What the Hell is Wrong with RG3?

One of the most perplexing mysteries of the current NFL season is the surprisingly dreadful play of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin – known commonly as RG3. The Skins spent a fortune (in dough and draft choices) to acquire the right to draft him in 2012. In his first season, he didn’t disappoint and the exorbitant cost to the Skins looked to be a wise investment. But RG3’s 2012 season would end with a serious knee injury. And in the two seasons back from the injury, RG3 has played terribly. An incomplete litany of his failures includes: poor timing and missing open receivers, seemingly no pocket instinct and numerous sacks, diminished foot speed, suspect throwing mechanics, inability to read defenses and questionable decision-making skills.

How can this be? How can the athlete who played so superbly in 2012 have morphed into the wretched shell of a QB on display in a Skins uniform the last few weeks? His ignominious benching in favor of a lowly-ranked Browns cast off is indicative of how far his stock has fallen.

Several reasons have been offered up for RG3’s catastrophic decline:

  1. He never really was that good to begin with. In fact in his rookie season, the Skins started out 3-6 and although he showed flashes running the “read-option,” his overall play was not consistently stellar in the first half of the season. But then the Skins went on a 7-0 tear to finish the season and make the playoffs. However, let us remember that RG3 was injured during that streak and missed a game and a half. Moreover, the winning streak might be attributed more accurately to Alfred Morris and a spectacular running game. The defense played very well also. In short, although RG3 was the face of the team during the streak, the hype and hoopla attending it might well have overemphasized those moments when he played extremely well over those not insignificant times when he didn’t. It’s possible that Skins fans and football pundits – conditioned by twenty years of mediocre-to-awful Redskins teams – saw more flash in RG3 than was truly present. Still, the numbers posted by RG3 in 2012 were quite impressive.
  2. Perhaps it was the injuries. During the seven-game win streak in 2012, in a game against the Ravens, RG3 performed one of his patented awkward slides and had his leg whipsawed. That injury resulted in the one and one half game hiatus. Upon his return, he played well, but there was clearly something amiss with his leg. He continued to perform well, but some of the flash was missing. Finally, in the playoff game against Seattle, he appeared to be severely hobbled and eventually he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. After a rushed rehabilitation, he was thrust into the starting lineup in the first game of 2013 (with no pre-season appearances) and proceeded to play awfully. The wretched RG3, who has now become familiar to Skins fans, was in evidence from the start of the 2013 season. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that physically, and perhaps also mentally, RG3 never recovered from the multiple knee injuries suffered in 2012 – and either because of physical limitations and/or because of mental “impairment” that sometimes follows severe physical injury, he is nowhere near the athlete that he was in 2012.
  3. Some speculate that the coaching change (from Shanahan to Gruden) has hurt him. It is said that Gruden doesn’t really favor the read-option and has not meshed with Griffin. Ergo, RG3 doesn’t really know what is expected of him. Of course, that doesn’t explain the horrible performance in 2013.
  4. Others point to his supposed “loss of the locker room.” They say he is overly cocky, arrogant and self-centered. His teammates don’t particularly like him and are not playing hard for him. Considering that they haven’t played exceptionally well for either of his replacements (Cousins or McCoy), I find this excuse less than compelling.
  5. Finally, it’s Snyder. There is no question that Dan Snyder has destroyed the Redskins. He took a team that had been highly successful for twenty years and turned it into a 20-year-long wreck. From the failure to hire a competent GM to unwarranted interventions in football operations to poor management of fiscal operations to horrendous public relations, Snyder has poisoned every aspect of the Skins operation. It is said that he bet the farm on RG3 and then coddled and spoiled him – perhaps resulting in the situation outlined in #4. Who knows! RG3 and the people around him are professionals. I find this explanation for RG3’s precipitous decline, like those in numbers 3 & 4, to be lacking in credence.

Therefore, I believe the explanation is some combination of numbers 1 & 2. I think RG3 was oversold and expectations were unreasonably high. It seems to me that if he was intrinsically as good as the hype, it would have been impossible for him to fall this far. I also think that physically, he is not the equivalent of what he was before the multiple injuries. If I am correct, it is hard to envision a return to the form we saw (somewhat sporadically) in 2012.

But maybe it is #5. Dan Snyder is the absolute worst thing ever to befall the Washington Redskins. His machinations (cf. the ball coach, Jim Zorn, Vinny Cerrato, and a host of overpriced washed up veterans [Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Jeff George], etc.) have been abominable. I’ve had season tickets for 44 years. Neither of my sons will go to the games with me anymore. I’m thinking seriously of junking the whole thing. RG3 is just the latest in a long line of disasters perpetrated on the long-suffering Redskins fans by the despised Dan Snyder. As long as he owns the team, we can expect more failed projects like RG3.

This essay also appeared in The Sports Column