The Saga of Robert Griffin III


Courtesy of The Washington Post

On April 4, 2017, Robert Griffin III announced he had signed a one year contract with the Ravens as a backup QB for an undisclosed amount of money.

Joey Pickel, Sentry Staff Reporter

It was Thursday night, 8:00… prime time television.  Millions of people across the globe set their televisions (TV) to tune into to the 2012 NFL draft. It was finally April 26, and millions of college football hopefuls were eagerly anticipating a call from a National Football League (NFL) organization saying they had selected them for their team. This particular draft had an aura of excitement surrounding the quarterback (QB) position, especially for fans of The Washington Redskins. Redskin fans had experienced a painful 5-11 record the previous season. Despite starting the season winning three of their first four games, the Skins went on to lose six straight games with the only highlights coming from beating the eventual Super Bowl Champions, The New York Giants.  That season the Redskins started the nine-year quarterback veteran Rex Grossman, a QB who had shown some promise as a Chicago Bear (leading them to a 13-3 record in 2006), but his 16 touchdowns to 20 interception ratio in the 2011 campaign iced his chances at being the future starter at Washington. The Redskins needed a quarterback… desperately. On March 12, 2011, the Skins finalized a deal with the then St. Louis Rams, giving them their current sixth overall pick, two future first-round picks, and a second round pick for their current second overall pick.

Going into 2012 Draft Day, there were two consensus quarterbacks that were constantly at the top of mock drafts, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Luck was predicted to go first to the Colts, who were looking for a successor to Peyton Manning. Luck had a phenomenal year at Stanford, finishing only second in the Heisman Trophy voting and racking up an astonishing 37 touchdowns with a 71 completion percentage. On the other hand, Baylor quarterback Griffin had finished first in the Heisman Trophy voting, and had emanced over 4,000 yards in only a thirteen game season. It was predicted Luck would go first overall to the Colts due to Stanford running an offense that is nearly identical to offenses run in the NFL… and that is exactly what happened. When the first pick was read Andrew Luck went to the Colts and Peyton Manning signed in free agency with the Denver Broncos. Approximately fifteen minutes later Griffin’s name was read and he was selected by the Washington Redskins. Skins fans throughout the crowd started up an, “RG3!” chant, and it seemed for the first time in years that Washington had found their franchise quarterback. Later on, in the fourth round with the 102nd overall pick, the Redskins selected Kirk Cousins, a quarterback from Michigan State.

With the trade Washington made and what they risked, Griffin had something to prove. Week one of the season brought a tough challenge, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints had been just two years removed from their first-ever Super Bowl title, and had the star quarterback, Drew Brees. Brees had just had his best year as a pro.  Going into week one the Saints were 7.5 points favorites.

On September 9, 2012, the NFL opener had arrived, a game that matched a proven quarterback in Brees against an up and comer in Griffin. The ball started in Griffin’s hands, and for the first drive it looked good. Griffin completed his first seven passes and marched the Skins down the field for a 37 yard field goal.  Much of the game played out the same, and Washington outscored New Orleans in three out of four quarters, winning by eight. Griffin had thrown for 300 yards in his rookie debut. He was the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards on his debut and actually win the game. The Skins future draft picks seemed to be well given up, and fans in Washington were losing their mind.

The Skins started the season three and three, but right before the by week the Skins lost three games in a row, and their record disimproved to three and six. Analysts questioned Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and his decision to run a spread option offense. Spread offenses were typically used in college but usually did not transition well to the NFL. The spread option was supposed to elevate Griffin’s run play and help him win games.  Any shot to get to the playoffs looked lost, and Mike Shanahan looked like he was going to get fired.

The Skins rebounded in week eleven by picking up a win against the dismal Philadelphia Eagles, a team that looked like a shell of their former self.  They then went on to pick up two wins in a row against division rivals Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. With three wins in a row under their belt, the Skins took on the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens had a great nine and three record, having the coaching talent of John Harbaugh and the great defensive player Ray Lewis on their side. With analysts again picking the Ravens in what was predicted to be a high scoring affair, Washington was again the underdog.

Exactly three months after the opening win against the Saints, the Skins rushed onto their home turf Fedexfield hoping to extend their winning streak to four. The game was as expected, back and forth action the entire time with the Ravens taking an eight point lead with roughly four minutes left in the fourth quarter. Griffin had the ball in his hands in the final drive, but on second down Griffin was hit by Ravens defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and snapped his leg back awkwardly. He was then helped off the field and watched 102nd Redskins pick, Kirk Cousins throw an incomplete pass.  Griffin marched back onto the field and lead his team directly down field and into the Ravens red zone. After being called for an intentional grounding, Griffin was forced to be taken out of the game and watch Cousins throw a six yard touchdown pass, and then tie the game by a quarterback draw that resulted in a two point conversion. Washington then won in overtime due to a thirty four yard field goal from Kai Forbath. For the first time the entire season, the Redskins had a winning record of seven and six.

LCL sprain. That’s what Redskins fans were given when the asked why their star young quarterback had to leave during the previous game against the Ravens. The next week against The Cleveland Browns, Kirk Cousins started and threw for a staggering 308 yards. Coach Mike Shanahan said that he had spoken with the team doctor Mike Andrews and that Andrews had given the okay for Griffin to return to the next week of play; however, Andrews claims the conversation never took place.

The first weekend of the playoffs rolled around, and the Redskins faced the Seahawks and their exciting young quarterback Russell Wilson in Wild Card Weekend.  During that game Griffin chased after a bad snap and landed on his knee funny. This resulted in a torn ACL and a 14-24 loss in the playoffs. Despite late season blunders, Griffin had arguably the greatest rookie season a quarterback has ever had in the NFL and had Washington fans excited for the future.  

A typical ACL injury takes anywhere from six to nine months to fully recover from, so it was expected that Griffin would miss the at least the opener to the 2013. It was a clear decision in everyone’s mind that Griffin would miss a couple starts… clear to everyone except head coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan allowed Griffin to start the first game.  On top of that, Griffin and Shanahan were starting to have problems. Redskins teammates claim Griffin wanted to transition to a more traditional offense where he could throw the ball more.

The 2013 season started out terribly.  After starting out with a three and five in week nine, the Redskins went on to lose all eight of their next games. In week fifteen against the Atlanta Falcons, the rumored future franchise quarterback became the backup quarterback. Griffin was benched and watched Cousins take the reins and lose the final three games. The Redskins finished the season a dismal three and thirteen.

2014 was a year in which Skins fans were greeted with a lot of changes. Shanahan was fired and replaced with Jay Gruden; Gruden’s hiring brought many changes in the starting QB position. Griffin started in a week one loss to the Houston Texas where he threw for 241 yards with no touchdowns.  The next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cousins started and lead Washington to a win throwing two touchdown passes in the process. Cousins’ continued his starting streak against the Eagles in the following week where he passed for 427 yards in a loss. Cousins maintained his starting job until week seven against the Tennessee Titans when he went down with an injury. Third string QB Colt McCoy was elected to start in the week eight game against Dallas and threw just under 300 yards in a winning effort. Griffin reclaimed his starting job the following week in a narrow loss to Minnesota. The rest of the season saw Griffin and McCoy juggling starting jobs in a season that ended a disastrous 4-12.

Griffin’s 2015 season saw him ride the bench the entire year.  He watched Cousins start and lead his team to a 9-7 record, winning their last 4 games and earning a spot in the playoffs. The Redskins had moved on from Griffin, and had instead started to move forward with Cousins. He was officially released by the Skins on March 7, 2016.

Just two and a half weeks after being released by Washington, Griffin signed a two year contract with the Browns. Towards the end of training camp Griffin was named the starter by head coach Hue Jackson… and everything seemed to be going well. Observers of daily practices claimed that Griffin had returned to his vintage self and was utilizing his running ability similar to the way he did in his rookie season.

Week one of the season finally arrived on September 11, 2016.  The Browns traveled to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and faced the Eagles and their rookie QB Carson Wentz. Just in April the Eagles had traded with the Browns their eight overall pick, third round pick, and fourth round pick so they could draft Wentz (similar to what the Redskins did so they could draft Griffin).

Griffin again went into week one with yet another thing to prove. His former team, the Redskins had given up on him, and his NFL career looked all but over. His week one performance pretty much proved he was done in the NFL. Griffin only completed 12 passes on on 26 attempts, throwing no touchdowns and one interception. On top of that he suffered a shoulder injury and did not return until the end of the season.  On March 6, 2016, Griffin was cut.

On April 4, 2017, Griffin was back in football. It was announced he had signed a one year contract with the Ravens as a backup QB for an undisclosed amount of money.  The Ravens had just completed a mediocre season, and needed more depth at the QB position.

Griffin’s tenure with the NFL so far has been one of the most unpredictable of all time. One season he won Rookie of the Year, the next he was benched for a fourth round pick. Ultimately, what Griffin does next is anybody’s guess. What is for certain is, Griffin is one of the biggest “what if’s” in NFL history.  What if he did not get hurt? Could he have sustained the high level of play he originally did? Could he have been one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time? Nobody will ever know. All that is left is to see what comes of Griffin as he starts his time as a Raven.