Don't Be Mistaken: Robert Griffin III Is Still the Man in Washington

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 13, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:  The Washington Redskins huddle around Robert Griffin III #10 during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Nobody is wondering who the Washington Redskins quarterback will be at the start of the 2014 NFL season. Robert Griffin III is a massive investment, a No. 2 overall pick and one year removed from a Rookie of the Year campaign. 

Yes, Griffin had a rough sophomore year in D.C., but let's keep in mind that he was fresh off reconstructive knee surgery. Let's also acknowledge that his pass protection has been poor, his defense has surrendered a league-high 31.3 points per game and his special teams are, according to Football Outsiders, the worst in NFL history.

This season has been a train wreck. It's not salvageable. And politics aside, that's why Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan shut Griffin down early, preventing him from risking another late-season injury. 

But some are wondering whether Griffin's benching could hurt his reputation within Washington's locker room. 

Take, for example, ESPN's Herm Edwards, who wrote the following in an ESPN Insider article (subscription required):

In the context of the locker room, the context I'm familiar with as a former player and head coach, Shanahan's decision is very problematic.

With all the drama surrounding the relationship between Shanahan and owner Daniel Snyder, the bottom line is that this decision hurts RGIII's standing in the locker room, as the team appears to be putting him on a pedestal now and going forward. In order to be an effective leader, Griffin needs the team behind him, not beneath him. Shanahan -- whose own future is very much in doubt -- has put his quarterback in a tough situation by sitting him. And that's why I think this is clearly a bad decision.

There are a few differences between Edwards and the author of the article you're reading, the most glaring of which is that Edwards has been an NFL head coach and yours truly hasn't (yet) had that opportunity. 

But there's a difference between Griffin and, I don't know, Chad Pennington, who was the closest thing Edwards had to a franchise quarterback during his head coaching years. Same with Trent Dilfer, who was the promising young starter when Edwards was on the defensive staff in Tampa. 

There's even a big difference between Griffin and Ron Jaworski, who quarterbacked the Eagles when Edwards played in Philadelphia between 1977 to 1985. 

Griffin is special. He's already on a pedestal. He landed there the moment the Redskins drafted him. In fact, he was already there by proxy the moment the Redskins mortgaged their short- and long-term future by trading three first-round picks and a second-rounder for the No. 2 pick. 

The reality is that most starting quarterbacks are on pedestals, whether coaches will admit it or not. That's the way it has to be. It's why we only tabulate win-loss records for head coaches and quarterbacks, not middle linebackers or left tackles. 

In the NFL in 2013, the quarterbacks are on one shelf, and the rest of the roster is on another. 

It's why the vast majority—if not allof the league's 32 starting quarterbacks take questions in an organized manner from a podium ('s No. 1 synonym for "pedestal") following games. Meanwhile, the 52 "other" half- or completely naked active players on the roster trip over jockstraps while being served up to the media in a locker room free-for-all. 

Does anyone think Peyton Manning isn't on a pedestal? And if he is, has it had a negative impact on the locker rooms he's been in?

If we're going to assume that players will develop a degree of contempt for Griffin because he's sitting for the final three weeks despite being healthy, we're making the assumption that this is the tipping point. If animosity exists, it existed already. Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher weren't the ones eating Thanksgiving dinner with the owner.

But we'd also be assuming that these guys have no grasp of context. It's clear that Griffin wants to play. This isn't his choice.

In fact, the NFL Network's Mike Silver reported (via CBS Sports' Will Brinson) that Griffin is "extremely angry" about his benching. So there's nobody for Griffin's teammates to be frustrated with except Shanahan, who'll likely be out the door by New Year's Day anyway. 

These guys can also see that Griffin was taking a beating week in and week out, partly as a result of their poor play.

I can't imagine that interior offensive linemen Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteigerwho have given up a combined 82 pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—are holding this development against their battered quarterback. 

The same rule applies to Griffin's receivers, who have dropped a combined 36 passes, per PFF, which is the fourth-highest total in the NFL.

Is Griffin being, as Edwards suggested, put "above the rest of the team"?

Yes, but that's because he is above the rest of the team. He represents the biggest investment in the history of this billion-dollar organization, and anyone who believes he doesn't need to be protected when the season has long been lost and the hits have become more prevalent isn't grasping reality.  

Shanahan's decision to shut Griffin down was questionable, but it was Shanahan's decision, not Griffin's.

Ultimately, anyone judging RGIII based on this move alone isn't being fair to the franchise quarterback. If he was the leader of this team before, nothing should change now.