For every NFL action, there is an equal or greater overreaction.
It’s almost comical the way we overreact to every week of the NFL season. In fact it’s ridiculous when you consider that most of our coverage often starts with “I dont wanna overreact, but….” It’s like we know that other people have overreacted in the past, but we know how to view the NFL in the big picture and not overreact….
The Broncos are unbeatable! The Broncos have been exposed! Depending on who you’re listening to, the Patriots are either falling apart and Tom Brady is awful, or the master legend Tommy Terrific has done it again and no one can stop the Pats (except the refs). No matter when you tune into the action you’ll always get an overreaction. The Niners are slumping/dominant!
And then we go on to crucify Robert Griffin III as a horrible leader, a selfish cartoon quickly dubbed “RG-ME” by the hilariously bored media looking for a sizzling way to sell the burnt steak that is the Washington pro football team at the helm of Daniel Snyder and flailing coach Mike Shanahan. Maybe we should pump the brakes on all the character assassination and stick to the football analysis.
Obviously much of the onfield criticism of Griffin’s play is warranted. Even adjusting for the weak offensive line and porous defense making his job more difficult, Griffin hasn’t been able to elevate his game enough to keep this team afloat. I’ve watched all of their games, I can’t deny that in some moments Griffin has been awful. Scouts and analysts who’ve forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know say that his mechanics are off and he’s “still not right” following offseason knee surgery. Plus, Washington (and Griffin) certainly overperformed last season to win the putrid NFC East. But as a team, this year’s model is who they really are. To put a twist on Dennis Green’s famous quote, they’re not who we thought they were.
The return of Brian Orakpo and the addition of young draft picks in the secondary have not made this defense competitive. DeAngelo Hall is not an elite corner, despite the babblings of Jon Gruden in your living room every Monday night. Alfred Morris and RG3 look ordinary to awful until garbage time, mostly due to the subpar offensive line play. Last year Washington went on a 7-game tear to finish 10-6 and win their division, so somehow everyone decided their O-line must be fine and their defense could only be better since Orakpo missed most of last season.
So why when that doesn’t happen, do we settle for the sexier story of the primadonna quarterback feuding with the maybe-he-lost-it veteran coach? Yet every single one of us who observes football knew that their secondary would be suspect and they still lacked talent and depth on the offensive line. So why do we let ourselves fall into this trap and forget the basics of football as we’ve always know them?
Look at what Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were able to do as young quarterbacks with good offensive lines and dominant defenses. Again, we’re still talking about the two most basic fundamentals that were thought to be obsolete in the “passing league” of today: Defense Wins Championships; and Be Able to Run/Stop the Run. It can be argued that the “dominant offensive line” is now more important as QB protectors as opposed to run blockers, but the two elements remain: Offensive Line and Defense.
Now look at what Eli and Ben were (or weren’t) able to do when those two elements failed them in New York and Pittsburgh. And then look at how they eventually rebounded and got a few wins. What a coincidence that they play for good coaches under very solid organizations. Which brings us back to Griffin. He was drafted into the most dysfunctional NFL franchise this side of Oakland and Dallas. I’m not saying Griffin has earned the respect that Manning and Roethlisberger have. Those guys each have two Super Bowl trophies to their name. But could they have done it without their offensive lines and defenses?
Can we for once resist the knee-jerk reaction to take a guy like Griffin, who just a year ago everyone fawned over not just for his athleticism but his natural leadership, the way he seemed to know how to say all the right things the right way (the very things we’ve all convinced ourselves he suddenly lacking). And he’s not just playing through an injury comeback (not even getting into whether you think he should have sat out the first 5 weeks through the bye week or not), now he’s also drenched in the Burgundy & Gold stink of a former legendary coach losing his alleged magic under one of the most notoriously awful owners in professional sports.
Griffin is 23 years old. He’ll regain his health, mechanics, and athleticism, and maybe even his folk hero status, for better or worse. He’ll be okay, with or without Shanahan. Peyton Manning went 3-13. Troy Aikman went 1-15. Eli started this season 0-6 and Ben was 0-4. Griffin hasn’t earned the Hall of Fame busts those guys have, but he hasn’t earned that other “bust” label either.