Sometimes you need a mulligan.
If you’re playing a friendly round of 18 and you line up on the tee box on No. 6, rare back and — ploop! — dribble the ball up to the anklebiter tees, what’s so wrong with getting a do-over? Everybody makes mistakes. You and the khaki corps in your regular foursome aren’t playing for the green jacket.
With advance apologies for mixing my sports metaphors, nobody needs a mulligan any more than Robert Griffin III.
The fourth-year Washington Redskins quarterback needs to press the reset button on his NFL career more than any player in the league. That’s what happens when you’re the franchise player of the most dysfunctional franchise in sports.
Well, he used to be the franchise player. Now he has been relegated to highly paid clipboard toter status. How far removed from Jay Gruden’s radar is Griffin? Well, when Kirk Cousins scuffled his way to a pair of interceptions against the New York Giants the other day — giving Cousins 23 picks and seven fumbles in 17 career games — the DC reporters didn’t quiz Gruden on whether he might replace Cousins with Griffin. No, instead, they asked about Colt McCoy, because he’s the backup. That’s right — RG3, once seemingly Washington’s savior, is now running third string.
No offense to McCoy, an excellent college player at Texas who has demonstrated far better ball security in the pros than Cousins, but it’s a signal of how far out of favor Griffin has fallen. Because he is easily the most gifted quarterback — maybe the most gifted player — the Redskins have on their roster.
I’m not absolving Griffin of all responsibility with the way his career has derailed. Since his tantalizing rookie year of 2012, Griffin has thrown for just 20 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. When he’s been on the field, he hasn’t played up to expectation. Not even close. More often, he hasn’t made it to the field, saddled by injuries that were occasionally brought upon by an overly reckless style of play. Griffin is a really smart guy, but he has yet to learn the simple lesson of protecting himself as an NFL quarterback.
He also hasn’t always helped himself in interviews. Griffin’s unflappable confidence plays better when, not surprisingly, he’s playing better.
But, in his defense, Griffin hasn’t been given any help. He’s never thrown to a true No. 1 receiver. His offensive line, hoo-boy, let me tell you about his offensive line. Remember Washington’s beastly blockers of the 1980s, the Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm-led bunch? Well, if those guys were the Hogs, these current Redskins linemen are the Piglets. They’re wimpy, and they stink.
Gruden soured on Griffin in no time at all. However, the second-year head coach has never tried implementing a system that would best utilize Griffin’s talents. I’ve always admired coaches who adapt their philosophy to the personnel they are given. Gruden does the opposite. It’s like someone went out and spent $1,500 on a new, fancy food processor, then as soon as they brought it home and took it out of the box they tried sending emails with it.
Hellooooo … that’s not what it was designed to do.
A fresh start would do wonders for Griffin. I know some fans of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans have flirted with the idea of bringing RG3 into the fold. Either would be a better fit than the Redskins at this point. Ditto for Jacksonville, Cleveland, St. Louis or any other team with an unsettled long-term situation at quarterback.
Griffin needs to go somewhere he can start over. He needs an open-minded coach. He needs a fresh set of teammates. Heck, he even needs to deal with some new media guys. When the DC reporters are in doubt, they blame Robert. It’s their default setting.
The problem is, Washington has so much invested in Griffin that it makes him difficult to move. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to waive him outright. He has $16 million guaranteed left on his contract, a high price tag for potential suitors. The Redskins front office recently told reporters that they haven’t made a single call to other teams to try to trade Griffin.
It’s unlikely that they would send Griffin to a team within their own division like the Cowboys or Eagles. That’s unfortunate for Griffin, because Philly could work for Griffin. Chip Kelly’s offense shares similar principles to what Griffin ran with such aplomb at Baylor.
However, Washington seems loath to send the message that it’s giving up on the guy it mortgaged everything to get. The bitter irony for the Redskins is that by surrendering so much to draft Griffin in 2012 — Washington sent three first-round picks and one second-rounder to the Rams in order to move up in the draft — they also set him up for failure. Nobody wins by himself, not in the NFL.
Who knows? Maybe the final act of “Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington” has yet to be staged. It’s not like he’s got Sammy Baugh and Sonny Jurgensen standing in front of him.
But he’d be a lot better off if he could get a do-over somewhere else.
He’s the franchise player, in desperate need of a new franchise.