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The votes are in. The results are indisputable. NFL decision-makers consider Robert Griffin III one of the least promising quarterbacks in football, partly because of his performance but mostly because they just don't like him and believe only a miracle turnaround can save his tenure with the Washington Redskins.
I'm just the messenger. ESPN's Quarterback Tiers project -- compiled this year with contributions from 35 general managers, head coaches, assistants and personnel people -- placed Griffin in its lowest category and ranked him No. 28 of 32 overall. Griffin absorbed a gentler rebuke in last year's rankings, one I fought on the grounds of his unique circumstances. But the argument seems pointless now when the composite football man regards him as inferior to every NFL starter but Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel and Geno Smith.
It's almost unfair to write off a player's career on the eve of a training camp where he ostensibly could revive it. This season has been described widely as Griffin's make-or-break year, given the decision pending on a $16.155 million contract option for 2016, but the projections of nearly three dozen league insiders put us ahead of the curve. So let's agree on this: If Griffin is going to rebound, it more likely will come with another team and not until next year.
By now you might be envisioning the player, coach, team and franchise collectively gathering to overcome the outside "noise" and prove the critics wrong. Use whatever cliché you want. But the reality is that a portion of the insiders' impression is informed by what they see and hear from the Redskins themselves. It has been obvious for some time that Griffin's internal support is limited.
Most importantly, coach Jay Gruden never embraced Griffin as his franchise quarterback. Three months after he was hired, and before he had coached his first real practice, Gruden hoisted the red flag. After describing his offensive philosophy to reporters, he added: "But that all depends on what Robert can handle. If he can't handle the terminology, or if he can't handle a lot of the things, we might have to taper it back or cater to what he likes."
That's not the kind of comment you hear from a coach committed to maximizing a talented if flawed player. Instead, it created the early impression that Gruden didn't consider Griffin a good fit for the offense he wanted to run, a notion cemented when Griffin was benched in Week 13.
Gruden's ideal quarterback makes early decisions and, crucially, releases the ball quickly. The quarterback he groomed with the Cincinnati Bengals, Andy Dalton, has led the NFL with an average release time of 2.30 seconds during the past three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Over the same period, Griffin had the ninth-slowest time at 2.67 seconds. So despite his still-nimble feet, Griffin has suffered the second-highest ratio of sacks to dropbacks in the NFL (8.0).
ESPN's Ron Jaworski recently illustrated an obvious example of this deficiency, a play during the Redskins' Week 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. At the snap, according to Jaworski, the Vikings' high-low defensive alignment indicated clearly that an intermediate route would be open. It was, but Griffin didn't recognize it and instead looked to the other side of the field. Drifting out of the pocket, waiting for another route to open against all logic, he was sacked.
"He lacks a natural sense of timing and anticipation," Jaworski said. "Can he get there? I just don't know."
Indeed, this is not the kind of shortcoming that can be reversed by extra offseason film study. And if our 35 insiders are to be believed, Griffin's superstar ego will leave him unable to accept the fundamental improvements he needs. "To get better in this league," a personnel director said, "you have to have a degree of humility."
So let's look at it from another perspective.
We've already seen how Griffin can contribute to a winning team. As the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 2012, he rushed for 815 yards as part of a read-option offense retrofitted for his strengths. Griffin's postseason right-knee injury (torn ACL, LCL) -- on the heels of a late-season sprained LCL in the same knee -- presumably limited his effectiveness in such a scheme. But there is something to be said for putting players in positions where they are comfortable and utilizing the instincts they have.
What if Griffin played, say, for the Buffalo Bills, coached by ultrasupportive head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who helped design the San Francisco 49ers' offense that facilitated Colin Kaepernick's transition into a successful starter? Griffin wouldn't have to run for 800 yards, but a scheme that gets him out of the pocket and allows him to improvise seems more advisable for short-term success, even if it's not an avenue to a 15-year career.
Sadly, that path seems blocked in Washington. You can't rule out the possibility that this dysfunctional franchise might fire Gruden and hire another coach to save Griffin, but the damage otherwise seems complete. Griffin would surprise the football world if he remains the Redskins' starter into 2016, at least based on merit. Consider this season an epilogue to a dysfunctional period, one that leads to a sequel that carries at least a bit more promise.