There are a lot of quarterbacks in this league better than Colin Kaepernick, but next to Robert Griffin III, he looks almost like a hall of famer, barely leading his reeling team to a narrow 17-13 win over the terrible Washington Redskins with Carlos Hyde punching in the late game-winning touchdown.
Getting called out by his head coach didn’t seem to help Griffin turn a page in his sinking NFL career. He completed just 11-of-19 passes for 106 yards and running for 11 more. Everything Gruden said about him was there for everyone to see: The bad mechanics, the hesitation in his throws and looks, not to mention his disappeared ability to make plays with his legs. Kirk Cousins looked bad very quickly and Colt McCoy isn’t a number two draft pick, but at least he gives his team a chance of winning games.
Griffin didn’t put the Redskins in a position to win. He was simply there while the 49ers, a team with their own dysfunction, at quarterback and other positions, failed to put the game away until Carlos Hyde ran for a four-yard touchdown, leaving the Redskins with just 2:59 to come back. In that short time window, the Redskins had a chance to begin two drives. Griffin didn’t complete a single pass in them, while getting sacked twice.
Kaepernick? He threw an interception, but he also threw a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who had a massive performance with nine receptions for 137 yards and a score. With the running game out of the picture (Frank Gore turned the ball over once and ran for just 36 yards), it was up to Kaepernick, completing 22-of-29 passes for 256 yards, to get the offense going. Despite the running backs (Hyde as well) each fumbling the ball away once and losing the turnover battle, his performance looked sublime in comparison with Griffin.
With Griffin going 7-of-10 for 85 yards on play action passes, he gained a negative two yards on dropbacks that didn’t include a play action pass, the first time it has happened to an NFL quarterback since the 2010 season with Jay Cutler being the culprit. His QBR since coming back from injury is 31st among all 33 qualified quarterbacks, and the last time he started and finished a game in a Redskins win was back in 2013, when they beat the Chargers in week 9. That has to do something to his confidence as well, not tasting victory for over a year.
Back to Kaepernick, who threw a touchdown pass for an 18th consecutive game, tying the franchise record held by Steve Young from 1994 and the 1995 seasons. He is also from the mobile quarterback school of thought, and like Griffin seems to be running less and less these days. Unlike Griffin, he hasn’t had any injuries that put his career at risk, but he came into this league with a lot less expected of him. He has done a lot more, albeit on a much better team. For all of the criticism against him as a passer, it’s games like these that show the 49ers that they don’t have it so bad at quarterback.
The 49ers, most importantly for them, are keeping up the pace with the Seattle Seahawks, which should make for some very interesting showdowns between the two teams to possibly determine the outcome in the NFC West, although the Arizona Cardinals are still in the league, two games ahead of both teams.
The Washington Redskins might have reached the point that puts an end to the speculation. Gruden gave Griffin a challenge and bar to reach, and the struggling quarterback failed miserably. It’s complicated in Washington, with the owner possibly too involved and too close to his star player, no longer looking like the future of the franchise. However, unless the Redskins don’t mind seeing Griffin work his way out of this low point in the weeks that remain, benching him seems like the next logical step.