Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is a game-changer, a player who not only changes games but also has changed the game of football with his combination of speed, smarts and skill. He is Randall Cunningham. He is Steve Young. He is Brett Favre. He is all of those things.
But is he an era or a moment?
Will Griffin became a standard by which other quarterbacks are measured for years to come — like a Steve Young or a Brett Favre — or will he be the answer to a trivia question about the greatest one-hit wonder in NFL history?
Will Griffin be standing in the stadium at Canton years from now delivering his Hall of Fame induction speech? Or will he be briefly mentioned as a teammate by Alfred Morris in his induction speech?
Can he last as long as Jared as a Subway pitchman? Or will he be selling ShamWows on late-night TV?
Does Griffin have the legs to stand on for a long NFL career?
Following his knee injury last season that ultimately led to Griffin being a one-legged quarterback, crumbling to the ground in the playoff loss to Seattle in January, and surgery for torn knee ligaments — his second in four years — the debate has raged over how this talented quarterback was used last year and how he should be used moving forward.
He ran the ball 120 times for 815 yards — impressive numbers for a quarterback, one of only three who ran for more than 800 yards in a season since 1970.
His father, Robert Griffin II, believes those numbers add up to a short NFL career.
"You tell a kid that you want him to be there for 14 years, guess what?" he told GQ magazine. "Historical data will tell you that the more he runs, the more subject he is to career injury. You name one quarterback out there that would rather run the football than throw the football, and I'll show you a loser."
And in case you didn't get the message, Griffin senior told WJLA-TV (Channel 7), when asked if his son should run the ball less, "I think that message was loud and clear. What they have to do in order to have Robert, you know, be what they want him to be, because you don't want him to limp into the playoffs."
So Griffin's father would say, no, his son is not long for the NFL if he is used the same way that made him such a successful and electric rookie last season — as if passing the ball guarantees a long NFL career. You might want to ask Kevin Kolb, whose NFL career may be over after suffering a concussion in the Bills preseason loss to the Redskins — one in a series of career concussions.
Robert Griffin III had one recorded concussion last year — that we know of.
All that said, if I was staking my franchise on the long-term viability of Griffin's career, I'd take that bet, for the same reasons that I thought before the 2012 season started, we might see something kind of different with this young player.
The way his veteran teammates spoke of this rookie during training camp last year, before we ever really got a look at Griffin in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, was not like any other way I've heard veterans describe a player. Some were in awe of his maturity, his intelligence, his talent — and his heart.
None of that was damaged by Haloti Ngata when Griffin went down in the Baltimore game last year, and none of that was damaged in the Seattle playoff game, when the world cringed as it watched Griffin play on one leg.
If anything, the maturity and intelligence should be greater after a full NFL season. And the heart? All we've heard from his Redskins teammates is that Griffin has been the first one at Redskin Park for rehabilitation work and the last one to leave. The heart may be stronger than ever.
"I know I can go back out there and play at a high level like before and even better than before," Griffin said during training camp. "I did that in college, and I know I can do that in the NFL."
All this has gotten lost in the hype that Griffin himself has fanned during the offseason with his cryptic texts, vague tweets and comments that have fed the notion there was damage done in the relationship between Griffin and coach Mike Shanahan in the Seattle playoff game. The noise has drowned out the player everyone fell in love with last year.
The same thing happened last summer when everyone expressed concern about the Subway commercials and all the ads and attention before Griffin ever played a down in the NFL. He told everyone that once football begins, the Griffin hype machine stops and Operation Football starts. That is what happened last year, and despite the noise this offseason, there is no reason to believe it won't happen again — providing he stays healthy.
He plans on doing that, in part by being smarter when he does run, and, frankly, to be more of the quarterback that his father said he needs to be to survive in the NFL.
"The more you play the game, especially at this level, the better you're going to get," Griffin said. "There will be times this year where we don't have to run. We can sit back there and throw the ball. Be a pocket passer, which I thoroughly enjoy."
Brett Favre played 20 years in the NFL. Randall Cunningham had a 16-year career. Steve Young — 15 NFL seasons.
Griffin is all of them. He'll be selling sandwiches for a long time.
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