- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now that he’s gotten his first intoxicating whiff of Washington — and the idolatry that goes with being the Redskins’ quarterback — I have a few things to say to Robert Griffin III. That is, if my voice can be heard beyond the wall of handlers that surround him like so many offensive linemen.

The first thing is: Welcome — not just to D.C. but to what can be the best years of your life if you play your cards right. As you saw when you were introduced at FedEx Field after the draft, Redskins Nation already loves you. They love you for your talent. They love you for your Heisman Trophy. They love you for not being Rex Grossman. They love you for your smile and your charm. They love you for the hope you bring, the hope of a Redskins renaissance.

They love you for all kinds of reasons, more than you can probably imagine. And that’s a good thing, a good place to start, especially when you’re taking over a team that has finished in last place the past three seasons. Unlike a lot of rookie quarterbacks, you won’t have to win that love — not, at least, the love of the true believers, the multitude of burgundy-blooded types. No, what you have to do is not lose that love.


That’s what I mostly want to talk to you about, because you already can see how easily something like that could happen. You’re famous. You’re charismatic. Heck, you’re a phenomenon, Harry Potter in a helmet. Sponsors such as Adidas and Subway are lining up to have you sprinkle some of your magic dust on them. Media outlets want you. Women have goo-goo eyes for you. Is this a great country or what?

So many opportunities. So many people trying to pull you in so many different directions. You undoubtedly could become a very rich man, buy entire blocks of Waco, Texas, without accomplishing much of anything in the NFL. That, to me, is your biggest challenge, bigger even than being a successful pro quarterback. It’s the challenge of keeping your priorities straight, the challenge of being a QB first and a brand second (if not further down the list).

You’re a young guy. You want to have it all. Who, at the end of the day, doesn’t? It’s just a matter of what’s important to you. Do you want to be a celebrity, or do you want to be a celebrated athlete? There’s a big difference between the two.

Or to put it another way: Plenty of quarterbacks can make the scene with a succession of starlets and songbirds. Some might even be able to team with Tiger Woods in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. And there’s likely a producer or three who wouldn’t mind having you - and your megawattage — in one of his movies. (In fact, from what I hear, Dan Snyder and Tom Cruise are pretty tight — unless Tom has invoked “ghost protocol” on him or something.)

But temptation can do a worse number on a quarterback than a blitzing linebacker ever could. And vanity, its fraternity brother, can be as career-altering as a torn ACL. There are any number of QBs over the years, from hard-partying Bobby Layne to Broadway Joe Namath to street-cred-conscious Michael Vick to would-be golf pro Tony Romo, of whom you could say, “You know, he’s good, but he could be even better.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Ben Roethlisberger was almost laid low by the high life. It’s out there beckoning to almost any athlete in the spotlight, and it certainly will be batting its eyes at Griffin, the Face of the Franchise at the tender age of 22 — and somebody who, if things break right, could be the prince of the city for the next decade, if not longer.

It’s going to take the levelest of heads to deal with all the distractions that get thrown Griffin’s way. What it really comes down to is: What do you want out of life, kid? Former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian, who has a passing familiarity with quarterbacks, told the New York Times that RG3 has a chance to bring “a new dimension” to the position with his precision arm and running-back speed. That’s been said of other QBs, of course (e.g. Vick and Steve McNair), but we’re still waiting for someone to reinvent the wheel … and win big while doing it.

Griffin might very well have that in him, that transformative capacity, but only if he thinks of himself as a quarterback above all else, only if he can keep from getting too caught up in the hoopla of Being RG3. Make no mistake: What he’ll have to deal with in this era of the never-ending news cycle — in terms of exposure — is something no Redskins QB has ever faced. It all comes down to him now. To his dreams, his needs.