By Pete Baxter
What a long, strange trip it’s been for Robert Griffin III. Griffin took the world by storm as a rookie in 2012. He beat out Andrew Luck for Rookie of the Year honors, and led the then-Redskins back to the playoffs during a Pro Bowl campaign.
Fast forward to 2015, and he was released by Washington after two injury plagued, subpar seasons that saw him lose his starting job to Kirk Cousins.
A second chance in Cleveland under Hue Jackson in 2016 saw yet more injuries hold Griffin to just five games on a terrible team.
After failing to find a job in 2017 and sitting out the season as a free agent, he finally found some stability in Baltimore, backing up young phenom Lamar Jackson. He finished with just a 1-1 record as a starter in relief of Jackson in very limited playing time. His last start in 2020 was a rough showing, just 7 of 13 for 33 yards and a pick six (though he did rack up 68 yards on the ground). He went down yet again to an injury during that game. He ended the season on the injured reserve and was released by the Ravens at the end of his third season with the team.
So what’s next for one of the greatest “what if” stories, and most disappointing career arcs in recent memory? Let’s take a look at (arguably) the best three fits for RGIII for the 2021 season.
#3: The New England Patriots
With Cam Newton back under center for the 2021 season, the Patriots will be bringing back their run heavy offense, built around the skill set of their mobile quarterback. Newton threw for less than 2,700 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 starts last season but rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns over that span. Despite a team heavily devoid of talent, and with little to no passing attack, the Patriots still won seven games.
Newton is currently backed up by Jarrett Stidham. Stidham through his first two seasons has not shown Bill Belichick and company enough to earn their trust. He has thrown at just a 50% completion rate in his limited playing time and doesn’t have nearly the athleticism to fill Newton’s role in the offense should their starter miss time.
RGIII on the other hand is most comfortable in a run-heavy offense, where he can use his athleticism to make things happen. His accuracy and arm strength is on par with Newton’s at this point in their careers.
He would fit into the Newton/Belichick system if called upon and would have more weapons than he’s ever had at his disposal with the recent flurry of free agent signings in New England.
#2: Philadelphia Eagles
The Jalen Hurts era has officially begun in Philadelphia. With Carson Wentz shipped to Indianapolis, Hurts is backed up only by newly signed veteran Joe Flacco. Flacco has expressed in the past that he has little interest in developing younger quarterbacks, specifically after the Ravens drafted his eventual replacement in Lamar Jackson. Flacco does not want to spend his twilight years as mentor.
RGIII, interestingly enough, replaced Flacco in Baltimore to do just that, back up and mentor Lamar Jackson. He held this job for three seasons, and by all accounts was a model citizen in the quarterback and played a positive role in Jackson’s development.
Jalen Hurts is an athletic young passer with a great deal of potential. RGIII could join the Eagles in a very similar role as the one he played in Baltimore. He could be a positive, veteran influence in the quarterback room, as well as for the rest of the young, rebuilding Eagles team.
While there is no doubt Griffin’s first choice would be to have the opportunity to start, it is safe to say at this point in the quarterback carousel that there are no teams looking for Griffin’s talents as a number one quarterback. However, he could still thrive as a back up and mentor. Philadelphia, in the wake of last years chaos, could use a mentor and positive locker room presence more than most.
#1: Hang it up
RGIII’s best football is far in the rearview at this point in his career. His days as a starting quarterback are most likely over. He has struggled to stay healthy and available even in a back up role in recent years. The few opportunities he had to display his game over the past several years have been underwhelming.
Griffin’s best option at this point may be to end his career on his own terms, before the league does it for him through a lack of further opportunities, or worst-case scenario, he suffer yet another serious injury.
He is extremely charismatic and knowledgeable and would have his choice of post-playing career opportunities in the world of sports media. For his own sake, this may be his best course of action.
We will always have the memory of that incredible rookie campaign, in which he truly looked like the next face of the NFL that would change the game forever. While that particular storyline never played out as hoped, he still hung on as a relevant starter and then back up quarterback for eight years in the league.
Hopefully Griffin gets the opportunity he desires this year. But if the phone doesn’t ring, there is no shame in leaving the game with your health and your pride in-tact.