With the Washington Redskins signing of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, many pundits have already begun to question if quarterback Robert Griffin III can avoid being over run by so many strong personalities on offense. And whether or not he and head coach Jay Gruden are strong enough to handle Jackson when the inevitable honeymoon ends?
It’s a valid question, as Gruden is a rookie head coach, and Griffin at times last season had a few occasions where his leadership was called into question by receivers not nearly as notorious of a diva as DeSean Jackson is. As Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss both challenged RGIII’s leadership in 2013.
Garcon publicly made the observation that Griffin was not the same player he was in 2012, and that his knee brace was hindering his game. And Moss criticized RGIII for not taking enough blame on himself for a late season loss to the Eagles, where it was deemed that Griffin was throwing his teammates and coaches under the bus.
During RGIII’s first few seasons, I think he was comfortable letting guys like London Fletcher embrace the mantle of leadership for the team. But with a leader like Fletcher now retired, the time has arrived for Griffin to fill that void and take responsibility as team leader on the field and off. And I think he’ll do just fine in that role.
Critics sometimes forget that people can mature in different ways at their own pace. And dealing with recovering from a serious knee injury, instability at head coach, and a team with playoff aspirations falling from grace so rapidly, such a situation would be hard for an experienced veteran quarterback to handle, let alone one in only his second season.
And I think the ups and downs Robert Griffin III went through last season will only serve to make him a better leader as his career moves forward, and will help him become the leader that the Washington Redskins needs him to be. But it’s not all on Griffin or Jay Gruden. Others need to step up their game as leaders too.
Especially DeSean Jackson himself. Many people expect his signing to blow up in the Redskins faces. And with all of the speculation about gang affiliations, and being difficult with coaches, Maybe it’s time for Jackson to finally mature as well. And stop being the guy who needs a mentor, and become the mentor himself.
DeSean Jackson is no longer a young player, he’s now a six-year NFL veteran. And after being humiliated by getting cut, and accused of being in a gang, will Jackson feed into his reputation of being a difficult player to deal with? Or will he prove his critics wrong and become the responsible veteran that virtually no one expects him to be?