John Steigerwald

Column John Steigerwald

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

Redskins’ RGIII too athletic for his own good

Redskins’ RGIII too athletic for own good

December 14, 2013

RGIII was benched because he’s an athletic quarterback.

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan announced at a news conference Wednesday that he was benching his quarterback and said he was doing it to protect Robert Griffin III’s health. On Thursday night, Michael Silver of NFL Network quoted anonymous sources who said the decision was done to protect Griffin from injury and send him into next season completely healthy.

Former coach and legendary TV analyst John Madden called Shanahan’s decision and the explanation for it “baloney.”

The NFL has a history of quickly giving up on athletic quarterbacks. Conservative, uptight, paranoid head coaches get nervous when quarterbacks improvise too much.

They’re fine with it when it’s working, but because they just can’t get comfortable with a guy who comes out of the pocket too much, they tend to blame every bad throw and bad game on his athleticism.

Through 13 games, RGIII has 16 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, 489 rushing yards and a respectable passer rating of 82.2. The Redskins are 3-10, but they have one of the worst defenses in the league and the worst defense in franchise history. Opposing teams are averaging 31.2 points per game.

RGIII was benched because he’s athletic and didn’t live up to the standards he set for himself last season when he had one of the best rookie years any NFL quarterback ever had.

Eli Manning is not an athletic quarterback. In his second season, there were lots of people in New York wondering if he was going to be a franchise quarterback. Because Manning’s not athletic, he was allowed to fail without having his failures blamed on his lack of athleticism.

Thirteen games into his second season, Manning had 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. In Games 9 through 13, Manning had seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Manning wasn’t benched.

Brett Favre wasn’t a pocket passer but he wasn’t quite as athletic as RGIII. He finished his second full season with 19 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. In Games 9 through 13, he had four touchdowns and six interceptions.

Favre wasn’t benched.

For 17 years.

Not only has RGIII been benched after 13 games in his second season, he has been deactivated – not as bad as a former Steelers athletic quarterback, who was publicly humiliated and turned into a wide receiver in the middle of a season.

Remember the good old days when a starting quarterback could play poorly, be benched, then be called upon to help his team when the backup finally revealed why he was a backup?

Those days are apparently over.

Especially if you’re an athletic quarterback.

• Madden said his biggest criticism is the decision to shut down RGIII.

He makes the point the NFL is in trouble if teams that are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs start shutting down stars to protect them until the next season. There are playoff implications and draft positions to consider.

• Congratulations to North Catholic football coach Bob Ravenstahl. He could have gone for the tie in the first overtime of the PIAA Class A championship game Friday, but he chose to go for two points and the win. North Catholic beat District 2 champion Old Forge, 15-14. I’ll never understand why so many coaches choose risking all the things that can go wrong in overtime instead of going for the knockout punch with a game-ending two-pointer.

• Andrew Luck’s stats in Games 9 through 12 this season: Two touchdowns, five interceptions. And he was sacked 10 times. Not benched. Apparently, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t see a need to preserve him for next year.

• By losing to the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has assured himself of having two nonwinning seasons in a row.

If you don’t count his first three years when he was doing his rebuilding, Chuck Noll never had three nonwinning seasons in a row.

Neither did Bill Cowher.

It’s hard to imagine too many people predicting anything better than 8-8 for the Steelers next season. Two nonwinning seasons in 1998 and 1999 got the general manager fired.

• Somebody needs to send Pitt tackle Aaron Donald’s list of awards to the people who rank recruiting classes.

• Major League Baseball is outlawing the home-plate collision. Too dangerous, it says.

How many plays have there been at home plate in the last 100 years, and how many have resulted in serious injury? Just asking.

• The NFL has announced there will be no tailgating at the Super Bowl in New Jersey. There will be no parking near the stadium and most fans will have to get to the game on shuttle buses. At $51 a pop.

That’ll all seem worthwhile when they get to the stadium and find 29 degrees and sleet. If you haven’t bought your ticket yet and don’t want to miss out on the fun, figure on paying about $2,600 for a mediocre seat.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.



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