(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

It Wasn’t Supposed to End Like This

Eliminated in Week 13? A year after leading Washington to a playoff berth, RG3 has looked little like the dynamic multiple threat who would turn a franchise around. Is it just a sophomore slump, or something more serious?

By
Jenny Vrentas
· More from Jenny·

LANDOVER, Md. — Robert Griffin III found his new wife, Rebecca, just after midnight in an area underneath FedEx Field where water-cooler refill jugs are stacked from the floor to the ceiling.

Their two-door silver sports car was parked there with its headlights on, waiting for Griffin to emerge from the locker room. As the Washington quarterback loaded his backpack into the trunk, a team staffer offered a one-armed hug to Rebecca, who gladly obliged. For the next few minutes Griffin largely gestured with his arms as he talked to his wife. He’d spent the last half-hour doing a postmortem on the bizarre officiating mix-up at the end of his team’s 24-17 loss to the Giants, so Griffin may have been going over the sequence with her.

More in need of a postmortem, though, is Washington’s 2013 season.

There are still games to be played, of course, but last night’s loss was the final stroke to knock the team out of playoff contention—one year after Griffin, before his right knee bent like Gumby’s in the playoffs, led it to an NFC East crown.

There was some unfortunate dissymmetry to yesterday’s game, in that Washington faced the Giants here in primetime almost exactly one year ago, earning a 17-16 win that threatened to change the NFC East power balance both short- and long-term. Griffin had a 46-yard run that night, which showcased his speed and the read-option craze. Both, we have been reminded with each of the five primetime Washington losses this season, have been greatly tempered in 2013.

Instead of reaching 10 wins like last season, Washington’s trying not to get to 10 losses. Insists Griffin, “I just think we’re too good to be a 10-loss football team. Other people will look at it and say, ‘That’s what we are,’ and think guys are going to quit. But like I told them after the game, I’ll go to war with any of them.”

RG3 has spent too much of this season running away from defenses, rather than through them. He has been sacked 33 times, three more than all of last season. The Giants got him five times on Sunday. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
RG3 has spent much of this season running desperately away from defenses rather than dashing through them. He has been sacked 33 times, three more than all of last season. The Giants got him five times on Sunday. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

A plea to hold the ship together, even if the ship isn’t going anywhere this season? You could see why. Signs of frustration bubbled to the surface last night: Pierre Garçon kicking the football after an incomplete third-down pass to the end zone, followed by an animated sideline discussion with Griffin. Or, left tackle Trent Williams shouting out “F—!” to no one in particular as he walked toward the locker room at the end of the game. “Just mad,” he said a few minutes later.

Washington could have beaten the Giants; it jumped out to a 14-0 lead, it also held a three-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and got the ball back with 2:32 left in the game and needing a touchdown to tie. That’s when the odd officiating error happened, the crew incorrectly moving the chains after a second-down completion inside the two-minute warning. The down-and-distance was officially 3rd-and-1, but Washington called and ran a play assuming first-and-10 (a deep middle shot to tight end Fred Davis), because coach Mike Shanahan said that’s what the officials told him.

On the next down, with the clock continuing to run, Washington adjusted from a second-and-10 to a fourth-and-1 call with about 18 seconds left on the play clock. The plays would have worked—except Davis dropped the pass thrown his way, and on the fourth-and-1 quick hitch, Garçon let Will Hill rip the ball away from him for the game-ending turnover. At times it’s felt like this team has forgotten how to win, and defensive tackle Barry Cofield admits, “Sometimes you take it for granted.”

Not himself: Griffin is down from his rookie year in every meaningful quarterback category. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Not himself: Griffin is down from his rookie year in every meaningful quarterback category. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

During training camp in Richmond, Va., one staffer noted how adoring fans swelled the complex daily to watch practice—and catch a glimpse of the most appealing football players to come to the Beltway in years. Last night the stands were dotted with empty seats at kickoff of a game against a division rival.

The Griffin of 2012, with a 65.6 completion percentage and Olympic hurdler’s speed, seemed destined to change the game. The Griffin of 2013 has been a case study in unrealistic (or unrealized) hopes, with everything from the viability of his knee, to his relationship with coaches and teammates, to his ability as a pocket passer, to his father’s appearance in the post-game locker room last week, considered factors in Washington’s letdown.

“It’s been a tough year not just for him, but for everybody, with the high expectations coming into the season. We haven’t lived up to those,” says linebacker London Fletcher.

Those expectations were officially unfulfilled last night, after which Griffin got inside his car and sat there with Rebecca for about 10 minutes. Finally, Rebecca, in the driver’s seat, made two left turns to exit the stadium. At the top of the tunnel there was a surprising reception: A small group of fans waiting in the cold, some wearing No. 10 jerseys. When the Griffins drove past, the fans let out a cheer—perhaps for the past, or the future, but at least a reprieve from the present.

17 comments
DanielClifton
DanielClifton

I have to agree with those commenters who are saying the Skins should have started Cousins at the beginning of the season and let RGIII totally heal.  They brought him back too soon, just like they did last season.  The fact that the read option isn't working as well as last year is a testament to NFL Defenses.  I never thought the read option would be a long term success in the NFL.  It took a season for defensive coaches to catch up.  I think the read option can still be used as a change up in the NFL.  I don't believe it can work as your base running offense.  The Panthers found that out last year.   

RichardPorter
RichardPorter

Here is a brief synopsis of the Skins' seasons issues.  1. RG3 not only didn't have a pre-season most importantly and never talked about is he didn't have a post season either.  2. The offense only has two consistent players in Griffin and Morris with Jordan Reed a rising star when healthy.  Even Trent Williams took a step back this year.  3.  As well as the offensive line can run block they suck even worse at pass blocking basically to light in the arse and not very talented.   4. The entire receiving corps needs to be replaced Garcon at best is a No 2 receiver on any other team. 5. The entire defense including the defensive coaching staff with the following exceptions: Hall, Orakpo Riley and Kerrigan.

sunalsorises
sunalsorises

Robert Griffin III thought all he had to do was show up.  You can see it when he whines for calls that he thinks he deserves the superstar treatment.    

dudedadesq
dudedadesq

The reality is that the team has no leadership.  There is a GM, technically (Bruce Allen), but he's nowhere to be see or heard from....it's because he's a figurehead.  Dan Snyder is a Jerry Jones wannabe (why, I have no idea).  Jones is owner and GM, and while he's not a good GM, at least he understands football.  Dan is a fan, but knows nothing about football -- he is driven by his ego.  What will save the Redskins?  A GM willing to work for Dan who can bring in the right coaches.  Firing Shanny and the rest is necessary, but without a real GM, it will be an up and down franchise.  What a shame.  Dan is in his late 40s, so he will be the owner for a long, long time....


NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

Kirk Cousins should have been the starter week one, with griffin getting playing time to become game ready. Throw in a lot of "look out" blocking and a swiss cheese defense and you're 3 - 9 and home for the holidays.

Fifilo
Fifilo

The read option, like the wildcat, has had its 15 minutes.

MarkCalasade
MarkCalasade

Seriously, who did not see a disappointing season coming for the Redskins? RGIII rehabbing from an injury, another short preseason, a whole season of tape on him, suspect aspects of the team...you'd have to be dumb or blind to think this season could have ended in anything other than the team taking a nosedive.

sunalsorises
sunalsorises

@RichardPorter In other words, everyone is to blame except RGIII.  You did everything but blame his shoes.  None of this mattered last year when things were going well.  RGIII lost his team and now they won't play for him.

rskins09
rskins09

@NoQNoSuperBowl    I said the same thing ..Cousins should have started  the 1st   four games  at least .. I didn't  expect the Redskins to be  10-6  this year  for I knew  most  teams would learn how to defense  the read-option  during the off season..As you can see, they did .Skins offensive line completely collapsed  too many times  in pass protection  this year ...That's not  RGIII  fault , nor is all the dropped passes ...Redskins  CB  are awful - way out of position and both look like their gun shy on every play ..London Fletcher  misses way to many tackles  and I'm a die hard Redskins fan ..Look at Pro Football Focus . QBs   get too much glory when their team wins & too much  criticism  when they lose ..They're under the microscope way too much, especially  if their team is losing .. In Sept. 2013  thought Redskins would be  8-8, maybe 9-7 ..The  DC reporters had a lot to say about RGIII  Dad visiting the locker room after the San Francisco's  butt whopping ..  Gimme  a  break ..

inthepresent
inthepresent

@sunalsorises @RichardPorter i would imagine that tentativeness due to that injury might have a litle something to do with it.

he, frankly, scared the crap out of the league last year. hard to say he wasn't better than russell wilson when healthy.   

RalphF
RalphF

@inthepresent @Fifilo Not really.  I'm a huge Hawks/RW fan, but Russell would be the first one to tell you it is just his screwball pitch.  Not a mainstay.  Never was.  So in that respect it's 15 minutes is not over I agree, but RW never relied upon it as much as other QB's may have (unless the defense was just being totally stupid and not covering at all...e.g., Buffalo...in which case he overused it to blow them out of the water.

inthepresent
inthepresent

@RalphF @inthepresent @Fifilo well said, and all true. 

that said, wilson is still considered much more of a threat because of it and i think it would be hard to tease that factor of his game/equation and still make any reasonable predictions as to his efficacy. 

none of that is to say that he isn't very talented or that he doesn't have a good work ethic. he is, and he does. but there have been others. it's the whole package that makes it work.      

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