Six weeks into his rookie season, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III ran past the Minnesota Vikings defense straight into the loving embrace of America. The electricity, the gap-toothed smile, the jovial off-field demeanor and the steely on-field one… we loved everything about RGIII.
The last time we had this kind of excitement over a quarterback was for Michael Vick in 2001. Griffin showed flashes of similar athleticism, although if you were looking for a more accurate quarterback comparison I’d steer you towards Randall Cunningham.
Regardless, he ran for over 800 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per rushing attempt. Even in a new era of mobile NFL quarterbacks, Griffin’s playmaking ability shined.
However, late in the season, people began to worry. As he led the Redskins into the playoffs, a knee injury began to linger and people began to speculate.
Griffin’s wiry frame wasn’t suited to withstand the types of hits (and how many) he was taking. All totaled, he took 152 hits in 2012, which is a number that I’m certain Mike Shanahan wasn’t shooting for.
None were worse than this:
The week after taking that hellacious hit to the head, Robert Griffin III was back out on the field making that unthinkable mad dash against the Vikings. However, he continued to take a pounding and as the season weathered the pain began mounting.
Then, in Week 13 against the Baltimore Ravens, it happened.
He took a shot to the knee that viciously contorted his leg and looked like certain ligament damage. Miraculously, Robert Griffin III would miss just one game and would ultimately lead the Redskins into the playoffs with wins over Philadelphia and Dallas in the final two weeks of the season.
However, the knee continued to be an issue, and as RGIII took the field against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Wildcard, he didn’t look like the same explosive player who ran by everybody on the field against Minnesota. He looked stationary, as if he were sitting on a tee for the Seattle defense.
And when he went down on a play where he wasn’t even touched, it became evident that something was terribly wrong. The verdict after the game: a torn ACL.
Eight months later, Robert Griffin III was lobbying for playing time in the preseason–to which Shanahan is wisely replied, “Not a chance.” However, if he hopes to be an effective NFL quarterback in 2013, RGIII have to learn to rein in the instinct to leave the pocket and fight for that extra yard.
Now, that’s not to say Griffin wasn’t phenomenal in 2012. He was absolutely incredible and worthy of every accolade he received. That being said, not being on the field and playing hurt are two ways to hurt your team in a heartbeat, and if RGIII hopes to have a long, prosperous and successful career, he can’t take 152 hits on a yearly basis.
That doesn’t mean that you take the most explosive quarterback in the NFL and tell him he can’t run. That’s like buying your 14-year old a new bike and telling him he can only ride it in the yard. But, Griffin’s playing style has to become more physically efficient.
By that I mean that he needs to learn to weigh his options and understand that his future is more valuable than six yards. That’s a difficult proposition for a born playmaker, but it’s the only option for Robert Griffin III.
Because if Griffin can’t stay healthy (and this isn’t the first time he’s torn knee ligaments), he’ll run out of America’s warm embrace nearly as quickly as he ran into it in the first place.