Roundtable: Is there hope for Robert Griffin III's NFL future?
The announcement Monday that Kirk Cousins would be the Redskins' starting quarterback going forward was the culmination of another tumultuous week for Robert Griffin III. From the criticisms of coach Jay Gruden to the mixed messages surrounding his concussion in the team's second game of the preseason, it's clear Griffin is no longer the future in Washington. So what does the future hold for RGIII? SI.com's team of writers and editors ponders the fate of the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Done in D.C., but not without interesting options
Don Banks: The details of the end game remain unknown, but the idea that Robert Griffin III can somehow magically put the genie back in the bottle in Washington is becoming more far-fetched with every passing week. Though both Griffin and Gruden have each made some effort to coexist and find their common ground in terms of the quarterback’s playing style, we have reached the square peg being forced into the round hole part of the proceedings.
There is no going back to 2012 in Washington. Change seems inevitable at this point, and the timing of the divorce is the only piece of the puzzle left to play out. Clearly, Griffin needs to find an NFL home where his skill set fits with the head coach’s vision of the offense, but the most likely scenario for that opportunity in 2016 will be as a backup rather than as an unquestioned starter.
Teams like San Francisco, Seattle and Carolina are built around mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks, and perhaps Griffin can land in one of those spots and slowly rebuild his game without the pressure or spotlight of producing in the No. 1 role. And looking ahead to next year, I wouldn’t completely rule out Chip Kelly’s Eagles, who share the same division as Washington and have never shied away from making a bold move or two at quarterback.
Put him on the Marty Mornhinweg plan
Doug Farrar: When I studied Griffin's tape last year, I was convinced that he needed a new environment if he was ever to succeed again in the NFL, and he'd probably require a full season to decompress, regroup and get himself together before the results showed up on the field. So, he'd need to go to a team where there was no pressure to start him earlier than was prudent.
When the Eagles signed Michael Vick before the 2009 season, he was fresh out of prison and in need of a clean slate. Vick played a little bit in 2009 and then became the starter in '10 after the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. Vick had a magnificent comeback season, and he appeared to be a new quarterback with better full-field reads, better decisions under pressure, and more consistency than he'd ever shown in Atlanta. The main reason for that turnaround was offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who is now the Ravens' quarterbacks coach.
Griffin can relearn the position in a comparatively stable environment with people who are well-versed in taking limited runners and turning them into quarterbacks.
He needs to improve his work ethic
Greg Bedard: RGIII’s future depends, obviously, on where he lands and his attitude. Both of his head coaches with Washington, Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden, never really wanted Griffin. Gruden, especially, has been a complete mismatch as far as style. Until the spread game is truly integrated (not just a package here or there) into the pro game (which will happen), players like Griffin and Marcus Mariota are always going to be square pegs into round holes. Shanahan did a great job fitting Griffin into his offense as a rookie, but things went downhill after the knee surgery. Trust issues, owner Daniel Snyder’s intrusion on the coach-QB relationship, lack of practice time before the season and keeping Griffin confined to the pocket led to a disastrous 2013 campaign.
Gruden never wanted Griffin for a variety of reasons, but mostly because Griffin didn’t work at his craft like Gruden, a former quarterback himself, knew he should.
That’s the other factor. Griffin, according to reports, was not well liked by his teammates or, apparently, his coaches. You can’t operate as a successful NFL quarterback like that. Griffin, wherever he ends up next, needs to channel his inner Tom Brady and conduct himself like he’s a sixth-round pick who was a long shot to make the team. And Griffin needs to tend to his craft like all the greats do: by putting the hours in with film work.
If Griffin does those things, and he lands with an offensive mind like Chip Kelly, he can absolutely still be a very good player in this league. This is a player that completed over 67% of his passes in his final two years at Baylor. He completed 65.6% to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (over Andrew Luck) and lead Washington to the division title. That doesn’t happen by accident. Griffin oozes talent. If he lands in the right scheme and gets his attitude right, Griffin can still be a difference-maker.
Is there a perfect system?
Chris Burke: This all depends on what we would consider success for Griffin from here. The idea of him ever measuring up to his lofty draft status or running neck-and-neck with the player selected one spot ahead of him, Andrew Luck, no longer has any basis in reality. Griffin needs out if he wants any chance of reviving his career, even if it is by settling into a backup role with the occasional start.
But what even is the right system for him these days? He has shown little to no development as a pocket passer and has been far too injury-prone to unleash in an option-heavy system. Griffin would be lucky to take a Sam Bradford-like path: find the one coach out there willing to take a chance on him, then try to prove he's worth the faith. He's not getting that chance in D.C.
GALLERY: Robert Griffin III's House of Pain
It's time to alter expectations
Amy Parlapiano: Here's an obvious statement: If RGIII does have a future in this league, it is outside of Washington. Here’s another obvious statement to everyone except apparently RGIII: He is not the best quarterback in the league. But he's also not the absolute worst. His situation has made him into a mockery, but in reality, he is a 25-year-old kid with talent who has been frustrated by an inability to stay healthy and a new coaching staff that has not supported him.
Just because RGIII has said misguided things does not mean another team will be unwilling to take a chance on him. But the teams out there with major question marks at QB are not exactly markets that would make his life much easier (just imagine the headlines if he were to, say, become a Jet next year.)
His most realistic chance for a sustained future in the NFL is as a backup behind a seasoned quarterback whom he can learn from. Under different circumstances and with the pressure off, he can be a serviceable player who doesn't lose games for his team. That may very well be his ceiling, and that's okay. Will he ever reach the heights of his thrilling rookie year again? Likely not. Will he ever live up to his pre-draft hype? Again, likely not. But I don’t think he’s the Ryan Leaf to Luck's Manning, either.
Precedent suggests little hope exists
Melissa Jacobs: Quick, name any first-round quarterback who experienced an onslaught of injuries, a regression in skill set and national ridicule and survived to become a respectable player? Still thinking, huh?
In general, once a quarterback regresses to a point where boo birds become omnipresent, there’s no major upswing. The only recent counter that comes to mind is Alex Smith in San Francisco, the No. 1 overall pick in 2005 that never played like it. But Smith lucked into a quarterback genius in Jim Harbaugh, didn't suffer any major injuries and, unlike RGIII, was liked by his teammates. However, the most striking distinction is that unlike Smith, Griffin was placed atop the world’s tallest pedestal for about two years. Some of that he earned with a golden rookie season that perfectly blended his talent with the Shanahans' ability to manipulate defenses with the still largely undiscovered read option. The rest was just modern hype—the endorsements, the jersey sales, the helicopters that circled above on the day Griffin and his wife moved into a nice but random house in the D.C. area.
None of Griffin’s recent words or actions suggests that he is even aware of the regression so obvious to the naked eye. To begin a comeback, you have to admit you need one.