Robert Griffin III is a Better Backup Quarterback Option for the Arizona Cardinals

Robert Griffin III was once considered the spiritual successor to Michael Vick but has since watched Lamar Jackson break the records he was supposed to claim. After three seasons backing up one of the league’s most potent rushing threats, RG3 hits the free-agent market. A pairing with another dynamic playmaker could bring the former Heismann winner to the Arizona Cardinals.

The Arizona Cardinals Should Consider Robert Griffin III Over Colt McCoy

2021 has been a tumultuous one, especially in terms of quarterbacks on the move. Within the NFC West, Jared Goff has been upgraded to Matthew Stafford in Los Angeles. Russell Wilson has been vocal about his dissatisfaction in Seattle. Time may be running out for Jimmy Garappolo with the 49ers. Seemingly, only the Arizona Cardinals can conclusively say who is QB1 heading into 2021.

Yet, there still is a quarterback conversation in Arizona. Kyler Murray’s health continues to be a thorn in the side of Arizona’s front office. A woeful performance by backup quarterback Chris Streveler in Week 17 ultimately cost the Cardinals their place in the playoffs as they lost to John Wolford and the LA Rams. Murray has been able to start every game of his NFL career. But he was hurt in the final two games in 2019 and the conclusion of the Rams game in Week 17. Going forward, the Cardinals will hope that Murray can stay healthy throughout the year. Still, the time may have come to invest a little more significantly in their backup quarterback.

Colt McCoy

First reported by Adam Schefter, veteran free agent Colt McCoy is scheduled for a visit with the Cardinals sometime next week. Schefter also noted that there is a good chance they get a deal done. McCoy, 34, is a free agent after spending 2020 with the New York Giants. A glittering career at The University of Texas was quickly overshadowed by what he became: the latest damned soul to inherit the unenviable job of quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. McCoy started only one year, in his second season, before leaving in 2013 for San Francisco. Following a brief one-year stay with the 49ers, he joined the team now known as the Washington Football Team in 2014, where he remained until 2020.

McCoy is ostensibly a career backup quarterback. Drafted 85th overall due to concerns about his size and health, he has carved out a fairly successful career. His time in Washington is perhaps best remembered for his role in grooming Kirk Cousins into an NFL starting quarterback. He is a wily veteran with a decade of experience in the NFL. With McCoy, Arizona gains not only a serviceable backup quarterback but a knowledgeable mentor to Murray.

As a player, there is a significant difference in style between McCoy and Murray. McCoy is a much more traditional option at quarterback. He doesn’t have a particularly strong arm, nor is he a significant rushing threat. He also has a fairly lengthy injury history. His playstyle is similar to that of Goff, performing better in ‘West Coast’ concepts. Therein, there would be a significantly different style of offense with McCoy in the game.

Robert Griffin III

Injuries derailed Robert Griffin III’s career. Knee injuries cut short a promising rookie season that saw Griffin earn Pro Bowl and Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.  RG3 failed to recover his 2012 form after his return. In Washington, the starting job was essentially shared between, RG3, Kirk Cousins, and McCoy before Griffin was released in 2016. Although picked up as the starter for the Browns, injuries again shut him down. The Browns moved on after that season.

Griffin sat out the entire 2017 season before landing with the Baltimore Ravens to sit behind Joe Flacco and Jackson. Becoming the backup after Flacco’s departure, Griffin’s role with the Ravens not only grew as a quarterback but as a gadget player. The Ravens’ ‘Heismann backfield’ saw Griffin aligned as a running back alongside 2009 winner Mark Ingram and 2016 winner Lamar Jackson. He made several cameos for Baltimore but made only two starts in his time with the Ravens. Subsequently, the Ravens waived him following the 2020 season.

Injuries may have robbed Griffin of his best years and his elite athleticism, but he is still a viable dual-threat quarterback. In the Cardinals offense, a player with Griffin’s skillset offers some continuity in the scheme if Murray was to go down. And as the Ravens demonstrated, there is some potential for offensive experimentation when a player like RG3 is available. Under an innovative offensive mind like Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals could explore various options that fully utilize his talents.

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The Cardinals Should Choose Griffin over McCoy

Drew Stanton sat steadfast as Arizona’s backup quarterback for four years, a foil for Carson Palmer. In that regard, it is time Arizona’s backup once again reflected the talents of their electrifying starting quarterback. McCoy has proven to be a solid backup quarterback in the NFL and has helped to nurture the careers of players like Cousins. If he is Arizona’s number one option, then the team gains a trustworthy backup and mentor for Murray.

Drafted in 2010, McCoy has a decade of experience. Yet McCoy’s experience shouldn’t be overplayed, because Griffin was drafted only two years later. With eight years of experience playing in the NFL, Griffin has plenty enough knowledge to help Murray’s development. Especially so given the similarity in their physical abilities. Aside from this, schematically he may be the best available option in terms of a dual-threat quarterback on the market. He offers continuity as well as some versatility within Kingsbury’s scheme. A troubling injury history will always be a knock on him, but McCoy too has had some significant blows to his health. Griffin may not have been the next Vick, but he can certainly push Murray in some ways towards achieving that status.

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