RG Me? Washington QB Must Take More Responsibility
Nine weeks into the 2012 NFL season, the Washington Redskins were all but a distant memory. The team struggled to a 3-6 record and any chance it had at a playoff berth was growing increasingly bleak as the weeks went by.
After Washington’s Week 10 bye, however, things started to click. Rookie QB Robert Griffin III began to obtain a better grasp of the offense and it quickly became apparent that Baylor University’s first-ever recipient of the Heisman Trophy was ready to put the team on his shoulders and become a leader, both on and off the field.
With a more confident RGIII at the helm, the Redskins won their final seven games and were crowned NFC East champions. Unfortunately for them, they went on to lose to the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, due in large part to a knee injury suffered by Griffin during the game.
Despite this disheartening end to their season, Redskins fans looked to 2013 with a renewed excitement that they had not felt in a good, long while. They fully expected that their impressive young signal caller would come back from his injury and build off of a strong 2012 to lead the Redskins back to the promised land.
Needless to say, the football gods were not listening.
RGIII was held out of preseason action (much to his distaste) by head coach Mike Shanahan and got off to a dreadfully slow start in 2013. Heading into Week 11, Washington again was the unfortunate owner of a 3-6 mark.
No problem. They overcame this obstacle last season, so they can do it again. Right?
Not against a Philadelphia Eagles squad looking to move into first place in the division.
The Eagles came out firing on all cylinders while the Redskins got off to a sluggish start, something that has plagued Washington all season long. After three quarters of play, Philadelphia’s defense had held the dynamic Griffin to just 66 yards passing.
And yet, Griffin was able to keep chugging along, rallying his team to cut the deficit to 24-16. After driving down the length of the field, RGIII lined up for a third-and-one from the Eagles’ 18 and Washington looked poised to eke out a win and begin their tough road to the postseason for the second year in a row.
However, Griffin faced heavy pressure and lofted the ball into the end zone where it was picked off by Philadelphia CB Brandon Boykin.
After a tough loss such as this one, a true franchise quarterback and team leader would stand behind the podium and say something along the lines of, “We just came up short at the end there. I overthrew the receiver. That’s a throw I should not have made. We have to stick together and correct some of our mistakes moving forward.”
This was not the case. Instead, Griffin took this opportunity to rip the play calling of his coaching staff during the game.
“They did a good job shutting down a lot of the stuff we were trying to do,” Griffin said to reporters following the game. “Obviously we ran the ball well, but when it came to the passing game a lot of times they were tit for tat ... They were taking away the routes we were trying to run. That's disheartening, but we have to make sure we come up with something to counteract that.”
It is little periodic jabs like this one that have led to Griffin’s leadership being called into question. Recently, Hall of Fame CB and former Redskin Darrell Green flat out said that he does not think Griffin is really the team’s leader during an interview with Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.”
In addition, at least one current teammate in the locker room was not overly thrilled with the way Griffin handled himself after the loss.
"If we're going to lose games, we need to lose games with our guy saying, 'At the end of the day, I didn't make a play,' regardless of if it wasn't him," veteran WR Santana Moss said Tuesday during an interview on 106.7 the Fan in Washington D.C.
While I think that Green’s assessment is a little premature, I see great validity in the comment made by Moss. Part of a quarterback’s job as a field general is to lead his team into battle and take the blame should victory evade them. There is no room for excuses or inadvertent finger pointing in the NFL.
But just where did things go awry?
I definitely feel that Griffin did buy into his own hype to a certain extent. I believe that winning those last seven games and the NFC East in 2012 gave him a false impression that winning in this league is fairly simple. Now that he is again running into some difficult times, Griffin’s immaturity is becoming more prevalent in his words and his actions.
Luckily for Washington fans, QB Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers began his career much the same way, and has since turned things around.
Newton was so used to winning in college that when he began playing for a less-than-stellar Panthers team, he appeared ill-equipped to handle one loss, let alone several of them. So far in 2013, however, his maturity level appears to be at an all-time high and he is coming into his own as a leader on his team. As a result, Carolina is 7-3 and in serious playoff contention.
Do I honestly think that Robert Griffin III is a bad leader for the Washington Redskins? No.
Do I think that he has to take a step back sometimes and think more about the ramifications of his words before they leave his mouth? Sure.
Perhaps Griffin’s aspirations to be a politician after his playing days come to an end are not too farfetched after all.