A Peek Inside The Mind Of RGIII
Pretend I am Robert Griffin III — at least for the duration of this diatribe. With his world turned upside down, what is he thinking? What would he want to say if judging eyes and ears weren’t trained on his every move and word? I presume he’d be itching to fire back at the world of professional football. He’d have a chip on his shoulder, a pen in his hand, and the urge to write his side of the story. Of course, if I were RGIII, I’d be skeptical that those pulling a paycheck, directly or indirectly, from “The Shield”, were capable of sustained silence and possessed an open mind — the two things required to properly digest a therapeutic rant. Nevertheless, I’d give it shot at the off chance that someone out there wanted to know how I really felt and could actually handle the truth. So for “them”, should they exist, I offer this take on what might be boiling just under RGIII’s very polite exterior …
The last 24 months have been a blur. In December 2011, I was wrapping up an incredible season as Baylor’s starting and all-everything quarterback. I took the nation by storm. I threw for 37 touchdowns and ran for 10 more. We won 10 games, including victories over Oklahoma and Texas, and I hoisted the Heisman Trophy. Baylor was on the college football map. Baylor! I was the latest great thing, the darling of college football. I wasn’t a big man on campus; I was the biggest man on campus. Football was fun. Life was good. If you’ve roamed a college campus, just imagine what it was like to be me.
In the spring of 2012, I apparently blew away the scouts at the combine. I was deemed adequately tall and found to be faster than advertised. My measurables, coupled with my on-field performance and charisma, had scouts drooling. I guess I was that good. Sorry?
The result: I was the second dude to shake hands with Roger Goodell at the 2012 NFL Draft and the physical reward for Washington after ceding a king’s ransom to St. Louis.
It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. Being a high first-round draft pick invites its own pressures; reporting to a team desperate (in a disturbing, stalker-like way) for a franchise force behind center, especially after it paid a stiff penalty for not sucking quite enough the year before, took the stress to a different level. Regardless, I was D.C. bound and tasked with saving something that had been dormant, if not altogether dead, for 20 years.
Football aside, offers from corporate America flooded in. I felt like a NASCAR driver-sponsor whore. I drew the line at tattooing logos on my fabulous being. I handled it rather well, don’t you think? I made Adidas cooler and Gatorade smoother. My rather pleasant image greeted you at the door of every Subway in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia region. Who doesn’t love a foot long sub? Who couldn’t love me? I guess no one. It was hard to turn it all down — the corporate stuff. I felt like I needed to establish myself, my brand. Who knows how long this is going to last? And I have big plans for this here life of mine. Football is my current stage but it won’t be my last.
So, the football thing …
After one game, a 40-32 win over New Orleans in Week 1, I was the king of D.C. President Obama was demoted. Veep Joe Biden was laid off altogether. It was my town. Everyone was an instant student of the read-option. Who dat? Me dat.
Then things got a little bumpy. After nine games we were 3-6 and I was struggling. I took solace in knowing that I was a typical rookie quarterback. I was supposed to feel tired, sore and a bit overwhelmed. But for some reason I didn’t feel like any of that was allowed. This was year three for Mike and Kyle; I know they were feeling the heat. The organization coughed up so much football dough to get me … I better be the missing link. Um, excuse me. Couldn’t I just be a 22-year-old rookie first?
After the bye week things began to click. I shredded Philadelphia at home and the “RGIII, RGIII, RGIII” chant left Sam from Cheers muttering to me that, “everybody knows your name.” Again, it was a little disturbing, but I was a rock star. Who doesn’t want to be a rock star? So I didn’t overthink it; I just went with it. I was 22! What would you have done? That’s right … you woulda went with it.
Four days later we went to Dallas and walloped the Cowboys. They tell me it was Washington’s first win in Big D on Thanksgiving Day. America’s Team was outdone by America’s quarterback (apparently). The RGIII crush was an epidemic in the mid-Atlantic region. I was a sensation. A superhero. A franchise savior. I made the most ardent President Obama supporters hopeful. Twelve months earlier, I had just been the big man on the Baylor campus. Eighteen months earlier I was just one of the guys in the Baylor locker room. I know you’ll take this the wrong way, but I was missing that former life a little. Yeah, I said it.
Reality crashed the party a couple of weeks later. Haloti Ngata crunched my knee; it hurt like hell. It was the same knee I shredded at Baylor. I was a little scared at first, but it felt okay. Still, I was pulled from the game. I missed the next game too. Sitting was brutal. I am so damn stubborn and prideful sometimes. Is that a bad thing? You loved it right up until Ngata made my leg a pretzel. I felt like this was my team and that something special was happening. Now I had to sit and watch? Stupid knee; damn Ngata. I tried to get down, I really did. He just caught me. It’s football, you know? You know it is football, right?
Thankfully Kirk won a couple of games to keep the fairytale alive. I pushed hard to return in Week 16. It took some convincing and experimentation with elaborate knee braces but Mike put me back at the helm. We beat Philly again. I didn’t feel very good — something that was obvious on film. My mobility was more Tom Brady than RGIII. Sorry, Tom. But I answered the bell and we won to set up a division-deciding game versus Dallas the following week.
We won … and I stress the “we.” I still couldn’t do much. What I could do is turn around the give the ball to Alf. He dominated. We won the game and the division. What a rookie season! Ten wins! Just like my last year at Baylor …
Let’s get this over with. I know I have to talk about Seattle. I re-injured my knee in the first half, and I should have come out of the game. I know that now, okay? I got caught up in the moment, and I didn’t want to tap out. I’ve seen Jay Cutler and LaDanian Tomlinson vilified for tapping out of playoff games. That’s not me; I don’t tap out. Coach asked if I could go and I said, “yes.” What choice did I have? The word you’re looking for is “none.” I was a rookie quarterback, the leader of the team. I felt like I had the franchise on my back (and I did). Tap out? That wasn’t on my menu.
But Mike had a choice. The decision should have been his and he should have pulled me. I’m still irritated. Why would he keep running me out there? Why am I asking this? As if he’s ever going to give me a straight answer. He couldn’t bring himself to absorb the blame. Whatever. We lost and I wrecked my knee … again. What a disastrous end to the season. Little did I know that this was merely the first chapter of an apparently infinitely long horror novel.
The dark cloud of fame and expectations have been following me since I collapsed on that jacked up, Pigskin-league turf in January. Last year I could do no wrong. Since the Seattle game, I’m apparently the village idiot and America’s punching bag. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had so many extracurricular activities during the offseason. That’s fair, I guess. What’s too much? Don’t you see Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in commercials? If there’s a different set of rules for RGIII, please let me know. So maybe I screwed up by “allowing” our bridal registry to go public. Sorry, I didn’t anticipate the level of human ingenuity (or should I say the depth of the RGIII obsession and creativity of degenerates?). Apparently I shouldn’t have gotten married at all because it was such a distraction. Forgive me for falling in love and walking down the aisle. Would you have preferred me to go through a sexual predator (allegedly) phase like Ben Roethlisberger or imitate the cornerback formerly known as Pac-Man Jones? Is that what you wanted? A playboy? A menace? Yes, this is defiant RGIII talking. I’m not apologizing for loving my wife and living my life. If you take issue with that then you have a problem … period.
From a football perspective, here’s what I’d say about my offseason: you will never know what it took to rehab that injury in eight months. I don’t expect credit; I’ve given up on that. I just want you to know that it was the greatest physical challenge of my life. The Adrian Peterson comparison isn’t fair. I love AP, but he suffered an ACL tear on a virgin knee. I blew out my LCL, damaged my meniscus and torn my original ACL graft. Doc Andrews had to cut into my “healthy” left knee to harvest material for a new ACL. My injury, and a return to NFL football in eight months, is unprecedented. Should I have sat out a few weeks at the beginning of the season? I don’t know and neither do you. Ronald Guy, this dope sports writer for Football.com argued that I should have been iced for the first four games. What does he know?
Pundits aside, my job was simple: rehab like a madman and submit myself to the medical staff and Mike (sigh) for a final decision. Did I tweak Mike through the preseason and passive-aggressively manipulate the discussion? Yeah, I did, okay? I want to play. I want to lead and inspire this roster. I want to be what you expect me to be. Again, I’m so sorry for working my a-s-s off to even make the decision difficult for the organization. And for this I’m criticized and made the scapegoat?
The talk of my superhuman abilities was foolish, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate to the criticism Spiderman received in one of the Toby McGuire movies. I also understand why Batman doesn’t even try to be the white knight; he’s embraced the inevitable stereotype as the Dark Knight.
Look, I’m quite aware of the fact that this season has fallen short of expectations. Do you doubt that I rarely sleep well these days? Remember, I’m the guy that threw myself all over the field and played on a badly wounded limb. This matters to me. I’m fully vested. My chips are in the middle of the table. I know no other way. Remember that competitor with the military upbringing that you loved last summer? I’m still that guy — only a little different. Our horrible record isn’t entirely my fault, but it certainly is partially my fault. The knee has limited me; I don’t have burst I once did. For the first time in my life I can’t run away from anyone and everyone, and I’m trying to get a feel for this pocket thing. Give me a chance. Last I checked, I’m just 23. I’d appreciate the latitude to progress down a normal learning curve. Is that too much to ask?
Since I’m spilling my guts here, I have to talk about Mike. I thought he had my back. Remember when we embraced after my knee collapsed last January? I felt like I had let him down and opened him up to visceral criticism that he’d absorb — rightly or wrongly — like a professional. But he didn’t. He was evasive, slimy and manipulative. I have a trust issue with Mike. I don’t know, unequivocally, if he should be the primary football influence in my life. Is my failure to progress my fault or his? Do you doubt my work ethic? I hope not. Do I need to recount my rehab again? Would you trust him if he was your boss? Our relationship is no different. Kyle and I are cool, but Mike runs the show. This is his roster and his offense. I have no autonomy. I’m also not surrounded by an abundance of raw talent. Did you see Drew Brees under pressure Monday night? He looked human, didn’t he? He lived my game day experience … for a week.
I think that’s enough for now. We have four games remaining, and I’m going to try to win every single one. What the offseason holds I’m almost scared to ask. Hopefully it’s far less eventful than the last one. I’m searching for two things: less negativity and that carefree kid that just played ball for Baylor a couple of year ago. If you find him, let me know.
Did I mention that the last 24 months have been a blur?
That concludes my RGIII stand-in. I’ll exit with a thought (or question) of my own: Is the sports world more adept at creating demigods or tearing them apart?