Reality check: Redskins need more than just Robert Griffin III

Mike Wise
Columnist October 28, 2012

For all his improvisation in the pocket, for all his poise, passion and surreal production the first seven weeks, Robert Griffin III was finally revealed Sunday to have his own Kryptonite:

It’s called Mike Shanahan’s team.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

You can say great things forever about drafting a franchise-changing quarterback. But you can’t come into Heinz Field, get your doors blown off and keep extolling the virtues of “organizational progress.”

You can’t be selling “culture change” and revert back to being road kill, as if Jim Zorn or Steve Spurrier were still at the wheel.

Even Griffin couldn’t bail Shanahan out of this piece of crud, a 27-12 beatdown by the Steelers that ranks as the first real egg laid in the RGIII era.

This wasn’t merely a two-touchdown loss. This was an undisciplined, brainlock fest — 10 dropped passes, one blocked extra point, one shanked punt and just two measly field goals in the second half — the first second half all season when the Redskins never had the lead or a tie.

They didn’t just look bad against the Steelers; Shanahan’s club looked like the team that used to show up before a certain quarterback wouldn’t let them be embarrassed.

“What the most frustrating thing for me was, this isn’t the team that I was a part of — like the team that used to get beat,” said tight end Chris Cooley of his first game since he was re-signed by the club last week after Fred Davis was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. “I would never expect to see that to happen from this group of guys.

“I really didn’t think this was going to happen this week. I felt very good about our chances of not playing the Steelers but beating the Steelers.”

Griffin was off target on several throws, but he got little help from his receiving corps. It wasn’t just young bucks like Desmond Crisco dropping balls in a 45-degree drizzle; Santana Moss twice had butterfingers.

We haven’t even gotten to Jim Haslett’s crew, which gave up scores on the Steelers’ first four possessions, and every week continues to give up roughly four football fields and a cloud of points. (Seriously, the Redskins are threatening to become the first team in NFL history to surrender 5,000 yards through the air.)

Washington brought all their liabilities to bear today — a break-don’t bend defense, a still-suspect kicking game, a talent-depleted receiving corps and not nearly enough playmakers to complement Griffin.

That’s the big problem. And it must feel unfair to not-too-patient fans.

After all, through just half an NFL season Griffin has partly answered the biggest question a franchise can ask: Was the mortgaging of the team’s future worth one thrilling, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback?

Yes and no. He is worth it, but the large price of draft picks to get him, coupled with another $18 million salary cap hit next season for Washington’s rule-bending during a season when there was no salary cap, ensures that help isn’t exactly on the way.

But now comes the RGIII-ality check:

How long before help arrives? November? Next year? 2014?

How long before Shanahan is even able to fortify the foundation around this 22-year-old rookie so he doesn’t have to rescue his team week in and week out?

It’s not coming from DeAngelo Hall and the defense anytime soon. Hall said last week one of Shanahan’s greatest accomplishments was getting rid of the “Me guys” in the organization.

Let’s make this clear: There is no “I” in DeAngelo. But sure as Sandy is coming, there is an “EGO.”

Perhaps sensing the weather turning, Hall evacuated early Sunday. He dropped more F-bombs on an official than Griffin’s receivers dropped passes, which led to his ejection from the game and the wrath of his coach afterward.

Even if Hall hadn’t been thrown out, this was a glimpse of what Life After London is going to look like. London Fletcher was not himself today. He was listed as questionable right up until the start of the game and practiced only on Friday, but played and kept his 232-game ironman streak alive. As ageless as he’s been, Fletcher can only be so productive for so long beyond his 37 years.

The Steelers also ran over the Redskins’ defense Sunday, which for all its rotten showings had not given up 100 yards to a single running back before Jonathan Dwyer bounced off linebackers and safeties on Sunday.

Brandon Banks? Don’t even get us started. Brandon Banks is Diet Devin Hester. Slight, shifty, he has all the eye-candy potential of the Bears’ electric kick returner. But, alas, with twice as many lateral yards and no touchdowns.

Bottom line, this whole “We got a quarterback, we got a chance” logic has to end today. It shouldn’t be used again until there is sufficient talent around Griffin to be better than 3-5 at the halfway point of his first season.

For previous Mike Wise columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.

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