Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Robert Griffin III: Expectation Management

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com) in April 2012

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

It’s been a shameful few weeks, sports fans.  Instead of behaving like role models, our heroes have resembled boorish frat boys with an intelligence-sapping beer buzz and a thirst for mischief.  The figurative police blotter reads something like this…

The New Orleans “Saints”…how oxymoronic…are mired in the smelly wake of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ tenure.  Williams’ bounty system – a disturbing pay-for-injury program – scored him an indefinite suspension from the NFL and has left the Saints without their head coach for the season (Sean Payton was suspended for the upcoming season).  

Ozzie Guillen, the habitually potty-mouthed manager of the Miami Marlins, spewed ignorance and cultural insensitivity when he inexplicably praised Fidel Castro’s ability to survive 60 years of opposition.  For his “enlightened” rhetoric, Guillen was suspended for 5 games and will be left with the massive chore of healing his relationship with the Latin community. 

Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino, a 51-year-old married father of four, wrecked his motorcycle and initially neglected to mention that his 25-year-old mistress was aboard.  When faced with the release of the police report, Petrino finally came clean.  Classy.  His introduction now goes something like this:  “Hi, I’m Bobby Petrino…I’m a liar, a cheating husband…and a recently unemployed football coach.” 

And then there’s the cherry on the top of the sports world’s boob sundae: Tiger Woods.  Once upon a time Woods’ performances at The Master’s were synonymous with record-setting performances, fist pumps and slipping on green jackets.  This year, in the midst of an on-course meltdown, Woods paid homage to his inner “terrible two” and dropped kicked his club after an errant shot.  Ahhh yes…Tiger Woods…the ultimate gentlemen for a gentlemen’s sport.

Interesting then that the mature counterbalance to this collection of pompous gray-bearded scoundrels that ought to know better is two youngsters not quite at the dawn of their professional careers.  That dawn will arrive with the first two picks in the upcoming NFL Draft when Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (RGIII) are selected - likely in that order.  It seems the Colts and ‘Skins, holders of the first two picks, will acquire the rarest of NFL assets: an ultra-talented young quarterback without a blemish on his character resume.  In the intense spotlight of today’s sports coverage (one I’m glad won’t illuminate my past), both young men consistently say and do the right things and, given the absence of dirt on either one, apparently have always done so.  They are remarkable and refreshing young lads, particularly considering the behavior of the aforementioned stooges (all apologies to Larry, Curly and Moe).    

After two miserable decades of very sporadic success and bad quarterback play, RGIII’s likely arrival in D.C. has ‘Skins fans in a full lather.  Anticipating his diverse skill-set in burgundy and gold has inflated the hope-meter to levels not seen since Joe Gibbs returned – and rightfully so.  RGIII behind center, in this quarterback-dominated era, raises the possibility that the ‘Skins will become something they haven’t been since Gibbs’ first tenure: perennial contenders.  Gasp!  I know, right?  Crazy talk.  The ‘Skins have had good quarterbacks…long, long ago…but never anyone with the skills of this guy.  RGIII is more mobile than Joe Theismann, has a deep ball as sweet as Mark Rypien’s, appears to have Sonny Jurgensen’s bravado and is as unflappable in the moment as Doug Williams (I’ll withhold any comparison to Sammy Baugh until I see him punt and play cornerback). 

With that said, I’ll offer this plea: pump the brakes on the expectations sled.  The hysteria makes it easy to forget RGIII will arrive as a 22-year-old rookie with a lot to learn and, despite his poise, no comprehension of ‘Skins nation’s justifiable desperation for a franchise savior.  The adjustment will take him, like any new arrival to a team or organization, time.  Permit him this.  Be patient.  Create an environment that promotes his comfort and growth.  Ignore the radio and print sharks that will inevitably pick him apart like the great fish in Hemmingway’s Old Man and Sea.  RGIII will succeed – his talent and intangibles are too great not to – as long as our expectations don’t overwhelm him.  

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