During his first-year campaign, Robert Griffin III vastly exceeded expectations: He set a new record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback and another for passer rating by a rookie quarterback. Griffin also appeared on the verge of becoming a celebrity athlete of national import; his rookie jersey broke the record for most jerseys sold in a single fiscal year, and he was the subject of a particularly reverential documentary called RGIII: The Will to Win. And perhaps most importantly, he led the Washington Redskins to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, giving perennially jaded football fans in the nation’s capital a feeling that has been in short supply since the first Joe Gibbs era: hope. Though his season ended with a gruesome knee injury followed by major reconstructive surgery, expectations for his second year remained sky-high.
Griffin’s second season, however, has been an unmitigated disaster. Last night, the Redskins quarterback lost his much-hyped duel with the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick, another young quarterback who has recently experienced similar growing pains of his own. His numbers are down, the Redskins are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and the “do no wrong” aura that surrounded him last year has been replaced with controversy regarding his leadership and accountability for in-game mistakes. “Regress” is the word most commonly associated with Griffin these days, and the same Redskins fans that hailed him as the savior “Black Jesus” now question whether he was worth the draft picks the Redskins traded to obtain him. At FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, it’s not uncommon to hear fans calling for Kirk Cousins, hoping Redskins coaches will relegate Griffin to the bench. The same people who built him up so quickly are now tearing them down with a similarly frenzied energy, openly questioning whether or not yesterday's next big thing has the chops to succeed in the NFL at all.