I want to preface this piece by saying I have always had a strong belief in something called the Champion theory. Whoever is at the top, whether in sports or business, there will always be people gunning for them. As a kid, I remember the WWF belt wasnt passed around like the offering basket at church, Hulk Hogan held that title for what seemed like years and always had to deal with the likes of Andre the Giant, Ultimate Warrior and a host of others come Wrestlmania or Summer Slam. Michael Jordan was king of the world in basketball as a player but was trying to lead his team to get over the hump known as the Detroit Pistons and the Celtics, and finally Magic and the Lakers.
None of these champions and superstars ever had to deal with the scrutiny that athletes in general have to deal with in this new age of media. Their every word, movements and actions were not dissected with a fine tooth comb and misrepresented to cause chaos for the sake of headlines.
The difference between now and when I was growing up as a kid in the 80s and 90s is that the media seems to have quadrupled in size, the amount of experts, idiots and the avenues for those two groups to express themselves has grown as well. It is now no longer the opponents who teams and players have to worry about but writers, columnists and bloggers too.
How does this all relate to Robert Griffin III, and his first off-season as a pro? Simple. He is undoubtedly at the top of his class in terms of the position he plays in a sport that values QB play as much as race cars depend on their engines.
He is now a target and because of his marketability, undeniable talent and charisma, everyone has an opinion about him and those that surround him and a blog to share it on, a TV camera to impress or a radio microphone to shout into.
Redskins fans and critics of said organization, the people who run it and Robert himself typically point to three plays (low-lights) that serve as reminders and what is a false perception of the misuse of RGIII from his rookie season.
The play from the Falcons game:
The first injury to his knee against the Ravens:
And of course, the play that really ended the season for the Redskins and began his first pro off-season:
Im not going to go into a diatribe about the effectiveness of the read-option and how that system had nothing to do with any of the three plays above. For a good read on that you can go to this piece by HTTR24-7.
What I do want to go into is this damned if he does, damned if he doesnt approach that the media goes into with Superstar talent in any sport.
Lets establish one thing right away, Robert Griffin III is a damn good football player, one who wants to play at all costs and who has that hunger every coach wishes they could instill in every player. RGIII is a generational type player and without getting all verbose some people just cant deal with other people having success, feeling the need to nit pick and search under every possible rock to find whats wrong with a person.
All eyes will inevitably be on RGIII because of his talent level, and the team he plays for. The Redskins, while not being anything close to what they were in terms of dominance like the teams of the 80s, are a franchise that will always have a target on their back.
If its not people bashing the owner for his meddling ways or his approach to owning a team, itll be for the teams nickname being offensive.
Dont get me wrong, a lot of the criticism is valid, especially considering the mediocrity the team was stuck in since Gibbs left the first time around, losing seasons, 366 QBs in 20 years, 1 Division title in 20 years, the Vinny Cerrato years; take your choice of things to blast off on.
The one thing nobody should be complaining about or using to get up on a soapbox and bitch about is a 23 year old kid with that superstar talent I mentioned above, who happens to have a rocket for an arm, a hunger to be the best and the balls to voice his opinion.
Every single thing RGIII has said or done since his surgery occurred in early January, under the watchful eye of Dr. James Andrews has been scrutinized, put under a microscope and looked into deeper than the Watergate scandal.
Questions asked since he first hurt himself in BaltimoreWho was to blame? Was there a rift between coach and player? Did the player finagle his way back into the lineup? Who really runs the team? Does Griffin thinks hes better than he is?
The headlines all dominated ESPN and NFL networks throughout the off-season.
Regardless of what happened before, what we know for sure is what Robert and those around him have said since his surgery and how much criticism hes received because of it.
A few Id like to highlight
The Gatorade All in for Week 1 commercial started a riot from Roberts detractors thinking he was an idiot for thinking he could come back so soon after double knee surgery. Who did he think he was after all, Adrian Peterson?
Then came the statement from RGIII to ESPNs Trey Wingo:
“I know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well,” Griffin wrote.
Quickly the media, including our own DC based Pardon the Interruption crew of Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon, proclaimed this was a shot at Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins, that RGIII was pissed, that the player was wronged, blah, blah blah blah blah.
Or how about when Dr. Andrews, you know, the no-name surgeon who performed above mentioned Adrian Petersons ACL and has done one or two of these surgeries in his lifetime went on air and said,
Griffins recovery has been nothing short of superhuman. ~Dr. James Andrews
But of course Robert got blasted for that as well, for example this piece by PFT owner and noted Redskin troll Mike Florio.
Yes Mike, Dr. James Andrews is not a PR maven, he didnt play one on TV and didnt stay at a Holiday Inn Express but when it comes to matters of the knee, Ill take his assessment over your predictably bias one 24-7 and 2x on Sunday.
How could we not include the invasion of RGIIIs personal life, on multiple occasions, you know Im referring to the time the guy plead guilty to blackmailing Robert. Or better yet, how about the uproar from people calling RGIII all sorts of names for having a wedding registry, posting pictures laying on boxes in excitement of the gifts, or even better, having his wife get blasted for the backlash RGIII received from these tweets:
Because you are rich you are not allowed to receive gifts and any gifts you receive should be donated to charity???? #WOW Smh
— Robert Griffin III
I didnt ask the fans to buy me anything. They found it on their own and decided to get what they could. SMH at all these Debbie downers
— Robert Griffin III
For example, this nonsensical rant by one Stephen A. Smith:
“Let me be very very clear, because while I don’t disagree with a single word that you just said, Greenie, I think you’re missing the boat,” Smith said. “I don’t think the fans are the problem here. You know who I think the problem is? His fiancee is the problem. It’s her fault.
“I know people [are going to say] Steven A. needs to calm down. No, y’all calm down. I’m not being misogynistic in any way, shape, form or fashion. I’m sure she’s a wonderful, lovely lady. I’m very happy for him, their July wedding. All the best, God bless you both.
“But let me throw a little bit of the love doctor in here. Understand something. You’re a woman, you’re messing with a high-profile – I shouldn’t say messing – you’re involved with a high-profile dude. He has no business being a part of the wedding registry. Handle it yourself. He’s RGIII. No, to you he’s Robert. Whatever it is that you call him. It’s cute, it’s nice. But it’s none of our business. Don’t make it everybody’s business. You, I believe her name is Jennifer? Is it? Whatever her name is, what I’m saying is, you handle that.”
Talk about the dumb shit that comes out of peoples mouths sometimes. Well done Stephen A. Smith, well done, but actually her name is Rebecca and if you are going to say something about another mans wife you should probably do enough research to get her name right.
I know Ive omitted some other pieces from the last few months but this post will already be one of length so Id rather end by focusing on the latest two media rants and frankly two of the dumbest assessments Ive heard and read regarding RGIII.
First, a columnist who makes his living by pissing people off, Jason Whitlock. A day after yet another media fiasco over RGIIIs comments about not understanding the plan for him, and wanting to play in the preseason, Whitlock, who Im sure has been to as many Redskins games as Ive been to Toronto Argonauts games, decided to pen, RGIII needs to man up and shut up.
If you havent read the piece yet dontunless you are really bored. Ill provide you with some of the asinine excerpts from it, such as:
RGIII exposed himself Monday afternoon. Just beneath the tough-guy, ultimate-warrior bravado he trumpets to the media lurks some major, Kirk Cousins-fueled insecurity.
One thing I dont think anyone can take away from Robert is his toughness or bravado. How many ACL reconstructions have you come back from in world record time mister sit on my ass and judge people with a racial bias to all of my columns?
Saying RGIII is insecure with his role on the team due to Cousins is like saying Michael Jordan was nervous John Paxson might take minutes from him.
With all due respect to Kirk Cousins and his ability as an NFL QB, Griffin is on a whole different level of QB play than the Redskins backup QB is. Cousins may have the pretty hair (pre-buzz) and iron like jaw going for him, but come on, look at the musical talent differential as well:
Whitlock goes on to say:
Griffin is the Golden Child of the NFL right now. The media loves him. He’s an exciting player and a great quote. People are afraid to criticize him because they want access to him and they don’t want to be accused of unfairly criticizing a talented black QB.
I’m an RGIII fan. But I don’t particularly care about having access to him. I got my own friends. And I’m not going to cripple a talented black QB by blowing smoke up his rear.
Whitlock is right, Griffin is the Golden Child right now but to say that people are afraid to criticize him is asinine. Just from reading this post and clicking on links youll see dozens of journalists, some credible, others worth crap, going to town on Robert III, Robert II, RGIIIs wife, his surgeon, his coaches, landscaper, nanny and anybody else they can associate with him.
My key reason for this quote was to highlight that in two back to back paragraphs, Jason finally brings in his staple approach and mentions being a black QB and what he believes would be a crippling affect by him blowing smoke up RGIIIs ass.
As to the mention of Robert being a black QB, Ill refer to what RGIII said himself on the matter:
For me, you dont ever want to be defined by the color of your skinYou want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. Thats what Ive tried to go out and do. I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I dont have to be defined by that.
We always try to find similarities in life, no matter what it is so theyre always going to try to put you in a box with other African-American quarterbacks (Michael) Vick, (Cam) Newton, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon
Warren Moon and Doug Williams really didnt run that much. Thats the negative stereotype when it comes to African-American quarterbacks, that most of us just run. Those guys threw it around. I like to think I can throw it around a little bit.
That being said, from the player himself, can everybody, not just Jason Whitlock, Stephen A. Smith, Donovan McNabb anyone else who feels the need to, stop referring to RGIII as a black QB, unless they are also willing to make reference to Tom Brady, Eli and Peyton Manning as the white QBs or Russell Wilson as the Mestizo QB?
To the point of Whitlock crippling Roberts career by inflating him with praise, Id like to speak on behalf of Griffin and say he could probably give two rats asses what Jason Whitlock thinks of him.
The last little bit Ill take from the Whitlock piece is this final shot at Robert, contesting that not only is RGIII insecure, but also arrogant and selfish;
During last season’s playoffs, Griffin stayed on the field long after it was obvious his knee injury made him completely ineffective. I wrote a column at the time stating Griffin demanded to stay in the game because of arrogance. I should’ve pointed to arrogance, insecurity and selfishness.
He wanted the glory of leading the Redskins to victory, and he wanted to deny Cousins a role in it. Griffin’s foolishness cost Washington the game, a contest it led 14-0.
I’m not the only one who knows this. Mike Shanahan knows. Trust me, Griffin’s teammates know. Griffin’s attempt to play hero cost the Redskins a playoff victory over the Seahawks.
Now, Im no NFL insider, and I dont have the inside sources like Mr. Whitlock says he does but I do know what I hear from Redskins training camp, the offseason scuttlebutt and the players on the team because I live in DC and have friends in the DC media.
Not once, not even in the slightest hint have I ever been told of or heard about a single player saying a single negative thing about Robert Griffin III. Ill take what Ive read and heard from Stephen Bowen, London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, Alfred Morris, Trent Williams, Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon and a slew of others over the sources that Jason Whitlock claims he has.
Its one thing to disagree with a 23 year old young man and tell him on a national platform that he needs to find a better way to express himself and keep his communication under wraps. Its another to publicly decry that said individual is arrogant, insecure and selfish.
Mr. Whitlock in your shitty article you got your three adjectives wrong, and perhaps were meaning to describe yourself. You mistake Griffins confidence for arrogance, drive for insecurity and benevolence for selfishness. But Im sure at 23 Jason Whitlock had the world figured out, made no mistakes in life and had millions of people watching his every step, hanging on to every word out of his mouth and judging him for all the above.
I do appreciate your post though Mr. Whitlock, it surpassed my former number one pick for most idiotic column Id read to date.
Finally, we come to the RGIIIs latest critic and former Eagle QB, Donovan McNabb.
Again, another media personality using a national forum to publicly go after Griffin for what Im sure McNabb took as a diss when RGIII told September’s issue of GQ, “I don’t think Donovan is an idiot by any means, but right now, it’s probably best we don’t talk.”
McNabb had this to say about the Redskins starting QB:
Im just trying to help him. Clearly the young generation think they have all the answers. Hes going through a little turmoil right now trying to get out on the field. And its unfortunate. But thats where were at right now as far as these young quarterbacks who think they have all the answers. Until things start to fall apart and come down trembling on you, then you want some help. But its a shame, McNabb said. I honestly think, you know, over there in Washington, hes getting brainwashed. Hes getting input from whoever it may be. Theres no reason to talk to him. It didnt work out here. If they expressed their dislike when I was there, what I used to do. So be it. I hope the best for the young man. But the direction hes going in is really a direction he does not want to do.
So let me get this straight, Donovan J. McNabb formerly of the Washington Redskins via the Philadelphia Eagles, the QB who got unceremoniously benched in favor of John Beck and Rex Grossman, who publicly blasted the Shanahans, who claimed Shanahan wouldnt be able to get anything out of the the NFL Rookie of the Year who broke multiple records and led the Redskins to their 1st division title in 13 yearsnow wants to help RGIII be the best he can be?
The funny thing about McNabbs quotes are that first, Griffin doesnt come across as a know it all young kid at all. Every interview, every appearance, every introduction to anyone he meets seems very genuine, he comes across as humble always deflecting praise to his teammates and always looking to thank and salute the people around him.
Everything we see from Griffin is that he is a student of the game, works his ass off in the weight room, recovered from double knee surgery in world class time and this all means that he is apparently headed in the wrong direction?
Donovan McNabb once again sounds like a scorned ex-wife who got left and then replaced by a new and better version. Dont be pissed off that the current QB of the Washington Redskins doesnt want to take advice from a former division rival who left the team on bad terms, and certainly dont be a bitter betty about it either.
If Robert Griffin III needs advice from a former black QB, or perspective on being a successful black QB there is no need for him to look outside of the Washington Redskins organization. That gentleman may not have 5 NFC Championship game appearance or a blog that pisses off more people than it makes happy, but he does have something neither of RGIIIs latest critics do and thats a Super Bowl ring and the perspective of being at the top of his game and understanding how to deal with BS questions like, How long have you been a black QB.
Whats the bottom line to all of this?
I hope Redskins fans enjoyed the off-season, after all when was the last time we turned on the TV and saw the Redskins, and much less, the QB of the Redskins lead ESPN or the NFL Network?
Because of this media proclaimed arrogant, ignorant and selfish Superstar, the Redskins are back on the map, back to being the chased instead of the chaser. Washington Redskins football is relevant again and stories that wouldnt have mattered one bit are over analyzed and made headlines all because we have something almost every other team covets.
As for RGIIIs offseason, Redskins fans should do what fans of winning teams do, brush off the shoulders, stay positive, keep out the negative and pay no mind to the media trying to produce story-lines, all the over exaggeration, microscopic viewpoints and criticism was all much ado about nothing.
The real test begins in less than a month, and if you believe like I do in what the young man we are talking about is capable of doing, buckle up your seat belts and get ready, Im expecting year 2 to be even better than the 1st.