With the Redskins now languishing at 3-8, and the playoffs all but mathematically an impossibility, the gnashing of teeth from fans and local media will now go into overdrive. It’s been in full effect from week one, to be honest with you. As a Redskins fan and someone who grew up in the DMV, I can tell you that this season has been one of the hardest one to swallow in a while. The last twenty years have a been largely a bastion of mediocrity with a few good season and a few terrible seasons sprinkled in, and this one is looking a lot like the Richie Petitbon 4-12 season in 1993 or the Steve Spurrier 5-11 season in 2003. Blame is being spread all around, and there are few people who don’t deserve any. The defense and special teams have been historically awful (30 points a game allowed between the two of them), the playcalling on both sides of the ball has been questionable, and the offense has alternated between functional and anemic. But no one has borne more individual criticism from fans and media that the quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
After a promising rookie year that ended with him falling in a heap to the turf at FedEx field with a blown out knee, Griffin has regressed in all areas. His completion percentage and yards per attempt have dropped significantly and his interceptions are up. While he’s on pace to surpass his passing yardage total from last season, that’s largely the result of garbage time stat padding against prevent defenses when his team was already out of the game (they’ve fallen behind by scores of 33-7, 31-0, and 24-0 in three separate contests). And beyond the statistics, from watching the games there have been a lot more passes that have been flat out off target. There is virtually no area where Griffin is performing as well as he did last season. The backlash off the field has been as fierce as the one on the field. Griffin’s commercials for sneakers and fast food, seen last season by many as premature but no big deal as long as he played well, are now signs of a man more concerned with selling products that being an NFL quarterback. And his self confidence, which was also reluctantly accepted as the price of doing business with a potential franchise quarterback, is now seen as a detriment.
Over the past few weeks several columns have been written in the Washington post and other publications calling him out as full of himself, an arrogant man who needs to humble himself in the face of his disappointing 2013 performance. A few local radio hosts and several of their callers have been harping on him all season for not specifically saying that he screwed up and that he has to get better (even though the full transcripts of some of his postgame interviews tell a different story). The idea here is that Griffin must don sackcloth and ashes and beg for the mercy of the public and the media while admitting to being a horrible person and football player if he has any hope of keeping the whole city from turning on him and running him out of town, something we’re really good at here in D.C. This entire premise is just idiotic as is the idea that Kirk Cousins, Griffin’s backup would have the team in a better place for the present and future. Cousins fell as far as he did for a reason, and his performances in place of Griffin have been puffed up like the Michelin Man.
If you honestly believe that a big part of Griffin’s career resuscitation will be him becoming a humble man, you’re doing it wrong. There are no successful quarterbacks who are humble about the job they do. None. Every week we watch Tom Brady literally run up to referees and scream at them for what he thinks are bad calls. We see Peyton Manning yell at his teammates for running the wrong way while acting as his own playcaller. Those are not the acts of humble men. Neither are things like getting your coach run out of town, forcing a trade when your team decides they’d like you to back up the man who replaced you when you got hurt, and lording over the team front office in such a way that they do not bother to acquire a decent backup to fill in for you if you get hurt. Those are the acts of men like John Elway, Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, and Manning. All Hall of Famers and Super Bowl Champions. Joe Flacco of all people just bashed a package of plays in his team’s offensive game plan from last week. Quarterback is not a position for those who are just happy to be there. It is played by men like Rex Grossman, who would tell you that he could start for a team and play well right now even though he’s currently third string in Washington. That kind of attitude is what helped Grossman get the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006. These are men who are not afraid to change a play at the line of scrimmage then stare down a coach like Mike Ditka immediately afterward. We had a more humble quarterback a few years ago in Washington. Capable fellow, good guy who put up good numbers in a lot of losing efforts. His name was Jason Campbell. Mike Shanahan took a look at him when he got here, and decided he’d rather gamble on a soon to be washed up Donovan McNabb and Grossman. Is that what we want here? I don’t think so.
Franchise quarterbacks are not nice people, at least on the field. They are brash, they get in your face, they think they are the only ones who can lead their teams to victory. It’s not unlike running for President in that you have to have a huge belief in yourself to the point of arrogance to believe you should even be in consideration for the job. That type of personality is required to succeed at the highest level in both sports and politics; anything less is a recipe for mediocrity. Now the jury is still out on Griffin; he may get better but he might not. But if you think becoming more like Jason Campbell will help him get over the hump you’re sadly mistaken.