RGIII’s Last Stand

The decision to start Robert Griffin against Cincinnati seems entirely appropriate. He started the first game of the season, when many people (including Sashi Brown) hoped he would lead the Browns to 6+ wins. After injuring himself on a play that few other quarterbacks would have made– and missing 11 games– he’ll start the first game after the bye week, in the hope he can help them avoid a winless season.

I don’t think those hopes will be gratified either– but he is the best option at this point:

  • If Josh McCown doesn’t retire after the season, the Browns need to cut him.
  • They have a third-round pick invested in Cody “Trust Me” Kessler, and getting him another concussion of two won’t help develop him. They’d be better off shutting him down.
  • If what I’m told is correct, the third-string QB never gets any attention, so Kevin Hogan wouldn’t play any better against Cincinnati than he did the first time.
  • After fans and writers began to talk up the potential of Joe Callahan, the Browns cut him.

Besides, as anyone familiar with Griffin’s career knows, he complains when he isn’t playing. So you might as well use Griffin– rather than have him complaining (vie Mary Kay Greenhouse) that he could have won the last four games if the Browns had used him?

When the Browns signed RGIII, a friend who works for an NFL team– who had a close-up view of him– told me that I’d grow to hate writing about him, because I’d have to keep repeating the same things over and over again. The similarities to another quarterback from a Texas school who shall remain nameless were very high:

  1. he doesn’t doesn’t want to learn the playbook.
  2. He doesn’t read defenses– observe what they do and deduce who must be left open. He just looks and reacts to what he sees.
  3. He doesn’t like to throw short– so he usually won’t.
  4. If you insist that he stay in the pocket he’ll get sacked.
  5. If he runs, he won’t slide.
  6. As a result of points #4 and #5, eventually he’ll get hurt.
  7. When that happens, he rips the coaches and his teammates.

The hope was that the shape of his career would force Griffin to change. He was injured in his first three seasons (2012, 2013 and 2014)– then benched for Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy in 2014.

He didn’t play at all in 2015 (Washington went 9-7 and made the playoffs); when his rookie contract expired, Washington severed ties to him. No other team wanted to sign Griffin, so his best option was the NFL’s worst organization.

On paper, the Browns’ decision (as I pointed out when they made it) was entirely sound. They had nobody who could play. Griffin was 26 and is phenomenally gifted. Hue Jackson had a reputation for enabling troublemakers working with players, so maybe he would reach Griffin. Had he changed his ways, they’d have gotten a frontline quarterback for nothing.

It just didn’t work. Some players simply can’t or won’t change. When RGIII began praising Puff Gordon— the biggest hot mess this side of Johnny Jamboogie– it was a bad sign. When he dumped his long-suffering wife (whom people in DC though had been a stabilizing influence on him) that wasn’t a good sign.

Throughout preseason, the only things people could talk about was “Look at how he got away from the defense” and “Wasn’t that a pretty deep pass?” Which, as I kept pointing out, were skills that weren’t in question. Signs of progress would have been “Look at how he changed the play when he saw the defensive alignment” or “He followed his progressions and completed the six-yard pass to the backup right end for a first down.”

And a topic that had been furiously debated in Washington– Griffin’s refusal to throw the ball away to avoid a sack, or slide on a scramble to avoid getting hit– was the subject of indulgent chuckles about RG3’s old-fashioned warrior mentality.

So he got injured, and he’s missed over two-thirds of the season. And the only evidence that Griffin might have made progress is that he didn’t spend the last 11 weeks complaining about not playing on Twitter.

One final thought. I have read a few people saying “Should the Browns risk their investment playing Griffin?” The question shows passing acquaintance with reality.

If the goal was to help Robert Griffin regain his status as a frontline player, I agree that it would be nuts to play him.

1. I’d guess (I can’t watch all 32 teams) the Browns probably have the worst line in the NFL at this point. Joe Thomas is aging and ailing. Cam Erving is a few games away from ending his career at center (he’s fouling up the blocking calls; if he stays on the team, his next stop is probably right tackle). Spencer Drango might have a future, but right now he, Alvin Bailey and Austin Pasztor are thoroughly replacement-level.

2. The running game is non-existent; teams are catching onto Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman.

3. The defense keeps putting the Browns behind by a few touchdowns, letting the opponents come after the quarterback.

Griffin won’t have many weapons– he definitely won’t play well, and almost certainly won’t last four games.

But it would be insane to shut Griffin down. The whole point of the 2016 season was to see whether he could help the Browns. Look at his contract–his 2016 salary was guaranteed; it nearly doubles ($3.25 million to $6.0) next year. There’s also a roster bonus of $1.5 million.

If he couldn’t stay healthy, didn’t play well or became a behavior problem, the Browns could cut ties after 2016 and only have $1.75 million (the pro-rated part of his signing bonus) on the 2017 cap.

Well they have the answer– he couldn’t stay healthy and he displayed all his shortcomings before the injury. Sane people don’t pretend that year #6 will be the season everything comes together and commit to paying $9.25 million.

If he can’t provide evidence that he can be the quarterback for 2017, he needs to leave. He has the last four games to prove he belongs. Not much of chance, but he’s the guy who decided to go for the extra half-yard on third down.


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