LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 04: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins eludes defensive tackle Dwan Edwards #92 of the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter of the Panthers 21-13 win at FedExField on November 4, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Through the first seven games of his rookie season, quarterback Robert Griffin III completed more than 70 percent of his passes (7 TDs, 3 INTs), averaged 228 passing yards a game, and rushed for another 468 yards (6 TDs).
It was enough to make him the most popular person in the nation's capital, and give fans something they haven't had in a long time: hope.
But the reality of what it means to support the Redskins has set in in recent weeks. In Griffin's last two games, he's completed just 55 percent of his throws, has had a lone touchdown pass and rushed for just 61 yards.
Washington lost handily to Pittsburgh and Carolina and two months of excitement has given way to desperation (starting, oddly enough, with coach Mike Shanahan).
So what happened?
For starters, Griffin is a one-man show. Beyond rookie running back Alfred Morris, there are no playmakers on this offense. And that won't change anytime soon, especially if wideout Pierre Garcon remains sidelined with a foot injury. Defensively, the prospects are worse.
Together, the Redskins, save a legit franchise quarterback, don't look much different than recent Washington teams. Exacerbating matters: RGIII's early NFL success could be about to hit a rough stretch.
Two weeks ago, the rookie quarterback was bottled up by a pretty good Steelers defense. No shame in that. But to have a punchless Panthers defense come into FedEx Field, control the line of scrimmage, and harass Griffin all afternoon warns of trouble to come.
On Monday, ESPN's Ron Jaworski talked about what defenses are now doing against Griffin:
He got off to such a great start and we expected that to continue. What happens in the NFL -- once they get you on tape defenses. [they] make you play to your weaknesses, not your strengths. That's what has happened with this Redskins offense right now. [Defenses] know what RGIII wants to do. Defenses know how the Redskins want to run their offense, and they certainly have made the changes defensively to slow him down.
[Griffin] was a great player on edges early in the season; right now, defenses are taking that away. They've taken away the play-action pass game on the inside. Early in the season, the Redskins were tremendous in that area. It is now incumbent upon on Mike Shanahan and [offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan to change what they're doing to counter [what the defense is now doing].
The Redskins are 3-6, the coach sounds like he thinks his team is already out of the playoff picture, and the franchise QB is experiencing his first NFL slump.
But Griffin, who seems wise beyond his years, sounds unconcerned -- at least publicly -- about his recent tribulations or Shanahan's remarks on the team's immediate future.
"I have not talked to coach yet," Griffin said via the Washington Post:
I know a lot of people are taking that statement and running with it but I don’t feel like he’s throwing in the towel, per se, as what other people are saying. ...Right now we are in must-win territory. Even this last game was a must-win, and we didn’t win it. The rest of the league is definitely helping us out by giving the rest of the NFC East teams some losses.
So we have to win out, and if we win out we have a really good chance to make the playoffs. So I think that’s what guys are looking at it as. It’s a time where guys either have to perform or they won’t be here next year, and that’s what it comes down to.
When we hear Griffin put it like that, Shanahan's point becomes much clearer. This team, as currently constituted, ain't winning out. And while some people applaud Shanahan's frankness, it's also worth remembering: He's the reason the team's in this predicament.