Remember when the Washington Redskins mortgaged the farm so that they could move up to #2 and draft Robert Griffin the Third out of Baylor in 2012?
For a while there it looked like their plan actually worked.
Griffin went on to win Rookie of the Year honors as he led his team to the post-season in his first year while wowing the league in a seemingly unstoppable Read-Option based offense.
RG3 rushed for 7 touchdowns while averaging an impressive 54.3 yards per game on the ground. He also passed for 20 more with just 5 interceptions and finished out his opening campaign with an impressive passer rating of 102.4 and 200-plus yards through the air per contest.
But oh how the mighty have fallen.
— Sporting News NFL (@sn_nfl) November 26, 2014
And now that Griffin’s been benched, it’s not hard to wonder if he’ll ever get back to living up to his potential.
The career-ending injury that wasn’t?
When Griffin’s knee buckled versus Seattle in the 2012 NFC Wild Card round, Skins fans were hopeful that modern medicine and unprecedented physical therapy technologies would patch their QB up and have him ready to go in no time.
After all, Adrian Peterson won the MVP and nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s all-time rushing record just 8 months after having his ACL and MCL surgically repaired.
Why not RG3?
A disappointing comeback
In 2013 Griffin’s production severely declined. Just one season after scoring seven rushing touchdowns he was unable to find pay dirt with his legs even once in the 13 games he started.
He also threw nearly as many picks (12) as he did touchdowns (16), took eight more sacks and saw his rating drop by a full 20 points.
Overnight he had plummeted from superstar to average.
Getting down to the root of the problem
A comedy of errors has led to Griffin’s demise. While the injury has in all likelihood caused him to lose half a step, it is his confidence that he misses most.
Sure, during his rookie campaign RG3 ran with reckless abandon, to the extent that his coaches and mentors should have reined him in and taught him how to slide – but these days when he takes off it’s as though he’s completely flipped to the other side of the coin as opposed to finding a happy medium.
Instead of attacking with aggressive caution, he’s running scared – and with his once-dangerous run game in check, defenses are able to key in on the pass, hence his significant rise in interceptions and drop in 20-plus yard plays.
Add to the equation the fact that the DC’s of the league have mostly unlocked the secret for controlling the Read-Option and Robert Griffin is just one more college standout trying to prove he can play the pocket game in the NFL.
Is there legitimate hope for a turnaround?
Steve Young says yes.
He was a high-draft pick and running quarterback who also suffered a bumpy ride early on in his career before moving on to earn a spot at Canton.
RG3 has the 3rd-worst winning percentage since 1967 among QBs in their 2nd and 3rd seasons pic.twitter.com/vwdrGT2xVk
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 26, 2014
Of course Akili Smith was out of the league a year later after playing in just one more game.
My guess is that Griffin’s trajectory lies somewhere in the middle of the two.
At (3-8) this season is pretty much in the books for the Redskins, particularly when both Philadelphia and Dallas already have eight wins. The fact that they’ve got nothing to lose and are already looking forward to 2015 speaks volumes about the team’s confidence in Robert Griffin III.
They don’t have any.
If Gruden truly believed that the future still lied with RG3 at the helm he would express this confidence outwardly and openly by allowing Robert to finish out the season and get the reps in he needs to get back on track.
Unless someone higher up in the organization, such as Dan Snyder, feels strongly enough to reboot at coach and stick with their Golden-Boy-gone-sour, there’s a good possibility that Washington ships off the former #2 pick to whichever quarterback-needy team is willing to dish out the best draft pick.
He’s got enough up-side to make it worth rolling the dice, but unless the Redskins know something that we don’t, his time is most likely finished in the capital.
Plenty of company to hang with
There are plenty other disappointments from the top of that 2012 class – aside from Andrew Luck, who was destined for greatness ever since he stopped shaving, every other player from the Top 7 has fallen under hard times.
#3 Trent Richardson: He’s showing everyone why “not” to draft a running back in the first round.
#4 Matt Kalil: This lineman for the Vikings allows more sacks than any other player in the NFL.
#5 Justin Blackmon: Isn’t he suspended? Oh yes, indefinitely.
#6 Morris Claiborne: First he was benched then he was on IR.
#7 Mark Barron: Traded for fourth- and sixth-round picks. Seriously, who the @#&! is Mark Barron?
So don’t fret RG3, you’ll be in good company should your demotion to back-up become permanent. You might lose your nickname and your endorsements but getting paid millions to hold a clipboard isn’t the worst job out there.