Use your brain, RG III
If he wants to have a long career in the NFL, Griffin needs to play smarter
There are two obvious problems with the recent comments made by the father of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. The first issue has to do with the source -- it's never a good look for parents to talk about how teams should be handling their children in the NFL.
The other concern is that RG III's dad is way off base when it comes to criticizing the Redskins' offense and the dangers that system creates for his kid. If anything, the elder Griffin should be advising his son on how best to stay healthy in the world of pro football.
For those who missed the news, Robert Griffin Jr. told The Washington Post that RG III "doesn't have to be a runner as much as I saw last year." The father added that the Redskins are "paying these [receivers] a lot of money to catch the football. I'm his dad -- I want him throwing the football a lot. A lot."
You could envision Redskins coach Mike Shanahan cringing as soon as those statements reached his desk. The last thing he needed was one more person suggesting that he has been reckless with his star quarterback's health.
It's a story that has lingered ever since RG III reinjured his right knee in a playoff loss to Seattle and it might not vanish until we actually see a major attitude shift in the second-year quarterback. As much as people can take issue with the team's offense -- a system that included its fair share of read-options and triple-options last fall -- Griffin tore his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments because he did a poor job of protecting himself. Young quarterbacks such as San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Carolina's Cam Newton and Seattle's Russell Wilson use their legs to create big plays all the time. Griffin should study what they do to avoid the devastating hits.
When Griffin first injured his right knee against Baltimore in a 31-28 overtime win Dec. 14, he exposed himself to a brutal hit by Ravens Pro Bowl defensive end Haloti Ngata. RG III, while in the midst of running for a first down, never saw Ngata crash into his torso. Griffin's right leg twisted in the process and his knee was never the same the rest of the season. The fact that Griffin tried to keep playing during that contest only foreshadowed what happened in the playoff loss to Seattle.
Anybody who watched that wild-card matchup could see that Griffin was so hobbled in the fourth quarter that he shouldn't have been playing. It was even more apparent that a firestorm about who was responsible would erupt once it was revealed that Griffin needed reconstructive surgery. The controversy only increased when conflicting reports emerged over whether Shanahan had let Griffin return to the game with the blessing of noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews or if Griffin defiantly went back in on his own. If that wasn't enough, Griffin has been consistently cryptic on the matter at various points in the offseason.
If all that is difficult enough to follow, it should be as simple as this: Griffin knows his body better than anybody and it's time that he understands his limitations more acutely. At 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, he's not big enough to take some of the shots he took while rushing for 815 yards last season. He'll get hurt every season at that pace. He'll be a shell of himself before he even logs 10 years in the league.
More important, Griffin needs to own this issue instead of continually dancing around it. He didn't do himself any favors earlier this offseason when he sent a statement to ESPN saying, "I know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well."
Griffin also didn't do a great job of clearing up the matter with a recent news conference. He said he and Shanahan had "hashed everything out" and that they were "moving forward on that" but no specifics were given beyond that. All Griffin did in trying to clarify the matter was bring more haziness into the conversation.
While it's impossible to know how that conversation with Shanahan went, it's worth hoping that Griffin saw how he could improve the situation going forward. A few more slides would make a world of difference. A willingness to head out of bounds quicker or simply give up on a play sooner wouldn't be bad things either. Griffin should've learned as much when he faced the St. Louis Rams in Week 2 last season. That team cracked him so often, before and after the whistle, Shanahan was openly complaining about his quarterback's treatment for days afterward.
The most disconcerting sight during that game wasn't the way the Rams went after Griffin. It was his tough-guy response in the news conference after the loss. He wanted the world to know that RG III wasn't going to be intimidated by anybody in this league. If teams were going to come after him, then he would be more than ready to handle their abuse.
Griffin now should know that's a silly way to lead in the NFL. The best quarterbacks don't win games with bravado. They do it with their minds, arms and heart. A select few can even do it with their legs. The key, as Griffin will hopefully display this season, is realizing how best to use that gift in a league where running quarterbacks usually don't last long.