Less than two years ago some believed Robert Griffin III could change the way the United States was governed.
Not just change the football fortunes of the Washington Redskins, not just change the bottom line for Nike or Subway or anyone else who'd jumped in with a pleasant, charismatic and dynamic quarterback, not just change how his position is played, in his case with 4.3 speed and an accurate arm.
No, he could change American governance.
RG3 was such an overnight superstar that when it came out that he – young, black, exciting – might be a Republican, political types wondered if he could serve as an outreach for the party into a pool of voters it rarely attracts.
Griffin has never confirmed his political preferences, but it didn't stop some from believing that he could swing elections locally and federally, if not just become the candidate himself.
"I think we will see RG3 run for office someday very soon," Sarah Davis, a Republican state representative from Houston, predicted back then.
Two years later and Griffin probably couldn't win a caucus in his own locker room. As for the fans, if chants during Sunday's demoralizing 27-7 destruction to Tampa Bay count as a straw poll, then backup Colt McCoy would beat him in a landslide.
Once untouchable, unassailable, un-tackle-able, Griffin spent the past few days playing horribly, conveying his frustrations to the media by blaming [at least in part] his teammates and finally getting absolutely lit up by his rookie head coach.
Wednesday, when he met with the media and was able to defend himself outside of the restrictions of social media, his stump speech was decidedly brief. He basically pled no mas.
"We're focused on San Francisco," Griffin repeated, nine separate times.
So he's got Bill Belichick's vote.
The current plight of RG3 has been well documented and can change dramatically with some solid play and upset victories.
Still, it remains breathtaking to watch a star fall so far, so fast when none of the standard culprits are involved: legal issues, obnoxious behavior, personal scandal, etc.
It's just he's got a bum knee, a floundering skill set, a lack of on-field awareness and people becoming tired of what they once found endearing, namely his undeniably unique personality. (How many grown men do you know are prone to wearing themed socks?)
Gone is the cheery, happy-go-lucky young talent who lifted Baylor, won a Heisman and brought a rare bipartisan vibe to Washington. In its place was a press conference of preplanned snark and passive aggressive answers.
RG3 wasn't even going to waste time trying to defend himself against head coach Jay Gruden, who broke all-known NFL trends, especially for a first-year coach, by putting his franchise QB on blast this week for both his play and leadership.
"Robert needs to understand he needs to worry about himself No. 1 and not everybody else," Gruden said. "… It's my job to worry about everybody else. Yes, everybody else needs to improve, but it's not his place. His place is to talk about himself and he knows that."
Worse, or even more telling, was Gruden's on-field critique of his quarterback.
"Robert had some fundamental flaws," Gruden said of the Tampa game. "His footwork was below average. He took three-step drops when he should have taken five. He took a one-step drop when he should have taken three on a couple of occasions. That can't happen. He stepped up when he didn't have to step up, stepped into pressure, he read the wrong side of the field a couple of times.
"So, from his basic performance just critiquing Robert, it was not even close to being good enough to what we expect from that quarterback position," Gruden concluded.
Taking the wrong number of steps on a play or reading the wrong side of the field isn't the sign of a bad game. It's a sign of immense failings, especially for a third-year quarterback. It says he isn't prepared or doesn't know how the offense is going to run.
That Gruden put that out there is telling and explains better than any personality quirks why RG3 doesn't have the entire locker room behind him. A quarterback doesn't have to be popular or be like everyone else – the Mannings, for example. He does have to be competent.
Griffin didn't bother to argue with Gruden's assessment.
"Jay wants me to play better. I want to play better," RGIII said. "We're focused on San Francisco."
And so it goes. Washington is 3-7 and the season is already a disaster, a trend since Griffin injured his knee, twice, in an ill-fated wild-card loss to Seattle during his rookie year.
In his first 15 career starts, Griffin threw 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions and rushed for seven more with just two fumbles. Washington went 9-6.
In the 18 starts since, he's thrown 20 TDs and 16 picks, rushed for zero touchdowns and lost six fumbles. His team is 4-14, with road dates upcoming at San Francisco and Indianapolis.
And no one seems to like him anymore.
Griffin still doesn't seem 100 percent from various injuries, but that is only part of the problem. As Gruden alluded, his lack of fundamentals, preparation and execution are more troubling.
Washington gave up a ransom to move up and grab RG3 with the second pick in the 2012 draft. Next May, as ProFootballTalk noted, it has to determine whether to pick up his $18.4 million extension for the 2016 season.
That Gruden was so direct in his negative assessment suggests serious concerns within the franchise. It could even be the first volley in preparing fans for Griffin's departure.
"When you come out and have such great success as a rookie, then it's expected on every game and every time you walk on the field," Gruden said.
That is part of Griffin's problem. He was the humble son of military parents who represented the next generation of NFL quarterbacking, destined for Super Bowls, piles of endorsement cash and, yes, perhaps political might.
Now it's gone in a heap of losses and bad mouthing, both on and off the record. Now he's selfish or lazy or just not any good.
RG3 can change the narrative by not just focusing on San Francisco but beating them. That's always how it is in the NFL.
Doesn't mean his stumble from would-be national political force to just another QB trying to hang on isn't as stunning as any of his old highlight-reel plays.
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