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In this article series, we look back at an individual player from 2014, and try to re-watch every play they were involved in. Using this isolation with a fresh perspective, I am re-charting plays, making notes, and trying to get a feel for if we are missing or confirming a potential Fantasy star in the making…or we try to confirm whether our fading memories, hype, and surface numbers from last season are leading to a twisted perception?
Today’s study: QB Robert Griffin III
I did something a little different with this ‘Rewind’ study…not only did I rewind back to 2014, but I also went all the way back to 2012—RG3’s rookie season.
My, how things can change…
The comedy…the tragedy of 2012 v. 2014 through the video of Robert Griffin III. I watched RG3’s 2012 from game-one on, and it was like a Marty McFly, kinda bizarro-world. It seems like the 2012 RG3 hysteria took place decades ago. It was less than three years ago to the day.
In case you forgot, join me for a journey back in time…
The 2012 RG3 debut was palpable excitement. The announcers were pumping it like a WWE Pay Per View event. Even the home Saints crowd was buzzing with anticipation. RG3 comes out and completes like his first eight or so passes. Somewhere in there, he hits Pierre Garcon for an 88-yard TD pass early (in which Garcon hurt his foot crossing the goal-line and would miss most of the middle of the season, never fully recovering). RG3 passes for 320 yards and 2 TDs/0 INT, rushes for 42 yards—and the lowly ‘Skins beat the Saints IN New Orleans…and that wasn’t easy back then.
The pre-game lead-in video package in Week-2 was insane. RG3 was already crowned a superstar. Washington loses a close game at St. Louis, but RG3 rushes for 82 yards and two scores…his legend as a runner-passer weapon is already exploding.
Week-3 is RG3’s home debut. Oh, my heavens. Grown ass adults crying in the stands with joy…filled with hope in this religious savior-like figure in the form of a football player. R-G-3 chants randomly occur from the fans in unison like an old Roman Colosseum feel throughout the 2012 home game(s), and season. Washington loses again in Week-3, but RG3 throws for 1 TD/0 INT and rushes for 74 yards and a TD. Through three games, RG3 is completing 66%+ of his passes, has 4 TDs/1 INT along with 3 rushing TDs. He is deemed, and accepted as, a god-like football creature.
After nine games, Washington is sitting with a 3-6 record. RG3 is still heralded as an NFL and FF god with 12 TDs/4 INTs along with six rushing TDs in his first nine games (he’ll go on to add just two more rushing TDs in the next 28 games of his career). RG3 is completing 65%+ of his passes after nine games, and is seen as an unquestioned star…despite the team’s struggles.
The 3-6 Redskins would then rip off seven-straight wins and explode their way into the playoffs at 10-6. RG3 throws for 8 TDs/2 INT during that winning streak…and he even misses a game due to injury. Kirk Cousins, everyone’s hero, is pressed into duty as a one-game starter, and wins the game. Washington was lauded for their vision of drafting RG3-Cousins by 2012 end…the Redskins are now known to possess two franchise QBs of the future, according to the experts—two of the best young QBs in all of football. You think I’m kidding, go back and listen to the coverage of the games in order…it is all hysterical to observe today, but it was fait accompli back then.
Diehard Redskins fans have a more sullen emotion while re-living this, I imagine. Sorry.
I watched RG3 all 2012 regular-season up into their wild-card playoff game vs. Seattle (who would go on to become Super Bowl champs the following season, and should have again this past season). RG3 was going into the game hurt, and everyone was worried about the status of his knee. Dr. James Andrews would rush onto the field near the end of this contest—because RG3tore his ACL trying to lead the comeback…and his career was basically ended right there. RG3’s career ‘ended’ with Dr. Andrews shaking his head, looking down at him writhing on the ground—Dr. Andrews knowing he was pushed into medically clearing the hobbled RG3 (my words/opinion)…and there was Mike Shanahan showing no real emotion over it. It was the beginning of the end for Shanahan as well. A lot of things died that day for Washington, and it may be another decade before they recover.
Why do I claim RG3’s NFL career ended that day? I re-watched that playoff game in extra detail because I wanted to see early glimpses of RG3 not operating at 100%–how he operated in the best of times with his mobility ‘gift’ taken away…what he would/could do when he no longer put a defense on its heels worrying whether he’d take off running. It was not good. It was a foreshadowing of RG3’s current existence…and likely future.
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There are ‘four RG3s‘ that I have in my mind after watching his 2012 and 2014 work–three of them as a runner, and one of them as a passer.
RG3-1.0: Fresh to the league in 2012, starting day-one, the 4.3+ 40-time running RG3 had a ‘special’ bounce in his step. He could take off and race past most NFL defenders. Six rushing TDs in his first nine games. 714 yards rushing in his first 12 games (766 rushing yards in his next 25 games). This is the RG3 that took the league by storm. This RG3 doesn’t exist anymore.
RG3-2.0: Hobbled late in his rookie year, and not able to burst and move like he had earlier in the season. Against Seattle in the playoffs, he was a sitting duck. He tried to maneuver from the Seattle pressure, he really did, but he was hampered/slowed…ultimately tearing his knee. RG3 was trying/giving an all-out effort…trying to find that gear that made him unique. We all, including RG3, maintained ‘hope’ that the ‘old RG3’ was still in there somewhere in that game…it wasn’t.
RG3-3.0: Flash-forward to 2014…and RG3 is a statue…a shell of his former self. The 1.0 version of RG3 was criticized for running too much. The 3.0 version is criticized for not running more. I don’t think it’s is all a lack of will, although I think there is some of that, but the problem is that ‘it’s’ gone. His elite speed, his elite bounce…it is no more. RG3 now takes a shotgun snap, and almost immediately stands erect in the pocket with cement shoes trying to ditch the ball like a hot potato. I see almost no desire, no hint of him wanting to take off running anymore—he’s lost ‘the gift’. He’s an injured gazelle trying not to get picked off by a cheetah or alligator at the watering hole. Watching 2012 RG3 at his peak vs. 2014 RG3 is sad and tragic…’what might have been’?
RG3-4.0: RG3 of any version was secretly an awful QB as a passer. Even going back to the magical 2012 season. Basically, the Redskins were running the Chip Kelly/Baylor offense from day-one. No-read quick throws to predestined short targets. Defenses were unsure what to do because RG3 might take off running like an elite RB. His scramble ability buying him time to make great throws downfield as needed. He was never a great QB as a ‘classic’ passer, per se. His feet allowed him opportunity to find wide-open options in coverage breakdowns or with defenses caught cheating in. RG3 is an amazingly accurate downfield thrower on the move. Deadly accurate. Without the ‘wheels’, teams play a normal coverage–and RG3 is rendered incompetent as a traditional passer.
Even at RG3’s ‘best’ as a passer (statistically) in 2012, it was a hoax. It was the early versions of the Chip Kelly offense inflating his numbers. Quick passes behind the line of scrimmage. Quick slants. Jab, jab, jab, jab, jab, jab…and then an uppercut when you were expecting another jab. It’s an offense that is brilliant in its ability to make a crappy QB viable…and ‘good’ QBs with mobility appear to be gods. See to: Johnny Manziel in college vs. the pros. See to: Marcus Mariota in the future. See to: What happened when defenses figured this out on Colin Kaepernick.
As I watched early 2012 RG3 as a passer, I was thinking, “How did I not see this before? He’s awful. This is all a quick pass/no-read gimmick passing game a la Oregon.” I see that now. In 2012, the pros had not really used this college style of passing game. NFL Defenses seemed helpless, and mobile QBs were all the rage. The Redskins jumped through this perfect window of time, and launched into the playoffs like a hurricane with this offense…and RG3 became its star, for the moment…in 2012. Watching RG3 in 2014…it’s awful. He’s a terrible traditional QB. I stopped charting things after a while in 2014. It’s all passes -5 to +5 yards away (as it was in 2012, but it seemed more dazzling). RG3 is a helpless QB who will get Jay Gruden fired this year. Why Washington didn’t draft a QB is beyond me.
Actually, I get it.
The new GM is ready for a possible/hopeful (from his view) 2-14 campaign in 2015, a top draft pick, and making way for ‘his’ new coach, with RG3 leaving as a ‘bust’ as his contract ends, and thus the ‘rebuilding blanket’ is wrapped around everyone, unchallenged and not harshly criticized, for a few years. It’s smart by the new GM, because this team is going nowhere with RG3.
RG3 gets back to full health, and decides this is the make or break for his contract year, and throws caution to the wind and he becomes the razzle-dazzle runner-thrower of 2012. I doubt the Redskins are going to allow that. The main reason why–it’s not Jay Gruden’s offense. However, after watching 2014, I don’t think RG3 has the will/ability to summon up this power if Gruden unleashed it. RG3 lost ‘it’ on the field in that fateful 2012 playoff game…a game he shouldn’t have been in. It was probably going to catch up to him anyway in a similar manner as it did with Colin Kaepernick…QBs who were initially Superman/’the future’, and got figured out to become ‘on the trade block’ guys…future placeholder QBs for Jacksonville and Buffalo, etc.
I have been holding out a flicker of FF-hope that the old RG3 would rise up in 2015, and scramble his way back into our FF-hearts like an old-school Randall Cunningham-like Phoenix rising from the ashes. After watching all 2012, and then comparing that to 2014…I have to say there is ‘no way’. RG3 does not have the passing skills to survive in a league quickly adjusting to the Chip Kelly-like offenses even with his old ‘magical legs’, and for sure he’s toast now that his ‘wheels’ (and heart) are seemingly gone.
I am officially closing the FF-book on RG3. His window of opportunity has closed…even if he gets his legs back (because we haven’t even discussed his injury proneness). 2011 (Heisman) and 2012 (Pro Bowl QB) are a long time ago in football years. Sorry to my Redskins faithful…