Will Robert Griffin III Hold Onto the Starting Job in 2015?

Due to a combination of injuries and inconsistent play, Robert Griffin III missed nearly half of the 2014 season. Can he hold off Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy in 2015?

Few NFL quarterbacks have experienced such an intense rise and fall in performance -- and perception -- than what Robert Griffin III has been through over the past two seasons.

Back in 2012 during his rookie season, it appeared that Griffin’s ceiling was nearly unlimited and that he represented the “new wave” of quarterbacks that would change the way both offenses and defenses approached the game.

But just as quickly as Griffin ascended, the past two seasons have seen him take a dramatic nosedive. His statistical output has plummeted, and he has also fallen out of favor of the Redskins’ coaching staff. In 2014, Griffin was eventually replaced by a combination of Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy after dislocating his ankle in Week 2.

And as bad as 2014 was for both Griffin and the team as a whole, the front office has decided to pick up the fifth-year option on Griffin’s rookie contract, which will pay him in excess of $16 million in 2016.

For a quarterback who has struggled with inconsistency and injuries over his first three seasons, it is fair to question the logic behind the contract extension. Going even further, it’s fair to question whether or not Griffin will (or should) even be the starter in 2015.

Let’s see if we can untangle this situation and uncover both the fantasy football and real-life football ramifications.

A Downward Trajectory

Here at numberFire, we like to use our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric to help readers visualize just how effective each player was while on the field. It assigns a numeric value to each play, and by doing so, shows us the relative efficiency of a given player. NEP indicates how many points above or below expectation level a player has added to or subtracted from his team’s expected point total.

To check get a more detailed description of our metrics, click here.

The table below shows Griffin’s total Passing NEP and Rushing NEP metrics, as well as his Passing NEP per drop back and Rushing NEP per attempt -- better measures of true efficiency -- over his first three NFL seasons.

YearPassing NEPPassing NEP/Drop BackPassing Success RateRushing NEPRushing NEP/CarryRushing Success Rate

This, my friends, is what we call regression.

In 2012, Griffin’s 0.17 Passing NEP per drop back ranked eighth among the 30 quarterbacks who attempted at least 300 drop backs, and what Griffin did running the football was just as impressive as his passing performance.

Griffin’s 0.52 Rushing NEP per attempt ranked third among the 20 quarterbacks who accumulated at least 30 rushing attempts. In fact, he led all players, regardless of position, with at least 100 carries in this metric.

His meteoric rise was not just rhetoric; it was based on efficiency.

Now for the downturn.

In 2014, Griffin ranked 36th in Passing NEP per drop back among the 37 quarterbacks with at least 200 drop backs -- only Blake Bortles was worse. Among the 13 play-callers with at least 30 rushing attempts, Griffin ranked dead-last (injuries certainly played a part, but the drop off is still remarkable).

Outplayed By Lesser Competition

It’s clear that RGIII was among the most inefficient quarterbacks in the league last season. Failing to reach the top-tier with the likes of Aaron Rogers and Andrew Luck could be understood -- but ending up as the third-best quarterback on your own team is difficult to fathom.

PlayerPassing NEPPassing NEP/Drop BackPassing Success RateRushing NEPRushing NEP/CarryRushing Success Rate
Kirk Cousins19.580.0947.64%0.330.0760.00%
Colt McCoy11.490.0850.34%2.480.1938.46%
Robert Griffin III-36.84-0.1543.32%-0.39-0.0150.00%

In every single NEP category, with the exception of Rushing Success Rate, Griffin finished behind both Cousins and McCoy. No disrespect to the latter two, but given the relative skill levels and pedigree amongst the three, there’s no question Griffin should be better.

Injuries certainly played a part in Griffin’s 2014 decline, but at some point we need to start viewing this decrease in career efficiency as more of a trend that just a simple anomaly of small sample size.

The Starter, But For How Long?

It’s safe to assume that RGIII will get the first shot under center for Washington as we move into training camp. The organization’s willingness to pick up the option on his rookie contract seems to speak to their belief in him as the leader of the franchise (for now).

The majority of the offensive unit from last season remains intact, including the offensive coordinator and head coach, which will hopefully add some stability to the situation.

As for fantasy football, Griffin is currently be drafted as the QB22, at pick 14.04 overall, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Given the inconsistency he has exhibited over the past two seasons, it tough to argue against his current average draft position.

But the fact that he is basically free in fantasy drafts currently could provide an excellent opportunity for those who still believe there’s a chance he realizes the potential we thought we saw back in 2012.

Griffin will be the Week 1 starter -- that we can be almost sure of. Will he play his way out of that spot? The Redskins have wagered millions of dollars that he won’t.