RG3 Benched, But Why?
BREAKING NEWS: RGIII spared.
Spared this money-and-power sandbox fight between Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder; spared catastrophic injury during three games that have absolutely no bearing on this season; and spared the play-calling of a lame duck offensive coordinator he already doesn’t trust to look out for his physical well-being.
However and why it went down doesn’t matter; Robert Griffin III needed to be removed from this sorry drama. His body, mind and ego needed to be extricated from a lost year of his career.
He has been coddled and enabled. Used off the field, abused on it. Vicariously lived and died through, throughout this commode fire of a season.
Now it’s time to pluck the kid from a house engulfed by flames.
He has suffered 102 quarterback hits and untold number of ego bruises, his Q-rating plummeting farther and faster in a year than his QB rating — from a 2012 during which his super-imposed portrait underneath the word “HOPE” to a 2013 when he was cast as “RG Me.”
And now that Shanahan has opted to start backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in his place Sunday in Atlanta in a game between two three-win teams that amounts to the NFL’s Massive Underachiever Bowl, now that Griffin has been deactivated against the Falcons, he and the big-picture portion of this fan base remaining should pantomime just two words: “Thank you.”
“RGIII Benched” and “Change at QB in DC” — the day’s national crawl lines from Trashburn — were both terribly inaccurate. Only one headline was really needed: “A Year Later, Shanahan Finally Does the Right Thing.”
It’s not right that Griffin may be being used as a pawn to ratchet up Shanahan’s public war with ownership over his ultimate authority to govern his team. If that’s why the decision was ultimately made — to provoke further confrontation with Snyder and ensure he walked away with his $7 million owed next season— no NFL owner should trust Shanahan’s motives again going forward.
If My-Way Mike finally acted like My-Way Mike again toward the betterment of the franchise — and he stopped tiptoeing on eggshells over who was going to be emotionally wounded if he sat his quarterback down, if he realized 24 sacks in five games could get worse — even better.
Either way, the means don’t matter here. The end result was beneficial for the organization. Griffin needed to be protected.
He needed to be protected from a coaching staff that won’t be here next season and mostly blames the camp of Snyder, Griffin and Griffin’s helicopter-parent of a father for their inability to succeed — because it’s not in Shanahan’s genes to blame himself.
He needed to be protected from further piling-on by frothing, content-starved, panel-discussion America, from all of us who keep dissecting a 23-year-old, second-year quarterback as if he’s a chloroformed frog getting tweezered by a 10th-grader.
I’m sorry, bad quarterback play does not equal bad guy. Snyder parading him around in the offseason like a Kardashian doesn’t make him a bad guy. Listening to his agents tell him he needed to do a Gatorade documentary detailing his comeback doesn’t make him a bad guy. Wanting to be famous and successful at his job doesn’t make him a bad guy.
It makes him naïve and too trusting that the people closest to him have his best interests at heart. But it doesn’t make him a rotten human being, a prima donna or a coach killer.
Look, he probably came back too soon and has struggled to transition into more of a drop-back presence because he had no offseason repetitions because he was rehabbing the knee. And he certainly got caught up in the prospect of instantly being the face of the new NFL. End of story.
Whatever influence Griffin has exerted over this franchise is only as much as Snyder has enabled and allowed.
Finally, the best reason to sideline Griffin: He needed to be protected from himself. For all intents and purpose, this season ended two weeks ago when Washington was eliminated from playoff contention. The worst thing Griffin could do now is try to be a hero on a Sunday where just a capable quarterback will do.
His DNA is to play until the last whistle, until he is carried from the field. That solider-on mentality needed to be shelved for these last three meaningless games. This is about the future, all right: his future as a healthy QB for this franchise.
If Dr. James Andrews were smart, he would jump on the save-Robert-for-next-year-and-seasons-to-come bandwagon before he looks like a cheerleader again.
Shanahan always has been in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation with Griffin. That he didn’t put his foot down 11 months ago to shut him down will privately always be his biggest regret in Washington, I believe.
But now that it’s done, a healthy double-standard has finally been acknowledged and accounted for: Robert Griffin III is still the hope of whatever is left of this fractured organization after this clownish, cruel year ends.
The only way to pull him out of this vortex — to save him from further psychological and physical damage — is to take away his helmet and pads. He wasn’t benched for the season Wednesday; he was shut down and spared the end of another forgettable era.