Piece by Griff
Robert Griffin III is back in the league, signing a one year deal with the Baltimore Ravens to back-up Joe Flacco. The surprise announcement follows a stint as a camp-arm where Ravens officials were evidentially impressed with what they saw. Up to this point Josh Woodrum had been the de-facto number 2 as the only other QB on the roster. This move gives the Ravens an experienced option behind their former Super Bowl MVP, but it also opens up a couple of interesting alleys for us to peer into…
Is Joe Flacco under threat for the number 1 role?
In a word: Clearly. Since winning that Super Bowl in 2012 Flacco has a TD-INT ratio of 98-74, his yards per game have dropped from 238.6 to 196.3, his QBR has gone from 87.7 to 80.4 (career 84.1) and the team he leads has failed to make the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 seasons. These are not ideal stats for one of the most highly rewarded players in the league. Last year the most telling stat for Flacco was his yards per attempt which fell from 7.2 in 2012 to 5.7 in 2017, a career low for a man who has relied on his cannon arm to produce results.
Whether a result of injuries (back complaints dogged him through the last pre-season) or a simple regression with time and age (Flacco is now 33) there is no question that the results no longer justify such a sky-high contract. Alongside Flacco, The Ravens were saddled throughout the last two seasons with a sub-par back-up in the shape of Ryan Mallet who seemed incapable of pushing Flacco into performing with any consistency. The decision to move on from Mallet and bring in RG3 is surely a case of exerting some pressure to see if the “star” player can react positively and start producing much needed results. If he cannot then the Ravens now have a QB with much still to prove, who can step straight in and provide more than a little spark for an offense which simply hasn’t been able to match the teams defence when required to do so.
Is this the final roll of the dice for RG3?
Certainly feels that way. The 2012 rookie of the year has never been fit enough or confident enough to reproduce the stellar stats he put up in that famed debut season. Moving to the Browns in 2016 should have been the place for him to push the reset button but instead the injury-bug continued to haunt him and his stats (59.2 % completion, 2TDs 3 INTs) marred an already fading career path. Missing all of 2017 may have been the best thing though as a whole year of staying injury-free and allowing the body to heal can only be a good thing.
There is no doubt that RG3 is one of the best 64 QBs available so he deserves a chance to show that he can still contribute when called upon. John Harbaugh is a no-nonsense coach who will demand the very best from his new number 2. I had favoured RG3 moving to Oakland where Gruden would have been the man most likely to unlock whatever talent remains to be seen, Harbaugh, however, is certainly high on the list of coaches who can drag the best from players provided they go all-in and invest in the process. If Griffin is prepared to knuckle-down and step in as and when required he could use this move as a stepping stone to another club, or even end up as the bridge QB from Flacco to whomever the Ravens choose as his successor. Griffin needs to hit the ground running if his chance arises though, another lack-lustre stat line will probably see his career disappear for good this time.
Does this signing mean there is real hope for Kap and Manziel?
For me, this move makes no difference to the two players with whom RG3 has most recently been attached to in conversation. We all know Kap isn’t on a roster because of his political stance, not because he can’t play. I’m convinced that sooner or later a star QB is injured and a needy team will make the call to bring Kap back in the hopes of re-igniting their season. If RG3 is one of the best 64 QBs available, then Kaepernick is surely in the top 32.
As for Johnny Manziel, well, it feels like someone will want to give him that second chance he seems to crave so badly. I don’t actually doubt his sincerity about wanting to return, I’m just not able to convince myself that he’s matured and changed enough after all the issues he had during the period between 2014 and 2017. Sadly, I don’t think anyone will know what to expect until he gets back out on the field of play. It could be a car-wreck all over again. I hope I’m wrong, as the player I watched for Texas A&M would be a joy to behold on the NFL stage and he flashed some of that ability in his brief career with the Browns. He is another player, like RG3, who I think needs to be coached by the right person to stand any chance of success. Bill Belichick? No chance. Right? Think Pete Carroll at the Seahawks, that may be the best fit out there right now.
RG3 is perhaps the safest bet of the three in that he brings virtually zero controversy-baggage with him, none of that negative publicity etc. We all know he can play. Think how great would the league be if both he and Andrew Luck could stay injury free for the entire year and put 2012 performances back on the field.