Big pre-Thanksgiving sports news: Robert Griffin III is out at quarterback for the Washington Redskins’ Nov. 30 game against the Indianapolis Colts and Colt McCoy is in.
Head coach Jay Gruden, who has publicly lambasted RG III, made the announcement Nov. 26, so this is not a surprise. But it is a shame. When he blazed across the draft in 2012 – in the same QB class as the Colts’ ascendant Andrew Luck – RG brought an excitement and promise to the beleaguered Redskins. Maureen Dowd even compared him to Mr. Darcy – perhaps the highest compliment from we women of a certain vintage. But now injuries and the sense among some of the team’s Powers That Be that RG has hit a wall have made the Baylor University star’s stock plummet.
I have to laugh – bitterly, but laugh nonetheless. When I was plotting my forthcoming novel “The Penalty for Holding” – the second in my series “The Games Men Play” – I wrestled with how psychologically acute it was to create a coach who has no confidence in the team’s quarterback, my main character. I guess I now have my answer. It turns out you can’t make this stuff up. Coaches are no different than any other bosses. Who knows why they like the people they do. I’ve seen talented, hard-working, honorable people abused in the workplace, and I’ve seen dishonorable slackers rise. Liking people – loving them – in the end is not about what they do but who they are. Maybe it’s chemical. Maybe a coach sees in a player what he was – or what he will never be. In any case, Rex Ryan seemed to have no use for Tim Tebow, Jim Harbaugh was happy to unload Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick. And now the handwriting’s on the wall for RG III I think even though ESPN is reporting that he’s still in the mix, blah, blah, blah.
The sack comes at a time when former Greenwich High School – and, of course, San Francisco 49ers – star quarterback Steve Young gave a fascinating interview to the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he talks about his hope that RG, Colin and the other read-option running quarterbacks will transcend the scrambling game, as he did and as the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers has done, to deliver the ball from the pocket. In this way, they’ll be “a triple threat” – a QB who can throw from the pocket, leave the pocket and throw, and run with the ball, much like the QB protagonist in my novel, Quinn Novak.
But Young acknowledges the obvious: These quarterbacks came up a certain way. They have a particular skill set. And they’re under tremendous pressure to win. So when the heat is on, are you going to go with your innate talent and what has always worked or what is for you a work in progress? See the problem?
Has Young been approached to mentor Colin and company? Would he even want to?
There’s another unspoken issue – and I know I’m going where angels fear to tread here: Many of these running QBs – including the New York Jets’ Michael Vick, the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton, and even to an extent the reigning Super Bowl championship Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, are like RG and Colin – black or biracial, which is to say black. So “limited running quarterback” or “not an elite quarterback” appears, perhaps unwittingly, to be code for “black.”
You almost hate to point it out as this nation is in a particularly bad way racially at the moment – as the events in Ferguson attest. (It doesn’t help that as brilliant Seattle Seahawk blowhard Richard Sherman points out, the NFL leadership, mainly white, says to the players, mainly black, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
My guess is that unless RG, Colin and company become more like Young and Rodgers they’re never going to succeed in a straitjacketed game in which the QB is expected only to stand and deliver.