Robert Griffin III has lost Washington's starting quarterback job to Kirk Cousins, according to NFL Network.
“Kirk Cousins will be the starter for 2015 ... It’s Kirk’s team,” Washington head coach Jay Gruden said on Monday. Adding insult to literal injury, Griffin's face appears on the opening week's game tickets.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Cousins has been named the starter for the entire season, seemingly closing any possibility that the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year will regain any prominence within a team that's rearing to move on from Griffin, who cost the team three first-round draft picks to acquire. Griffin currently has one year left on his rookie contract with a $16 million fifth-year option for 2016.
Should Gruden push to trade or release Griffin, team owner Dan Snyder, who has been Griffin's biggest cheerleader within the organization -- perhaps to a detrimental degree -- will not block his head coach's decision, reports the Washington Post. On Sunday, ESPN had reported that coaches and team executives were considering parting ways with Griffin, but Snyder was resisting the idea.
After declaring Cousins as the starter on Monday morning, Gruden spoke on Griffin's future with Washington, telling ESPN, "There have been no discussions about letting him go or doing any of that stuff. The door is not shut on Robert Griffin."
Okay, sure. But whichever way you slice it up, it appears that Washington is finally viewing Griffin for what he is: A sunk cost.
Griffin, 25, coming off a third consecutive season in which lower leg injuries sapped his abilities, had entered training camp as Washington's starter. His status, however, was tentative at best, given Gruden's known preference for Cousins as his starter.
Throughout the preseason, Griffin's hold on the starting job loosened as he tried and failed to reinvent himself into a stronger pocket passer to impress his coach -- an objective that Gruden previously called "foolish" in January.
At one point, in a moment of false confidence, Griffin called himself the best quarterback in the NFL. Even after a disastrous preseason that saw Griffin get knocked out with a shoulder injury and concussion in a particularly brutal game against the Lions, Gruden maintained as recently as Aug. 20 that Griffin would remain the starter.
After the Lions game, one NFL head coach anonymously told Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman that the decision to inexplicably leave Griffin, his supposed starter, in the game and take hit after hit "looked personal."
Regardless, the game served to displace Griffin, who, despite confusion regarding his neurological status, has not been cleared to play since then. With Cousins, a fellow member of Washington's 2012 draft class (he was taken 100 picks after Griffin), now entrenched as the team's quarterback of the present and future, this may be a Washington fan's last, enduring memory of their former No. 2 overall pick.
As opposed to plays like this 76-yard touchdown run against the Vikings in 2012, which just three years later, can now be sadly classified as vintage Griffin:
Given his outright dominance of NFL defenses at the start of his career, it bears asking: Has any top quarterback in recent memory been as mishandled in his career as Washington has done with Griffin?
Dating back to then head coach Mike Shanahan's decision to play Griffin on a hobbled knee that later turned into a torn ACL in a 2013 playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, Griffin's time in Washington has been marred by injuries. One could argue it's also been compounded by organizational contempt. And Griffin is not without some culpability. Shanahan lost his job after the 2013 season, in part because he disagreed with Griffin and Snyder's wishes to give the quarterback more control over the offense's passing game.
Throughout Griffin's career with Washington, he's had one constant in his life and it hasn't been good health or good play: It's been Snyder meddling in his coaches' affairs while simultaneously, despite the wishes of actual football coaches, coddling Griffin and topping him up to be something he isn't.
Because of injuries and two separate tug-o-wars between two different head coaches and Sndyer (and, in effect, Griffin) the former face of the Washington franchise has seen his career stall. He's without a starting job and soon, rather tragically, could be without a job altogether.
It's all over, folks. Washington is Kirk Cousins' team now.
This post has been updated to reflect Monday afternoon comments made by Gruden on Griffin's future with the team.
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