Saturday, January 21, 2017

Robert Griffin III and The Curse Of Sammy Baugh

Appeared on

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

For a fourth consecutive season, the exploits of one Robert Griffin III will dominate the professional football conversation in the nation’s capital. Sigh. Roll your eyes. Act disgusted. Fatigued. Disinterested. Then do what football addicts do: indulge.

As a rookie in 2012, Griffin was historically good and shamefully broken. After returning (too soon) from reconstructive knee surgery in 2013, he displayed psychological and physical wounds, obviously questioning his instincts and dragging his bionic knee around the field. Brace free and with a brand new head coach - hired in part to rejuvenate the one-time franchise savior - Griffin was supposed to return to form last year. Or at least be adequate? Instead, Griffin regressed so significantly that the today’s prevailing opinion is that 2012, Griffin’s distant year of greatness, was the anomaly and that the last two seasons of sub-mediocre play is more indicative of RGIII’s NFL capabilities. How quickly promise is consumed by doubt and hope turns to despair. Like sands though the hourglass, these are the days of D.C.’s football lives. 

The reasons for Griffin’s professional crash are complex. Did he pitch too many subs and sports drinks? Was his “all-in for week one” slogan ego-fueled folly? Was #themovement disguised as The Great Regression? Did a graybeard coach (Mike Shanahan) who should have known better, misuse and abuse Griffin, forever breaking the young quarterback’s trust in his caretakers? Is he the hard working, honest and decent young man he appears to be? Or is he narcissistic, utterly delusional and more interested in self-publishing workout videos than he is in studying tape of NFL defenses?  

Hell if I know – about any of it. And that’s the Griffin conundrum. It is also the essence of Griffin-fascination. Despite obsessive dissecting that’s rendered him the oldest 25-year-old in sports, his future remains blurry. But eventually Griffin’s story will be written before our eyes.

Or will it?

What if I told you Griffin isn’t a reality show? What if I told you his fate was sealed some 70 years ago? What if I told you he was cursed?

Skeptical? Don’t believe in black magic, billy goats or The Curse of The Bambino? Consider the overwhelmingly checkered, 80-plus-year-history between the Boston/Washington franchise and the quarterbacks it has drafted in the first round.  

Ready? Nervous? Scared?

Jason Campbell, the 25th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, lasted a handful of non-descript seasons. Ditto for Patrick Ramsey, the 32nd pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.  Non-descript would be a kind description of Heath Shuler, the third pick in the 1993 Draft. Norm Snead, the second overall pick in the 1961 draft, lost…a lot…in D.C. before being dealt to Philadelphia.  Don’t forget Don Allard, Richie Lucas, Ralph Guglielmi and Jim Hardy. Who? Exactly. In fact, there’s only been one impactful quarterback drafted by Washington in the first round in franchise history – and he was the first. His name was Sammy Baugh.

Spooky, eh?

What of Washington’s best signal callers? Mark Rypien was a sixth round pick. Doug Williams and Billy Kilmer were first round picks but by Tampa Bay and San Francisco, respectively. Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Theismann, both fourth round selections, were acquired via trade. Eddie LeBaron was plucked in the tenth round in 1950.

It keeps going.

Jay Schroeder? Third round pick. Brad Johnson? A ninth round pick acquired via trade. Trent Green? Eighth round pick. Gus Frerotte? Seventh round. Mark Brunell? Fifth round pick by Green Bay. 

John Friesz? Jeff George? Donovan McNabb? Rex Grossman/Jon Beck? Shane Matthews/Danny Wuerffel? Just stop.

The Curse of Baugh. That’s it. It’s gotta be the curse, Money. Griffin never had a shot. And he has to spend at least one more year in Washington waiting for the antidote: a princess, Glinda The Good Witch or true love’s kiss. Poor kid.

And what of Washington, the curse’s unknowing host? Given this evidence, shouldn’t Kirk Cousins, fourth round pick that he was, be the starter? Is he the answer? Probably not. Is he better than RGIII? Maybe. But at the very least he’s immune to Baugh’s spell.

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