Robert Griffin III has revived the Redskins fan base, and arguably brought more "Hope" to D.C. than Obama did when he joined the team in 2012. Fans had high expectations for the number two overall pick, and after watching the previous Washington quarterback's (Rex Grossman, John Beck, Donovan McNabb, etc.) it could only get better with RGIII in town. However, even the most optimistic fan could not have foreseen the brilliant rookie season that was in store for the new face of the franchise in 2012.
If you had to describe RGIII's rookie season in one word, you can't say it better than Larry Michael did during Griffin's 76 yard touchdown run when he yelled: "RGIII, electrifying!" However, as much excitement, hope, and passion as Griffin brought to Washington in 2012 it was all stripped away on January 6th when the Redskins hosted their first home playoff game in twelve years; when Griffin's knee finally gave out, ending the season that provided so much hope with so many questions.
Would Griffin be able to recover? Would he be the same player pre-knee surgery? Can RGIII last in the NFL? These are just a few of the frequently asked questions facing Griffin and the Redskins at the end of the 2012 season. However, with 2013 behind us, many of those questions still remain unanswered. Griffin was able to recover quickly and managed to start Week One. However, Griffin was clearly not the same player he was his rookie season, clearly not 100% healthy, and was obviously bothered by the bulky knee brace that limited his mobility.
The 2014 season will be a golden opportunity for Griffin. With former coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gone, and with Jay Gruden and Sean McVay filling their roles, Griffin will run far less of the read-option and designed quarterback runs in 2014. Griffin and fellow rookie Alfred Morris practically carried the Redskins offense in 2012. Griffin and Morris managed to do enough to get the Redskins to 10-6 despite top targets Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis missing significant time.
Although Griffin is usually known for his legs first (unfairly I might add) he has shown exceptional ability throwing the ball as well. Griffin described his own abilities best saying: "I believe in my arm, and I believe I can be a quarterback, even if I didn't have the speed that I do." 2014 will be the perfect opportunity to prove this. Now over a year removed from knee surgery Griffin is 100% healthy for the first time since his rookie season. Griffin will benefit from a fresh start with quarterback guru head coach Jay Gruden, ditching the knee brace, and a new-look offense that is loaded with weapons with the emergence of Jordan Reed, and the additions of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.
Although Griffin is most often compared to quarterbacks like Mike Vick and Randall Cunningham, Griffin has the skillset to perform more like Aaron Rodgers or Steve Young. Griffin could learn a thing or two from Rodgers and Young on how to use their arm first, while also using their legs to extend plays and take off when the space is there.
If Griffin continues to give up his body the way he did the first two years of his career, it surely won't be a long one. Griffin is arguably the most talented quarterback to ever play for the Redskins, and as the face of the franchise and the heart and soul of the Redskins he simply has to protect himself better.
Griffin should not abandon running the football, it's what makes him great and is part of how he plays the position. However, Griffin learning how to exploit defenses with his legs while protecting himself better could be the difference between a long successful NFL career, and a career filled with potential that never really panned out. It's no coincidence that Vick never won a Super Bowl, while both Young, Rodgers, Elway among others did.
Redskins Nation has suffered long enough, Griffin has to maximize his potential and his career length by protecting himself better starting in 2014. I think I speak for all Redskins fans when I say that I would rather have Griffin slide or get out of bounds and have him healthy for the next 10-15 years than have Griffin fight for the first down or to gain a few extra yards. Without question, RGIII gives the Redskins the best chance to win, and with all they invested to get him Griffin has to make the effort to protect himself better. The ceiling is sky high for Griffin and the Redskins offense in 2014 and beyond, but it starts and ends on Griffin's health.
2014 will be a big year in Griffin's development as a quarterback. Griffin cannot afford to get hurt again in 2014, it may be the closest thing to a make-or-break year for Griffin in his young NFL career. Only time will tell if Griffin will be able to avoid letting his competitive nature take over in the heat of the battle. Griffin has to think about his long-term health, and think about the his goals of winning a Super Bowl the next time he is in that situation, because he will have to stay healthy if he wants to achieve that goal. That journey starts in 2014 for the Griffin and the Redskins, it will be fun to watch and it will be a pleasant sight to see RGIII back to his "Electrifying" healthy self in 2014.