Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo
Extremeskins

Cam Newton and RGIII: Narratives in the NFL and What We "Know"


The Tris

Recommended Posts

“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.

There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.

But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.”

 

De-politicizing the source of this quote, I think it is very instructive to being a rational thinker about many things in life, among other far more important things, football.

 

We, as fans, believe that much of our knowledge and understanding of this game is based upon known knowns.  The effectiveness of one scheme against a certain look, the inherent strengths of a player due to physical traits, empirical evidence of a fundamental flaw in a player (or coach) based on repeated observations of shortcomings, etc.  Alfred Morris lacking elite foot speed, but possessing elite vision we assume is a known known.  Ryan Kerrigan being particularly adept at defending wide receiver screens we assume is a known known.  Sav Rocca is old, Chris Thompson is small, Adam Carriker is strong, these are all known knowns.

 

We also can accept known unknowns, such as Phillip Thomas.

 

 

 

What we have a harder time accepting is the existence of unknown unknowns.  We have been honed to focus on the black and white of issues.  Grey is boring, confusing, and difficult to rationalize in the moment.  Narratives are exciting, and embraceable, and sell.  They sell papers and pageviews, yes, but they also sell self-satisfaction and being right.  We want to know winners and loser, and who was right and wrong, dammit.  So the idea that there are things that aren’t black and white, and more importantly, we can’t even recognize aren’t black and white, is disfavored, rejected, and ignored.

 

“The Media” is neither THE problem, nor one with clean hands.  The narrative culture is such that grey matters are made known knowns based on the real-time framing of the issue.  We can joke about #hotsportstakes, but writers know that without a hook, we, the fans, aren’t tuning in.  In fact, by now, I assume many have already tuned out of this, despite the fact that this is only the intro.

 

 

The problem with Robert Griffin III is that we don’t know what we don’t know, particularly when it comes to matters outside the playing field.  The knives are out, and the presumed known knowns have already calcified into narratives.  Things he was once praised for – his maturity (“Griffin wowed people with his maturity and understanding of the game”), his intelligence, his confidence (“Griffin has the ability to sound confident, but not ****y. He's self-aware, but not self-absorbed.”), heck, even his socks – are now sources of criticism – he is immature (an “immature know-it-all” to be precise), insecure (“[He displayed] arrogance, insecurity, and selfishness”), arrogant (“[There’s] a difference between confidence and arrogance”) , and man, if Loverro doesn’t manage to imply his socks evidenced all of this in that same column.

 

The truth likely lies somewhere in between, but grey is not what we want.  As one of my favorite people on twitter said today, “RG3 is either the most electrifying player of any sport ever anywhere or a selfish idiot bust. THE GREY AREA IS FOR COWARDS ONLY.”

 

 

 

What happened to “Robert Griffin III emerges as the Washington Redskins’ leader despite rookie status”?  Well, the easy answer is that “When he wins, he’s confident. When he loses, he lacks humility.”  But perhaps something much more instructive is to look at how narratives are made, and how they evolve based on what we think we “know” from week to week.

 

 

 

Following a rough loss as part of a disappointing season, a 34-year-old, diminuative-but-tough-as-nails wide receiver called out his second-year quarterback for a lack of leadership. 

 

No, this isn’t Santana Moss criticizing Robert Griffin III’s post game comments, suggesting he take more of the blame; rather, this was Steve Smith, with a far harsher assessment of his quarterback, Cam Newton.

 

 

The date was September 20th, 2012.  Newton had just been benched late in a blowout loss to the Giants, having gone 16 for 30 with three interceptions.  His team would fall to 1-2 that day, en route to a 1-6 start.  In the eyes of Smith, however, his biggest crime was “sulking”  on the bench following being sat down for Derek Anderson. You can get some mental reps or you can sit on that bench and sulk.”  Smith continued:

Cam Newton has a very unique opportunity to be a franchise quarterback to an organization that needs one. Statistics don't lie. Athletic quarterbacks, they either excel or they fail. And I told Cam that. This is an opportunity for him to learn — at that time they were benching him — and observe. They put D.A. [Derek Anderson] in. You can sit there -- if this is the worst [it's] going to get, you're in for a long day, and this is not what it's about.”

 

 

This was not the first time Newton’s on field demeanor or leadership had been questioned by his teammates.  LT Jordan Gross had also been critical of Newton’s body language and lack of leadership.  There were other incidents that evinced a lack of maturity, and inability to handle losses and criticism.

 

 

 

As the lost sophomore season for Newton spiraled to a 2-8 start, the narratives began rolling out.  No article sums this up more than Don Banks analogizing Newton to Vince Young in October of last season:

 

But by year two in the pro game, questions and issues about their maturity level surfaced, and their response to the inevitable failures that come with life in the NFL started to provide a stark contrast with their ultra-successful collegiate careers. Their learning curves steepened, and opponents discovered, with study, new ways to defense their rare play-making skills.

 

While the spotlight this time is highlighting Newton's inability to live up to his monster rookie season in his second time around the league, five years ago right now, weren't we beginning to ask some of the same types of questions about Vince Young?

 

 

The whole article is worth a read, and has shocking parallels that seem like you could interchange Newton and Griffin’s names:

 

At Panthers training camp this summer, Carolina quarterbacks coach Mike Shula spent time describing to me how Newton's improvement in his second season would come with better footwork in the passing game, which would lead to greater accuracy and the ability to more consistently challenge a defense's pass coverage. But Newton has seemingly regressed in that department, and his accuracy is at times woefully lacking.

 

 

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on Monday said Newton is "pressing,'' trying to make too much happen downfield, rather than taking what a defense is giving him. That greedy approach resulted in Newton targeting Carolina's top receiver, Steve Smith, a season-high 13 times against the Seahawks, completing just four of those passes for 40 yards. Newton also has been guilty of holding the ball too long, seeking the perfect window before he throws. In the NFL, those windows rarely appear, and close quickly.

 

In short, Newton hasn't made the necessary second-year adjustments to his game, like a batter who doesn't see the same assortment or pattern of pitches he did as a rookie, because the pitchers have learned how to accentuate his weaknesses and stay away from his strengths. What worked for Newton last year, loosening defenses up with his rare running ability, and then hitting them with big plays in the passing game when they cheat toward the line on run defense, isn't working this year. The weekly chess game is being won by the other guys, and Newton's abundant confidence is suffering for it.

 

His maturity has been found lacking at times, most notably in his well-chronicled penchant for postgame or sideline sulking. Newton's trademark response to defeat led Carolina team leader Steve Smith to take exception with his quarterback's deflated demeanor late in that Week 3 embarrassment at home against the Giants.

 

According to some media reports and speculation, some of Newton's teammates, and perhaps the Panthers organization, have growing concerns about his approach to the game and commitment level, charges that tend to take a life of their own in today's 24/7 coverage atmosphere.

 

 

Hell, let’s even throw in the over-involved father:

 

In a radio interview with a Charlotte station that made headlines Monday, Newton's father, Cecil, conceded that his celebrated son needs to curb his habit of sulking in defeat. But he also said those sentiments come from Newton carrying the "burden of trying to deliver the goods to the Panthers fans,'' adding that "Cam wants to stay in Carolina ... as long as [team owner] Mr. [Jerry] Richardson and whoever else is in charge wants him to.''

 

 

And perhaps most importantly:

 

"As far as the organization is concerned, whether it's Peyton Manning, RGIII, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck or Kerry Collins, you need to support him through the tough times,'' Polian said. "And there are going to be tough times. The hype these kids come in with is so unrealistic and so beyond the pale that they can't possibly live up to what is expected of them.

 

"And then, like Cam, when you have a modicum of early success -- and it really, it was only a modicum of success, due to his ability to run, which is unique and exceptional -- then he's built up to be something he can't possibly develop into. So that's even worse. So you've got to support him through all of that in the early going.''

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward to today, and Cam and the Panthers are the toast of the NFL.  Columnists are falling all over themselves writing about how Newton’s leadership has powered their surge.

 

Newton warrants the lion’s share of the glory, too, as the 24-year-old has already matured into the type of leader that many thought he could never be. Upon entering the NFL, Newton was immediately labeled as selfish, immature, disingenuous and an egomaniac, among other things. Those notions took hold with players around the league, too, as fellow Pro Bowlers noted that Newton had a “diva attitude” and acted like a total jerk during his lone appearance in 2011. Newton has displayed some of those character flaws on occasion last season as well, but it seems he’s finally matured into the leader the Panthers need to succeed.

 

 

"Now we see the consistency, we see the efficiency. Again, that's been all part of his growth. Now he's at the point where everybody is starting to believe. Hopefully, we continue that." --- Ron Rivera

 

 

 

 

 

This is the narrative culture of the NFL.  Every thing is known until it is not (See: "And another thing — how many NFL observers are falling over themselves in praise of Washington Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III? Many are saying he's bypassed Newton as the game's best young quarterback star.")

 

Clearly Newton's narrative was not known, and is still evolving.  Similarly, what we think we know about Robert Griffin III’s narrative, we do not.  He is an unknown unknown right now.  So before we belly up to the heaping plate of conflict and drama that we are being served by a willing media, take a step back and breathe.  They don’t know the narrative yet, nor do we.

 

 

 

 

(also worth noting as we write Shanahan's obit, look at the coverage of Ron Rivera from the same time (and even earlier this season) and now.  One moment he's inept, the next, he's Riverboat Ron. Narratives, man.  Narratives.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been beating this drum all week. No one is talking about Newton's "fake smile" "sulking" or what he says in interviews now because the team is winning. No morons calling him Vince Young 2.0 or just another Mike Vick either. I heard these same type of idiots who want RG3 benched and run out of town now say the same things about Newton last year. The Panthers finally helped Newton by building a Defense down there, maybe the Skins will finally get the D right over the offseason.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As an NC resident who listens to NC radio in the car and DC radio at work, I have to thank you for this post. It's well-researched and well-written and exemplifies something that has been very apparent over the course of this season for me. The Santana/Smith parallel is excellent and, quite honestly, so is the Rivera/Shanahan one. The one thing that I think has added to the success of the Panthers (other than the phenomenal defense - can we please have a Luke Kuechly?) was the simplification of their offense. They went back to the strengths of the team and stopped relying so heavily on the read option.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent post and I agree with the premise 100%. Cam matured, he ate some humble pie, the Panthers got better around him, and now it is coming together nicely. But I believe those first two things were paramount--- he matured, he ate some humble pie. Once he did that, it opened the doors.

 

One thing I fear RG3 doesn't have that Cam does is a stable organization. The Redskins are certainly in more of a limelight than the Panthers so the pressure is greater and the organizational leadership isn't as strong here.

 

I think RG has had a lousy season. Both on and off the field. And I say this independent of other things around him. I also think it is very easy for him to survive this season and come back a much better player next year and beyond. But I'm not sure he's in the right place to do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing I fear RG3 doesn't have that Cam does is a stable organization. 

 

Panthers fired their GM mid-way through Cam's sophomore season.  

 

Their HC was on the hot seat as recently as early October, 2013.

 

Jerry Richardson is a fatter, older Snyder, who spearheaded the lockout and insinuated Peyton Manning and Drew Brees were unintelligent during negotiations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent post and I agree with the premise 100%. Cam matured, he ate some humble pie, the Panthers got better around him, and now it is coming together nicely. But I believe those first two things were paramount--- he matured, he ate some humble pie. Once he did that, it opened the doors.

 

One thing I fear RG3 doesn't have that Cam does is a stable organization..................... I also think it is very easy for him to survive this season and come back a much better player next year and beyond. But I'm not sure he's in the right place to do it.

In other words...He can succeed. Just not here... But Kirk can. BENCH HIM!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice read, although the stuff about Cam being arrogant and selfish was just pure BS. None of what Cam did coaberatted that nonsense. You notice how Cam's teammates, the vets like Smith and Gross called him out about the sulking and sideline demeanor. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good to see you post, how you been?

 

Doing great now that I have recovered from a weekend that included UGA-Aub and WSH-PHI.

 

19 days and four exams from the midway point of law school, who knew it would be more time consuming (and thus stymie my time on here) than actually working.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Panthers fired their GM mid-way through Cam's sophomore season.

Their HC was on the hot seat as recently as early October, 2013.

Jerry Richardson is a fatter, older Snyder, who spearheaded the lockout and insinuated Peyton Manning and Drew Brees were unintelligent during negotiations.

They have had significantly more success and stability since their inception than we have. They have had two coaching regimes reach the NFC Championship Game and one of them made it to the SB. Richardson might be a putz, but under his ownership they have been pretty successful-- certainly much more so than we have since they entered the league in 1995. If I was an agent and the money was similar I'd much prefer my client go to Carolina than Washington.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In other words...He can succeed. Just not here... But Kirk can. BENCH HIM!

If that is how you interpret it, then uh, ok.....

In this regard I feel sorry for RG. I think he is a good guy and I think he is really tough physically and mentally. But I also think he is immature and oddly insecure. He also loves the camera and the keyboard. Nothing wrong with that stuff, but when you combine that with an unstable organization, it has a combustible component to it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They have had significantly more success and stability since their inception than we have. ....under his ownership they have been pretty successful-- certainly much more so than we have since they entered the league in 1995.

 

 

Since 1995 (19 seasons), they've won six more games total than the Redskins.  

 

They're 20 games under .500 that span, we're 25.  

 

Both have four playoff appearances over that span.

 

Yes, they got hot and went to a Super Bowl (with Jake Delhomme no less).  But as we know, the playoffs aren't about the best team advancing necessarily.  Much of it is luck and situation.  Were the 2003 Panthers really that much better of a team than the 1999 Redskins?

 

Regardless, does it even really matter what the franchise did a decade ago in terms of is stability today?  

 

Less drama, sure.  

 

At the end of the day, kinda depends on what your definition of both success and stability are right?

 

 

 

Sure, today you'd advise your client to go to Carolina.  Doubt that answer would have been the same this time last year, when they were 2-8, their GM had just been fired, their coach was on the hot seat, and their QB was a moody diva who had seriously regressed from his rookie year, while the Redskins were en vogue.

 

Thats sorta my point about drawing sweeping conclusions from static points of view. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since 1995 (19 seasons), they've won six more games total than the Redskins.

They're 20 games under .500 that span, we're 25.

Both have four playoff appearances over that span.

Yes, they got hot and went to a Super Bowl (with Jake Delhomme no less). But as we know, the playoffs aren't about the best team advancing necessarily. Much of it is luck and situation. Were the 2003 Panthers really that much better of a team than the 1999 Redskins?

Regardless, does it even really matter what the franchise did a decade ago in terms of is stability today?

Less drama, sure.

At the end of the day, kinda depends on what your definition of both success and stability are right?

Sure, today you'd advise your client to go to Carolina. Doubt that answer would have been the same this time last year, when they were 2-8, their GM had just been fired, their coach was on the hot seat, and their QB was a moody diva who had seriously regressed from his rookie year, while the Redskins were en vogue.

Thats sorta my point about drawing sweeping conclusions from static points of view.

.

In the past 20 years, the Redskins have been "en vogue" for about 6 months total. Of the 32 franchises, if we ranked each one based on who you'd want to root for and based it recent history, current situation, and future outlook, the Redskins would almost certainly be 25th or lower in my estimation. Very few organizations we can argue we are better than. I wouldn't rank Carolina particularly high on that list either, but they'd be on top of us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the past 20 years, the Redskins have been "en vogue" for about 6 months total. Of the 32 franchises, if we ranked each one based on who you'd want to root for and based it recent history, current situation, and future outlook, the Redskins would almost certainly be 25th or lower in my estimation. Very few organizations we can argue we are better than. I wouldn't rank Carolina particularly high on that list either, but they'd be on top of us.

 

Sure.  But this was not a discussion of who to root for.

 

The discussion was based on your concern that the Redskins were not stable enough of an organization for Griffin (and I would assume Newton, and other hyped young quarterbacks) to succeed.

 

I simply pointed out that Carolina was not exactly the model of stability in the NFL.  They've had their struggles as well.  They haven't had a winning season since 2008.  

 

I disputed the notion that the Panthers are somehow significantly more successful --- and by extension, a place where a QB can develop, as opposed to DC, where a QB has no chance.  Not that they are better positioned as of right now or people would prefer to rooted for them over us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

.

In the past 20 years, the Redskins have been "en vogue" for about 6 months total. Of the 32 franchises, if we ranked each one based on who you'd want to root for and based it recent history, current situation, and future outlook, the Redskins would almost certainly be 25th or lower in my estimation. Very few organizations we can argue we are better than. I wouldn't rank Carolina particularly high on that list either, but they'd be on top of us.

 

 

You keep beating this drum. With all due respect as I don't really know you, IMO you just don't get it. For me, and I realize I may just be talking about me, if using wins or their success as a barometer of if you want to root for them, or being envious of another team because they are winning and we are not, then you should change teams as you don;t really care enough about the team your have now. 

 

I don't care how successful or unsuccessful other teams are unless it directly impacts the Redskins. I only care about Redskins, win or lose! Period!  The only victory for me, the only thing that makes me happy on Sunday (or now Thursday and Sunday with the occasional Saturday), is if the Redskins win. 

 

To me you really just don't get what it means to be a fan and put your heart and soul into a team if you say you would rather be a part of their fan base or you are envious of them. I literally get physically ill when we lose, especially against dallast. I could never care about another team. I don't want to care about another team. The only purpose for the other teams is to provide someone for the Redskins to play.

 

I don't envy a team's fan base because their team is winning. There is only one team in the NFL I want to win and it's the Washington Redskins. All the rest, I could care less about their them, their fan base, their stadium, how many games they win or anything else. 

 

If I ever felt like that I would change teams because clearly I don't care enough about my team anymore. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You keep beating this drum. With all due respect as I don't really know you, IMO you just don't get it. For me, and I realize I may just be talking about me, if using wins or their success as a barometer of if you want to root for them, or being envious of another team because they are winning and we are not, then you should change teams as you don;t really care enough about the team your have now. 

 

I don't care how successful or unsuccessful other teams are unless it directly impacts the Redskins. I only care about Redskins, win or lose! Period!  The only victory for me, the only thing that makes me happy on Sunday (or now Thursday and Sunday with the occasional Saturday), is if the Redskins win. 

 

To me you really just don't get what it means to be a fan and put your heart and soul into a team if you say you would rather be a part of their fan base or you are envious of them. I literally get physically ill when we lose, especially against dallast. I could never care about another team. I don't want to care about another team. The only purpose for the other teams is to provide someone for the Redskins to play.

 

I don't envy a team's fan base because their team is winning. There is only one team in the NFL I want to win and it's the Washington Redskins. All the rest, I could care less about their them, their fan base, their stadium, how many games they win or anything else. 

 

If I ever felt like that I would change teams because clearly I don't care enough about my team anymore. 

yeah...you completely missed his point.

 

COMPLETELY.

 

Like damn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Newton has said numerous times he's worked on himself as a player and person in the offseason, and the people around him have confirmed his growth.

 

Both players are immensely talented QB's with things to work on, give him time

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yeah...you completely missed his point.

 

COMPLETELY.

 

Like damn.

 

I didn't miss a thing. Nice try though. He is pissed at the team. Mad that we are not doing well. Stating that he would rather be a fan of another team because they are doing better. I am mad at the team also. We have huge holes still after more than 3.5 yrs. Since the last SB we have been pathetic. An owner playing fantasy football instead of getting football guys. Now that he have one, even that does not seem to be working. 

 

But there is a huge difference between saying I am pissed at the team and I would rather be a fan of another team. 

 

No dude, I didn't miss anything. You want to trash the team due to lack of performance, go right ahead. Right now they deserve it. Def is horrendous, STs is the worst I can ever remember it in 45 years of rooting for the Redskins, and our O who should be the one side of the ball playing well, is still 10 games into the season trying to find itself.  

 

As I said, there are real problems with this team. But when you start saying you would rather be a fan of another team, and trashing the entire fan base, sorry but for me that's much different. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...