What would you think if a colleague lost his job and left this note on his desk? Or if a family member failed in business or school and left these words in view?
“People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered . . . If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. . . . If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies . . . If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you . . .
“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight . . . If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous . . . The good you do today will often be forgotten . . . Give the best you have and it will never be enough . . .
“It was never about you and them anyway.”
Robert Griffin III just had to have the last words. He had a whole season, never on the field for a play, to pick exactly the ones he wanted.
He chose something called “The Paradoxical Commandments,” written in the 1960s and mistakenly attributed to Mother Teresa. Where you see three dots (ellipses), there are commandments, which are variations on return-good-for-evil, turn-the-other-cheek and don’t-let-the-bleeps-get-you-down.
They say: “Forgive them anyway . . . Be kind anyway . . . Succeed anyway . . . Create anyway . . . Be happy anyway . . . Do good anyway . . . Give your best anyway . . . In the final analysis, it’s between you and God.”
Those words dramatically change the tone of the message Griffin left in his locker — his final statement on his time in Washington. He gave no other comment. His commandments are high-minded. Many people, including me, have thought something similar during a bad time.
However, the impact of all those initial premises — strung together into a vision of people around you who are jealous deceivers, self-centered enemies and forgetful unfaithful friends — is chilling. Especially when the last words invoke “them.” When it’s not your fault, don’t you blame “them?”
The text that RGIII left in his locker has value. “Give your best anyway” isn’t going to lead many people astray. But the subtext — what it tells you about the state of mind of the person who invokes it — is a lot more complex.
Everyone will have their own reaction. I felt sad that someone with so many fine impulses — backed by plenty of good deeds — could leave town with such a public announcement of his own bitterness and sense of being wronged.
Is there some brand-protection going on here, as well as anguish after three rough years? Mike and Kyle Shanahan weren’t the only ones who didn’t think Griffin was a fully prepared NFL quarterback. This week, Jay Gruden’s evaluation was, in its own way, more harsh: “He grew a lot here, being a third-string quarterback.”
Perhaps veteran Kedric Golston understands the box in which Griffin found himself.
“You get in a position where you can do no right no matter what you do,” he said. “That’s tough. This league will do that to everybody. It will humble you.”
Athletes know where they stand in their own pecking order of ability. Griffin is a smart man who’s still a fabulous athlete yet, since his injuries in 2012, isn’t a good NFL quarterback. How do you put all that together and carry it in your head every day? The tone of blame-shifting in his message is also worrisome. Those commandments don’t sound like a game plan for a career makeover.
What are other teams, as they consider giving Griffin another chance, to make of this passive-aggressive goodbye salute? Some team certainly will give him another chance. The range of realistic outcomes is staggeringly wide.
At times, he has seemed so lost running an offense and coping with a pass rush that he could end up as an NFL bust, especially if the main lesson he takes from his Washington years is: They did me wrong. That ending is definitely on the board.
However, the RGIII of 2012 did exist. That kind of charismatic athletic presence requires that countless variables — personal and athletic — fall in place. The number of people who can reach that level, even for a year, is extremely small.
Maybe the offense Washington ran that year has been solved and neither it nor any variation spun off it will work spectacularly again. The Griffin who ran that attack definitely will never have two knees as healthy again.
But we should be careful before we project all RGIII’s negatives of the past three years far into the future. If sports has a lesson, maybe it is: You don’t quite know.
Is there a coach, a system or an offensive supporting cast that suits Griffin better than we now imagine? Is there some adaptation Griffin can make — or will a day simply arrive when his grasp of the NFL game “clicks” — so that another town will be excited by him?
In Washington, RGIII has probably left behind him far fewer “unfaithful friends” than he may imagine. In sports, the train moves on. Kirk Cousins now gets the town’s toasts. And they are just as well deserved as those Griffin received three years ago. Three years — how can it be so brief a time yet feel so far away?
Griffin has made it clear he leaves with deep wounds. But he also should know that many appreciate what he accomplished in 2012 and understand how unselfishly he remained silent this season so Cousins could get a fair chance, a chance that was not choked by the kind of intrigue and controversy that often weighted Griffin.
If he succeeds someday with another team, Griffin may discover that plenty in Washington will enjoy saying, “We like that, too.”
For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.