Nothing else had been working for the Cleveland Browns, so when Robert Griffin III returned from his latest significant injury, their coach Hue Jackson felt he needed “to know something more” about the quarterback who was once going to lead his team this season. At 0-12 he had nothing to lose … except another game.
Predictably, the Browns lost on Sunday afternoon, and Griffin did not play well in what was only his second start in almost two years. In fact, the numbers will say he was something close to awful, completing just 12-of-28 passes for 104 yards no touchdowns and an interception. He even inspired a gif of futility, not that gifs of futility are rare when it comes to the Browns.
After Griffin hurt his shoulder in the Browns’ opening game and was placed on injured reserve, your author foolishly suggested that Griffin’s career was over, having been done in by his refusal to avoid contact. Your author momentarily forgot that the NFL is a league of second- and third- and fourth- and fifth-chances. Especially when the player in question once showed enough promise that an NFL team traded three first-round picks to select him second in the draft. The author also neglected to note that this draft was only four and a half years ago, and that while it seems Griffin has lived 20 seasons of drama as a professional, he might still spark a coach’s interest. It’s not like the NFL is a league loaded with great young quarterbacks.
All critiques of RGIII today should be tempered by the fact Sunday’s game was played in the kind of conditions that would suit an Iditarod sled dog and that holding – let alone throwing – a football appeared to be a sufficient challenge. Those critiques should also factor in that the Browns (now just three games away from 0-16) are perhaps not the most focused of teams. Evidence of this came in a perfect pass that fullback Danny Vitale dropped while wide-open, costing Griffin his first touchdown pass since 2014.
But, these caveats aside, he remains a long-shot to be anything like the quarterback who dazzled the league in his rookie season before his knee tore apart. The fact is, Griffin just isn’t cut out to be an NFL quarterback anymore. This was probably going to always end badly no matter what greatness the real football experts predicted for him.
There is a good chance the Browns will try him again as their starter. What other choice to they have? On Friday, Jackson hinted as much when he told reporters: “I’ve only seen him really play for not even a full game. The more information, the more time I get an opportunity to evaluate him, the better it’s going to be. I will say it again, I’m not expecting for everything to go perfect. It’s not. I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on anybody.”
And so Griffin’s spiraling career will linger a little longer. After the game he said he was “rusty” and then told reporters: “You can only fold or fight through it. I’m happy with the way I fought through it.” Sunday wasn’t his fault alone but he seems headed to a inglorious end to a football life that once held such promise.
Gif of the week
Let’s talk about the Houston Texans who are now in first place in the AFC South after a 22-17 road victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Let’s talk about Texans running back Lamar Miller who scored on this touchdown here and now has 1,010 yards rushing in a quietly impressive season. Let’s talk about Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck who has fared better than Griffin, the player to whom he will be forever linked, but whose two interceptions were critical to the Colts defeat. Let’s talk, too, about the disappointing Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler on whom the Texans bestowed $37m guaranteed before this season – his team won despite his 147 passing yards and an interception.
Let’s talk about anything but the big, blue, jiggling, undulating creature behind the end zone. Please.
Fantasy player of the week
If Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is intercepted three times and does not have a touchdown pass in a road game in the snow there seems a good chance his Steelers will lose. The difference, this time, is that when he wasn’t completing passes to defensive players on the opposing team, he gave the ball to running back Le’Von Bell who picked a heck of a day to have the greatest game of his career. In this game-long snow squall, Bell rumbled for 236 yards on 38 carries and three touchdowns. He also caught four passes for another 62 yards.
Oh, and the Steelers won 27-20, keeping their hold on first place in the AFC North.
Stat of the week
4,045. That’s how many passing yards Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has with three games still left in the season. Given the fact that most phrases used to describe Cousins are “game-manager” and “system quarterback,” it’s a remarkable number. It’s also the ballast he can use against a team management that still seems unsure if he is their quarterback of the future, and has been unwilling to bestow upon him one of those outrageous franchise quarterback contracts that 4,000-yard passing quarterbacks earn. But the author of such hits as “you like that?” and “how you like me now?” once again led Washington to a comeback victory, this one an essential 27-22 win in Philadelphia. Cousins, for whom interceptions were once a problem, now has 23 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He is now the first Washington player to have back-to-back 4,000 yard passing seasons.
“You like that?”
Quote of the week
“That game was on me, the great thing is we play next week.”
What else can Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson look forward to after a game in which he was intercepted five times? Wilson went into the game with five interceptions for the whole season and had just 39 in his five-year career so five in a day was big. Really big. The Seahawks 38-10 loss at Green Bay continued to show that Seattle might be a level below a Super Bowl team. Wilson was obviously not sharp and still doesn’t have the elusiveness he has had in past seasons. The Seahawks offensive line remains a work in progress. Perhaps this was a clunker. All teams have them at times. But at a time when Seattle needed to build some momentum they fell instead to 8-4-1, and behind Detroit for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Elsewhere around the league
— Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford dislocated the middle finger of his throwing hand in the Lions’ 20-17 win over Chicago, a result that continued a surprising run to the top of the NFC North for the Lions. He said the injury will not force him to miss time but it may well affect his performance for the rest of the season.
— Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota completed just six passes for 88 yards and yet somehow his Titans held on to beat Denver 13-10. This despite Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian throwing for 334 yards. Sometimes things just don’t make sense.
— Minnesota kicker Kai Forbath could have been a candidate for our fantasy player of the week hitting all four of his field goal attempts, but he was only one-for-two on extra point attempts. Still, the four field goals were key in the Vikings’ 25-16 win at Jacksonville.
— One can’t really say the Jets have their quarterback of the future after Bryce Petty threw no touchdowns, was intercepted once and had a passer rating of 75.5, but he did help lead New York to rally from 14 down in the second half to beat San Francisco 23-17 in overtime. The Jets win also helped extend the gloom of a 49ers season that gets drearier by the week. In fact, were it not for Cleveland’s 0-13 record the Niners 1-12 record would probably be talked about more.