WASHINGTON (AP) — Oh, what a day it was, and what a day it was supposed to represent.
Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, who had just posted the best two statistical seasons for rookie quarterbacks in NFL history, were meeting in the first round of the playoffs. January 6, 2013.
It would surely be the first of many such encounters. Regardless of the winner on that particular Sunday, the arc for both players — and their franchises — was trending upward. This was the future of professional football, dual threats who were changing the game.
Who could have envisioned the divergent paths taken in the 20 months since? Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks will return Monday night with Super Bowl rings already on their fingers. Griffin won’t even be on the field for a Washington Redskins team that imploded so badly their well-regarded coach was sent packing.
“I’m not sure we saw ourselves here, and I’m not sure they saw themselves there,” Washington tight end Logan Paulsen said. “Obviously we’d love it if the situation were reversed, but it’s not and we’ve got to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt.”
The downfall began when Griffin’s knee collapsed in the fourth quarter of that 24-14 Seattle win. His subsequent reconstructive knee surgery and rehab overwhelmed everything Redskins for an entire offseason, essentially setting up a power struggle with coach Mike Shanahan that centered on, among other things, how best the quarterback should be used.
Griffin’s passer rating dropped by 20 points from first season to second, he was benched for the final three games, and the Redskins ended the year with an eight-game losing streak.
Shanahan was fired Dec. 30, 2013. Thirty-four days later, the Seahawks won an NFL title. Wilson became the first player in league history with a passing rating of 100-plus in his first two seasons.
The Redskins can rue what might have been, and the Seahawks don’t even need to rub it in. It wouldn’t be classy, and the rings speak for themselves anyway.
“I don’t know about what’s going on there,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “But we feel fortunate that we’ve had a pretty good run here the past couple of years, and we’re trying to keep it going and working real hard to do that.”
This season, the Seahawks are again strong. They are 2-1 and coming off a bye, not bad considering they’ve already faced Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning.
The Redskins are still trying to find their way, and Griffin is hurt again. Rookie head coach Jay Gruden was trying to mold the franchise player into a more traditional drop-back passer, but Griffin dislocated his left ankle in the season opener. He made a brief appearance during the stretching portion of practice Saturday, but isn’t expected to return for several more weeks.
The record is 1-3, and the only win came against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Kirk Cousins has looked both good and awful filling in for Griffin, and it’s far from settled which quarterback will finish the season if both are healthy.
There’s no such debate in Seattle.
“A lot goes on with the NFL. A lot goes on with winning and losing,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Obviously those guys have been winning and we’ve been losing, so that’s what happens with the coaching change and that’s what happens with them winning the Super Bowl the next year.
“We’re trying to get to their level as far as a being a consistent team, being a great defense, being a potent offense. They have a great team, they have a great philosophy, and we’re trying to get to that level.”
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