Saturday, January 28, 2017

As D.C.’s Other Stars Rise, Robert Griffin III Hits Rock Bottom

Appeared on in June 2015

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Sports fans know the story better than a pack of 12-year-old girls knows a Taylor Swift hit song. Robert Griffin III was good – like, generational and change-the-league good. Then he wrecked his knee, shot too many commercials, tweeted too many workouts, sold too many submarines, drank too much Gatorade, passive aggressively tweaked too many coaches, created one too many personal logos, influenced – directly or indirectly via his dad – too many game plans and ultimately accepted too little blame for losing football and crappy quarterback play.

In other words, Griffin’s delivered too much bullsh!t and not enough winning.  Before we knew it, this guy, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (remember him?)…

…regressed so significantly that former Washington tight end and current analyst Chris Cooley said the quarterback’s atrocious play made evaluating the offense impossible last year. Don’t believe Cooley? Monday Morning Quarterback weighed in with this damning piece. If pictures speak a thousand words, at least 800 of those describing these MMQB stills are FCC non-compliant.

But as you were once ordered to ignore the un-wizardly man behind the curtain, pay no attention to the mounds of concrete evidence indicating Griffin’s tenure in Washington is likely to end before President Obama’s. It is early summer and in this post-OTAs/pre-training camp time, blinding, reality-distorting optimism abounds. Griffin looks great. His 2016 contract option was picked up. The team didn’t draft a young quarterback to threaten his job. He feels better physically. He’s more confident. Praise is being heaped on him. His wife gave birth to their first child. Cue the Lego them song. Everything is awesome (with Griffin); everything is cool when you’re part of a team.

Parsing fact and fiction with Griffin has always been a challenge. Other than becoming a father (which undoubtedly is awesome), only time and real NFL games with live NFL defenses intent on destroying him will provide proof of progress. Until then it’s just more Griffin rhetoric. This is edition four of his summertime pep rally. 

Complicating Griffin’s latest and perhaps final attempt to regain his rookie form is the overwhelming success of his D.C. professional contemporaries. Three years ago Griffin owned the nation’s capital. His popularity now is plummeting like a second-term president’s. Alex Ovechkin has been as advertised and just wrapped up his sixth 50-goal season. John Wall was gotten better every season and is now among the NBA’s elite point guards. And then there’s the amazing ascension of Bryce Harper, the toast of Washington and hands-down the NL MVP thus far in 2015.

Compared to Ovechkin, Wall and Harper, Griffin is the football equivalent of the Bobby Jindal and Martin O’Malley presidential campaigns: inconsequential. The expectation of Griffin two years ago was that he’d miraculously return from knee surgery and lead a deep playoff run. Now it’s assumed that he will fall on his face and be pulled for either Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy by week 5…if he’s healthy that long.

Griffin has hit rock bottom. The buzz has turned negative. The pundits have picked over his carcass. Fans are now either apathetic about the once great hype/hope machine or are assuming one last great catastrophic failure. And maybe that’s exactly what Griffin needed: for everyone to stop believing so he could finally lose the audience for his self-promotion and blind faith.  

The only way Griffin recaptures the fervor of 2012 and gets mentioned in the same sentence as Ovechkin, Wall or Harper again is if he develops NFL quarterback skills: the stuff that produces tangible results, can be replicated weekly and sustained over an entire season. If Griffin pulls it off he’ll be one of the greatest reclamation stories in league history and the hype and praise he receives will be legitimately earned. It’s all about football now, as it should have been (but wasn’t) all along. 

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