COMMENTARY | Just when Washington Redskins fans thought it was safe from all the hyperbole surrounding starting quarterback Robert Griffin III, sports columnist Rick Snyder took things about five steps too far in a column found in the free Washington Post Express on Tuesday.
Two days after the Washington Redskins defeated the Chicago Bears 45-41 in a thrilling game that saw the Redskins battle back from an early deficit and Griffin showed more flashes of the dynamic player who won the Rookie Of The Year award, Snyder wrote "Griffin is the team's greatest quarterback since Sonny Jurgensen half a century ago."
I'll readily concede that Griffin was as strong in Sunday's game as he has been at any point in the 2013 season. He completed 18-of-29 passes for 298 yards, threw for two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran 11 times for 84 yards, including a 23-yard scamper on the team's second play from scrimmage that set up a 38-yard Kai Forbath field goal that allowed the Redskins to draw first blood.
His status as a double-threat opened things up for running back Alfred Morris, who rushed 19 times for 95 yards and Roy Helu, Jr. ran 11 times for 41 yards and three scores, further gashing a Chicago defense that ultimately lost linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive back Charles Tillman during the game and was already playing without middle linebacker D.J. Williams.
However, Griffin's body of work is extremely limited. He's only played one and a third full seasons of NFL football. It's still much too early to declare that a body of work strong enough to enshrine him as one of the very best players ever to take a snap from center in the 81-year history of the franchise.
The pronouncement seems especially crazy since Griffin came off a brutal injury where he tore several knee ligaments during Washington's 24-14 playoff loss to Seattle in January and he looked tentative and rusty at times during the team's first four games. The team's record with Griffin stands at a mediocre 11-11, taking away the team's victory over Cleveland last year when backup quarterback Kirk Cousins subbed for an injured Griffin.
Jurgensen came to the Redskins in 1964 after the Philadelphia Eagles traded him for quarterback Norm Snead and cornerback Claude Crabb. Jurgensen had several stellar years for the Redskins before he retired in 1974. Joe Theismann started for the Redskins from 1978 to 1985, when his career ended at the hands of New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Each of those quarterbacks had a body of work for the Burgundy and Gold of several seasons. Theismann led the team to two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl XVII and losing Super Bowl XVIII. They both played long enough to put their accomplishments into context among the greatest Redskins to play quarterback. Griffin has not, and unless he continues to show signs that he has learned to protect himself from further harm, he will not have the type of career that merits comparison to Jurgensen or legendary quarterback Sammy Baugh.
Granted, some of the excitement surrounding Griffin came as a result of intangibles that can't be counted on a stat sheet. Griffin very quickly earned the respect of the veterans on the team, who named him a team captain as a rookie because of his obvious leadership abilities. Griffin also seemingly willed the team to victory during a seven-game winning streak that saw the team make a startling turnaround from a 3-6 team destined to miss the playoffs once again to a team that finished 10-6 and won the NFC East.
Griffin's stats against Chicago belied still remnant problems with accuracy. After he completed his first pass of the game to rookie tight end Jordan Reed, he missed his next four passes, including an interception Tillman returned for 28 yards to the Washington 20 to set up running back Matt Forte's two-yard touchdown run just two plays later. Several of his throws were just off, and even the 45-yard bomb he completed to Aldrick Robinson for a touchdown that gave the Redskins a 38-31 lead looked like an ill-advised pass at first before it settled into Robinson's hands.
Let's also not forget that the interception he threw to Tillman was his sixth of the season after a rookie season in which he threw just five interceptions in 15 regular season games.
Griffin definitely has the tools when healthy to be the kind of quarterback who takes the Redskins to great heights. Let's not get ahead of ourselves and declare him one of the all-time greats when he hasn't built a track record enough to justify the praise.
Mike Sarzo has been a journalist for over 15 years and has been a Redskins fan since 1987.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Washington Redskins
- Robert Griffin III
- Sonny Jurgensen
- Charles Tillman