The last time Robert Griffin III started a game, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was in Week 17. Three years ago, in 2016. He was the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. They had won one game up to that point, and finished 1-15, of which he contributed a 1-4 record for a team that would go 0-16 one year later.
Flash forward, and he’s the backup quarterback on a 13-2 team that has a game to play in Week 17 that is meaningless for reasons entirely different from what he’s used to. The Baltimore Ravens have clinched homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. And they, largely, have Lamar Jackson to thank for it.
Jackson, 22, was taken with the 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Since then, he has posted a 19-3 record, and is a shoe-in to win the league MVP award, not only leading the league in touchdowns, not only leading the highest-scoring offense in the NFL—the 11th-highest in NFL history on a per-game basis, up to this point—but he also did things with his legs no quarterback has ever done.
And nobody has appreciated watching him more than has Griffin.
“One thing Lamar’s done is he’s kept me young”, he told reporters earlier in the week while addressing the fact that Jackson’s stellar play has put him in a position where he can start in the season finale because it doesn’t mean anything for the Ravens. “Watching him go out there and move around the way that he does, it inspires us all to go out and try to move a little bit better”.
“This offseason, me and Lamar trained together in our group. The stuff that nobody sees, the stuff that nobody cares about. They just care about the product on Sunday”, he added. “We’re competing against each other, and that part of it is fun for me, because a lot of guys later in their career, they stop working as hard. But when you’ve got a young buck like Lamar sitting there and competing with you every single day, it keeps you on your Ps and Qs. So he’s kept me young”.
Already, Griffin has had the opportunity to take snaps in six different games this season simply because Baltimore had scored so much that they began pulling starters. Off of memory, there was at least one game in which he was already out by the end of the third quarter.
But this is an opportunity for him to get into a 0-0 game, a chance to really move the ball with intention. And you can be sure that he has every motivation to do just that, after waiting three years for his next crack at starting a game.