Would Robert Griffin III be starting for the Washington Redskins Sunday if he were white?
Before you answer, check out his numbers. In his last four starts, Griffin’s passer ratings have been 78.9, 58.4, 41.1, and 56.0. He has thrown two touchdown passes and six interceptions.
Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Those aren’t RGIII’s recent stats. Those are Eli Manning’s stats from Games 7 through 10 in 2012, his third season.
Okay, but when a quarterback throws 23 interceptions with only 18 touchdown passes and a 75 passer rating over 16 games, that’s definitely enough evidence to bench him. But those aren’t RGIII’s stats, either. They’re Ben Roethlisberger’s stats with the Steelers in 2006, his third season in the NFL.
Neither Manning nor Roethlisberger were benched in their third seasons despite putting up putrid numbers.
This is Griffin’s third season and he’ll be on the bench when the Redskins play the Colts in Indianapolis this week.
I don’t have the empirical evidence to back it up, but it seems like black quarterbacks get fewer chances to fail than white quarterbacks. I don’t think there is anything racist or even racial about it. I think it’s just typical NFL groupthink and it’s not about skin color as much as it is about mobility.
Not to mention fear of the unknown.
NFL coaches and offensive coordinators have always hated mobile quarterbacks. They freelance too much. Most of the really mobile quarterbacks have been black.
They’re almost always eventually penalized for their athleticism by having coaches and scouts diminish their passing ability.
That’s what they’re saying about RGIII now – that he’s more of a runner than a passer. But that’s not what the draftniks were saying when Griffin was coming out of Baylor.
Ourlads’ Guide, one of the oldest and most respected pre-draft publications said this: “Three year starter who is a world class athlete and polished passer. Drops the ball in the well. Griffin doesn’t hang the ball or throw it up for grabs. He has book and football intelligence. Throws a consistent spiral with a 3.4 arm release. Quick to read and react to what he sees defensively.”
Hear the experts talk about RGIII now and he’s a basket case, who has always been more of a runner than a passer.
ESPN’s quarterback guru Jon Gruden said this about RGIII prior to the 2012 draft: “Man, I don’t have any concerns about this kid. What you see is what you get.”
When asked to compare him to the eventual number one pick, Andrew Luck, who’s in no danger of being benched by the Indianapolis Colts, Gruden said, “I don’t know why we have to pick one or the other. It’s like strawberry or vanilla. You like both kinds.”
Of course, RGIII has suffered major injuries to his knee and ankle in each of the last two years and has looked nothing like the guy who had one of the best rookie seasons of any quarterback in NFL history, with over 3,000 yards passing and 815 rushing.
Analysts and scouts are saying his fundamentals are terrible and he’s not the same quarterback and that may be true, but the Redskins are 3-8. They made the decision to reinstall him as their starter when he recovered from his ankle injury.
Did he come back too soon from both injuries?
Is he regressing because he’s no longer playing for Mike Shanahan, his head coach in his first two seasons?
Maybe on both counts, but where are the Redskins going?
If it’s a fundamentals issue with Griffin, then why not use the last five games of the season to do what’s necessary to get him back to where he was in 2012?
By benching RGIII now, the Redskins, who appeared to have made their first good decision since the Clinton administration when they drafted him, give the impression that they’ve already given up on him.
Seems to happen a lot to “athletic” quarterbacks.
Pittsburgh ex-TV sportscaster, columnist and talk show host John Steigerwald is the author of the Pittsburgh sports memoir, “Just Watch The Game.” Follow him on Twitter.