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JOHN STEIGERWALD: Sports commentary

by on December 16, 2013 10:59 AM

RGIII was benched because he’s an “athletic” quarterback.

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan announced the move at a press conference Wednesday and said that he was doing it to protect Robert Griffin III’s health. Thursday night, Michael Silver of NFL Network quoted anonymous sources who said the decision was done to protect Griffin from injury and send him into next season fully healthy.

Former coach and legendary TV analyst John Madden called Shanahan’s decision and the explanation for it “baloney.”

The NFL has a history of giving up quickly on “athletic” quarterbacks. Conservative, uptight, paranoid head coaches get nervous when quarterbacks improvise a little too much.

They’re fine with it when it’s working, but, because they just can’t get comfortable with a guy who comes out of the pocket too much, they tend to blame every bad throw and bad game on his “athleticism.”

Through 13 games, RGIII had 16 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, 489 yards rushing and a respectable passer rating of 82.2. The Redskins were 3-10, but they have one of the worst defenses in the league and the worst defense in franchise history. Opposing teams are averaging 31.2 points per game. 

RGIII was benched because he’s “athletic” and didn’t live up to the standards he set for himself last season when he had one of the best rookie years any NFL quarterback has ever had.

Eli Manning is not an athletic quarterback. In his second season, there were lots of people in New York wondering if he was ever going to be a franchise quarterback. But, because Eli’s not “athletic,” he was allowed to fail without having his failures blamed on his lack of athleticism. Thirteen games into his second season, Manning had 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. In games 9 through 13 he had seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He put up a 39.5 passer rating in game 9 and a 27.9 in game 12.

He wasn’t benched.

Brett Favre wasn’t a pocket passer but he wasn’t quite as “athletic” as RGIII. He finished his second full season with 19 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. In games 9 through 13, he had four touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer ratings for those five games: 78, 70, 83, 77 and 57.

He wasn’t benched.

For 17 years.

Not only has RGIII been benched after 13 games in his second season, he has been deactivated — not as bad as a former Steelers “athletic” quarterback, who was publicly humiliated and turned into a wide receiver in the middle of a season.

Remember the good old days when a starting quarterback could play poorly, be benched and then be called upon to help his team when the backup finally revealed why he was a backup?

Those days are apparently over.

Especially if you’re an “athletic” quarterback.

• Madden said his biggest criticism is the decision to shut down RGIII. He makes the point that the NFL is in trouble if teams that are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs start shutting down stars to protect them until the next season. There are playoff implications and draft positions to consider. 

• Congratulations to North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl. He could have gone for the tie in the first overtime of the PIAA Class A championship on Friday, but he chose to go for two points and the win. North Catholic beat District 2 champion Old Forge 15-14. I’ll never understand why so many coaches choose risking all the things that can go wrong in overtime instead of going for the knockout punch with a game-ending two pointer. 

• Andrew Luck’s stats in games 9 through 12 this season: Two touchdowns, five interceptions. Passer ratings: 65, 82, 60 and 59. He was sacked 10 times, but not benched. Apparently, the Colts didn’t see a need to preserve him for next year. In Game 13: four touchdowns, no interceptions.

• By losing to the Dolphins, Mike Tomlin has assured himself of having two non-winning seasons in a row. If you don’t count his first three years when he was doing his rebuilding, Chuck Noll never had three nonwinning seasons in a row. Neither did Bill Cowher. It’s hard to imagine too many people predicting anything better than 8-8 for the Steelers next season. Two non winning seasons in 1998 and 1999 got the general manager fired.

• Major League Baseball is outlawing the home plate collision. Too dangerous. How many plays have there been at home plate in the last 100 years and how many have resulted in serious injury? Just asking.

• The NFL has announced that there will be no tailgating at the Super Bowl in New Jersey. There will be no parking near the stadium and most fans will have to get to the game on shuttle buses. At $51 a pop. That’ll all seem worthwhile when they get to the stadium and find 29 degrees and sleet. If you haven’t bought your ticket yet and don’t want to miss out on the fun, figure on paying about $2,600 for a mediocre seat.

John Steigerwald's blog can be found at, and he is the author of "Just Watch The Game." His column appears each Saturday.
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