ARLINGTON, Tex. — One pass floated in the air for an eternity. Some of his stutter-steps lost no one. The quarterback who could no wrong on this field last November now could do little right in the fourth quarter. He looked unsure of himself in those moments, unspectacular, almost unconfident, un-RGIII.
Remember the rookie quarterback who made all the right moves at the end of games, consoling his doomed Dallas counterpart after Washington clinched the NFC East last December in front of a howling mob?
“Hey, Tony, I just wanted to say to you don’t listen to what anyone else is saying about you,” a mic’d-up Griffin said. “You’re a great quarterback, man. This game doesn’t mean anything.”
Romo could easily use the same words for Griffin here Sunday night, where Dallas dropped Washington to a woeful 1-4. Where Griffin got happy feet in the pocket with 9 minutes left, fumbled at his own 1-yard line, where he lofted a wounded duck that was intercepted in the end zone with 5 minutes left, effectively ending any shot his mistake-prone team had against their rivals in time.
“I went through my reads,” he explained of the fumble, postgame. “The pocket collapsed. I got hit. I tried to hold onto the ball. They just got it.”
The season isn’t over after five games and a fourth quarter dominated by the Cowboys in their 31-16 win. But with a rested Chicago coming to FedEx Field on Sunday and a trip to Denver the following weekend to essentially play the Miami Heat of the NFL, it’s time to ponder a sobering question before the halfway point of a season already on the skids:
Can a bad football team, a galaxy away from the postseason at the moment even in a dreadful NFC East, take solace in the continued, humbling development of a second-year quarterback and an offense that rolled up more than 400 yards of total offense?
That’s the question Mike Shanahan will not answer just in the post-mortem of this loss, but very likely the remainder of the season if this continues.
Really, can Griffin’s take-your-lumps-and-grow season as he returns from major knee surgery suffice for a fan base — and an owner titillated beyond belief after reeling off seven straight victories with the most breathtaking talent in the NFL a year ago?
Because if expectations aren’t immediately reduced, if the masses are going to hold Shanahan and his roster to the Super Bowl aspirations they talked about this offseason — if Griffin is going to gradually turn into more of a drop-back passer after a pistol, read-option existence — then the coach better start winning some football games as he continues to teach Griffin the position for which he is meant to play the next 10-plus years in Washington.
Griffin wasn’t awful for most of Sunday night. In fact, at times, more signs that the player who took the NFL by force and flare a year ago were beginning to return.
Oh, and so was his fire, which came out with 12:39 left in the third quarter. Griffin took off running, smartly looking for the sideline, high-stepping it out of trouble when the Cowboys’ Barry Church hit him late at the legs. He got up angry, pounding the football as the flag was thrown, the competitive fury that characterized his ability to take over a football game returning just in time.