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It's one of the oldest and truest clichés in the NFL -- quarterbacks get too much credit and take too much blame. It's part of the job when you're a team's franchise player, and another part of that job is a keen awareness when it comes to what you say about the team in public. For all the grief some signal-callers get for streaming the same lines in every press conferences, anyone who steps outside the box and calls it like he sees it will see a fan and media hell unleashed upon him ... especially when the team's dysfunctions are partially Mr. Quarterback's fault.
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has received a heaping helping of that reality this week. After his team's 24-16 Sunday loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Griffin told reporters that Philly's defense basically knew what was coming. He also claimed that his disastrous heave of an interception with 40 seconds left in the game had more to do with pressure in his face and lack of open receivers than any bad decision on his part.
“We had a certain concept with running and nobody got open so I was backing up, and in the situation where you get a sack there, it ends the game. I was trying to throw the ball to the back of the end zone. It didn’t get to where I wanted it to go.”
A look at the tape shows that Griffin first read to the right side, found nothing open, and turned to his left. The potential receiver most likely to be open on the play was running back Roy Helu (yellow square below), who was being redirected by linebacker DeMeco Ryans at that time. Helu released just after this shot, but Griffin felt pressure on his front side from defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and hurried the throw. The Redskins player who looks open near the line is guard Kory Lichtensteiger -- not an option. Griffin tried to throw the ball out of the end zone from the Philadelphia 18-yard line, and the pass was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Brandon Boykin.
So, Griffin was technically correct. He saw no open receivers, felt heat from the pass rush and tried to get rid of the ball. However, there are ways to say things and ways not to say things, and Griffin made it sound as if no aspect of the game-killing play was his fault. Or, at least that's how it sounded to Redskins receiver Santana Moss, who countered with his feelings about Griffin's comments during a Tuesday appearance on 106.7 The Fan's LaVar and Dukes Show.
“Whether you’re the receiver, the quarterback, the guys making the tackle, whoever, regardless of the outcome, good or bad, you have to at some point, stand up and say ‘me’ or ‘I,'” Moss said, via the Washington Post.
“If we’re going to win games, we need to win games with our guy saying ‘At the end of the day, I didn’t make a play,’ regardless of if it wasn’t him, and that’s how I feel. Because that’s what we’re out there to do. I’m not sitting here to tell you why it didn’t happen, or who didn’t make the play for me to make a play.
“If I’m the guy, that at the end of the day [has] the ball in my hand, and we’re sitting there and the game is over because of me, I didn’t do enough to make the play. I didn’t do enough to help us win.”
Head coach Mike Shanahan explained the problems with the play in an interview with CSN Washington.
“Well [N]o. 1, we had a timeout, and the play that we called, everybody did not run the routes that we said. So it was kind of a very easy play to run, a play that we’ve been running since camp. And for some reason with the communication, it came out the wrong way. So that’s the first thing you look at. But sometimes you’ve got to throw the football away. Sometimes a quarterbacks’s gonna scramble and make a play. You’re gonna keep on growing as time goes on. Robert, I thought, did some great things in the game. He’s gonna have experiences where he’s gonna wish he had a throw back or threw the ball away, but that’s just part of the growing process of being a quarterback.”
Basically, this was a bad play by a young quarterback who was not helped at all by his receivers or blockers. Had Griffin put it on himself, regardless of whose fault it was, there would be little controversy about the play. (For his part, Griffin conceded Wednesday that he might be able to say "I" or "Me" more going forward.) Had Griffin been playing as he did in his incredible rookie season -- which he is most certainly not -- this might have been swept under the rug. But the Redskins are 3-7, Griffin has been inconsistent all season, Washington's offense was eminently predictable (especially in the first half), and Griffin's targets have had trouble separating from defenders all year.
So yes, it's a global problem. But whatever the schism is, Griffin is the target of the majority of the ire in this case. He's a great player, but he's also a young player, and Griffin needs to learn how to win the battle of perception.