Here we go. Quiet on the set.
“Take 5! Robert Griffin III, Washington’s would-be franchise QB … action!”
Or is this Take 6? It’s hard to keep count.
In any case, RG3 has resumed his star role for Washington’s final two games this season, which presumably will end the dramatic portion of 2014 (the competitive portion never began).
He has been battered in the public eye as much as in the pocket, bringing both beatings upon himself in some measure. But with Colt McCoy being placed on the injured reserve list, Griffin has a prime opportunity to win back support with a strong showing against Philadelphia on Saturday and Dallas on Dec. 28.
We can only hope his psyche hasn’t suffered the same damage as his body.
“God has blessed me with a lot of mental toughness to be able to deal with all this stuff,” Griffin said during his news conference on Tuesday. “Just having the right people around me, the right people to talk to, it’s been very, very helpful going through this process. So I am in a great place mentally. I just want to play football.”
Unfortunately, he has neither played enough football nor played it well enough to inspire confidence. The two remaining games won’t provide conclusive proof one way or another. They just represent the next take.
Take 2 was abysmal, when he returned from major knee surgery and led Washington to a 3-10 record in 2013 before Mike Shanahan shut him down. (If Shanahan had made that decision at halftime of the playoff game against Seattle … never mind).
Everything was supposed to be rosy for Take 3. The new director, coach Jay Gruden, was hired to remake RG3 into the leading man who caused folks to swoon in 2012.
But the magic was missing through all the rehearsal games and the season premiere at Houston. There was a brief spark the following week, against Jacksonville, but his left ankle was dislocated early in the second quarter and he missed the next six games.
Gruden’s preference for the understudies became apparent during that time. Griffin might have been done for the season, but Kirk Cousins hung his head and threw away his shot, while McCoy lacked time to perhaps strengthen his grip on the role.
Otherwise, Griffin’s next scene might have occurred in a different uniform.
But Gruden opted for RG3, Take 4, and inserted him in the starting lineup against Minnesota. That game marked Griffin’s 31st NFL start. Andrew Luck — drafted just ahead him — made his 44th NFL start that week.
Nearly a season’s worth of experience isn’t the only difference between the two quarterbacks, but it doesn’t help. Griffin’s snail’s pace in developing could be, partially, a matter of time. Quarterbacks “get it” at different points in their career, but few do so right away.
“That just comes with repetition,” Gruden said. “You look around the league at some of the successful guys. I was looking at Eli Manning — I think he’s on his 195th career start and Peyton [Manning] is on 200. Drew Brees is on 200.”
In his next breath, Gruden unintentionally criticized RG3’s lack of development when he guesstimated the QB’s career starts. “He’s on what, 15 or 16? So, it’s going to come with time.”
Griffin has been on the job twice that long, although Gruden must be discounting the rookie season. Nonetheless, Take 4 came to an unceremonious end when Griffin was benched for poor performance.
Now McCoy’s neck injury has made Take 5 a reality. Gruden might not like it, but he and Griffin aren’t done. At least the coach is finally ready to reduce the round-hole style and better maximize his square-peg QB.
“As a play-caller, utilizing Robert to the best of our abilities, we can’t worry about the ‘injury-prone’ factor,” Gruden said. We have to call the game to best utilize his strengths and that puts him at risk sometimes.”Hopefully, he does a good job of protecting his body — slide when he has to slide, get out of bounds when he has to get out of bounds and throwing the ball away when he can throw the ball away and avoid the hits.
“That all comes with experience and playing the position.”
Other things only come with experience and calling the shots, and Gruden is showing all of his rookieness as a head coach. Compounding matters, the remaining games will represent just his sixth and seventh contests with RG3 as his starting quarterback.
If the star and director can’t get on the same page heading into the offseason, there’s little hope they’ll ever produce a hit together. But don’t be surprised if there’s another take next year.
Either way, this franchise is far from concluding “that’s a wrap!” — under center or in the coach’s office — with any degree of satisfaction.