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FENNO: RG3’s performance a reminder that for all his gifts, he’s still a work in progress
Late in the second quarter Sunday afternoon, an unusual noise filtered through FedEx Field.
Boos, lots of them, rippled toward Robert Griffin III.
The franchise. The made-for-television smile (with the portfolio of national endorsements to match). The skills that were supposed to transform playing quarterback in the NFL. The No. 10 jersey that served as a rare point of unity amid Washington’s unceasing fractures. The paparazzi-like obsession everything from with minutiae of his recovery from the offseason surgery on his right knee to details of his wedding registry.
All gone in a few throaty seconds of frustration in the 23rd game of Griffin’s young career.
The quarterback glided back three steps, locked on his target, then flung a pass that long-arm Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget swatted down at the line of scrimmage, his second such play in the series.
Griffin flung his arms in exasperation. He looked human.
The Redskins and Griffin, of course, found a way to escape the Chargers in overtime and keep the season from tumbling into oblivion. But the quarterback’s up-and-down second season continued. The now-familiar cocktail of overthrown passes and hell-bent runs and plays made when they mattered most mixed together again in another reminder of the bumpy path of developing young quarterbacks.
We’re watching a quarterback in progress. At times, the result is going to be swatted to the turf. That’s the way of quarterbacking in the NFL. Griffin is far from a finished product. To expect otherwise is to buy into the same hype that hung his 74-foot image from the Newseum before throwing a regular-season pass and splashed his face over ESPN in August as part of a self-congratulatory documentary on his recovery from the injured right knee.
Last year created the illusion, to some extent, that Griffin would be immune to the usual challenges of adjusting to sport’s most difficult position. After all, if a rookie’s churning legs and right arm could generate highlights at such a prodigious rate, the second time around could only get better, right?
The rookie romp made you believe things would always be that easy.
Instead, we’re watching Griffin learn on the job. We’re watching the Chargers bat down four passes — he finished 23 of 32 for 291 yards — as the quarterback shrugged off the problem as not having a clear answer.
Problems overshadowed last season by the Redskins’ ferocious running game, his unfettered ability to dance out of trouble and the freakishly low five interceptions are now more apparent.
Griffin’s smooth words deflect credit with the same ease he sheds would-be tacklers. The words, as well, leave his growing pains at the position as little more than a few items, always vague, to correct.
On Sunday, the gifted quarterback’s duality was on display. For every play that evoked murmurs of discontent, there were moments like the drive to win the game on the first possession of overtime that wiped away memories of errors befitting a rookie. Or the tumbling, terrifying hit he absorbed in the third quarter at the end of a 10-yard run to secure a first down.
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About the Author
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