Following the incredibly disheartening performance against the Carolina Panthers, Robert Griffin III did the job that Mike Shanahan should have done. He accepted blame for the defeat and acknowledged that it’s up to the players to execute plans and make plays (via The Washington Examiner).
Despite deflecting the blame from his coaches onto himself, how much of it does Griffin deserve?
Shanahan, in contrast, looked beaten down in the postgame press conference. It’s not surprising that everyone assumed he was giving up on the season when he said he now had a chance to evaluate players for the future.
The signs were all there before the game. The two-game losing streak, the ‘homecoming’ in which former Washington Redskins were honored, including Sean Taylor, represented by his father and daughter. The Carolina Panthers were 1-6, but had shown a level of improvement in their previous game that suggested this was going to be a battle.
In addition to this, there was the Redskins’ 5-14 record at FedEx Field under Mike Shanahan, which had continued to move in the wrong direction this year. The stage was set for a poor performance, and that’s what the viewing public got.
The struggles of the secondary have been well-documented, but Griffin is the focus here. This was probably his worst performance of the season, but the standard he has set himself means those words aren’t as harsh as they would be for, say, any member of the secondary.
Griffin was sacked four times on Sunday; partially because he had nowhere to go, but partially because he was holding onto the ball too long. Again, one is a product of the other, but it’s a regression on his part nonetheless.
He looked less sure of himself outside the pocket, and he occasionally turned down the chance to run to the outside in favor of handing off to Alfred Morris up the middle. Whether this is a result of the hits he has taken—or simply that he didn’t see the opening—remains uncertain, but it hampered the team’s chances.
He was also less accurate, often sending balls high over receivers’ heads or in the dirt at their feet. Sometimes he seemed to misread the route and threw behind receivers as they ran. He completed 23 of 39 attempts, throwing for 215 yards and no touchdowns.
He didn’t turn the ball over, though. He came close when he was hit as he threw, with the ball eventually dropping to the ground after seeming to be in the air for an eternity. These were the bad points of his performance, and it’s impossible to say that they are unimportant in this loss.
However, stats aren’t enough to point the finger at Griffin and decide that he was the one responsible for another disappointment at FedEx Field. Like the quarterback said after the game, it’s up to the team to carry out the coaches’ wishes.
Aside from Alfred Morris, you can point fingers at everyone on the team and maintain that their performance helped to ensure defeat.
Tyler Polumbus suffered at right tackle once again, reducing Griffin's throwing time simply by getting beaten. Although he has done his job against the run, Polumbus in pass protection is a liability. Teams know that if they attack the right side, it will bring them success.
Griffin was also let down by his blockers, particularly Evan Royster, who lost his man too often and again prevented Griffin getting out of the pocket and making a play with his feet.
The team failed to convert on third down again, only being successful 20 percent of the time. Their record on fourth down was impressive, but the lack of trust in the defense is evident when the offense is going for it on fourth down as much as the Redskins did on Sunday.
Kyle Shanahan had previously done a good job of staying ahead of defenses and unveiling new wrinkles in his offense. Now, however, there is a lot of film on the Redskins and consequently they are not as unpredictable as before. Both Pittsburgh and Carolina did a good job of setting the edge and denying Griffin the space he needs to succeed.
In reality, Griffin and Morris are the only guys that the team can count on every week. Josh Morgan looked better and Griffin looked to target him over the middle, while Logan Paulsen continued his improvement standing in for Fred Davis.
That isn't enough to win games, though. The injuries still hurt the team, but injuries are such an everyday part of the NFL that the backups are almost as important. A team needs depth, which isn't something the Redskins have.
In year three of the Shanaplan, Washington isn't as competitive as it should be. With all starters on the field it is a much better team, of course, but the next player on the depth chart has to contribute when needed.
Sunday was Griffin's worst performance of the season, that much was clear. But someone has to give him some help or he'll be joining the other starters on IR. Griffin is dedicated to the point of recklessness, throwing his body on the line just to get a first down.
He wants to be the player that inspires his teammates, and he's put the entire city on his back in pursuit of glory. It's both admirable and comforting that it means so much to him, but he can't do it alone.
Griffin will freely admit that he hasn't had the best couple of weeks. In terms of apportioning blame, however, he should be the last one targeted.