Four seasons after Washington traded the farm to move up in the 2012 NFL Draft and select Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick, the team announced it has released former Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In August, Washington named Kirk Cousins the team's Week 1 starter, which cast doubt on Griffin's future with the team that invested so much in him just a few years ago. The nail in the coffin was the strong play of Cousins in 2015. Griffin's former backup finished the year with 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 101.6 en route to an NFC East title for Washington.
Griffin was the No. 3 quarterback and did not take a single snap all season. Colt McCoy was Cousins' primary backup.
"He handled it like a pro, and I think the long run, hopefully it'll make him a better quarterback," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said after the season. On Monday, Griffin indicated there are no hard feelings on his end either.
With more than a month remaining before the beginning of the 2012 NFL Draft, Washington won a bidding war for the No. 2 pick, trading the Nos. 6 and 39 picks in 2012 to the St. Louis Rams along with 2013 and 2014 first-round picks. A 3-13 season in 2013 for Washington meant that the Rams were the recipients of the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. They selected offensive tackle Greg Robinson.
Washington's huge investment looked to be entirely worth it in Griffin's rookie season, but injuries and conflict tore apart what was once a happy union between the team and its quarterback.
The better times
Making a trade involving only draft picks so long before the NFL Draft is a rarity. Washington was so comfortable in the assumption that Andrew Luck would be selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the top pick that the team knew Griffin would be available with the next pick. And Washington was so comfortable with its evaluation of the Heisman Trophy winner that the team made its decision in March to go after him.
He was an immediate superstar in the nation's capital.
In his first NFL game, Griffin completed 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with two touchdowns and 42 rushing yards. He had a passer rating over 100 in eight of his starts as a rookie, earned a spot in the Pro Bowl, Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and even had the 2012 presidential candidates singing his praises.
Washington finished the regular season with the No. 4 scoring offense and a 10-6 record, but entered the playoffs with concerns about Griffin's right knee after a Week 14 hit from Haloti Ngata kept him out of action in Week 15.
Injury tore down the momentum
Much of Griffin's career has featured conflicting reports. The first of those, and a sign of things to come, was when Dr. James Andrews said that he never cleared Griffin to return to action in Week 14 after head coach Mike Shanahan told reporters Andrews told him the quarterback was OK to return.
Shanahan was harshly criticized for his handling of the injury to his young quarterback after Griffin re-injured his knee in playoffs, but once again returned to action while clearly hobbled. Griffin crumbled to the turf on a botched snap and an MRI later showed that he suffered tears to the ACL and LCL in his right knee.
After plenty of offseason questions about his return date, Griffin was back in time for Week 1, but regressed from his stellar rookie season in a 3-13 year for Washington.
Throughout the year there was talk of a possible feud between the quarterback and Shanahan, and after the 2013 season, the head coach was fired and replaced with Gruden. It seemed like a happy marriage, at first, but Griffin dislocated his ankle in Week 2 of the 2014 season. After that, the team was forced to play Cousins and then McCoy.
McCoy played well enough in Griffin's absence to spark some debate and even turn Washington fans against RG3.
Benched for Cousins
Despite a 2-7 career record as a starter, Gruden lauded the improvement made by Cousins and named him starter after the third week of the preseason in 2015. Griffin was forced to sit out the third game after suffering a concussion in the second week behind an offensive line that struggled. However, Gruden said the decision to start Cousins had nothing to do with Griffin's health.
Instead, Gruden insisted that he felt Cousins was the best quarterback on the team's roster and that he valued Griffin's role as a backup on the team. He was validated by strong play from Cousins, who led the team to the postseason.
In the final minutes of the loss to the Green Bay Packers, Griffin was shown on the sidelines saying farewell to many Washington staff members and on the Monday after the game, he cleared out his locker without speaking to the media. Instead, he left behind a message in his emptied locker:
What's left behind at Griffin's locker.. pic.twitter.com/KGB6U5Te2D— Carol Maloney (@carolmaloney4) January 11, 2016
By releasing Griffin, the team will save $16.155 million in 2016. Griffin's fifth-year option in 2016 was guaranteed for injury only, but he has long been cleared from the concussion he suffered in preseason.
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Now that Griffin is on the open market, he shouldn't have much trouble finding another team soon. He's still a talented, young quarterback with the ability to be a dual threat.
There are a number of potential landing spots, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans are the most likely. However, with the Eagles still in the process of a coaching change, Rapoport's projection that Sean Payton could go after Griffin seems more likely.
New Orleans Saints - Drew Brees is 37 years old and not getting any younger. Maybe the team likes what Garrett Grayson showed in his rookie year, but adding a young talent like Griffin who can be developed by Payton while Brees finishes up his career is a pairing that makes plenty of sense.
Dallas Cowboys - Life without Tony Romo was a brutal reality for the Cowboys in 2015 and even if Romo is completely healthy and ready to go, it's clear that a better option behind him is a necessity. Maybe it will be Johnny Manziel in Dallas, but Griffin is another Heisman Trophy winner with ties to Texas, and he has certainly shown he is superior to Manziel at staying in the background without being a distraction
Houston Texans - The Texans built a playoff roster, but went discount shopping at quarterback and it yielded disastrous results in the Wild Card round. Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates weren't the answer for Houston and Griffin likely isn't the answer either, but he's a talent to work with on a team that desperately needs to keep looking for a fix at quarterback.