Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Robert Griffin III and EJ Manuel: From 1st Round Draft Picks to Quarterback Cast Offs

During Monday’s press conference, Washington Redskins’ Head Coach Jay Gruden announced that the starting Quarterback for the 2015 season would be Kirk Cousins.  This announcement comes on the heels of the weekend preseason game in which former starting QB Robert Griffin III did not play due to concussion issues.  Gruden said that Griffin’s injury had nothing to do with the decision and that Cousins’ play during the preseason earned him the job.

These last few years have been a rollercoaster experience for the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.  After being drafted #2 in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Redskins, Robert went on to have an excellent first season at Quarterback and as a rookie along with being a Pro Bowl selection.  But the highs of this ride took a quick turn downward when he tore ACL and LCL ligaments in his knee during a playoff game.  Since then, the last couple years have been full of injury and inconsistent play issues for Griffin.  No one has ever doubted his talent, but he is a shell of the Quarterback he was in 2012. 
In the meantime, the Redskins fired the Head Coach and General Manager who drafted Robert and brought in Jay Gruden.  Gruden, entering his second season with the Redskins, has shown by his actions and odd verbiage his disinterest in Griffin being the starting Quarterback.  He has shown preference for Cousins and Colt McCoy.  Cousins and McCoy have shown flashes of the talent they showed in college that got them drafted by NFL teams, neither has beenconsistent in displaying their abilities at the professional level.

The Redskins have players who can play the Quarterback position, but none of them are that much better than the rest.  Of the three players who were competing for the starting job: Griffin has the best throwing arm, Cousins has the high Football IQ, and McCoy has the greatest intangibles.  All of these elements make for a great college Quarterback, but in the NFL a player must have more than just one great skill. 

The truth is that this situation is just like what happened in Buffalo with Head Coach Rex Ryan’s QB competition.  Tyrod Taylor has been named the team’s starting Quarterback, despite a solid preseason from former 1st round draft selection EJ Manuel.   Both Ryan and Gruden went into this preseason with an idea of who they DIDN’T want to start at Quarterback.  Both Head Coaches did not draft the highly touted players, both Rex and Jay had preference for other players on the roster, while both players went out of their way to be professional through the whole situation.

That is the part that bothers me the most.  You have two young men in Manuel and Griffin, they try to do the right thing by working hard and be professionals in public but they are the ones cast aside by their team’s coaches.  Not that any player should be given a starting position in the NFL based just on if they handle themselves professionally; but at some point, in a world full of athletes getting arrested for numerous felonies, we spend so little time promoting the positive guys?  Yes I know Griffin is not the most well liked player in the Redskins organization, so then maybe he should be on another team.  Yes I know Manuel was overvalued by the Bills when drafted in the first round of 2013 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the skill set to be a solid NFL starting Quarterback. 

While Manuel and Griffin may never live up to the expectations of the teams that drafted them, don’t be deceived into thinking Taylor and Cousins are going to be that much better than the players they beat out for the starting job.  Taylor always had the arm talent, the truth is that he is Russell Wilson Lite: an athletic Quarterback with average stature who is an ultra-competitor with underappreciated arm talent.  Cousins was always considered a lock to make an NFL roster, the truth is he is most comparable to Frank Reich: undervalued coming out of college, goes on hot streaks for a period of games but unable to sustain consistency over a full season of play. 

Time will tell what the future holds for Robert and EJ, but I think it is safe to say their futures are not with their current teams.  Both men need a fresh start and a new opportunity in the NFL.  I mean, if Michael Vick has been signed by three NFL teams since getting out of jail, Manuel and Griffin should at least be able to have long careers as journeymen Quarterbacks, worst case scenario, right? 

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