by Mike Crooks ’14
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III wowed football fans with his performance in his first six games of his highly anticipated rookie season. The second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft is one of the biggest reasons why the Redskins are a top-five offense with a third-best 178 points and fifth-best 394 yards per game.
Griffin’s speed and mobility gives the Washington offense a new dimension. So far, the Skins have taken full advantage of Griffin’s running ability by calling multiple designed quarterback runs throughout each game. These plays have produced good results, as Griffin rushed for six touchdowns in his first six games, already breaking the Redskins’ franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a rookie QB. However, Griffin’s body has taken a beating. A week five injury to their star quarterback left Redskins Nation with uncertainty as the Skins entered their home game against the 4-1 Minnesota Vikings.
In an effort to convert a third down in the third quarter of Washington’s week five game, Griffin ran the football and was drilled by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He received a mild concussion and a laceration on his chin. The injury was a reflection of poor decisions by the Redskins organization. If the Skins want Griffin to bring winning football back to the District of Columbia, they must make sure he is the long-term quarterback, which means limiting designed running plays and encouraging him to make smart decisions running.
The Skins should take notes on how fellow DC team, the Nationals, handled their young pitcher, Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals chose to shut Strasburg down in September because they didn’t want to risk injuring his throwing arm, which he had Tommy John surgery on last off-season. They chose long-term success and health, just as the Skins should.
Those who oppose this approach think that the Redskins would be stupid not to make immediate use of every ounce of Griffin’s talent. They argue that injury is a possibility at all times on the football field. This is true. But one cannot deny that when Griffin runs there is a greater chance he will get injured. As a passer in the pocket, he has 300-plus pound offensive linemen blocking for him. When he runs, it is often just him against multiple defenders.
The football world saw how the Redskins would handle the situation, as Griffin was cleared to play and named week six starter against the Minnesota Vikings. In this Sunday’s game, the Redskins showed that they would continue to run designed quarterback running plays, as Griffin carried the ball thirteen times for two touchdowns, at least half of which were designed. One of those designed rushing plays was an explosive 76 yard quarterback draw that ended with Griffin running into the end zone and doing his own version of the Lambeau leap.
When he ran the ball throughout the game, Griffin played smarter than he did before. On multiple occasions, he ran out of bounds or slid to protect himself from big hits. His wise decisions running reflected maturity and also coaching. But wise running won’t cut it in many cases. Redskins fans cannot let themselves get seduced by Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run. The necessity to cut back on designed quarterback runs is still apparent. Hopefully it doesn’t take another concussion for the Redskins to realize that they need to make a change. Griffin can’t lead the Redskins to the playoffs if he’s standing on the sidelines.