Before the anticipated emergence of the now beloved quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins were a deflated franchise that hadn’t won a playoff game since 2005. Amongst the other NFC opponents, the Redskins were condemned to mediocre expectations and lacked the athletic pizzazz that was the hallmark of their organization during the 80’s and early 90’s.
However, once the Redskins acquired the highly intelligent and dynamically gifted rookie, a new era was dawning upon an organization that had lacked a legitimate passer in some time. Despite a 3-6 start, the Redskins bounced back with a determined vigor and resilience by winning their last seven games of the season, sweeping their division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas in the process.
Finishing the season valiantly with a 10-6 record, the Redskins looked to be the hot team coming out of the NFC with the an unstoppable rushing attack that was coupled with a talented secondary. Even in RGIII’s weakened state, he still managed to put together two touchdowns drives together against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs, seemingly unaffected by the sprained knee that he had sustained against the Baltimore Ravens only a month earlier. Unfortunately, despite RGIII’s inspiring determination, his injury got the better of him as each play seemed to debilitate him to the point where he had to limp to the line of scrimmage after each play. Eventually, RGIII’s mental toughness was no longer enough to trump his physical ailment as his knee buckled completely in an attempt to field a bad shotgun pass in the fourth quarter.
Fans looked on in utter disbelief and devastation as their newly idolized offensive leader collapsed to the ground unable to overcome the injury which finally did him in for the rest of the game. Initially, some were quick to put the onus on Shanahan for being careless for letting the Redskins superstar play when his condition was clearly worsening after each agonizing snap of the ball. However, when your team has a chance at their first playoff victory in seven years while your determined quarterback is begging you to not take him out, making the right or wrong call is not simply a black or white decision.
Either way, whoever was to blame in that controversial moment is an irrelevant contemplation. What becomes pertinent now is keeping RGIII out of harms way while teaching him to become a more disciplined playmaker when it comes to running the option. There can be no doubt that this is a catch 22 situation; If you force RGIII into a more conservative offensive play style he avoids a devastating injury but can’t be the dynamic leader that could take this team to another playoff berth and beyond. At the same time, if you allow RGIII to revert back to his bread and butter run first and ask questions later comfort zone, there is a chance that he could sustain another debilitating injury, only this time the damage done would likely be irreparable.
With that in mind, the Washington Redskins have a difficult decision to settle; Let him play his way or train him to enhance his passing attack over his favored running capabilities. While RGII is more than capable of being an elite passer in his own right (20 TD 5 INT during the 2012 regular season), his running attack is what prevented opposing defenses from locking him down into a predictable algorithm that could be easily contained (7 TD 6.8 rushes per carry in 2012).
Ultimately, while there isn’t a simple answer to eliminate the threatening defenses that will mercilessly pursue RGIII week in and week out, the key to alleviating at least some of these dangers is to train the young quarterback to develop a more instinctual awareness before heroically dashing off into the open field. Making a disciplined and intellectual playmaking decision in the heat of the moment could be the difference between RGIII coming out of the play unscathed or going down for the count.
RGIII is intelligent and gifted enough to reinvent himself to become a quarterback that is both offensively dynamic while not adamantly thrusting himself into harms way in crucial situations. This will make RGIII not only a better NFL player overall, but it will only heighten his unprecedented understanding of the game to an entirely new level of prominence.