This is not at all the way it was supposed to go for Robert Griffin III, especially considering the way most of his rookie season went.
But here he sits, not knowing his future after three NFL seasons.
“Until they tell me I can’t, I’m going to be here,” Griffin said in a conference call. “I know there are a lot of things out there that I can’t control or might be being said. I can only focus on one thing and that’s my job, and when I suit up and go out there and play quarterback for the Washington Redskins, it’s an honor.”
To swap draft places with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 — moving up to No. 2 overall to select the Baylor Heisman Trophy winner — the Redskins gave up two other first-round picks and a second-round pick. Griffin’s future couldn’t have been brighter after he threw for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while running for 815 yards and seven touchdowns in winning offensive rookie of the year honors.
But a knee injury and subpar back-to-back seasons have Griffin and the Redskins at a crossroads.
It would be a surprise if Washington activated the fifth-year option on Griffin’s contract. He probably will play out his rookie deal, which will pay him $3.2 million next season, and become a free agent in 2016. Or the Redskins could attempt to trade him during the off-season, though they won’t come close to recouping what they paid for him.
“I was drafted to this franchise and truly believe that we can turn it around here,” Griffin said. “Until they tell me that I can’t play here anymore, that’s what I want to do, and I want to help this team and this organization and this city turn things around. You never run away from challenges. You accept them, and you move forward with them and try to find a way to conquer it.”
Griffin, though, admits he has no idea what this off-season holds. Will he be back in Washington or somewhere else?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t want to play the ‘what-if’ game or speculate on what’s going to happen or what’s going to be said. I just know, like I said, this is where I want to be until they tell me I can’t be here anymore and just go back, go train, go work out with the guys and get ready to have a better year next year.”
After going 9-6 as a rookie starter, Griffin is 5-14 the past two seasons. He was benched at the end of last season and benched during this season.
Mike Shanahan’s relationship with Griffin deteriorated to the point that the coach was fired at the end of last season. But Griffin and new coach Jay Gruden have had their moments, too, earning Griffin something of a reputation he will have to work hard to change.
Griffin was asked if his relationship with Gruden was workable.
“You just go out there, and you play the game,” Griffin said. “You get coached. Jay has a lot of experience coaching. I have a ton of experience in my life playing. Our job is to make sure that we can go out there and put our best foot forward. It’s not even about any of the other things. I think our relationship is fine.”
For the first time in his career, Griffin is under fire. His leadership, work ethic and talent all have come into question. He has been called a diva, and he no longer is referred to as a “franchise” quarterback.
But that doesn’t mean his career is finished. He’s only 24.
“It’s been tough, I’m sure,” Gruden said of how hard this season has been on RG3. “Everybody had such high hopes. Everybody has high hopes going into the season. But he had a fresh outlook on things, a new coach, and he was excited to reestablish himself as a premier starter in the National Football League, to regain his form from his rookie year season, and he got hurt and then when he came back, he allowed other players to play, like Kirk [Cousins] and Colt [McCoy], and when he didn’t perform up to par, we saw what Colt could do.
“It’s been hard on him. I think it’s been a great challenge for him mentally, but as you tell all quarterbacks, you play long enough you’re going to have some kind of adversity strike, and how you handle it is what makes you a good quarterback or a good person later on. He’s handled it pretty well, man. He’s stayed focused in meetings and just waited patiently for his chance, and his shot came and he took advantage of it last week.”
Griffin once again could be everything the Redskins thought he was when they moved up to draft him. It just might happen with a different team.
“You have to play the hand that you’re dealt, and everything happens for a reason,” Griffin said. “So I just try to find the reasoning within everything for myself and continue to push forward and get better every day.”