One point I tried to make on Tuesday night when I was on 92.3 the Fan with Joe Lull and Pete from Cleveland Frowns was that my excitement over RG3 is not a guarantee that he will pan out. In the end I am one part dreamer and three parts realist or pragmatist. I know full well that there is a chance that RG3 will fail in the NFL for any number of reasons. He could break down physically like we saw with Courtney Brown. He could fold mentally or let outside pressures get the best of him like I think Vince Young did. Tim Couch will tell you that he could even end up failing due to factors largely outside of the player’s control. Obviously, my excitement over Robert Griffin III is rooted in the fact that I think those risks are minimal, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t possible.
Robert Griffin III is a QB that can run and escape the pocket, so why wouldn’t he be susceptible to the injuries that we’ve seen Michael Vick sustain over the years? It is my perception that Michael Vick had a little too much Barry Sanders in him, stopping and starting and juking. Mike Vick was the closest thing to a video game player in real life that we’ve ever seen because you can imagine him actually running the width of the field three times fooling defenders. The difference being, video games aren’t real people made of bones and flesh that get hurt for real.
With RG3, I see some escapability and running ability, but I don’t see that Vick-ian quality with the utter refusal to just take a sack sometimes. Getting out of the pocket is a good thing sometimes, but if you try to make everyone miss you eventually put yourself in a position where a backside defender can catch up and more than likely in a susceptible position to a violent tackle or hit. I hope my perception of RG3 as more of a passer negates some of the “running-quarterback-injury” fears. The rest will have to be handled by coaching. Hopefully the Browns will bring Kenny Lofton in for a day to work with all Browns QBs on the finer points of sliding. (None of that head-first stuff though, Kenny.)
As for the mental breakdown risks or maturity risks, there isn’t any way to negate that completely. With that in mind, all you can do is watch interviews to get a sense that this kid has his head on straight. Everything I’ve seen with Griffin leads me to believe that he is well-prepared to handle the pressure of being a starting NFL quarterback. At least that none of the warning bells went off in my head when I saw him answering questions.
But, what will it be like to have a first-year Robert Griffin at the helm for the Browns? Let’s all be brutally honest. It could be pretty ugly at times. It always is for rookies. There will be some confounding series of three-and-outs which will have you questioning why the Browns are continually “starting over.” Robert Griffin will be made to look stupid on more than one occasion. It is to be expected because he’s never had Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed goading him into an interception as he faces them twice a year each. You just hope that those series and moments are off-set by the glimpses of brilliance that will hopefully show plenty of promise for the future.
If Robert Griffin III becomes a Cleveland Brown this off-season the Browns absolutely must let him play from the very beginning, short of a Colt McCoy miracle. Colt McCoy might even end up looking better and more prepared in the pre-season. He should as he got a lot of experience this season and will be very familiar with the concepts going into his second year with Pat Shurmur as head coach. Unless McCoy lights it up like a Drew Brees / Peyton Manning hybrid, Robert Griffin III must be the choice.
To let McCoy play would be a mistake even if it means an extra win or two in 2012. If the Browns trade up and draft Robert Griffin III it is with the mindset that the ceiling on Colt McCoy’s career is just too low to bet on long-term.
The Robert Griffin III experience so far has been an enlightening one. Even if he doesn’t end up a Brown or if he ends up being a bust, I am still confident it is an important revelation. I’ve been too afraid to dream big because I was afraid of failure. You can only get so far by managing risks and building slowly and deliberately. At some point the Browns need to decide that the foundation is there and go big on some skill players.
Dare to dream big. The safe play is already in your hands with Colt McCoy.