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Boswell: The Good Ones Always Come Back

One of many experimental iterations ...

Om

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If only for my own sanity, I need this to be a thread.

Robert Griffin III knee injury: Don’t panic; the good QBs always come back
By Thomas Boswell, Published: January 11

There, there, dry your eyes. Have a nice hot toddy, maybe with some rum in it? It’s going to be all right. It’s not as bad as you think. Oh, it’s bad. Robert Griffin III really did rip up his knee very badly last Sunday.

But the Redskins quarterback in 2020 will still be RGIII.

That’s a promise, or at least 95 percent of a promise. And in that distant season he will still be an excellent quarterback and still the key to the future.

This is a big detour, a waste in time and pain, a mishandling of a resource. But Griffin plays the one position in sports — quarterback in the NFL — where almost nobody with an accurate arm, a football brain and toughness ever disappears before he is in his 30s, and often mid-30s or later.

Injured? They almost all get injured. “Kill the quarterback” has been the central strategy of the NFL for generations. But they come back. Then some get hurt another time or two. But they seem to last forever. And, since the game “slows down” the longer you play it, the better most of them become.

The longevity of NFL quarterbacks is staggering, regardless of their size, playing style or injury history. Scrambling, agile quarterbacks such as John Elway, Steve Young, Roger Staubach, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, Fran Tarkenton, Brett Favre, Joe Theismann and Randall Cunningham were still exceptional starters — running judiciously but still crushing foes — when they were 38, 37, 37, 38, 41, 38, 40, 36 and 35.

Once a quarterback has been identified as high quality, like RGIII, he has nine lives. Dan Marino, Kurt Warner, Dan Fouts, Donovan McNabb, John Unitas, Jim Kelly, John Hadl, Sonny Jurgensen and Terry Bradshaw were still their team’s starters when they were 38, 38, 36, 34, 37, 36, 35, 36 and 33. You think they didn’t get hurt? Most ended up covered with scars.

Troy Aikman, driven out of the game by concussions, was still the Cowboys’ starter at 34. The most famous “bad knees” quarterback ever, Joe Namath, was certainly inhibited by his limping legs. But he was still an effective starter at 31 and was still in the NFL at 34. Get a grip, folks.

Robert Griffin III is 22.

Just be patient, don’t rush him back. Will he be 100 percent himself again or only 90 or 95 percent? We can’t know. Will it be 2014 before he’s as rehabilitated as he’ll ever be? Maybe.

But the idea that Griffin’s career is in jeopardy is ridiculous. He had knee surgery, not a lobotomy. He’ll be fine. History says so.

You probably suspected, with a bit of pity, that I’d study the career of every quarterback in history to see what it said about RGIII. I looked up every quarterback of the Super Bowl era. My “filter” was just one first-rate season — a year, just one, when he ranked in the best 250 NFL seasons in any of three categories: touchdown passes, yards or quarterback rating.

How many of them had their careers “killed early” by injury — or by any other factor on earth?

Here’s the list of decent quarterbacks who, for any reason whatsoever, never started at least 10 games in a season after the age of 30:

Don Majkowski and Byron Leftwich were 25 in their last year with 10 or more starts; Tony Eason, Derek Anderson and Daunte Culpepper were 27; Kyle Orton and Bernie Kosar were 28; Brian Griese, Scott Mitchell, Aaron Brooks and Neil Lomax were 29. Though he didn’t make any of the top 250 lists, let’s include Greg Cook, too.

Most of them simply lost their jobs as starters because they weren’t very good. Or they got fat or had non-injury issues. In the past 50 years, you can count on the fingers of one hand all the quarterbacks whose careers were killed (or even damaged so they weren’t effective starters) by an injury before they were 30 years old.

I thought I’d find lots of early-career sad stories, like Baltimore’s Bert Jones, never the same after age 26 though he was still a starter at 30. But those examples of disaster are rarities: running backs, doomed; quarterbacks, indestructible. You’re more likely to find great quarterbacks still rolling at 35, like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Few run out of gas before 31.

One huge factor is experience. There may not be any skill in any sport where older players have as much advantage as they do at NFL quarterback. You start off far behind the league’s learning curve, befuddled by half of the shifting and faking at the line of scrimmage. But before 30, the league is trying to catch you. You’re doing the deceiving, innovating and dictating.

How well and how much will Griffin be able to run when he returns? It matters, but maybe not a great deal. After watching him get knocked out in three of his 16 starts this season, what Redskin coach is ever again going to allow RGIII to run the ball 120 times, whether he gains 815 yards or not?

Griffin blew up his knee at Baylor, now again. What is it we don’t understand? The slim Griffin isn’t fragile, but he’s not extremely durable.

Aaron Rodgers is a mobile quarterback and an effective runner in crucial spots. He averages about 60 carries for 300 yards every year. That’s a good model. More isn’t necessary. Given RGIII’s history, more might be nuts. If a team doesn’t willfully destroy a quarterback, he should last a decade.

Gray winter days and long winter nights are here. Gloomy thoughts are a season disorder and the Griffin grumps are now a Washington epidemic.

They shouldn’t be. RGIII’s injury hangs like a pall. But knees heal. Quarterbacks get hurt, but they also come back. And every year, they get smarter, about reading defenses and surviving minefields. That’s a law.

In 2020, and maybe even 2025 when he’ll “only” be 35, still a prime age for many quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III will probably still start for the Redskins. Repeat those words as needed. But believe them, too. They’re true.


For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.
 

Henry

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Good stuff. Thanks Om.

The big question is can Griffin adapt his style and better protect himself moving forward. He's a smart, competitive guy so I'd like to think he can.

And if he does, Boz is right. He'll be here for a long time. And we'll be good for a long time. :)
 

Ax

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Damn!

There goes my idea for a "Sky Is Falling Protective Active Wear For Chickens" clothing line.

Thanks for nothin', Boz.
 

Om

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Nonsense. The market for Descending Fowl Wear will never dry up.

Clothe on.
 

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Ha! Descending Fowl Weather Wear...I see what you did there.

Ax, can I order mine? ;)
 

Om

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Oh, yeah. Pass pro is going to have to be a priority around here for the next 15 years or so. You don't invest in a Lamorghini and go with Fred's Auto Insurance.

Meanwhile, in the continued spirit of the thread ...

 
Last edited:

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we better draft oline, without the use of the read option to mitigate the pass rush we simply arent that good on oline.
I'm telling you, the read option isn't the problem and isn't going anywhere unless Griff just can't run anymore. He wasn't hurt on the read option, he was hurt on scrambles out of standard pass plays (although that in and of itself indicated that a better O-Line is important).
 

Lanky Livingston

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Neo, Ryman was saying the read-option helped with pass-protection, not that the read-option got Griffin hurt. :)
 

Om

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You guys are harshing my mellow.

 

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Dude...didn't mean to "harsh your mellow"...it isn't like I said Griff wasn't coming back. I have never doubted he will, indeed, be back.
 

Rymanofthenorth

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LMAO Om, that picture reminds me of a time I slapped a sleeping bear on the ass. True story.

Neo, Lanky got what I was saying, Rg3 is a game changer but part of that is the threat of the boot off the rollouts that he does when we run the stretch, its almost a reverse pivot handoff and boot sometimes as well, what it does is freeze a good DE or OLB and prevents them from teeing off up field, its what made polumbus look serviceable in the passing game. without that threat teams can sell out and try get penetration which is the bane of the stretch zone. with it, it suddenly becomes a 4 on 3 with 3 Ol and a TE vs a DT DE and OLB.

Om I think that even if Rg3 loses the ridiculous speed that made everything look so easy, he would still be a smart enough guy to compensate. its just too bad that we even have to worry about it. but until I see otherwise im operating on the assumption that he comes back just as good.
 

Om

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Dude...didn't mean to "harsh your mellow"...it isn't like I said Griff wasn't coming back. I have never doubted he will, indeed, be back.
You misread me, brother. Wasn't bustin' on ya.

Just having some fun with the chill vibe. :)
 

Om

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LMAO Om, that picture reminds me of a time I slapped a sleeping bear on the ass. True story.

Neo, Lanky got what I was saying, Rg3 is a game changer but part of that is the threat of the boot off the rollouts that he does when we run the stretch, its almost a reverse pivot handoff and boot sometimes as well, what it does is freeze a good DE or OLB and prevents them from teeing off up field, its what made polumbus look serviceable in the passing game. without that threat teams can sell out and try get penetration which is the bane of the stretch zone. with it, it suddenly becomes a 4 on 3 with 3 Ol and a TE vs a DT DE and OLB.

Om I think that even if Rg3 loses the ridiculous speed that made everything look so easy, he would still be a smart enough guy to compensate. its just too bad that we even have to worry about it. but until I see otherwise im operating on the assumption that he comes back just as good.
With ya. Robert's speed was never the real attraction for me.

I started to fall for the man during his pre-draft interview with Mariucci ... right about the exact same time Mooch did. Watch his expression when Bob's at the chalkboard. From about 3:10 and on.

I had the same look on my face.

When I really started to get jacked was watching EVERY bit of video I could find on him from HS, Baylor, the combines, everything. What attracted me wasn't his speed, it was, in no particular order, the smarts, poise, arm, accuracy, quick release, leadership ... tangibles and intangibles alike.

I frankly look forward to seeing him running a pro offense about 3-4 years from now, when that speed is more a threat, and an occasionall dagger to be used to make the kind of game-breaking plays--either by design or improv--that kill the will of opposing defenses. By then, we could well be seeing every Sunday what we THINK we saw this season--the transformation of the raw clay of a potentially ELITE passing NFL QB into the real thing.

I'm going to try to enjoy the journey, but it ain't gonna be easy. Going to have to remind myself many a time over the coming months and years to let the man grow into himself.
 

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You misread me, brother. Wasn't bustin' on ya.

Just having some fun with the chill vibe. :)
No, my bad. I didn't misread you at all. My response just sucked. I have too much on my mind to be playing right now, obviously, and it left you thinking I thought you were being serious. Not true at all.

The alligators are just deep at the moment, ya know?
 

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Mark it down. Robert Griffin III will return better than ever. Just not sure when and we shouldn't rush it.
 

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