Back when Robert Griffin III was flipping darts and scooting for touchdowns for Copperas Cove High School, he made a deep connection with a guy named Art Briles.
Griffin, you may recall, first committed to Briles at Houston. He was all set to be a Cougar. Then Baylor lured Briles to Waco in 2008 as the successor to Guy Morriss, and the coach persuaded Griffin to join him. It turned out to be a pretty good move for both men.
As Griffin navigates the second recruiting maze of his life, this time as an NFL free agent, he’d be wise to remember that past journey. Where should he go? What team offers the best fit? It really boils down to this — Griffin needs to find a guy he believes in and, even more importantly, a guy who believes in him.
Much like his partnership with Briles back in the day.
The knock on RG3 is that he’s damaged goods. Can’t stay healthy. Too reckless with his body, which compared to many of his QB peers is slight and, presumably, breakable.
But he’s only 26 years old. Peyton Manning has endorsement deals older than that. Griffin should also be fresh (not frozen) and champing at the bit to play, considering he didn’t take a single snap with the Redskins last year.
Assuming that Griff’s competitive nature hasn’t changed since his high school and Baylor days, he’s going to want to sign with a team where he has a reasonable chance to start. While holding a clipboard and getting paid millions of dollars might sound fun to you and me, Griffin wants to play.
Off the bat, that eliminates the Texans. For better or worse, Houston has hitched its fortunes to the Brock Osweiler wagon. With Brian Hoyer and Tom Savage still on the roster, the Texans have no need for RG3. Plenty of other teams will take a pass, too. The Carolinas and Seattles, Indys and Oaklands of the world are all set at quarterback. They’ve got their franchise guy in place.
So that thins the market for RG3, but the market does exist. He will get a shot in 2016. There are too many noodle-armed signal-callers sitting atop NFL depth charts to not at least give Griffin a look.
Allow me to offer a travel journal of sorts at Griffin’s most likely landing spots, working from the least attractive to the most.
Browns: Nothing says flash and dash like Cleveland. No, seriously. The Browns like to swing big when it comes to their quarterbacks, hence the failed Johnny Manziel experiment.
Griffin would certainly create some buzz — as opposed to Manziel, who went right past buzzed to falling-down drunk. But they’re still the Browns. They’re a mess. Every year. Beggars can’t be choosers, but does Griffin really want to expose himself to that disaster? Not if he can possibly avoid it.
Like anyone passing through the “Mistake by the Lake,” let’s get out of Cleveland as fast as we can.
Cowboys: Oh, of course we had to make a stop there. Too many Baylor-slash-Dallas fans are already dreaming about Griffin-to-TWill, the sequel.
But the Cowboys are Tony Romo’s team. And considering that Jerry Jones believes that he’s struck a deal with Ponce de Leon to supply the official water of Jerryworld, Romo will be the guy for the foreseeable future. (Except, you know, the eight games every year that he’s hurt.)
It may be as close to home as Griffin could get, but he can find a better situation.
Jets: Now the Jets are interesting. They’re coming off a 10-6 season, just barely missing the playoffs. They’re locked in a contract dispute with free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played some of the best football of his career for New York last season. If the Jets and Fitzy can’t find some middle ground, the other QB options are Geno Smith and Bryce Petty, a former RG3 college rival and a former teammate, respectively.
Griffin would benefit from the increased talent he’d find with the Jets. But it’s also New York, the media capital of the world. One bad game, and he’d be a 70-point headline (or rather punchline) in the New York Post.
Besides, I’m betting the deal with Fitzpatrick gets done. Jets owner Woody Johnson has been making googly eyes at the bearded one for weeks.
49ers: Colin Kaepernick once replaced Rice-a-Roni as the San Francisco Treat. Now he’s yesterday’s leftovers.
It’s been rumored that Kaepernick, who lost his job to Blaine Gabbert midway through last season, is on his way out. If that’s the case, Griffin makes a lot of sense. Both in high school and at Baylor, he ran a system quite similar (though not identical) to the one favored by new 49ers coach Chip Kelly. And he ran it pretty well.
Given that Gabbert is no world-beater, Griffin would have a clear path to a starting job with the Niners. Let’s call this one a solid maybe.
Rams: I’d like an order of delicious irony, hold the fries. How sweet (for the Rams) would it be if they were able to land Griffin, four years after acquiring a huge package of picks from the Redskins for the very same guy?
The city has changed, but the lack of a buzzworthy QB hasn’t. Do the Rams really think they’re going to draw in Angelinos — who aren’t exactly starving for entertainment options — with a quarterback tandem of Nick Foles and Case Keenum? Good luck with that.
Given that the Rams once used players drafted via the RG3 trade as captains in a game against the Redskins, I could totally see them rolling the dice on Griffin. (If for no other reason than to troll Daniel Snyder.)
Broncos: For Griffin, this has to be the dream scenario. Joining the Super Bowl champs who, oh by the way, just happen to have a quarterback vacancy? He couldn’t say yes to that deal fast enough.
Other interesting tidbits: Griffin grew up a Broncos fan. And his wife Rebecca is from Boulder, Colorado.
It just might be the perfect marriage, and I’m not talking about Rob and Rebecca anymore. With the Broncos, Griffin wouldn’t need to lead his team to 30 points every game in order to win. Not with that defense.
And yet the offense would be the best Griffin has seen in the NFL — by far. Denver is not lacking weapons, not with C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still in the gun cabinet.
Yes, the Broncos signed Mark Sanchez already. But for Denver, wouldn’t Griffin be the ideal guy to compete with Sanchez in camp? If Griffin hits, you’ve won the jackpot. But if he doesn’t, Sanchez is an experienced fallback option. (As long as falling back doesn’t include a butt fumble.)
Griffin’s moment in the NFL sun has not set. Whether it comes in Big D or the Mile High City, by the Golden Gate or while wearing the Golden Arches, remains to be seen.
If it wasn’t already clear, I truly believe there is still great football left in Griffin.
Who in the NFL most agrees? That’s what Griffin needs to find out.