The Week in Overreactions: Bench Robert Griffin III

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Should Robert Griffin III be benched? Um, no. (USATSI)

New storylines emerge every week. Some are reasonable, most are not. "This Week in Overreactions" focuses on the latter. Those items that offer a cursory "How do you do?" as they blow past reality straight for THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER! We're here to keep everything in perspective. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.

'The Redskins have to bench Robert Griffin III'

Fandom is a cruel mistress. Twelve months ago, Robert Griffin III was the Redskins' savior, the most popular face in the nation's capitol, and he could do no wrong. The legend grew when he led the 'Skins to seven straight wins to end the 2012 regular season, good for the division title and a playoff berth. But then a knee injury in the wild-card loss to the Seahawks changed everything.

Griffin spent the next seven months rehabbing, missing the entire preseason in the process, and didn't step on the field until the Week 1 opener against the Eagles. It was an unmitigated disaster. RG3 looked rusty, hesitant in the pocket, and subconsciously or not, he appeared to favor his surgically repaired knee.

His Week 2 performance didn't do much to reassure the growing legion of skeptics. Never mind that Griffin is completing 63 percent of his passes, and has thrown for 649 yards and five touchdowns, he's not the player he was. The explosive runs are nonexistent, and if the Redskins are relying on Robert Griffin III, drop-back passer, to save them, this will be an interminably long season.

So, naturally, the calls to have Griffin benched have begun.

Following Sunday's loss to Green Bay, ESPN 980's Kevin Sheehan wrote: "The Redskins would've had more short-term success if a healthy Kirk Cousins had played in the first two games instead of Robert. Maybe the long-term would've been impacted by Robert not getting the work but Philly's defense is bad and Robert wasn't ready to take advantage of it."

And during the Packers beatdown, Redskins fans were hopping off the RG3 bandwagon like rats off a sinking ship. See here, here, here and here, for example. And here's our favorite:

But here's the thing: While we all agree Griffin isn't close to 100 percent, the reason the Redskins are 0-2 is because their defense is a sham. A no-tackling group that could take the field with paper bags over their helmets and everyone would nod knowingly.

Would things have turned out differently against either the Eagles or Packers if Cousins was under center? Probably not. And more than that, it would have robbed Griffin of the playing time he clearly needs.

So what's the solution? To paraphrase George W. Bush: The Redskins have to stay the course, something coach Mike Shanahan confirmed during a Monday press conference.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Robert," Shanahan said. "If we didn't feel that way he wouldn't be in there."

Benching RG3 now benefits no one. And even if he took a seat for a couple weeks, when he returned in Week 5, the schedule looks like this: at Dallas, Chicago, at Denver.

Put another way: There are no easy answers. The Redskins are 0-2. If the defense doesn't magically stop sucking, they could be 0-7 heading into November. Yes, Griffin barely resembles they guy we saw last season, but the more he plays the better he'll be. There are no such guarantees for that phantom-tackling group on the other side of the ball.

'See, Andy Dalton can win the big game'

The Bengals outlasted the Steelers on Monday night and it had virtually nothing to do with Andy Dalton, the third-year quarterback who attempted 31 first-half passes, most of which were nowhere near their intended targets. And while the curious play-calling rested with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Dalton was still tasked with executing those plays, something he never really did in the first 30 minutes.

We said it in the preseason and the Monday night game was just the latest manifestation of our initial beliefs: The Bengals are a very good team with one fatal flaw: A quarterback who disappears for long stretches and can sometimes be overwhelmed by the moment.

We saw that against the Steelers until, mercifully, Gruden settled on a more balanced second-half game plan that involved heavy doses of running backs Gio Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, while the Bengals' defense stifled whatever that was passing for offense from the Steelers.

More sobering numbers, via ESPN Stats and Information:

* Andy Dalton completed 17-20 passes 5 yards or fewer downfield for 134 yards Monday, including 4-4 on third down (led to three first downs).

* Of Andy Dalton's 36 attempts, 17 have been within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. He is 14-17 for 117 yards and the TD pass to Giovani Bernard on those throws.

The takeaway: the running game has to be a part of this offense going forward or the Bengals are doomed come January. Even Dalton knows this.

"Gio's done a good job," the quarterback said after the game. "We drafted him to be versatile, move around the backfield and make big plays. And that's exactly what we've gotten out him."

This is an easy fix, at least in the sense that coach Marvin Lewis' biggest concern is to get Gruden to put down Cam Cameron's 'How to have your NFL quarterback put it up 50 times a game and still struggle to score' and find ways to get Bernard more involved in the offense. That still leaves the lingering long-term issue of Dalton showing up in big moments, something we have yet to see in two-plus seasons.

'The Texans should be worried'

Houston hasn't been the juggernaut most of us expected when the season began. But they're still 2-0, a game up on Indy and Tennessee in the AFC South, and much like the Patriots in the AFC East, should have very little trouble cruising to another division title.

"But they barely beat the Chargers in Week 1 and needed overtime to outlast the Titans on Sunday!"

Look, Houston could realistically be 0-2 and then we'd really be talking folks off the ledge today. But they found ways to win -- something that can't be overstated in a league where we spend a lot of time talking about parity -- and let's be honest: No one thought either San Diego or Tennessee would have such strong starts to the season.

It also doesn't help the Texans' case when kicker Randy Bullock honks all three of his attempts Sunday, including what would have been the game-winner as time expired in regulation. What does help, however, are names like Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins on offense, and J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Johnathan Joseph on defense (we won't even bring up Ed Reed and his platinum walker).

The Texans went into last offseason looking for a receiver to complement Johnson and they found him with Hopkins, a first-round pick. He hauled in a nifty 3-yard touchdown pass in overtime to propel the Texans to the win, and that capped an afternoon in which he had seven catches for 117 yards. And the kid doesn't lack for confidence, which is exactly what you want in your big-play wideout.

“I feel like I can be better than Andre,” Hopkins said after the game, via the team website. “That's my mindset. And that's what Andre tells me. [He says] don't try to shadow yourself when you know you can be better.”

Do the Texans need to be more consistent? Sure, and that includes an offensive line that is still finding it's way.

But they're not alone; we're two weeks into the season and through 32 football game, there have been few instances where you can say, "See, that was a dominating effort from start to finish." Teams are still knocking off the rust, rookies and new faces are still figuring out their roles, and once things start to come together, Houston will be one of the AFC's best teams.

'The Giants are done'

It's a fair observation given that the Giants have been thoroughly outplayed in losses to the Cowboys and the Broncos, but they also play in the NFC East, the most unpredictable division in the NFL. Heading into Week 3, the winless Giants are just one game out of first place, behind the Cowboys and Eagles.

That's the good news. The bad news is, well, just about everything else. A week after committing six turnovers in Dallas, the Giants had four more on Sunday. Quarterback Eli Manning is on the hook for seven of them, all interceptions.

It doesn't help that the running game is nonexistent. The team ran for a whopping 23 yards on 19 carries against the Broncos, good for 1.2 yards per carry. Those numbers tell defenses one thing: Focus on stopping the pass.

“Teams are too good defensively for us to be one-dimensional,” guard Kevin Boothe said, via the New York Daily News. “It's tough when you can't keep the defense on its toes. It's something that we have to fix immediately. Teams are too good to not have a running game. It's not acceptable.”

“We have to run the ball,” said guard Chris Snee. “We have to find a way to do it.”

An unusually calm Tom Coughlin added: “Quite frankly, to not be able to run the ball, to have so few attempts at rushing the ball, it's just not our style.”

The Giants are still very much in the mix in the NFC East. (USATSI)

But slow starts are the Giants' style. They dropped season openers in 2011 and 2012, and were 0-2 in 2007, the year they ended up besting the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

So for all the stats about 0-2 starts -- since 1990, fewer than 12 percent of teams to start 0-2 make the playoffs, and in the last three years, no teams have managed the feat -- the Giants aren't ones to panic. After losing two in a row to begin the '07 season, they ripped off six straight wins. That'll be a tall order this time around, but we'll know a lot more about this team after their Week 3 matchup at Carolina. Get a win there and then it's at Kansas City, vs. Philadelphia, at Chicago, versus Minnesota and at Philly.

Go .500 -- including splitting the Eagles series -- and the Giants will be 3-5 (1-2 in the division) with the second half of the schedule to go. Yes, we know, this redefines the soft bigotry of low expectations, but welcome to the NFC East. The Redskins should be renamed the Washington Generals, the Cowboys haven't had a winning season since 2009, and no one knows what to make of the Eagles.

The Giants have issues -- but no more so than the three other teams. First one to nine victories wins the division.

 
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