— John-Paul Flaim (@GlassJoeJP) November 20, 2014
You would be hard-pressed to find a Washingtonian more gaga over Robert Griffin III two years ago than Eric Bickel, the biggest homer of the four Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan.
Bickel, who is perhaps prone to gentle emotional swings, proclaimed that RGIII was destined to succeed in Washington. He said the quarterback would reach a Muhammad Ali-like level of veneration in our community. He said he would bring together blacks and whites, Jews and Muslims. He called him RJesus, said he would be like Gandhi. He said, famously and repeatedly, that Robert Griffin III was “bust-proof.”
“We all crowned him,” Bickel said this week. “He was almost set up to fail. It was too much to live up to.”
And so here we are, two short years later, with Griffin’s tenure a maelstrom of PR storms, national media reports and way more losses than wins, and with Bickel’s radio program preparing to begin a symbolic burial of Griffin’s Redskins career on Friday.
“We don’t wish Robert ill will — we’re certain he’s a good guy,” Bickel said. “We’re not burying the person….But it looks like his career in D.C. is over.”
Before anyone gets too worked up over this, bear in mind that this is a radio show that has specialized in sky-is-falling Redskins bits over the years. They’ve worn paper bags on their heads during their show. They’ve invited fans to come burn tickets. They’ve had fans turn in unwanted Redskins gear. Last season, they had a funeral for Mike Shanahan, in the guise of a Red Lobster. When the local football team is 3-7 six times in 11 years, the supply of woe-is-us bits begins to feel stale.
(Of course, they’ve also done excessively optimistic bits. Anyone remember those Horny for Zorny t-shirts?)
We have a coffin! Gonna be a good bit on Friday. Thanks to listener Blake & his neighbor Frank. pic.twitter.com/XD3UCxI6Nq
— Matt Cahill (@drabtshirt) November 17, 2014
The Junkies wanted to hold an open competition for the Redskins quarterback position outside CBS Radio’s Lanham studio, inviting high school stars, senior citizens, little kids, and anyone else to put their skills on tape. But logistics made that impossible, and when a listener offered up a home-made coffin he had assembled for Halloween, well, momentum took over.
Thus, listeners are invited to show up at the Lanham studio Friday at 9 for the ceremonial first nails in the coffin. One listener has promised to bring a nail gun. Others have said they will throw Griffin jerseys or socks into the coffin, Subway sandwiches or empty Gatorade bottles.
If Griffin plays well in San Francisco, or in subsequent weeks, nails will be removed. If he starts resembling a star again, “maybe at the end of the year we say he’s resurrected, his career is back, and he’s going to be that franchise quarterback we all thought,” Bickel said. But if he plays poorly, more nails will join the early vanguard.
“I envision this as a six-week bit here,” Bickel said. “Let’s see how it goes.”
Feedback from fans on this stunt has been mixed, with far more objecting than did during the Shanahan funeral last year. Some have said it’s ridiculous to give up on a third-year quarterback who has essentially played three games in Jay Gruden’s offense. Others find it excessively mean-spirited. Bickel volunteered that the bit is probably in poor taste, but said it’s just supposed to be a funny goof, a lighthearted bit of nonsense conducted in the spirit of the program.
Either way, the fact that one of Washington’s most popular morning-drive shows could be symbolically putting nails in RGIII’s coffin just two years after an NFC East title is nothing short of remarkable.
“Stunning. absolutely stunning,” Bickel agreed. “But we as a culture, we almost inadvertently set him up to fail. It’s not our fault, it’s not the media’s fault, it’s not the fans’ fault, but this is what happens when you idolize someone too much. This is what happens when sports go crazy.”