The most obvious draw-back to building an NFL championship-caliber team around a running quarterback was displayed in the NFC wild card game again this year.
The Washington Redskins lost their prized rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, to a severe knee injury in the loss to Seattle.
In order to repair the two major knee ligaments that were damaged, the player had to have surgery on both knees. The estimated recovery time is currently set at around six to eight months.
Given the patient is an elite professional athlete; the surgeons think he has great odds of making a full recovery. In which case, he would be as fast and nimble as he ever was.
Still, some other noted knee specialists have said publicly that even though they too like his chances of eventual recovery, the time-line may be too optimistic. Other recovery times I have heard reported are in the nine-to-12 month range. That range was also taking into account the patient is a pro athlete.
Even with the many things going in RG3's favor, there remains the definite possibility that he will never fully recover his speed and mobility. At least not to the extent that made him the running threat he was his whole career to that point.
Like everyone who appreciates football and sportsmanship, I hope he makes a full recovery. As we have learned more about the person, RG3 has impressed by not only his ability and play but what he is about.
Since the Injury, there has been a media generated firestorm. It looks to place blame. Pretty much everybody who has ever played—and who talks or writes about sports—have weighed in.
For me, I find it ridiculous that anyone tried to blame the coaching staff for the injury. The kid was medically cleared; he said he could go, the coach thought he was the best option, so he went. That's football and end of story.
After the fact, the whole world wants to second guess. Still, had the Redskins somehow managed to maintain the 14-13 lead they had halfway through the fourth quarter, no one would question the move. Instead, it would be rerun after rerun of RG3 hobbling around heroically in the win.
Shortly after Griffin first came up limping, I told a friend who was watching with me that points for the Redskins were going to be hard to come by for the remainder of the game. It was that obvious the player was working on one leg, even then.
The only legitimate debate about coaching is should the staff have recognized that Griffin was likely more a hindrance than help after that. Only in hindsight is that point debatable. Seattle had to continue to play as if RG3 could hurt them—at least to some extent—as long as he was in.
In College football, most elite quarterbacks will be going on to the NFL in two to three years after they start. Occasionally, a player will still hang in there for year four but not often.
In the NFL, franchise type quarterbacks are drafted—and paid—with the expectation they will be playing for a team for three or more times the years they played in college. In addition, more than in college or high school, NFL teams rely on their quarterback's ability for their overall success.
In short, the NFL has become a quarterback driven league more than ever before. This is the primary reason drop back passers are still considered the norm in the NFL.
Some NFL teams continually tinker with the read-option and other offensives that rely on the quarterback carrying the football 15 or more times a game. But, as is the case with Washington this year and Philadelphia with Michael Vick the past two years, when your running QB goes down, you are pretty well toast.
In college, the read-option allows teams who may not have a roster full of NFL draft choices to compete with the elite. Examples include Texas A&M and Mississippi this year and Mississippi State the past few years, along with a number of other schools.
I look for this trend to continue in college football. There, coaches can be a bit more liberal in allowing their prized quarterbacks to run the football. It is still a calculated risk. But, due to the fewer years they will be around, the rewards normally out-weigh this risk.
Still, the best team in college football and the current college football dynasty is the University of Alabama. There, they ready players at all positions for a transition to the NFL. Also there, they primarily are a drop back passer team.
Look for some NFL teams to continue to work in some read-option type offense. But, due to the inherent risk to their prized quarterbacks, don't look for a huge overall shift toward running quarterbacks for NFL teams in the near future.