From the GOAT to the goat. From Black Jesus to Judas. From number 2 overall pick and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year to third string pariah. Robert Griffin III has had quite the journey to say the least, an inauspicious one at that.
Few came into college with as much hype as the signal caller from Baylor. Tales sprang from Texas of the wunderkind with world-class speed and a golden arm who could do no wrong on and off the field. With each story and victory, the expectations grew, the spotlight intensified, and the nation came to be well aware of the NFL potential of Griffin. However, there would be little reason to put pen to paper, or rather fingers to Mac Book keyboard if that’s all there was to it.
Maybe it began when he declared that he believed that Baylor had won their first Heisman Trophy after beating the Texas Longhorns in 2011. Maybe it started when he began to be juxtaposed against Andrew Luck; who if Griffin did everything right, well Luck did everything perfect. Maybe it was the nuanced quotes given by Robert Griffin that were not your normal Patriot-esque party line that we have come to accustomed to by quarterbacks. Maybe there is something to be said of Robert Griffin III being a young successful black man who was destined to make millions of dollars playing a position usually reserved for whites. For whatever the reason, the seeds of vitriol were placed long before Griffin ever took a single NFL snap.
Griffin is not the sole arbiter in this tale of woe, though his play the last two seasons can be accurately described as atrocious. After going from 102.4 QB rating with over 25 combined touchdowns to a combined 20 touchdowns and not having a rating over 87 the last two years, RGIII has been struggling to say the least. As always, it takes two to tango, and in this case RGIII and the Washington Racial Slurs organization are all to blame for the reverse in fortunes and accompanied fall from grace experienced by the quarterback. During Dan Snyder era as the Washington owner, the team has had 16 different quarterbacks under the helm. In short, the franchise does not know how to draft and/or develop signal callers in the slightest. Michael Shannahan is culpable as well, with the over use of an offense that though clearly took advantage of RGIII’s strengths, continuously put him in harms way. Per expectations, this led to Griffin getting the first of what would be many injuries; this was then subsequently amplified when Shannahan and Griffin BOTH made the decision that a one-legged RGIII was a better option than Kirk Cousins. And for a time there they seemed to be right as the Racial Slurs had the Seattle Seahawks on the ropes till RGIII got hit hard and was rendered useless.
Fast forward to the hiring of Jay Gruden, and we have the beginning of the cold war that spelled the end of Bob Griffin. Starting with the comments about his quarterback’s “fundamental flaws” and footwork that was below average, Gruden made comments about RGIII that one would never expect to hear from a head coach about his supposed franchise quarterback. Then we were met with leak after leak from the organization portraying Griffin as an uncoachable player who had lost the locker-room. Was this Jay Gruden’s way of tearing down RGIII to set the public up for the eventual benching of the signal caller this year? Was that the reason Gruden left Griffin out in the first prseason game of 2015 to be pummeled repeatedly and eventually knocked out with a concussion, a move that one coach anonymously said looked like “it was personal?” Such clandestine moves, made this eventual benching seem more like a coup or sabotage as opposed to a decision based on merit or lack thereof, especially when you consider the alternative, Kirk Cousins.
Kirk Cousins is the perceived golden boy in this story, the one tapped by Gruden to save his job and Washington’s season. However, anyone who actually has paid any kind of attention to the 9 starts by Cousins has known the ugly (not so secret) truth, the kid from Michigan State has not been much better than RGIII in his opportunities. What does Kirk Cousins have over Robert Griffin III? Well that he is not Robert Griffin III. He has not found himself on the receiving end of the hate fest that has surrounded RGIII. He has not “spoke out of turn.” He has apparently endeared himself to a coaching staff, which appears keen on ignoring the fact that he has been on the wrong side of terrible for the entirety of his career. He is the backup quarterback, which is well known to always be the most popular guy in town. He is your “traditional” quarterback in every sense of the word, meaning drop back style and white. If you are the Washington fan base or organization, what is not to love?
In all this, Robert Griffin III has gone from Lucifer to the Devil. Signifying all that is wrong with a hapless franchise that cannot seem to get out of its own way. The descent into Dante’s Inferno has been a precipitous, but not one that could be readily explained away. So why does the public hate RGIII? Why has a fan base once so rabid for their young savior, turned artic in their feelings towards him? How has the guardian angel of the hopes of a franchise been turned into a demon portrayed as the fault man for a team’s ills? Perhaps we may never know the full story, but to simply throw the blame on the downfall of Robert Griffin III fully on his broad shoulders would be intellectually dishonest.
Jotham Kabuye can be followed, stalked, and studied for scientific observation at IG/Twitter: @JothamKitara