Last season, the NFL and its fans were treated to a real show with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. When the Washington Redskins drafted him No. 2 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, the bar was set high. But RGIII did not disappoint. In 15 starts, Griffin III amassed 4,000 yards of offense and 27 total touchdowns. As a fan of college football first and foremost, seeing more integration of that style of quarterback play into an NFL offense was exciting to see.
But everyone got snapped back to reality in the Redskins wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks. After dealing with a knee sprain earlier in the season, RGIII tore his ACL and LCL on a hit during an attempt to pick up a bad snap on a pass play. It wasn’t on a scramble or a designed run. It was on a play that every quarterback in the league deals with multiple times a year. And yes, he was nursing a sprain to that knee and there was debate on whether or not he should play, but upon further review the entire play was so benign that it’s hard to imagine it being anything more than coincidence, compounded with a less than healed knee.
So, as Griffin III continues to recover at breakneck speed, working hard to have his knee and the rest of his body ready for the start of the 2013 season. The question that everyone is asking is what kind of player will Redskins fans see? Obviously at this point one can only speculate, but considering some of the comments that Griffin III has made during his recovery, lead me to believe that the show from last season is likely a one time event. That’s not to say RGIII can’t be a great player in the league, because I know that he can. But after his initial injury coming on a run, and then to have the ACL and LCL tear shortly thereafter on a simple mishandled snap, Griffin III says he wants to make changes in his game to try and help him avoid further injury.
But I don’t think he can. As much as he might want to alter his game, athletes are creatures of habit, and so as much as Griffin III will work to change his mindset on when and how to run, when the pressure is on, he is going to be the same player he was, even if it means putting himself at risk of injury. It’s all about muscle memory. We see it all the time with quarterbacks and their throwing mechanics. They spend weeks, even months working on a new refined throwing motion and when the pressure is on in a game, they go right back to the old ways. RGIII can say he’s going to work hard on staying in the pocket, make more throws, even throw the ball away rather than run and put himself in harms way, but everyone knows better than that.
With that, what we are going to see is a quarterback who could be hesitant at times, second guess himself and may not always play with the rhythm we all saw last season. Anyone who has played football understands that if you play with any doubt in your mind about what you are doing, and any fear of being hurt, you are setting yourself up for things much worse. This is going to be why Griffin III won’t be the same quarterback in 2013, and this type of quarterback may never be fully integrated into an NFL offense.