This is the long-awaited revenge matchup we have been waiting for — the Washington Redskins against their banished savior, Robert Griffin III.
RG3 vs. the rival who would force him out, Kirk Cousins.
So perhaps it is appropriate that this showdown finally happens on a meaningless stage in a meaningless game between a team coming off a losing season and a quarterback fighting to just make a roster in the NFL, while the rival is sitting on a pile of cash as the starter for a Super Bowl-favored team.
It’s a perfect fit.
We all thought this showdown between the Redskins and RG3 was going to happen in game four of the 2016 season, when Griffin’s new team, the Cleveland Browns — where supposedly coach Hue Jackson felt the earth move under his feet after watching Griffin work out for the team – were scheduled to come to FedEx Field. But he was hurt in the season opener and didn’t return until December.
It was hardly a memorable return, and, after five starts, completing 87 of 147 passes for 886 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, RG3 found himself out on the street last year, unable to land a job even as a backup.
Meanwhile, his nemesis, Cousins — the fourth-round pick from the same 2012 draft who replaced him as the starter in 2015 — put up big time numbers, racking up 13,176 yards and 81 touchdowns in three seasons as the Redskins starter, while earning nearly $50 million and putting himself in position for an $84 million contract this off season as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.
The revenge confrontation, as it turns out, may have always been an illusion, just like Griffin’s mercurial, but short-lived NFL stardom.
The Redskins paid a ransom for a chance to trade for the second pick in the draft that year — three first rounders and a second to the then St. Louis Rams – and it looked as if it was a successful gamble.
His rookie year will go down in history as one of the greatest the NFL has ever seen — 3,200 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions and 815 yards rushing, while leading Washington to a 10-6 season and the NFC East title.
Then, of course, came the knee injury — starting in a 31-28 win in week 14 against Baltimore. He sat out the next game against Cleveland, while Cousins lit it up, completing 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 38-21 victory.
This was when we first got a glimpse of the illusion – who was the real NFL quarterback and who was the fraud. Griffin knew it as well. That’s why he threw a fit privately that Cousins got the start and held his own post-game media session despite not playing a down.
Then came the end – fully tearing his knee ligaments for the second time (he had done so at Baylor in 2009) in the playoff game against Seattle at FedEx Field, with Washington leading at one point 14-0. The Redskins would go on to lose 24-14.
Stripped of his rookie season heroics, Griffin was exposed. He got into a bitter power struggle with then coach Mike Shanahan, as the young player used his friendship with owner Dan Snyder to gain favor. His performance on the field was erratic and sometimes petty, putting the blame on teammates as the losses piled up.
Even after Shanahan was fired and Jay Gruden was brought in — supposedly to fix Griffin — he still struggled and played the victim card until finally he was replaced at the start of the 2015 season by Cousins as the starter.
Gruden was asked by reporters this week if Griffin could still start in the NFL. He answered painfully. “Yeah, without a doubt, anybody that can run and throw, you have a spot,” Gruden said. “It’s very, very important nowadays. Mobility, RPO’s, zone reads, and all that stuff, but it depends on the roster and who he’s competing with.”
I doubt those were Gruden’s comments when he interviewed for the Redskins job, when the expectation was he would revive Griffin’s career.
Now that career remains on life support. Griffin’s NFL life may come down to how well he plays Thursday night against Washington, who will likely, for the most part, be playing backup and future cuts. And even if Griffin plays well, whatever future he has may not be in Baltimore, where the Ravens, with Joe Flacco as the starter and their No. 1 draft choice Lamar Jackson behind him, may likely only carry two quarterbacks.
The future of the once-heralded RG3 is in the hands of Washington Redskins scrubs. I doubt that was the revenge scenario Griffin had planned when he walked out of Redskins Park for the last time.
⦁ Thom Loverro’s podcast, “Cigars & Curveballs,” is available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver network.
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