He captivated D.C. upon arrival.
Now the city is just held captive, incapable of escaping a hostage situation.
Robert Griffin III has shackled Washington’s team and its fans. The Stockholm syndrome is in full effect. There’s no genuine enthusiasm about the relationship and few are confident that the ordeal will end well.
But an emotional attachment and a level of dependence has formed. That generates hope and positive feelings toward RG3, alongside varying degrees of empathy and sympathy for his situation. Fans, teammates and officials might want to blame him for the predicament, but not without also defending and identifying with him at times.
Warts and all, he’s “one of us” until he isn’t, and the team can’t succeed unless he does.
Outsiders view the situation differently. Unencumbered by feelings of kinship and loyalty, they consider solely what their eyes see, not what their hearts desire.
Like everyone in D.C., national onlookers were charmed when Griffin arrived. But as he steadily declined from dazzling rookie to discarded third-stringer, out-of-towners increasingly write him off as a terrorist to everyone but opposing defenses.
The latest brutal assessments arrived this week, via 35 anonymous NFL insiders who partook in ESPN’s “Quarterback Tiers” project. RG3 ranked 28th among 32 projected starters. The QBs were placed into one of five tiers. None finished in Tier 5 — the worse — but that’s where someone ranked Griffin, now and forever.
“Five, and there’s no coming back,” an offensive coach said of Griffin. “He is done. The reason why is, the injury slowed his legs, and his ego will not allow him to hit rock bottom and actually grind his way back up the right way.”
We’re not positive that the observation about RG3’s psyche is accurate. But it’s certainly one of great concern, a fear that despite what he says, Griffin’s self-pride and admiration are insurmountable obstacles.
Such worries are merely murmured in town, but put on full blast from coast-to-coast.
“To get better in this league, you have to have a degree of humility,” a personnel director told ESPN. “Griffin sees himself like Peyton [Manning], in that light. When he looks in the mirror, he is seeing things that everybody else is not seeing. That is why I was surprised when they gave him the fifth-year [option] and said it was an easy decision.”
Of course it was a clear call for new general manager Scot McCloughan. He did the first thing any good negotiator does when reaching the scene — attempt to build trust and rapport with the suspect.
If that doesn’t work in de-escalating the situation, then you order the kill shot and move on.
The franchise would be free to go its way while RG3 goes another. McCloughan and coach Jay Gruden could look for a quarterback they believe in, one who doesn’t overshadow the entire organization and serve as a lightning rod for controversy.
Of all the possible conclusions to this drama, the one where RG3 loosens his grip via shining onfield performances seems the least likely.
Yet, that’s the primary hope for the D.C. captives, that their detainer undergoes a change and releases them.
The other scenario is one more torturous season before Griffin finds a team offering second chances. Maybe there’s a staff that won’t be as hellbent on forcing him in a square hole, instead designing a scheme that maximizes his tools if not his longevity.
Denizens of the new outpost wouldn’t be in the compromised position endured by Washington’s team and fans. Besides, Griffin would be far less threatening with both hands busy wiping humble-pie crumbs off his face.
McCloughan will monitor the scene and weigh his options in determining whether everyone can be saved or RG3 must go.
He has a vested interest in Griffin’s success, but not the same emotional investment as team officials who spent a fortune to land the quarterback and expected lengthy returns based on Year 1. McCloughan surely has questions like everyone else — especially Gruden — but not to the extent of completely writing off RG3, at least not yet.
The ESPN project reveals that McCloughan isn’t totally alone in hoping fewer injuries and more continuity result in improved performance.
“I know how hard it is for a quarterback to go into a system for the first time,” an NFL general manager told ESPN. “With Griffin, I’m taking into account the new offense, the new personality at head coach, coming off an injury. He showed his rookie year that he could be a [top-tier QB]. He is a young guy. I’m going to give him the benefit because of that.”
The initials of that anonymous GM might as well be S.M.
That would be a savvy move, the negotiator slipping a note through to the public — and vis-a-vis the perp — to let us know everything will be all right.
But just in case, everyone should keep their head down.