Nobody Tells RG3 How To Play His Game

The worst possibilities have manifested in reality for Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III. It’s a reality that seems galaxies away from last season when he was Jesus with a wing, walking on water, while captivating the NFL community and transcending athletics with iconic flavor. Last season, his jersey sales measured true popularity, setting a record in that department. But this season, he trails Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. It’s a true sign of the times.

RG3’s Redskins aren’t assed-out like the 0-6 NY Giants. But the bottom line is that D.C.’s Chocolate Prince isn’t coming with royal performances. And Washington’s 1-4 record does little for one’s Super Bowl libido. For months, while he rehabbed yet another foul knee injury, rumors swirled and naysayers insisted that fans must face the possibility that he might be a compromised player when he returns – or at least not as sharp in the first few weeks. And at this point, both seem accurate.

Those who take a casual approach to NFL injuries and view ligament tears as just part of the deal, refused to entertain the notion that football’s Sandy Koufax couldn’t do it again. They kept expectations epic and analyzed the Redskins with the assumption that RG3’s health was 100. The same media marauders and social network nugget-heads who now take shots at RG3’s game-in-transformation (totally ignoring the fact that he lacked practice reps while rehabbing in the offseason), once lauded him a status reserved for revolutionary contributors and lifetime pioneers of the NFL. But the reality is that Griffin's numbers aren’t sniffing his historic rookie season, furthering a belief that he is far from fully recovered from the severe right knee injury he suffered against Seattle in that January playoff game.

And it’s clear that Skins HC Mike Shanahan’s psyche was damaged after receiving flack for letting RG3 run wild and free. This season the focus has totally shifted to developing his pocket passing. Problem is, it's proved to be a foolish direction when RG3’s freakish speed and agility is what shook defenses to death and opened up great passing lanes for him to flex his cannon. This ridiculous and hasty plan to try and reinvent him as Warren Moon has morphed RG3 into an average QB.

Even Griffin III knows the truth. During a Redskins Radio Network interview on Sunday, following a 31-16 thrashing to NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys, outside of mentioning wanting to run more, it seemed as if he had a change of heart about the level of responsibility he’s willing to take for the Redskins' fate. “I…think there were a couple throws that I missed. Every quarterback in this league’s gonna miss some throws,” he said. “We have to complete those balls. The tough, hard catches have to be made.” After barking on his shady receivers he shot back at endless dissection and opinion concerning his every move adding, "Yeah, you know, I’m just really focusing on being the playmaker that I know I can be and not letting anybody else tell me how to play this game.”

 “Air G3” threw for 975 yards in three consecutive losses to start the season. He led all QBs with 815 soul-lifting rushing yards in 2012, but he’s only on pace to rack about 500 yards in 2013. All this pigskin flinging has his passing completion percentage down from 65.6 last season to below 60 in 2013. His QBR rating has dropped over 40 points, he’s already thrown five picks in the first five games (the same number he threw all of 2012), and his 80.4 QB rating reflects his overall struggles as he was one of the NFL’s most efficient signal callers last season (102.4 rating). Sure, he’s passing for more yards, but the 300-yard passing games that amount to zilch are trending in the NFL.

And he’s not comfortable putting his dual-threat repertoire on the backburner, because his surrounding weapons are sus.Not only does RG3 look as crazy as a 7-foot center working in a toll booth, players that he previously crushed, are mouthing off and discrediting his skills. "He doesn't look the same," Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said Thursday on NFL Network's "Around The League" Live. "That's not saying we're going to sleep on him. He still has the same arm strength. He still has some type of elusive ability once he gets outside the pocket. But we know he's not the same."

Football analyst Troy Aikman—ever the Cowboys banner boy—caught more wreck on RG3 early this season in an interview with Sporting News. “As someone who wore a knee brace, I know how cumbersome that can be, and it's restrictive as far as your mobility," Aikman said. "And now you consider the fact that RG3 is obviously a very athletic, mobile guy. We haven't seen the athleticism from him that we saw last year and that we were expecting. I just think the knee isn't completely healed. I don't know that we'll ever see the same guy that we saw last year.”

An RG3 that can’t fly is like smoking a half-pound of Oregano. He’s undoubtedly conflicted because he doesn’t get the same shine or results unless he’s being a mobile maverick. His captivating quality is his ability to execute unfathomable wizardry and inspire awe with his legs. And RG3 gets that he didn’t win the Heisman because of his accuracy or pocket-savvy. We have witnessed a gang of pocket passers that have thrown more yards than miles in America. But RG3 is a rare jewel. Risk is an irreversible part of his game and greatness. He’s a cat that further flipped the scales of racial bias at the QB position and opened the flood gates for dual-threat QBs—the suppressed ghosts of NFL past. “You know, I got here for a reason,” an increasingly agitated RG3 told RRN. “I’ve got to make sure I use all of my abilities to their maximum. And running the ball is one of those, when I do get the opportunity. It’s not that I’m looking for it. But if it is there, I will take it.”

At the end of the day, the kids don’t listen as much and the endorsements don’t roll if RG3’s not ripping off 60-yard runs here and there. The fans don’t cheer as loudly and the media machine doesn’t marvel if you play a vanilla QB game and your team is losing. How RG3 deals with his dilemma will be interesting to watch. But if Shanahan continues to dress him up in a Carson Palmer monkey suit, the W's don't pop, and people keep disrespecting his conglomerate, then the mild-mannered, unflappable Griffin might just go gorilla.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.