Friday, September 18, 2015

Failure To Learn Or Failure To Teach?

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The end is near. Let the eulogies begin.

It is shocking, this present state. He was so good, so fast that such a precipitous fall would have seemed impossible just three years ago. Three years ago. A lifetime ago.

On September 9, 2012, Robert Griffin III rolled into the visitor-unfriendly New Orleans Superdome and led Washington to a 40-28 victory over the Saints. He threw for 320 yards, rushed for 42, tossed two touchdown passes and definitively outplayed New Orleans QB Drew Brees, a future Hall of Famer.

A few bumps would follow: a concussion, a 3-6 record after nine games and a late-season knee injury against the Ravens. But Griffin was at the helm for six of seven consecutive wins to conclude the season, a stretch that delivered Washington’s first division title since 1999 and only its second home playoff game since 1992.

A hero was born.

By the end of the 2012 regular season, Griffin’s star transcended football. Bright, fun, confident, brave, charismatic, interactive with fans, African American and from a military family, nearly everyone could find something in Griffin they could relate to and/or respect. He was still a quarterback, but not just a quarterback. He was an entity. A fountain of hope. A source of pride. A reason to believe, not just in a football team, but that achievement – any achievement – resided at the confluence of opportunity, a positive attitude and strong work ethic.

Griffin, circa 2012, could do no wrong. Griffin, circa 2015, can do no right – on or off the field. Demoted and mired in controversy (much of his creation), his tenure in the town that once chanted his name seems near its conclusion and his future in the NFL, a league temporarily captivated by his talent, is murky at best.

I don’t have the space and it’s doubtful you have the desire to rehash the various reasons for Griffin’s fall. Like everything with the quarterback, it’s unnecessarily complicated. The factors include a serious and wholly avoidable knee injury (shame on you Mike Shanahan), distrust between organization and player, Griffin’s passive-aggressive manipulation, controversial tweets, personal logos and endless self-promotion. But mostly, Griffin’s failure can be condensed into this simply fact: post knee injury, he’s been terrible on the field.

The question is why? Why can’t he read defenses efficiently? Why is his footwork terrible? Why is his pocket presence so obviously deficient? Why, despite his physical gifts and after three full seasons in the NFL, does he still look so rudimentary behind center?

Did Griffin fail to learn or did his organization and coaches fail to nurture his growth and teach the position adequately?

These questions aren’t unique to Griffin and Washington. The NFL habitually chews up and spits out blue chip quarterbacks. Is it a player or team issue? In Cool Hand Luke, Captain’s famous “Failure to Communicate” speech includes this line: “Some men you just can’t reach.” In the risky business of quarterback prospecting, there will always be kids who are destined to fail, regardless of circumstance. But the burnout rate is still alarming. Literally half the quarterbacks drafted in the first round flame out. It’s damning proof that the formula for developing talent at the game’s most important position confounds the league and football’s brightest minds. 

As for Griffin and Washington, specifically, was the quarterback just another college spread-offense dynamo that failed to translate or the latest victim of a dysfunctional franchise? Who knows? Perhaps the pending documentary will provide answers. There’s certainly shared blamed between player and organization. And maybe that’s the usefulness of The Griffin Chronicles: a failed mentor-mentee relationship. Trust and respect were lost. Impatience and stubbornness were pervasive. One party failed to adapt its teaching techniques to a unique talent; the other failed to submit himself to a new situation’s demands. The result - a lost career and a franchise in an inescapable death spiral – indicts all involved. 

So…if you’re in a position to influence lives or a person in need of guidance, heed the mutual failings in Griffin’s cautionary tale. I suppose that puts us all on notice.

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