Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Most Dysfunctional Team in the League, Part IV

"Washington picked up RGIII’s fifth-year contract option for 2016, but it is guaranteed for $16.1 million for injury only. If things don’t change this season, they can cut him before the start of the next league year and not owe him a thing. But if he gets injured this season and requires the offseason to recover, his 2016 contract becomes guaranteed. That could also scare off some teams interested in trading for Griffin."
As far back as I can recall, Washington has sucked, because Washington is supposed to suck, and that’s why Robert Griffin III’s rookie year made no fucking sense at all. Fuck a jinx; we had Black Jesus! It wasn’t just that we were winning, but how. It’s important here to stress how bad Washington was this season, so that maybe you understand how so, so impossibly good RGIII was.

Griffin lit up the league in his rookie season, gaining 3,200 yards through the air and adding another 815 yards on the ground, scoring a total of 27 touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl and won AP offensive rookie of the year. According to Doug Drinen’s Approximate Value metric, which assigns a single numerical value on any player’s season, at any position, from any year, Griffin’s 2012 campaign was the second most successful since 1970, narrowly behind Cam Newton’s coming out party the year before.

I remember, in these moments, being almost moved to tears with joy and disbelief that we had him for the next decade. Even then, even as I was screaming and laughing, my stomach would roil unexpectedly. There was no doubt that RGIII was a Hall of Famer, at the very least the best player to ever don a Washington jersey. I felt guilty, then, as if I was voyeuristically experiencing happiness the fucking Redskins didn’t deserve, that I didn’t even deserve.

As far as I can recall, the RGIII that enraptured the nation’s capital died on the cold, wet ground in Landover against the Seahawks. Knee injuries are the nastiest in that they can rob you of some combination of your explosion, your speed, and your agility. Worse, they can take your confidence, your fearlessness, your spirit. It feels a bit revisionist to say now that RGIII was a raw prospect with limited tools, but perhaps his fall was always destined, and an athlete seemingly from the future was finally overtaken by the evolution of NFL defenses. Maybe, as it’s looked this preseason, his team stopped playing for him long ago, and his coach stopped protecting him, as well.

Maybe Snyder in fact traded the future of his franchise for one cinematic season, and without the ability to draft talent, Washington fell behind. Maybe it’s possible to connect Snyder’s many shortcomings and failures as a human, to those of head coach Jay Gruden, to RGIII and the organization they run. Shit, maybe it’s karma.

Barring an unfortunate occurrence, or a few, the QB for whom Dan Snyder mortgaged three future first-round draft picks and a second—the very future of the franchise—won’t take the field again this year. Barring one or some disasters, RGIII won’t be in Washington next year; it’s just as likely that his stint here ruined his career before it got started as it is he’ll go somewhere else and make the Hall of Fame. Either outcome will feel an indictment on the team he’s left behind.

Three years ago, RGIII came to DC to save a franchise and city in spite of themselves. He almost succeeded. Soon, he’ll be chased out of town, a trail of smolders and ash in his wake. I don’t think I’ll watch much football anymore, but the one thing I’ll always remember, for the rest of my life, are the days he set my city alight.

More information:
» USA Today: Under Dan Synder, "The Redskins Have Started 16 Quarterbacks in 16 Years"
» Washington Post: "The Redskins QB Yearbook, from 1999 to 2015"
» NBC Sports: Dr. Andrews says most players can't recover like Peterson, RGIII
» ESPN: Redskins in Trade Talks, Meeting Resistance from Ownership
» FanSided: "The opportunity cost of Robert Griffin III"

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