- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2013

There may be no position more celebrated in sports than that of the quarterback, who is typically singled out for his direction when a team is winning and deluged by criticism during defeat.

Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick have each experienced the tension of that dialectic. On top of their games last season, their first as starting quarterbacks, a variety of circumstances have conspired to test each player’s aspirations over the past several months. Those issues have fueled in-depth examinations of their performance in a season in which it seemed certain they would ascend to superstardom.

Griffin’s Washington Redskins were expected to further improve this season after a remarkable turnaround late last year, but their quarterback has been dogged by recovery from offseason surgery and a tilted perception of his relationship with his coaches and teammates.

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Kaepernick, who took over the reins of the San Francisco 49ers around the same time last season the Redskins began their run, has dampened his team’s hopes of another run to the Super Bowl with remarkably inconsistent play and a lack of willingness to address it.

The two teams, mired in losing streaks, will meet Monday night at FedEx Field. More significant, however, is the way the two players have reacted to the scrutiny they’ve faced, including shifting the blame and, on occasion, completely withdrawing from responsibility.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) walks in the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) walks in the sideline in ... more >

“I don’t worry about that,” Kaepernick said tersely earlier this week, answering a question on a conference call with several Washington-based reporters about how he deals with criticism. “I worry about coming in here, working and getting ready for the game.”

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Then, quiet. Three questions later, and after little more than four minutes in total, Kaepernick could be heard loudly hanging up the phone.


The quarterbacks’ style of play – dual-threat talents enhanced by the risk of the zone-read option – helped change the look of a professional offense while it led their teams to the postseason.

The Associated Press named Griffin the Offensive Rookie of the Year after he set multiple team, rookie and league records and led the Redskins to their first playoff appearance in five years. Kaepernick, in his second season, replaced Alex Smith as the 49ers' starting quarterback for the final seven games and led his team to Super Bowl XLVII, where it lost to the Baltimore Ravens.

Their personalities have already led to endorsements from several large companies; Griffin has signed deals with adidas and Subway, among others, while Kaepernick capitalized on his Super Bowl appearance by joining Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in a series of commercials for McDonald’s.

Each player was expected to build on his performances, but each has struggled. For Griffin, whose Redskins are last in the NFC East at 3-7, an offseason lost to two torn ligaments in his right knee contributed to the Redskins‘ poor start. Kaepernick, meanwhile, has regressed as a passer; after throwing for 412 yards in a season-opening victory over the Green Bay Packers, he has surpassed 200 passing yards in a game only once this season and has the 49ers at 6-4 following dismal performances in his last two games.

“I think he’s doing a heck of a job,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters this week. “I guess I’d be puzzled to why people would think that [he isn’t]. What’s most important is what we see.”

Isolating the reasons for each quarterback’s troubles isn’t simple, and they don’t seem to have many answers, either. Griffin controversially said last Sunday, after the Redskins lost 24-16 on the road to Philadelphia, that the Eagles’ defense “kind of knew what was coming before it was coming” – an apparent indictment of his coaching staff.

Kaepernick, too, made a pair of statements after the 49ers' road loss to the New Orleans Saints that raised eyebrows. After being asked about the communication of plays from the sidelines, the quarterback said it can be frustrating not to get them in quicker. Then, asked to elaborate, he insinuated that the complexities of the offense can be overwhelming.

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