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Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III era ends with a whimper

By Bryan McNally, The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 12, 2016 at 8:51 AM
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Robert Griffin III walked into the locker room at Redskins Park, his home for almost five years now, and methodically packed his things, a man ready to move on with his life.

Griffin gently filled a cardboard box with clothes and jerseys and even his Washington Redskins helmet on Monday after a season-ending loss to the Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild-card game. A group of reporters approached awkwardly, but Griffin politely said only that he had nothing to say and the group slowly dispersed.

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The very expensive second overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, once the toast of Washington, is unlikely to return later this year when the team begins to prepare for the 2016 season. He was active for just one game out of 17 this season. The Redskins hold a $16.2 million option on Griffin's contract for 2016, but teammate Kirk Cousins posted a breakthrough season as the starter, leading them to the NFC East title and the playoffs.

Washington could only bring Griffin back if it saw him as a legitimate starter. His workload this season shows the organization clearly doesn't. Colt McCoy was the primary backup for all 17 games.

"Whether you're the first, second pick of the draft, Heisman Trophy winner, rookie free agent, third-round guy, this league will humble you," veteran teammate Kedric Golston said. "And the difference between Robert was he had every eye, every camera on him when he was going through that process."

The story is well known. Washington traded multiple draft picks to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 selection in the 2012 draft and tabbed Griffin, a college star and Heisman Trophy winner at Baylor, as its quarterback of the future.

A brilliant rookie season ended with a division title, a playoff berth, NFC rookie of the year honors -- and shredded knee ligaments. Thus began a downward spiral that included a feud with former coach Mike Shanahan, a serious ankle injury and harsh public criticism from new coach Jay Gruden, who was hired in part to help mold Griffin into a pocket passer less prone to injury.

It didn't work out. Named the starter for 2015 as far back as February, Griffin held that position throughout the offseason program and into training camp. But continued on-field struggles and a concussion in the second preseason game gave Cousins a chance to win the job. Gruden named him the starter late in preseason. Griffin never saw the field again.

"(Griffin) handled it like a pro. I think in the long run hopefully it will make him a better quarterback," Gruden said. "I know he grew a lot being a third-string quarterback here. A different system, different terminology and things that were new to him, but with the skill set that he has and what he learned from the Shanahans and the new stuff that he learned from us I think will make him a better quarterback wherever he goes, however it works out for him."

REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS

--PASSING OFFENSE: C. A pass rush finally got to Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was so good down the stretch in December and January. But he was sacked a season-high six times in Sunday's playoff loss to Green Bay. His numbers weren't bad (29-for-46, 329 yards, one touchdown, 91.7 passer rating). But he also fumbled, and the offense sputtered in the second half and left points on the board in the first.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: C. This unit fell on Alfred Morris' shoulders in what could have been his final game as a Redskins player. Matt Jones (hip) was out injured and Chris Thompson (shoulder, toe) was playing hurt with only veteran Pierre Thomas fresh and healthy. Morris totaled 50 yards on 11 carries and Thompson added a 25-yard run, but the Redskins weren't balanced enough as they fell behind in the second half and had to throw the ball.

--PASS DEFENSE: C. Things started well as the pass rush got to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He sprayed the ball all over the field early, anticipating defensive players who weren't always there. But Rodgers got into a rhythm as the Packers increased their pace. He only finished with 210 passing yards, but two of his 21 completions went for touchdowns.

--RUN DEFENSE: D. This was an issue early in the season that was fixed only temporarily, and the Redskins couldn't stop Green Bay's ground game in the second half. James Starks had 53 rushing yards and Eddie Lacy had 63 with 12 carries each. Both had touchdowns and the Packers attacked the edge successfully as several teams had during the regular season.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: C. A missed extra point by kicker Dustin Hopkins is the lone serious miscue here. Punter Tress Way had a nice day with five kicks averaging 50 yards and pinning the Packers inside the 20 three times.

--COACHING: C. The offensive play-calling returned to a more conservative approach when it became clear stopping Green Bay's pass rush was going to be a problem. On defense, coordinator Joe Barry's group struggled with the Packers' increased tempo, recording multiple penalties for 12 men on the field. Green Bay's quickened tempo also allowed Aaron Rodgers to get into a groove and dictated Washington's substitution patterns.

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