COLUMN: Is there too much pressure on Robert Griffin III?

Robert Griffin III throws a pass in training camp at Redskins Park (Photo Courtesy Keith Allison/ Flickr)
Robert Griffin III throws a pass in training camp at Redskins Park (Photo Courtesy Keith Allison/ Flickr)

The Washington Redskins haven't had a franchise quarterback in my lifetime. Since 1992 they have started 21 different quarterbacks. Yes, you read that right, 21 starting quarterbacks in 20 years. The Green Bay Packers have had three starters in that time frame--if you include two starts by back-up Matt Flynn in the last games of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The one position that the 'Skins have been unable to successfully fill may have found its proverbial savior. This past March, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and the team's front office saw an opportunity to change the fortunes of the franchise with a young, talented quarterback.

And they took it.

The Redskins sent the St. Louis Rams their two future first round picks as well as a future second rounder. Most importantly, the teams swapped first round picks in the 2012 Draft with the Redskins receiving the No. 2 overall pick, a pick used for the Heisman quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Griffin has been thrown into a situation where the pressure from fans, coaches and management, as well as the pressure he puts on himself is growing with every passing day. There are sizable pressures that a rookie quarterback will undergo in a given season, but the weight and hype that has been put on Griffin's shoulders to succeed almost seems insurmountable.

Fan Pressures

Years of futility at the quarterback position have led Redskins fans to near desperation for a franchise QB of the same pedigree as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or even Matt Schaub. And with any D.C. sports star, the fans naturally tend to hype them up in the most outrageous ways possible.

As a D.C. sports fan, I can attest to this very well. When most of your life is reduced to mediocrity and false hopes, you become somewhat deranged--any hope is good hope. An offseason filled with promise, high salary free agent signings and Super Bowl dreams ends with yet another season below .500. “There's always next year” has become a phrase commonly heard around Week 8 for Redskins fans, if not earlier. Being a Redskins fan for as long as I have has made me more of a realistic sports fan for it. Yes, I still have hope, but when it comes to Redskins especially, they've kept me honest. You can sniff out a fair weather fan in an instant when they start throwing out numbers like 12-4 or 11-5 for the 'Skins' season projected record.

However, the hype that Griffin has garnered is for the most part warranted because of his freakish athleticism, cannon of an arm and captivating personality. For all intents and purposes, he has tremendous upside in head coach Mike Shanahan's offensive system. What he can do on the football field has never been seen in Washington and that is what drives the attention. There hasn't been a buzz around the Redskins like this since 2004 when head coach Joe Gibbs came out of retirement to help restore the Redskins to their former glory, and Redskins fans are excited. The team has a legitimate chance to contend in a brutal NFC East so long as Griffin receives the support that a rookie quarterback needs--and that mostly has to do with fans.

Coach Pressures

After Griffin was selected No. 2 overall, the Redskins made a pick that fans and NFL analysts would ponder days after the draft. In the fourth round, they drafted Kirk Cousins, a pro-style quarterback from Michigan State. Without knowing it, the Redskins created a mini quarterback controversy and called into question whether or not they trusted Griffin as their starting quarterback. After the fact, the decision to draft Cousins was deemed respectable with his play in the preseason and the Redskins’ lack of quarterback depth behind Griffin.

The pressure that the coaches and upper management have put on Griffin has been somewhat relaxed, but the decision to name him the starting quarterback before he had even taken a snap in practice was unnecessary. What better way to put another load of pressure on a rookie quarterback than by giving him the starting gig before he had officially earned it. I know Rex Grossman wasn’t going to give Griffin much trouble, but it would have been ideal to have the rookie earn his role rather than to have it be handed to him.

Shanahan has said time and again that he wants to bring Griffin along at his own pace and build the offense around his skill sets as both a passer and runner. Two dismal seasons in D.C., in which the Redskins won 11 games combined, made Shanahan more conscious of the closing window of opportunity that a head coach has in the NFL.

However, the acquisition of Griffin gave Shanahan an opportunity that he had not seen in his short tenure with the team. He now has a quarterback that he can win football games with, and Griffin's success, for better or worse, will most likely determine Shanahan's future as the 'Skins head coach.

In today's sports culture it is no secret that professional head coaches are more expendable than multi-million dollar athletes. The Orlando Magic fired long-time head coach Stan Van Gundy this past April after superstar center Dwight Howard requested his coach be fired. Howard would eventually, after a painstaking process of will-he-stay-or-will-he-go, leave Orlando for greener pastures in LA. In Shanahan's case, he doesn't have to worry about being called out by his rookie quarterback. In fact, Griffin hasn't ever said the wrong thing in the public spotlight. But what Shanahan should be at least somewhat concerned about is giving his quarterback the best chance to succeed and to get as much out of him as possible. His job depends on it.

Self Pressure

If you've turned on the TV at all in the last few months, you've probably been seeing a lot of Robert Griffin III on your screen. The personable quarterback has gained sponsorships with a number of companies including Subway, Adidas and Gatorade and has been in a number of their commercials. According to ESPN’s Dollars blog, Griffin has “earned more than any rookie in NFL history before taking his first-career snap.” Griffin has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, showcasing his contagious smile, quirky socks and beat-boxing talents. All of the popularity and exposure can be great marketability for an athlete but it also causes concern that he is bringing in more hype than he can handle before playing a down in the NFL. 

The ability to market yourself in this era of social media is becoming essential, and Griffin has taken every advantage that the Heisman trophy and high draft choice have presented him. If anyone were able to juggle football, endorsements, an upcoming wedding and all the other facets that a highly-regarded quarterback deals with, Griffin is the perfect candidate. 

D.C. hasn't seen a Super Bowl champion in 20 years and hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since...Sonny Jurgensen? Billy Kilmer? Has it been that long? Yeah, it really has. The expectations for RG3 to deliver 'Skins fans a title are through the roof. He can either become the city's savior or be buried in the graveyard of former franchise quarterbacks-to-be. Let's hope for the former.

Pat Carroll is C2M's Sports Editor and writes a weekly column for C2M. 

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