Robert Griffin III benched: Time for Redskins to panic?

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has been benched for this weekend's game. His poor play deserved it, but he's probably still the most promising long-term option for a team that has badly mismanaged the situation.

Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looks to throw a pass against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday. He's been benched for next Sunday's game in Indianapolis.

The fact that the Washington Redskins have benched former rookie of the year quarterback Robert Griffin III for Colt McCoy, a journeyman who began the season as the team's third-stringer, is not that surprising, on one hand. 

RG3, by just about any measure, has been horrid this year.

But what matters is not Griffin's benching against the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, but why he was benched.

If Redskins Coach Jay Gruden is about to give up on the RG3 experiment, fearful that his quarterback will never develop into a top-tier National Football League quarterback, then the Redskins will be deserving of the widely held perception that they have become a Three Stooges routine.

What Gruden needs to do is give Griffin every possible chance to succeed. If this step is a part of that, then the Redskins, for once, might actually be looking wisely at the longer-term picture.

Let us be under no illusions, though. The Redskins have only unappealing choices before them.

Griffin, at this moment, is not an NFL-caliber quarterback. His footwork is bad. He's skittish in the pocket. And, most important, he has proven incapable of making multiple reads – the talent by which top quarterbacks mentally cycle through different receivers and shifting defenses in the split-second while they are standing in the pocket.

For the Redskins to complain about all this now, however, is either disingenuous or short-sighted. Turning Griffin into a pro quarterback was always going to be a multiyear process.

We now know that his rookie success was something of a mirage.

He was never asked to be a "real" pocket quarterback in college. His Baylor Bears ran the pistol – an offensive concept that incorporates the quarterback as both passer and running back. The offense simplifies a quarterback's duties. Often, Griffin had to make only one read.

In a desire to ease Griffin into the NFL, then-Redskins coach Mike Shanahan put the pistol in his offense schemes. It worked. League defensive coordinators had never seen it before, and Griffin profited.

But Griffin's development as a pocket passer was delayed into Year 2. Well, in Year 2, defensive coordinators caught on to the pistol concepts, and Griffin's development was hampered by an injury.

Which brings us to Year 3. This is the wakeup call Griffin was always going to need. Can he buckle down and do the work necessary to develop his game?

Admittedly, the signs aren't good. He's made no progress and, perhaps worse, has become petulant about it. But this is the Redskins own fault. Not only did they delay their own day of reckoning with Griffin's limitations as a quaterback, but they coddled and spoiled him in the meantime, giving him perks that the rest of the team did not have.

So the question about his benching is: Are they trying to unwind those mistakes with some tough love? Or are they punting on third-and-long?

The fact is, the Redskins mortgaged their future to get Griffin. To draft him, they sent to the St. Louis Rams their first round picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and their second-round pick in 2012. In the salary-capped NFL, the draft is the only way to get exceptional talent at low cost.

Essentially, the Redskins consigned the rest of their team to either being overpriced or mediocre in the hopes that Griffin would be exceptional.

Right now, he is a long way from exceptional. But are they so sure that he can't be? Have all those positives that they – and many other people – saw on draft day completely vanished?

Because as poor as Griffin has been, there are other inescapable realities the Redskins must face:

  • At 3-8, they are going nowhere this year. They are certainly not going to the playoffs and a late-season run will only add a veneer of respectability to a football team severely lacking in talent.
  • Colt McCoy, the new Redskins starter, is not the answer at quarterback. He may prove to be a very capable backup – which is no small thing – but it is fabulously unlikely that he will ever take a team to the Super Bowl. He is no Joe Flacco, much less an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Though still young, he is a journeyman quarterback with limited upside.
  • If the Redskins fold on Griffin, the squad will have to be sold for spare parts and start the rebuilding process from scratch again.
  • Finding a top-tier quarterback to replace Griffin is a prospect fraught with peril. Recent first-round quarterback selections include Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, and Geno Smith.

In other words, the Redskins better be pretty darn sure that Griffin will never be a top-tier quarterback, because their Plan B looks, if anything, worse.

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