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Brandon Marshall noticed it right away.
It wasn't just that Russell Wilson was incredibly quick, or that he was accurate or tough. He was all of those things, but there was more to it.
"He's a born leader," Marshall said last year after Seattle beat Chicago in only Wilson's 12th career start. "I listened to the guy talk. I watch how he conducts himself, how he handles himself. That's a guy I can watch and learn from."
|Kyle Shanahan said that he has become a more well-rounded coach after working with dynamic QB Robert Griffin III in Washington.|
If Marshall, an eight-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, thought he could learn something from Wilson, surely up-and-coming star Robert Griffin III could do the same.
Griffin would also be wise to take a peek at the way Andrew Luck is conducting himself in Indianapolis. Those would be two excellent role models for Griffin.
He certainly seems to need one.
It is one thing for Griffin to capitalize financially on his popularity -- not his success, because in the grand scheme of things, he hasn't had very much yet -- by pitching everything from shoes and sandwiches to cars and sports drinks. But RG III has morphed into RG Me. It is all about him, and yet nothing is his fault.
It is an unflattering look.
There is a way to be a leader of men in the National Football League, and there is more to it than being the first one to work every day and the last one to leave. There is more to it than setting the example in practice or poring over film or producing on game days.
What you say matters. How you carry yourself matters. It just does, especially when you're the franchise quarterback.
For whatever reason, Griffin doesn't seem to get that the way Wilson and Luck do. If Griffin did, he wouldn't take veiled jabs at Washington's coaching staff or subtly blame teammates for his own mistakes. He has repeatedly done that, including after Washington's most recent loss to Philadelphia in Week 11.
Leaders don't do that. Leaders take responsibility, even when they might not deserve the blame. Leaders are accountable. Leaders don't deflect criticism. Leaders don't sell out teammates.
Leaders have their teammates' backs. Leaders frequently use the words "I" and "me" instead of "them." "I screwed up. That mistake was on me. I have to do a better job."
Leaders don't say that a play broke down because the receiver didn't come back to the ball or the line didn't protect well enough.
Luck gets that, which is why you'll never hear him say an inflammatory word about his offensive line, even though he gets hit and hit and hit every week. Wilson gets that, which is why you'll never see his shoulders slump even after he gets plowed into the turf.
Luck and Wilson are the ultimate team guys. Luck constantly defers to veterans. He calls himself just another second-year guy. He never, ever criticizes a teammate.
From the jump, Luck's approach has been diametrically different than Griffin's. Luck has been the anti-celebrity. He refused to do any national television ads his rookie year because he felt like he needed to prove himself first. Even now, Luck endorses very few products. He has left millions of dollars on the table, but his approach is all good things in all good time. He wants to earn it first.
Wilson is one of the most mature 23-year-olds you will ever meet. He is so detail-oriented, so into the process of preparing for a game that his teammates affectionately call him the robot. Every week, he watches film and sends his receivers customized breakdowns of what they can expect from the linebackers and defensive backs they will face that week.
You never hear anyone question Luck's or Wilson's leadership. Ever.
You also never see Chuck Pagano or Pete Carroll having to correct something that Luck or Wilson said the way Mike Shanahan constantly has to do with Griffin, whether it's about his knee or the team's play. When it comes to their teams' performances, Luck and Wilson know what to say and, more importantly, how to say it. Griffin apparently hasn't learned that yet.
Words matter in the NFL. They just do.
It is understandable Griffin feels empowered to say whatever he feels. Washington gave up the house to get him. He is the franchise. He is the second-most powerful person in the organization behind owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder can always find another coach. What he can't find is another Griffin. He's tried for over a decade.
What Griffin really needs to do is recalibrate. Once this season is over, he needs to put his entire focus on football. No more commercials. No more award shows. No more documentaries. There will be time for that later.
Griffin needs to work on his craft, learn how to become a better passer, learn how to go through his progressions and how to attack defenses. He needs to put football, and not celebrity, first.
If he needs a guide, there are two good ones from his draft class. Because Luck and Wilson appear to have it all figured out.