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Accepting A Deal With The Success-Devil In D.C.

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Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Contemplate this series of numbers: five, four, six, three, nine and 11. Here’s another one: 24, one, 37, 10, 77 and 84. They are, respectively, Robert Griffin III’s weekly rushing attempts and rushing yards this season. Ladies and gentlemen, the trend is unmistakable; it is also encouraging, concerning, exciting and worrisome. 

After receiving a volley of criticism for his and Washington’s performance in the first four games, it is clear RGIII has decided to revert to daredevil form and deploy the team’s one difference-making offensive asset: his skinny, gifted, braced and bionic legs. He said as much last week when, during a press conference, he stressed the importance of being himself between the lines and playing instinctually. The statistics from last Sunday’s win over Chicago validated his words, and the 38 offensive points justified his perilous decision.

That RGIII even has the option of being more mobile and resembling last year’s franchise-altering force is simply amazing. What has been lost in all that is the franchise quarterback brought to you by Subway/Gatorade/Insert your product here is a disciplined, mentally tough young man who worked his tail off to be available for his team and to absolve his head coach of a horrific sin — a not-so-inconsequential comeback byproduct. To return from one ACL injury is impressive; to return from a second to the same knee in a three-year period is allegedly — and somewhat legitimately — superhuman. Unfortunately, the marketing machine surrounding “The Most Interesting Man in Washington D.C. sports” clouds this most impressive feat.

Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be this way even if it could be this way. RGIII wasn’t supposed to be the offensive catalyst again. The return of TE Fred Davis, a more experienced Aldrick Robinson, the venerable Santana Moss and a healthier Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson were supposed to form a prolific supporting cast. Instead, Davis is on the outs, Hankerson has been inconsistent and allergic to physical contact, Robinson and Morgan are apparently competing for the “invisible man” title and, sad to say, Moss just looks old. Garcon has been his steady, ornery self (and I mean that in a good way), and rookie TE Jordan Reed is emerging, but the rest of the receivers are just random, late-night flings: marginally acceptable at 2 a.m., unattractive and a dime a dozen in the morning.  

That leaves RGIII and his fragile physical gifts to make a difference. He knows that now; I know that now. The Shanahan’s, because they understand the talent deficiencies of their roster, knew it all along. I think RGIII wants to dominate from the pocket. I think his personal quarterback model is Aaron Rodgers: throw often and effectively; run when you have to. The ‘Skins are not there yet and, to be fair, neither is RGIII. The line can’t hold for a pocket passer, the receivers can’t get consistent separation and the quarterback can’t yet manipulate at the line like the greats.

So the ‘Skins are what they are: a team with average talent and one dynamic force. Absent that force, you get the moribund product that was 1-3, largely noncompetitive and was only capable of beating a team led by a now unemployed quarterback. With RGIII being RGIII (see those 20 carries and over 150 yards rushing in the last two games), the ‘Skins have been, to the naked eye, the better football team over the last two weeks. If they have any chance of building on the victory over Chicago, digging out of a listless 1-4 hole and making a run in the NFC East, it’s going to be via the scampering feet of RGIII. It’s not how it should be; it’s how it must be. 

For the faint of heart, RGIII’s rushing effort against Chicago was encouraging. He routinely found the edge on read option runs and casually coasted out of bounds. He resisted the temptation to turn it upfield in search of the sensational and at the risk of life and limb. For a single Sunday, he made 11 carries and 84 rushing yards look sustainable. As his confidence grows and the importance of games increases, will RGIII shun safe exits at the sidelines and risk another Haloti Ngata moment? Ugh…it’s hard to even consider.

For a single Sunday and its succeeding week (at least), RGIII is seemingly back and refreshingly more conservative. The future will no doubt bring with it much risk and potential peril. It is what it is. It’s D.C.’s, the Shanahan’s and RGIII’s deal with the success devil and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.