WASHINGTON - Remember 2012 when the Washington Redskins went on a seven-game tear to claim their first NFC East title in 13 years? And Robert Griffin III put together perhaps the best season a rookie quarterback has ever seen, living a charmed life and seemingly doing everything right?
Boy, that seems like a long time ago.
Now RGIII can't seem to get out of his own way. The latest case in point: his Facebook rant last week in response to a fan question about his signature one-sleeve look on the field.
The inevitable media backlash for that indiscretion yielded a response on, you guessed it, Twitter.
Answer a fan question on Facebook & it is reported as an "issued statement to critics and fans".....SMH. Not the case people.— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) January 13, 2014
Dude. Quit while you're behind.
Right or wrong, there was a drastic shift in perception surrounding Griffin in 2013. Much of the reason for that shift was the notion that his public comments held a more selfish tone while his play on the field never approached the same standard he'd set the year before.
Exacerbating RGIII's rough 2013 was his use of social media. Reaching out to fans is rarely a bad thing, but responding to criticism tends not to end well for anyone involved. Regardless of his age, Griffin should be wise enough to know that.
Furthermore, challenging criticism publicly only makes him look thin-skinned and weak. At a time when he should be doing his determined best to ensure he's ready to atone for a sub-par 2013, he's creating the perception he's sitting around waiting to defend himself from keyboard gangsters and Twitter tough guys. Often, the best response when dealing with such feedback is no response at all.
I'm not saying Griffin should abandon social networking altogether. It's a great way for athletes to connect to their fans and endear themselves to the media and the public at large. But there is a balance, and someone more qualified than his father Robert Griffin II should be the one to help RGIII find it.
I'm sure his father is a good man and has his son's best interest at heart, but RGII should be the last person driving the RGIII image. Surely, the elder Griffin has a fine set of skills, but I seriously doubt one of them is public relations for his own flesh and blood. I know I would have had a hard time distancing myself from my dad at that age. But if the younger Griffin can command an NFL huddle, he can hire a PR person to help rehab his image.
Their first order of business should be ensuring that RGIII's Twitter handle is operated by an approved party not named RGIII. That way the temptation to respond to online criticism is neutralized.
Whether he realizes it or not, this offseason is the most pivotal of Griffin's young NFL career. If he plays like he did in 2012, he'll be back in fans' good graces (and the Skins will likely be back in the playoff hunt). Revert back to 2013 form, and some folks will start dusting off the "bust" label.
So for Griffin to avoid the latter, he'll need to pipe down, work hard on his game and take some sage advice from Brian Fantana and Ron Burgundy.
That's a critique he should definitely take to heart.
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