of player who keeps an offense running. But his notable performance this year — sixth in total quarterback rating among starting QBs, per ESPN — leaves plenty of room for regression.
I was never convinced, on the other hand, of the failure of Griffin. As the 2012 Rookie of the Year led his team on a seven-game romp to snag the NFC East and a playoff berth that season, I was captivated. Sure, my captivation was seriously derailed by his injuries. But two of Griffin’s most prominent injuries — the grotesque collapse of his knee in the 2012 Wild Card Game against the Seahawks and the aforementioned concussion incident — can be attributed to bad coaching. Mike Shanahan infamously let RG3 back on the field despite clear indications that he was in no shape to do so.
Griffin possessed an arm and a presence that were critical, along with the electrifying running back Alfred Morris, in revitalizing a franchise in 2012. I have always contended that if you confine him to the pocket, RG3 would still stand out as one of the best arms in the game. He was a gunslinger with precision.
In 2013-14, however, Griffin would never recapture the glory of his rookie year. It was often chalked up to that devastating playoff knee injury, among other ailments. It was perhaps also the symptom of a stalled franchise that was lacking talent at key positions, including throughout the offensive line. Whatever the case, by the start of the 2015 season, Gruden seemed reluctant to hand Griffin the starting job, even if he had earned it.
Griffin’s potential, however, is still very much there and should be celebrated. Griffin presently remains stuck to the roster by General Manager Bruce Allen, who made comments implying that Griffin would get a chance with another team, but still has not cut him officially, according to the Washington Times. The Redskins will certainly not be picking up his $16.2 million team option for the upcoming season, but seem to be waiting to cut him until the March 9 deadline, keeping him in limbo as long as they can.
Above all, RG3 has been a great figure for D.C. He galvanized a fan base. He participated in the community. He captivated everyone who was paying any attention to his incredible rookie campaign. For all that, Griffin deserves a lot more recognition than he is getting. Perhaps this can be read as an overreaction, considering other teams have quarterbacks who contribute a decade or more of sustained success, but RG3 brought a season of compelling, even great, quarterbacking to a city that hadn’t seen it since the early ‘90s. For that, he has my respect.
So thank you, Robert Griffin. What you have done for this city and your team was genuine and inspired. I hope and expect that you will get your chance with another team, come back and beat us — just once. Until then, this city and the Washington franchise need to give RG3 the respectful goodbye he deserves. It’s just the right thing to do.