The trial of Robert Griffin III — whether or not he can be an elite NFL quarterback — took a dramatic turn for the worse Sunday when the defendant took the stand and crumbled like a deadbeat tenant before Judge Judy.
Griffin led his Washington Redskins team down the path to a memorably pathetic home loss — a 27-7 beating by a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that, as their quarterback Josh McCown reminded us after they lost to the Atlanta Falcons last week, repeated over and over again to reporters, were “1-8 … 1-8 … 1-8.”
Now they’re 2-8. And the Redskins, who coach Jay Gruden suggested could have been 7-2 going into this game, save for some bad breaks here and there, are now 3-7 and staring at a repeat of the 3-13 season last year that got Mike Shanahan fired.
Griffin said the performance was a “travesty.” Gruden said it was “a horrific game.”
It was also Gruden who has said that “the jury is still out” on Griffin as an elite NFL quarterback, and Griffin’s performance against Tampa only raised more doubts about his future.
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How bad did he look before the jury Sunday?
Well, just imagine if the glove had fit.
Griffin completed 23 of 32 passes for just 207 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked six times — a chronic problem with no evidence of improving.
DeSean Jackson who came into the game leading the NFL averaging nearly 22 yards per catch — caught just four passes for only 35 yards. Pierre Garcon, who set a franchise record last season with league-leading 113 receptions? Just one catch for six yards.
If Griffin is judged by a jury of his peers — his teammates — I suspect Garcon, in particular, under oath, wouldn’t be a character witness.
The seven measly points the Redskins could muster with Griffin at quarterback was damning evidence that this quarterback is so far removed from the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who led Washington to the NFC East division title that, looking in the mirror, he probably wouldn’t recognize himself.
And, according to Griffin, he will be looking in the mirror a lot, and wants his teammates to as well.
“I need every man in that locker room, player and coach, to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do better,’” he told reporters. Later he added, “We are not a very good football team right now and we have a long way to go. Every guy has to look at himself in the mirror and say that.”
If Griffin looked in a mirror Sunday, he would see one of the distorted funhouse mirror images.
He would not see an elite NFL quarterback.
He nearly saw Colt McCoy Sunday.
When asked if he considered taking out the quarterback who had yet to win a game for the Redskins this year in favor of the quarterback who has not lost a game for this team this season, Gruden suggested the only reason he didn’t was because, by that point, he had surrendered.
“Once it got to be 27-7, with about nine or 10 minutes to go, then they had the long drive and we didn’t get the ball back until five minutes to go, I didn’t think there was any point, really,” Gruden said. ” I thought it was smart to just run the clock out and get out of here and lick our wounds and move onto the next one.”
Not exactly glowing testimony of support.
The jury in the stands at FedEx Field may have thought there was a point. Some chanted, “We want Colt. We want Colt.”
It’s Griffin, though, who is on trial, and expect it to be a long one.
“We’ve got to coach him up and find out what’s holding him back,” Gruden said. He went on to say that Griffin “has got to continue to grow and get better, and I see every week that he is a great player that struggles at the quarterback position. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching him up and getting in his brain and finding out what he knows and what he doesn’t know.”
Griffin once declared to the world what he knew when he famously adopted the hashtag “know your why” and once told Fox Sports that wins on the field don’t come if you don’t “know your why.”
He seems to have lost his why — and his way. Maybe he’ll find it in the mirror.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com