IT WASN’T LONG AGO that one of the most electric players in college football cemented himself as a Heisman Trophy winner and a consensus top pick in the 2012 National Football League Draft, behind only Andrew Luck. Passing for more than 4,000 yards in his final season at Baylor University, Robert Griffin III lit up opposing Big 12 defenses Saturday after Saturday. His 37 touchdowns to six interceptions, along with his almost 700 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, thrust him into stardom and sports talk nationwide. He was to become the savior of the next craving NFL franchise.
The Washington Redskins, a franchise pitted with despair and years of mediocrity, picked the former Baylor Bear with the No. 2 overall pick. As predicted, he was dubbed the savior of the franchise, but redemption would come at a price.
To acquire the No. 2 overall pick to spend on RGIII, the ‘Skins paid the St. Louis Rams handsomely, sending three first-round picks and a second-round selection. It was a haul that would give any general manager reason not to use Viagra; a king’s ransom, but was widely viewed as a great deal for both teams.
RGIII entered the 2012 season as one of the top players to watch. No one was more excited to see what the former Heisman winner could do for a franchise that had gone through 16 quarterbacks in 16 years since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Griffin, who officially became the NFL’s first starting quarterback born in the 1990s, started out his career with a bang. The Redskins played the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome; a place known to be one of the toughest places to play for visiting teams because of the noise generated by passionate and rowdy fans. Naturally, Griffin and company came into New Orleans as the underdogs, but Griffin showed why he was taken with the second overall pick just five months earlier.
The Redskins won 40-32. RG3 went 19-for-26 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 10 carries for 42 rushing yards. His yardage total was the second-highest for a quarterback’s debut game, only behind Cam Newton’s the season before, according to ESPN. He was then named NFC Offensive Player of the Week – the first time in NFL history a rookie quarterback was given that honor for a debut game.
Griffin’s accomplishment on the field wasn’t the biggest of that day though.
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top,” Griffin said that day. “After the game, (Brees) told me he was proud of me. That’s big for him to say after he just lost the game.”
But it wasn’t all unicorns, candy and puppies for an organization desperately trying to turn a new chapter. After that high-octane game, things slowed down for the Redskins. Going into a bye in Week 10, they were 3-6 in and falling fast. Then everything changed.
The Redskins hosted the 3-6 Philadelphia Eagles; both teams tied for last in the NFC East. Griffin lit up the Eagles to a tune of 200 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 84 yards and finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3, which made him the youngest player in NFL history to achieve a perfect passer rating in a game, according to pro-football-reference.com. He also became the first rookie in NFL history to pass for 200 yards, throw for four touchdowns and rush for more than 75 yards in a game, according to Brian Tinsman of Redskins.com.
The Skins would go on to win their next six games, finishing the season with a shiny 10-6 record. They would eventually lose to the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.
At the end of the season, Griffin set rookie quarterback records with the highest passer rating at 102.4 and highest touchdown to interception ratio at 4:1. He was named to the 2012 Pro Bowl roster, but was replaced by Drew Brees due to a knee injury sustained in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 9. He reinjured the same knee against the Seahawks in the Wild Card loss.
That knee injury would prove to be one of RG3’s downfalls.
On Jan. 9, 2013, Griffin underwent surgery to repair both his LCL and ACL.
After blowing up the NFL with accolade after accolade, Griffin opened the 2013 season with uncertainty as to whether his knee was fully healthy and whether he was ready for Game 1 or not. He didn’t start any of the preseason games, but did start the season opener against Philly. The Redskins lost and Griffin appeared to be a shell of his former self.
Through the first five games, Griffin completed only 59.81 percent of his throws and threw only six touchdowns to five interceptions. He also posted an 80.4 passer rating, well below the league average at 86.9 for 2013.
In Week 6 however, Griffin showed that he still might possess the talent that exalted him towards stardom the previous season. The Redskins hosted the Chicago Bears, beating them 45-41. Griffin went 18-for-29 (62.07 percent completion) for 298 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He had a passer rating of 105.2. This would prove to be the only highlight of Griffin’s season though.
In Week 12, the Redskins lost to the San Francisco 49ers 27-6. Griffin went 16-for-26 (61.54 percent completion) for 118 yards, an interception and a passer rating of 56.3. This marked the first time in RG3’s career (collegiate and professional) that he did not score a touchdown.
But Griffin’s disappointments weren’t completely due to injury, according to then head coach Mike Shanahan.
“I don’t think getting hurt has anything to do with it,” said Shanahan said Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan, via CSNWashington.com. “In college he didn’t have a route tree, didn’t have a playbook. That does take some time. If you take a QB like that you must run the kind of system that allows them to be successful.”
On Dec. 11, three days after an embarrassing 45-10 loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Redskins announced that Griffin would sit the rest of the season in favor of Kirk Cousins, though it was said to further prevent the risk of injury rather than a demotion.
The Redskins went 3-13 and Griffin finished the season with 3,203 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, a passer rating of 82.2 and only rushed for 489 yards with no rushing touchdowns; a far cry from his rookie season success.
The third season of RG3’s young career started off with positives and mishaps. Griffin seemed to be his old self once more, but the Redskins just couldn’t generate any offense despite Griffin putting up solid numbers. They lost their season opener to the Houston Texans 17-6. According to pro-football-reference.com, Griffin went 29-for-37 (78.38 percent completion) for 267 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, but had a passer rating of 96.7.
Griffin once said, “every time you step on the football field in between those lines you’re putting your life, your career and every single ligament in your body in jeopardy.”
Unfortunately, he was right.
In Game 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Griffin went 2-for-3 before he dislocated his left ankle and was carted off the field. The Redskins went on to win 41-10, but Griffin would not return until Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Redskins lost their next three games against Minnesota, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 49ers.
Griffin was then benched in favor of backup quarterback Colt McCoy for the Indianapolis Colts Week 13 game. Two weeks later however, McCoy went down with a neck injury and Griffin was called upon to lead the Redskins to victory. The victory never came, but he did, once more, look good at the position going 18-for-27 for 236 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions with a passer rating of 106.4.
Griffin was named the starter and finished the season showing signs of life that he still possessed the talent that adorned him as a rookie sensation.
Against their NFC foes the Eagles, RG3 threw for 220 yards. Then in Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys, Griffin put up 336 yards passing, his highest passing yards total all season. He threw a touchdown and rushed for another. The Redskins ended up losing 44-17, but it was a sign that Griffin, given the right weapons and offense, could be the cornerstone player they drafted.
This season hadn’t even started and there was already controversy in D.C.
During Game 2 of the preseason, Griffin was left in the game longer than what’s typically viewed to be normal for a starting quarterback. In doing so, Griffin was injured on a play where he fumbled the ball against the Detroit Lions and recovered it only to have a defensive lineman fall on top of him, which gave him a concussion in the process.
He was ruled questionable for the next preseason game, was cleared for the game, then ruled not cleared for the game by the same physician only a few days later. He again was cleared; by the time this article is published he might be cleared – then maybe…
The Redskins announced that Kirk Cousins would start and after a win against the Ravens, he was named the starter for Game 1 of the regular season.
Since then, Griffin’s career with the Redskins has been in question and Jeff Darlington of NFL Media confirmed this.
“No surprise…but Colt McCoy will indeed be listed as Redskins’ No. 2 QB vs. Miami,” Darlington said via Twitter.
Over the course of three seasons, RG3 has been a victim of circumstance. Whether it is injuries or bad personnel and front office decisions, which are an entirely different story altogether, Griffin’s tale has indeed been most unfortunate.
What happens next could potentially change the football landscape. Griffin is the kind of player for whom you trade three first-round picks. He is a tremendous talent and if put in the right system, could flourish (here’s looking at you Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line).
The state of the Redskins seems to always be detrimental to the team, the fans and everyone else’s health for that matter. Cousins could implode like he did just a season ago and Griffin could very well find himself the starter again. But whether he is the starter for the Redskins or another team, one thing is certain – his story is far from over.