After the Washington Redskins suffered defeat in the NFC Wild Card round against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, quarterback, Robert Griffin III said goodbye to his teammates in classic RGIII fashion.
The Redskins suffered a 35-17 loss in that playoff game. Instead of cameras focusing on the Redskins’ sideline in the waning seconds of their season, all eyes were on RGIII, who was seen shaking hands and offering hugs to field personnel, security, and teammates. It felt like the end of a four-year saga, marking the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another for both the Redskins and Griffin.
He declined to comment on his future status in the NFL only telling reporters on Monday, “I don’t plan on talking.” Instead he let his words resonate in what can be seen as even more poignant in a carefully crafted letter, which was found hanging over his empty locker. Not exactly the most conventional way to say goodbye. The letter made reference to “The Paradoxical Commandments,” a book written by Dr. Kent M. Keith in 1968, based on a poem by Mother Theresa. Also, included were Bible verses from Philippians.
— Master Tesfatsion (@MasterTes) January 11, 2016
Now, we’ve all heard of the old adage: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” By all accords, the otherwise outspoken Griffin took that saying literally and figuratively. Even still, I don’t believe we’ve seen or heard the last from RGIII.
Griffin’s exit has prompted reactions from both sides of the spectrum. His teammate and linebacker, Keenan Robinson, referred to the letter as another example of the professionalism and class Griffin has displayed all season.
Defensive end Kedric Golston also chimed in saying, “The difference was he had every eye, every camera on him when he’s going through that process. You get in a situation where you can do no right, no matter what you do. That’s tough. This league will do that to you. It will humble you.”
Who could know the real RGIII better than his teammates? Still one could argue that the underlying message of his farewell letter and the manner in which he chose to disseminate it was not only narcissistic and self-serving, but completely motivated by resentment.
Four years ago, Griffin was the first-string quarterback entering the playoffs (up 14-0) against the Seahawks riding high from a spectacular rookie campaign. He threw 20 touchdowns, completed 66 percent of his passes, and had a quarterback rating of 102.4. Redskins fans, ownership, and teammates were enamored with the RGIII “phenomenon.”
Those numbers were enough for the Redskins to win the NFC East and earn a playoff game at home— a game in which they were on the verge of winning before Griffin went down with injury.
Despite all the mishaps in his career, whether self-inflicted or circumstantial, Griffin’s tenure took a turn for the worst at two pivotal moments that season. The first was when he collided with then Baltimore Ravens DT Haloti Ngata. Griffin hyperextended his knee; an omen of bad things to come for the number two overall draft pick. Fast forward a month later and Griffin tore his ACL in the playoff game against Seattle.
Kirk Cousin’s resurgence at the quarterback position is most likely the final straw in a line of unfortunate catastrophes during Griffin’s career as a Redskin. Cousins led the team to win seven of their next 10 games after starting 2-4. He finished the season with 29 touchdowns, over 4,000 passing yards, and a quarterback rating of 101.6.
Cousins went on to earn the Redskins the NFC East title and a home playoff game much like Griffin. His mid-to-late season performance prompted the general consensus around the Redskins camp that Cousins is the definitive team quarterback.
Evaluating Griffin’s tumultuous experience while in DC, has to also include the dealings off the field. Griffin was heavily criticized for being enabled and coddled by Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder. Not to mention, he hasn’t always said the right thing in the press and has been accused of sometimes saying too much. Coach Jay Gruden, who came out at the beginning of the season announcing Cousins as the starting quarterback, was never sold on RGIII or his ability to execute an offense, especially after sustaining those injuries.
“I know he grew a lot being a third-string quarterback here,” Gruden told ESPN. “A different system, different terminology and things that were new to him, but I think with the skill set that he has and what he learned from the Shanahans and the new stuff that he learned from us, I think will make him a better quarterback wherever he goes, however it works out for him.”
This is not a “woe is me” moment for Griffin. Throughout his career, he has thrown 40 touchdowns over 8,000 yards and has a quarterback rating of 90.6. Based on a stellar rookie year coupled with his career statistics, he should have no problem finding another opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. There are more than enough teams in dire need of a viable starting or backup quarterback. The only drawback is a well-documented history of injuries, giving a potential new team pause on taking a chance on him.
The Redskins have until March 9 to release Griffin or else they will have to pay the $16.2 million option they picked up. Really, the Redskins and Griffin should just agree to walk away from one another. They both deserve fresh starts. It’s clear the Redskins feel they have a promising future with Cousins, which leaves Griffin out in the cold as the odd man out.
What’s unfortunate is that as the Redskins head into the offseason instead of discussing how the team made significant strides and how they plan to improve next year, the conversation will be about Griffin— misguided, as it always has been.
Marcus Lamar is a New York-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.