At the moment, Robert Griffin III is just another NFL backup quarterback. But during the 2012-2013 season, his play was transcendent. Watching him shred opposing defenses that year with both his arm and his legs was truly a thing of beauty. If you’d told anyone watching him that he’d one day go on to be a Hall of Famer, they would have undoubtedly agreed with you.
Griffin’s career took a turn for the worse following that magical season, however. Now that he’s re-established himself as a backup, it begs the question whether he can one day start again. Griffin definitely thinks so, but what chance does he have?
Robert Griffin III’s incredible rookie season
The Washington Redskins traded a boatload of draft picks to get Griffin, selecting him with the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Team owner Daniel Snyder loved the pick.
Head coach Mike Shanahan was likely not as enamored with Griffin. In the fourth round, he picked another quarterback — Michigan State star Kirk Cousins.
From the start, Griffin was unbelievable, leading the team to an NFC East title. A late-year injury put his season in jeopardy. Griffin attempted to come back against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs, but he wasn’t nearly as effective as he had been before. The team lost its playoff game.
Despite the disappointment, Washington fans were optimistic and thought Griffin had just scratched the surface of his ability. Unfortunately, due to both injury and circumstances, they had seen the top of the mountain already.
The fall of Robert Griffin III
Griffin and Shanahan later had a falling out the following season. It came down to a matter of offensive style. Shanahan and his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator, had designed an offense meant to accentuate Griffin’s strengths as a runner.
They still felt Griffin needed time to develop as a pocket passer. The problem was that Griffin — who apparently had the ear and heart of Snyder — thought differently. He wanted to be thrust into a more advanced offense that allowed him to drop back and throw more.
According to Bleacher Report, Shanahan appeared on FS1’s Undisputed to tell his version of the story after he’d been fired. He simply thought Griffin III believed he was further along, developmentally speaking, than he actually was.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was really disappointed myself because I knew where Robert was going. I knew where his dad was going. I knew where Dan Snyder was going. It was up to me to convince this guy that, ‘Hey, if you don’t run, your dropback game…it’s not there now, but you can get there.’ I blame myself for not getting to the kid.
Griffin survived but Shanahan did not. The team hired head coach Jay Gruden, who was less of an RG3 fan than Shanahan had been. A QB controversy between Griffin and Cousins developed. Cousins eventually won, and the team jettisoned Griffin.
Second act as the second quarterback
After an unsuccessful stint as a starter in Cleveland, Robert Griffin III has settled in as Lamar Jackson’s backup in Baltimore. It’s a fantastic fit — Griffin and Jackson have similar strengths and Griffin has always been good on his feet. But while Griffin is in a great situation, he’s not content to stay there. In a recent interview, he said he wants to start again according to CBS Sports:
“I want to be a starter again. I’m 30 years old, and quarterbacks are playing into their 40s now…There’s a lot of time left to still go achieve all the dreams and goals I set for myself.”
So can he do it? It’s certainly possible. Griffin rushed for 50 yards on eight carries in his only start last season, so he still has his wheels. If Griffin can find the right offensive scheme to play to his talents, there’s no reason he couldn’t get another chance to start in the league.