Can Winston avoid the Griffin trap?

by Gary Shelton on August 24, 2016 · 1 comment

in general

Winston was a sensation as  a rookie. Can he keep it up? /TRAVIS PENDRGRASS

Winston was a sensation as a rookie. Can he keep it up? /TRAVIS PENDRGRASS

Thursday, 6 a.m.

Once again, the sun was shining on Robert Griffin III.

He stood on the practice field at One Buc Place Tuesday, and he lifted his face toward the sky. His helmet was in his hands now, and sweat was on his face, and a fresh chalkboard hovered over his career.

He is in his second circle, starting over. He has a new team to believe — that rarest of gifts — in his abilities.

And there, on a summer's day, a half a field away, was Jameis Winston's cautionary tale.

Oh, everyone assumes stardom awaits for Winston right around
the corner. Have you seen him throw, like he did against the Rams? Have you seen him run, like he did against the Cowboys? Have you seen his poise, like he showed against the Falcons?

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At this point, what could happen?

Well, Griffin could happen.

Remember, no praise was heaped on Winston last year that wasn't heaped on Griffin in 2013. He won nine games, and he had a quarterback rating of 102.5, and he threw 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He ran for 815 yards. He was a star on the rise.

After all the bumps, after all the defeats, people tend to forget just how big a deal Griffin was. He was huge, as big as his price tag (three No. 1s and a No. 2). At the time, you could find an argument over whether he or Andrew Luck was the bigger deal. He owned Washington, and there are some who look at his failure as the Redskins' failure.

And then he fell.

Hard.

Yes, injuries had something to do with it. Changes to the coaching staff had something to do with it. But as a franchise, Washington stopped believing in Griffin. He went from the starting quarterback to a player who worked with the scout team as a safety. He rating fell. He was hurt (knee surgeries in 2009 and 2012 and a concussion in 2015). He won only five games the last two years. The word on Griffin was that he never learned to be a conventional quarterback. And then he was yesterday's headline, losing out to a mediocre quarterback in Kirk Cousins.

It happens. It happened here with Josh Freeman, who once threw 25 touchdowns and six interceptions and had the front office singing about his work ethic. Then he was Sleepy Josh, late for his own life, missing meetings and sleep-walking through his career.

Some differences?

No one ever questioned the offensive system Winston played in  college.

Winston seems to get along with his head coaches. There are still whispers that Griffin didn't get along with either Mike Shanahan or Jay Gruden.

Winston is the acknowledged team leader on the Bucs.

Winston's game translates well to those who have succeeded. Michael Vick and Griffin and examples that a guy can't run forever.

Still, you see the two of them on the same field, and you wonder what Griffin would say to Winston. You wonder what Winston would ask.

“No matter how high you're picked, thinks can change quickly,” said Josh McCown, who finds himself as Griffin's backup. “I don't want to speak for Robert, but this really is a day-to-day, season-to-season league. A wise man told me once that this league will bring you to your knees. Nothing is guaranteed.”

Browns coach Hue Jackson says the team doesn't talk about the old days of Griffin. That's probably wise. Why take a guy back to his failure?

“You never know,” Jackson said. “We haven't played a game. But I'm very comfortable and confident in what he's done so far. He's done a great job. He did a some real good things out here today. He's getting better each and every day. It's good to come out and play against another team in a practice setting.”

It happens. Remember how Colin Kaepernick took the league by storm? Well, the league has struck back. The best thing you can say about Griffin these days is that his abililty earned him a second shot. It doesn't always happen. Remember JaMarcus Russell? Remember Akili Smith?

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was praising Winston's leadership the other day when he casually mentioned that Winston has a ways to go as a quarterback. That's true. There are streaks when Winston is wild high. There are times he looks like he's arrived, and times when he looks like he's not even at the station.

So what can beat Winston?

Well, I'm not sold that his offensive line is a great one. A fiesty one, maybe. A scrappy one. But not a great one.

His receivers lack burning speed. His defense is just starting to come. The franchise itself is stuck in the mud and trying to get out.

Still, I'd bet on Winston achieving stardom. I think the kid has the right personality, the right competitiveness. I think he'll take a lick in the mouth if it means a first down. I think he will fight against being ordinary.

But, no, nothing is a sure thing in this league.

Gerald McCoy remembers when Griffin was drafted. Cam had just come into the league, and here came Griffin. "The league is evolving," McCoy remembers thinking.

Will Griffin be the quarterback that Cleveland has desired for so long? The odds are against him, frankly. The history of the Browns are against him. What are people going to think about Griffin when he is 4-9?

As he looks on, you wonder what Winston is thinking when he looks at Griffin. You wonder what he thinks of his own career.

For Winston, it's second down.

Still, there is a long way to go.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Larry Beller August 24, 2016 at 6:01 pm

RG3 is yesterday’s news. He had one terrific year. Good for him. Unfortunately his body type can’t possibly hold up for him to be the type of QB he was in that first and only successful year. He is destined to fail at Cleveland and who knows if he will get another chance. As for Winston I think the local media has crowned him as a franchise QB savior a little early. As you said the OL is not great and I have huge concerns about the receiver talent the Bucs have. Put Winston in a better offense with more talent around him and he would be fine. In this offense with the rebuilding mode the Bucs are in it’s going to take time. Let’s give him that time and see how he does.

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