Dulany: Sunday will cap a big week for RG3
Josh Dulany | Monday, September 1, 2014
This has the makings of a big week for Robert Griffin III.
It began Sunday with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness at Baylor, where he is the school’s lone Heisman winner. It will end this upcoming Sunday when he takes the field for the Washington Redskins in Houston. Griffin will be hoping this coming Sunday will feel as good as the last, but there are no shortage of doubters.
A little more than a year ago, Griffin could do no wrong. At the time, the last two seasons he had spent on a football field had won him a Heisman trophy and the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. He was a league leader in jersey sales and was adored all across the country.
A year later, Griffin suddenly cannot do anything right. The lauding of his mature, charismatic personality has turned to criticism of his being distracted by social media or too quick to make everything all about him. His electric athleticism has turned from an enthralling asset to a cringe-worthy liability. Gimmicks, such as his eccentric socks, have changed from something fun about a superstar to distractions for a young quarterback. He’s uncomfortable in the pocket. He came back from injury too quickly. He can’t slide. The chorus of critiques goes on and on.
To make matters worse, Griffin has Kirk Cousins breathing down his neck. Cousins has been Griffin’s unshakeable shadow since they entered the league in the same draft. Cousins won a game in 2012 when Griffin was hurt and Cousins lost the final three games in 2013 when Griffin was benched. Now, Cousins has Washington Redskins legend Joe Theismann saying that “Cousins has played much better at quarterback than Robert Griffin III has.” The Cousins vs. Griffin debate has become an actual topic of discussion on panels all across sports networks. Granted, Theismann has since reversed his course, but still, how things have changed.
Now, Griffin is certainly not blameless here. He probably did rush back from his ACL injury. He seems to want so bad to be his team’s savior that he put himself at risk before he was fully ready. His Twitter account does appear very active and very reactionary to the public and the media for someone who should probably give the appearance of having football as his only focus. Furthermore, when things went bad for Griffin last season he did pass the blame a little too often to his coach.
In the public eye, Griffin has presented an almost insatiable need to be liked. He has probably been well respected and adored by fans for as long as he can remember. He was a star in high school. He resurrected a Baylor program to the point that he will never have to buy a drink in Waco, Texas, ever again. His rookie season had Washington feeling like a Super Bowl was not a matter of if, but when. Perhaps this past year has been the first real adversity Griffin has faced in terms of public opinion and he just wants to get back to being liked again.
Yet, there is no easy way to get it back. Bottom line — the NFL is about winning and losing. Griffin had far less critics when he was winning the NFC East in 2012. If Griffin wins again, his critics’ voices will fade. If not, the grumbling and mumblings for Cousins will only grow louder.
He is out of excuses. He has two athletically imposing receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. He has a promising tight end in Jordan Reed and a productive running back in Alfred Morris. He is healthy and in his third year in the league, which is typically the year young quarterbacks make the biggest jump. It’s now or never.
I am rooting for now. I am rooting for Griffin. I think his play will return to its former electric level. I think he can stay healthy. Cousins ranked dead last in passer rating of any quarterbacks who attempted 150 passes last season and Griffin would probably look good to Theismann if he were playing against other team’s reserves. I think Griffin is a 24-year-old and that if people are patient we will once again see the fruit of his incredible talent.
Part of what makes the NFL great is the unknown. It could work out just like I think or Cousins could be starting by mid-season. Regardless, Griffin has to be feeling the pressure and it will be exciting to see if he can deliver amidst the most uncertainty he has faced in his career.
Griffin kicked off his week surrounded by adoring fans and amongst fond memories of his exploits on the football field. Sunday, we’ll find out if he can remind everyone of all he can be.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.